Rustic Textures

When I’m out and about browsing flea markets and small vintage shops for unusual finds, I always keep my eyes peeled for interesting fabrics and textures.

What I’ve discovered over the years, is that I love the look and feel of grain cloth and burlap and I’ve amassed a small collection of both.

Weird? Maybe… but I guess I just have a thing for rustic textures.

chair corner

As you might expect that affinity also extends to the distressed, rustic texture of old furniture too (like this great “chippy” chair I found over the weekend).

But, I’ll save my love for distressed, rustic chairs for another time.

For now, I’m going to share my love for grain cloth and burlap… two of the most amazing rustic textures around.

grain sack

The thick, sturdy fabric of grain cloth is most often (and originally) used as sacks to hold grain, rice and other products.

In the early 1800, farmers used the sturdy sacks to transport their harvest to market and auctions.

It’s how grain fabric is still used today.

I remember a few years ago, I saw a stack of bean-filled grain sacks piled up in the corner of a favorite cafe and after inquiring about what the owner planned to do with the empty sacks she agreed to save a few of them for me.

grain fabric and burlap

Authentic, vintage grain sacks can also be a little pricey so, I keep my eyes open for great deals when I’m hunting and gathering.

Now you may be wondering right now what I do with all these fabrics.

Well, I use them for photo backdrops, primarily in my food styling efforts.

Sometimes, even a very small corner of rustic texture is all that’s needed to add interest to photo styling.

You can see how I used a few of my grain sacks and burlap pieces HERE, HERE and HERE just to name a few.

striped grain sacks

Early European grain sacks used to be made from hemp or flax in which the fiber from these plants was extracted and used to  make rope or heavy fabrics.

The thick hemp was spun and woven into super heavy fabric which is quite durable and of course laden with great texture.

Those familiar stripes often found on grain sacks were a way of identifying the farm where the grain-filled sack came from.

I know you’ve probably also seen some of this fabric with initials on either side of the stripes. That was yet another way of identifying the farmer.

burlap grain sacks

While modern day grain sack fabric is available, I don’t think it compares to those early sacks which are nubby, rough and oh-so appealing in texture.

I feel the same way about burlap sacks which also have that great course texture but with a much  more open, larger weave.

These days, DIYers cut open the grain sack seams and transform the fabric into pretty pillows, cushions and upholstery makeovers with that distinct farmhouse style.

rice sack

I’m going to use this vibrantly-colored burlap sack as a backdrop for an upcoming and as yet unknown and unnamed recipe.

I don’t  know what I’m going to make but I think I’ll make something with rice in it and I’ll use this small sack like a place-mat.

Of course, I’ll make sure the word “rice” is slightly visible under the plate.

A friend of mine saved this little red and blue burlap sack for me because she thought I might find a use for it.

She was right.

Isn’t it just great when your friends know exactly what kinds of things to save for you?

grain sack stack

Thanks for stopping by.

See  you back here next time. 

  • Larissa ~ Prodigal Pieces

    I just came upon your site and feel I have met a kindred spirit. You photography is spot on. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Larissa, so glad you’ve found somethings of interest on my little blog.
      Happy to connect with you.
      If you ever have any questions about anything I’ve posted, drop me an email anytime.
      Happy day to you.

  • [email protected] Designs

    Incredible photography and love your collection of the grain sacks…Always admire the textures you use in each photo…gorgeous!

  • Michele

    I have a small collection of vintage linen and flax tea towels and I love the textures and colors and individuality of them. But if I tried to capture them in photographs I couldn’t begin to do them justice. You have taken the most wonderful photographs, they are beautiful. Thank you for helping me stop and appreciate the simple things we all take for granted.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Michele, thanks so much for your sweet, thoughtful comment.
      It’s wonderful to know you’re touched by these simple photos and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know how you feel about them.
      Hope you have a wonderful week.

  • Elaine (Nana Banana) Tutman

    Burlap is great for more than your food styling. You can use it in cooking too. Burlap sacking is crucial to steaming oysters. At local Oyster Roast last week, our oyster chef made a pit fire, fueled with split oak logs. When fire was right, the pit was covered with sheet of steel resting (on logs or cinder blocks. As soon as few drops of water sizzle when dropped on the metal sheet, the oysters are dumped on the metal cooking surface.
    Of course, the oysters have been well-hosed to get rid of the sand and mud. Then the BURLAP BAGS which have been well-soaked in water were placed over the oysters on the steel plate.
    After 8-9 minutes, check to see if the oysters are beginning to open. Pull off the burlap, remove the steamed oysters to serving table-use canvas gloves-and start another batch covering with well-soaked burlap bags.
    Repeat process. Feast on delicious steamed oysters with hot sauce or other favorite sauces.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks, Mom.
      I didn’t know that… probably because I’ve never cooked oysters before.
      I love that I still learn something new from you every day.

  • jae

    Your photos are again positively swoon-worthy, like an old still life oil painting. Love how you played up the various textures and made the once-common items take the spotlight. Beautiful post! (I love old linen pieces myself, both the fine and the coarse weaves.)

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Jae, I love your wording and I’m so happy you’re enjoying my photos.
      Still much to learn but when I get a comment like yours, I know I’m on the right track (smile).
      Yes, linen is right up there with grain sack fabric and burlap to me too.
      Have a great week.

  • Jeanne

    Lisa – the textures in this post are so beautiful…I can almost reach through the screen and feel them. Just Amazing.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks, Jeanne.
      That’s what I love about these fabrics. They’re so rich in texture.
      Thanks so much for your sweet support of my creative efforts and posts. You know I appreciate you.

  • Debrashoppeno5

    I have one sack I bought last spring and can’t make myself cut into it. Now I don’t feel like I should. I think I need to start a collection. I love your photos.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Ha-ha, Debra. I know exactly how you feel.
      I say when in doubt just keep the lovely grain sack as is and use it to highlight your photography as a prop.
      Unless you know you’re going to love the fabric in a pillow or some other project, I wouldn’t risk cutting it either.
      Thanks for your sweet words about my photos.
      Hope you have a wonderful week.

  • Jennifer

    I remember seeing that chair on Instagram last weekend! I love the grain bags stacked on top of it. I buy burlap to cover my rosemary and other plants that I’m trying to overwinter. I hadn’t thought about using them as a food photo backdrop though. So clever. I had no idea that those stripes were to identify the farmers!

    Thanks for more inspiration! Happy Monday.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks, Jennifer!
      Yes, I just found that chair over the weekend and I as anxious to see how it looked in a photo.
      Thus, my grain sack and burlap fabric post was born-lol.
      Do keep your eyes open for these great textures.
      Happy day to you.

  • Teresa at

    Wow! You had me with your gorgeous photo of that chair, then it all that cloth!! We too love the “junk hunt” and now I have to find some rustic bags! Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Lol, Teresa I love your term “junk hunt”. I’m going to borrow that one.
      Yes, please keep your eyes peeled for these wonderful textures.
      So happy you popped over for a visit.
      I hope you have a wonderful week.

  • Sandra Garth

    Great fabric collection and I’ll be scouring the thrift stores from now on.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Definitely, Sandra. I’ve found some of my favorite pieces hidden under something else.
      So, be sure to lift up things as your scouring those off-the-beaten shops.
      Good luck finding a few but fair warning… once you start picking up grain sacks, it will be hard to stop-lol.
      Have fun.

  • Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    How great to have a friend who knows your mind. I love your fabric! There aren’t too many places here that have vintage fabric — Goodwill is about it. I’m going to go through my plastic bins and see if I have anything. I’m anxious to see what you do with the rice sack — a rice recipe, perhaps? Have a great day. I’m loving this warm weather.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Lovely weather here too, Marisa.
      This is my favorite time of year because it’s so cool and crisp.
      Good luck searching for some great grain sack fabric. It would look great incorporated into some of your wonderful food styling photos.
      Happy day to you.

  • Botanic Bleu

    You have a wonderful collection of rustic textures. I look forward to seeing your upcoming post with the rice recipe and the grain sack. The colors in the sack are so vibrant and make me think “Christmas!”


    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks, Judith.
      You know years ago when I was big into scrapbooking, everything looked like a potential scrapbook page to me.
      Now that I’m more into photography and styling, everything looks like a potential prop-and my friends know it-lol
      I love the vibrant red on that sack too.
      Hope you have a wonderful week.

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