Which Backing Fabric Should I Choose?

Posted by Judy Taylor on

Your choice of backing will depend on a number of considerations: cost, convenience and durability. There is a big difference in cost per yard for each type of backing material, but there is another ‘cost’ to consider, and that is your labor. Even if you don’t intend to sell your rugs, it’s important to consider your time. You will spend the exact same amount of time on the project, regardless of which fabric you choose, the difference is how long you want the project to last.

Burlap is good for projects that won’t need to be washed, like small wall-hangings or other decorations. It is made from the jute plant, which is wonderfully biodegradable (if you’ve ever bought a large shrub, you might have noticed the root ball was wrapped in burlap, which goes right into the ground, to disintigrate into the soil). It is not suitable for floor rugs for this reason. However, at around $4.00/yd, burlap is great for practice. When you’re ready to design a rug for the floor, you’ll want linen or monk’s cloth.

Monk’s cloth is pretty easy to find in most fabric stores, so that’s handy, but if you’re willling to search online, you can find “rug warp” which is tougher than monk’s cloth. Monk’s cloth and rug warp are made from cotton, which is a brittle fiber when exposed to wear and tear. I’m sure you’ve noticed how you wear holes in your jeans after a certain point (even without climbing trees!). That’s the nature of cotton. The fibers tend to break over time. I repair old rugs, and I often come across rug damage when the cotton backing has deteriorated, unravelling the hooked part, so that can be a concern if the rug is intended for a high traffic area. Monk’s cloth will cost you about $15.00/yd, while rug warp will run around $27.00/yd.

I prefer linen for floor rugs, because it’s not only washable, it’s practically indestructible! When the flax plant is prepared for spinning, it is soaked in water, and everything that doesn’t rot is what is spun into linen. It costs $36.00/yd. Before you balk at the price, remember that by far, the greatest value that goes into a hooked rug (much more than the backing material plus the T-shirts, yarn or fabric strips) is your time. You will spend
exactly the same amount of time hooking the rug, whichever backing you choose, but linen gives you far more lasting value.

How long do you want that rug to last? The backing material is what holds the rug together. It has to withstand wear and tear. There’s a big difference in durability between burlap, cotton or linen. Burlap rugs might
survive ten years on the floor before it begins to break down, cotton 25-50 years, but a rug made with linen will last 100 years or more!

Breaking it down by price per square foot is perhaps a better way to compare the types of backing fabric. Burlap costs about 33 cents per square foot, monk’s cloth goes for a little more than $1.00/sq. ft., rug warp around $2.00/sq. ft., and linen will run you $2.75/sq. ft. My rugs sell for $100.00 per square foot, so you can see that my labor is by far the greatest investment I put in the rug. If someone buys a rug from me that is hooked on linen, it’s the very best guarantee I can give them that the rug will last many generations. That’s worth an extra 75 cents in my book.

You can save 20% off linen on our Supplies page during the month of October. Time to stock up!

Happy Hooking Everyone!

Judy Taylor


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