Hessian jute fabric is a type of coarsely woven material composed of fibers made from the skin of the jute plant. Because hessian jute comes from the plant’s skin, rather than other fibrous parts, it is classified as a bast fiber, a category that includes linen and hemp as well. Worldwide, production of jute is second only to cotton production among plants cultivated for use in textiles. However, jute is markedly different from cotton in that it does not require extensive use of pesticides or fertilizers to grow abundantly. Because of its high production levels and relative ease of cultivation, hessian jute is fairly inexpensive to purchase.
Cultivation of Jute Plants
The three major nation producers of jute plants are India, Pakistan, and China, though jute plants are grown to a lesser extent in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. The bulk of jute production is concentrated along the delta of the Ganges River, where climate conditions are ideal for growing and harvesting, as well as for transforming the raw plant into hessian jute fabric.
Successful jute cultivation requires a monsoon climate: heavy rain is needed during the process of sowing and slightly less (about two to three inches per week) during the growing period. After roughly four months of growth, farmers harvest the jute plants. Immediately following harvest, the plants soak in water for about 20 days.
This allows the skin to soften and detach from the pulpy, inner core so it can be removed and woven into hessian jute fabric.
Production of Hessian Jute Fabric
The process of soaking jute to soften the skin so it can be removed from the plant is called retting. Retting can be achieved via chemical processes, but the traditional method involves extended soaking in water, as mentioned above. Once the skin can easily be pulled from the plant, farmers do so, rinse the jute fibers, and position them to dry.
Dried jute fibers are then sold or woven into hessian jute cloth.
Types of Jute Plants
Two main types of jute exist: white jute and tossa jute. While both can be cultivated for making hessian cloth, the latter is also sometimes used as an herb in certain Middle Eastern countries.
Jute cultivation dates back hundreds of years, and historical records suggest that the people of India wore clothes woven from hessian jute fabric as early as the 16th century. Beautiful colors adorned the people of India as the fabric became an important part of their heritage (mainly the lower class).
Today, hessian jute remains a popular fabric, though it is more commonly used in non-clothing applications such as gunnysacks because of its strength. Gunnysacks are used to transport products, mainly rice, flour, and coffee. These brown sack-like bags are strong and robust, capable of carrying large loads, a nod to the strength of the hessian jute fabric.