Although the jute might sound like an unfamiliar fibre to those in the West, this plant textile is actually the second-most produced fibre in the world. But what is jute fabric exactly? The main species of plant used to produce jute fabric is scientifically known as Corchorus olitorius, or white jute, and is a tall, highly fibrous plant typically in India and Bangladesh. While the plants are highly important to these countries, growth there typically occurs due to the favourable climate in relation to the jute plant (as an ambient humidity level of approximately 80% is required for sustainable growth). With this plant being so popular, yet so unknown in the West, in this article we take a look at what makes the jute plant yield such excellent fibres for producing goods.
Why the jute plant is so popular
Although now commonly used in everyday items such as jute bags, Jute has been grown for textile purposes on the Indian subcontinent for at least 5,000 years – production which continues to this day. Surprisingly, the production of jute has changed little during this time. In most jute-related production, the mature stalks are harvested by hand, and they are then defoliated. Production likely hasn’t changed due to the ease of which jute can be harvested – in their unprocessed state, jute fibres are long and shiny, which makes for easy manufacture, unlike cotton. Also unlike cotton, jute is quite a rough fibre, making it a poor choice for apparel manufacturing. It’s this roughness and hardiness that makes it ideal for a wide variety of applications where durability is prized, however such as in industrial sectors. In these sectors, loose jute fabric is for the most part are woven networks of thick yarn. Being so thick and pliable also makes jute very simple to work with, especially in hot and humid climates due to its impressive ability to retain little heat.
Applications of jute fabric
The sumptuous texture of the burlap sack is actually the result of being made from jute fibres, which should give you some indication of how rough the material typically is. Jokes aside, it’s also easy to understand the strength of these fibres considering the heft usually attributed to the contents of a burlap sack, consisting of large loads of produce and other heavy goods. Interestingly jute fibres are actually also used in jute fields, where they protect against erosion. Because they’re biodegradable, saplings can push their roots through the bags without resistance. Jute is also used in flooring, where it often makes up the fibrous backing of linoleum tiles. It can also be used to make up rugs and carpeting (although not necessarily the deliriously soft kind), but this also helps with the longevity of the floor. Similarly, jute is favoured as upholstery in things like outdoor furniture, and is a good option for curtains and canvas.
Give jute the attention it deserves
With all of these great perks, the cost of jute fabric is the icing on the cake – it’s one of the cheapest textiles you can buy, so paired with its hardiness and durability, jute is a great long-term investment. Plus, with jute being an entirely natural textile fibre, it is completely biodegradable, so pollution isn’t an issue even with industrial application.