Burial Shrouds: How to Wrap a Body for Natural Burial

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How do I wrap a body in a burial shroud to bury in the ground?

If you’re trying to figure out your way around natural burial and you’ve come to this question, we have good news for you… you’re in the right place!

Many families have discovered new (yet old!) ways to honor their loved ones in how the body is buried. In making the decision of whether to bury or cremate, many factors are taken into consideration.

Let’s take a look at burial shrouds, and specifically how to wrap a body in a burial shroud for a natural burial.

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What Is a Burial Shroud?

A burial shroud is a simple yet durable cloth used to wrap a body in preparation for burial.

Shrouding is one of the final disposition options that is becoming more widespread in recent years. This because it is simple, eco-friendly, and relatively affordable.

Some faiths require it, some people simply prefer the aesthetics of it, some families are looking for a budget-friendly option, and of course many people have healthy concerns about the environmental impact of burial.

For these reasons and many more, the idea of a natural burial with a body wrapped in a simple shroud is appealing to many families.

Shrouding

Depending on the cemetery and your personal preferences, a shrouded body can be placed directly into the ground or perhaps buried in a simple pine coffin or a biodegradable willow casket. These “natural burial” options are often less expensive than many traditional choices. Shrouds also forgo the use of metal, chemical finishes, or other non-biodegradable products.

Shrouds in particular contribute towards sustainable burial practices. Used to provide a sense of dignity and honor to the decedent, the shroud covers and protects the body while shielding it from public view during transportation and the burial process.

Families often use a burial shroud when conducting a funeral at home. This means that a lot of people are wondering, how do I wrap a body in a burial shroud?

Let’s take a look at how to wrap a body in a burial shroud for natural burial using our Natural Bamboo Full-Body Burial Shroud.

Shroud Options

There are several ways to get a burial shroud. Your local cemetery or funeral home may have or offer them. If you are a member of a faith group that practices shrouding, you can sometimes obtain a shroud by asking your local clergy member for resources. You can make one yourself if you’re the DIY type.

Shrouded bodies can be buried or cremated in just the shroud, in a natural burial trundle or carrier, or in a biodegradable casket.

However, the most direct and probably the most affordable will be to order a shroud online and have it delivered to your door. Here are the top options for burial shrouds:

1. Natural Burial Shroud in Bamboo from Urns Northwest

How to shroud a body for burial
Available Here

This full-body burial shroud is made from sustainably produced bamboo. This makes it suitable for eco-friendly ground burial or cremation. This is our flagship shroud. It’s beautifully woven for elegance and crafted with sturdy durability for your peace of mind. No dyes or treatments have been added, ensuring that the bamboo cloth is completely natural.

Tested to hold up to 350 lbs.

Prices vary depending on the options you choose (size, handles for carrying). If you choose no handles, you’ll need something sturdy to use for transporting the body, such as a casket or carrier. You could conceivably get a stretcher like this one, but those have their downsides. Stretchers, however, are not very attractive, so we generally recommend one of these willow carriers for use in transporting the body. The carriers can be buried or cremated along with the shroud, or can be kept by the funeral home for re-use.

The premium burial shroud with handles can actually help you keep the costs down. With this option, you won’t need a separate carrying device such as a casket or carrier. The shroud with handles has a pouch sewn into the back so that you can slip a solid wooden board inside for support. Simply cut a 1/2″ board cut to size: 22″ wide and cut to length depending on how tall the person was.

2. Natural Burial Shroud in Cotton from Northwoods Casket

Natural Burial Shrouds from Northwoods Casket Company
Available Here

This contemporary burial shroud is made from organic cotton, and includes handles, tie straps for closure, and wooden slats (which are optional) to insert along the back for support. These features make transport and handling of the shrouded body a little easier in the contemporary natural burial cemetery.

Suitable for an adult who weighed up to 220 lbs.

This is a beautiful and eco-friendly option for a natural full body burial.

If the individual is going to be cremated, or if you would like a more dignified way to carry the body, the shroud can come in a set which includes a handcrafted pine trundle. Together, the shroud and pine carrier set can be used for viewing and transportation of the body prior to cremation. The entire setup can be cremated, buried, or placed into a vault. The set is well-crafted and completely eco-friendly.

How to wrap a body in a burial shroud

The instructions below are for shroud #1, above, the Natural Burial Shroud in Bamboo from Urns Northwest. Each shroud will come with full directions for use, but you can preview and download the information below. It’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting into ahead of time!

Shroud with handles:

  1. Unfold the shroud onto a clean dressing table. Make sure that the surroundings are clean, as the shroud may drape to the floor.
  2. Flip the shroud over so that the pouch is facing up and the handles are facing the floor. If you are placing the shroud into a casket or onto a carrier, skip ahead to Step #4.
  3. If using a board, insert the tapered end into the pouch first and slide board into desired location.
  4. Place the body onto the shroud. If using a board, center the body on the board. In order to correctly support the body weight, position the board between the back of the ankle and the top of the neck.
  5. Fold shroud over feet in order to wrap the feet.
  6. Cover the body, starting on one side and diagonally folding corner from foot to the opposite shoulder, and then from shoulder to the opposite foot.
  7. Repeat Step #6 for the opposite side of the body.
  8. Fold the end down over the head.
  9. Fold the sides inward over the body.
  10. Gently yet securely fasten the ties into a bow.
  11. Decorate the shroud, if you wish.
  12. To move the shroud, lift by the handles. DO NOT DRAG. Dragging can cause the fabric to tear.
  13. To transport the shrouded body in a vehicle, we recommend that you use a casket, willow carrier, gurney, or stretcher.

You can download or print these instructions from a PDF which includes basic illustrations: Instructions for Shrouding a Body (Shroud with Handles)

Shroud with no handles:

  1. Unfold the shroud onto a clean dressing table. Make sure that the surroundings are clean, as the shroud may drape onto the floor.
  2. Flip burial shroud over so that the hemmed edges face upward, then place the body onto the shroud.
  3. Fold shroud over feet in order to wrap the feet.
  4. Cover the body by starting on one side and diagonally folding the corner from foot to the opposite shoulder. Then fold from shoulder to the opposite foot.
  5. Repeat Step 4 on the opposite side of the body.
  6. Fold the end down over the head.
  7. Fold the sides in and over the body.
  8. Slide ties beneath the shrouded body.
  9. Gently yet securely fasten the ties into a bow.
  10. Decorate the shroud, if you wish.
  11. Because the burial shroud is simply a wrap and does not have handles or support, you should use it inside a casket or willow carrier.

You can download or print these instructions from a PDF which includes basic illustrations: Instructions for Shrouding a Body (Shroud with No Handles)

How to carry a body for a natural burial

Let’s take a look at how to actually carry the body in a way that is respectful to the decedent.

  • Biodegradable willow carrier
  • Burial shroud with carrying handles
  • DIY carrying board
  • Pine wood trundle
  • Purchase or borrow a stretcher
  • Eco-friendly natural burial casket

We’ll look at each of these options in turn. But first, a quick tip: Be sure to clear any materials/carriers with the cemetery beforehand. You can probably use just about any of these options to carry the body with no problems.

If you plan to bury the carrier along with the individual, you will need to make sure the cemetery allows the carrier for burial before you purchase or make it.

The actual “how to” for each option is pretty self-explanatory. Place the body into the carrier/shroud/casket/etc and use the handles to carry. You’ll need a minimum of four people; six is usually better.

Related: How to (legally) bury at loved one in your backyard

With those brief notes, here are your options on how to carry a body for a natural burial.

Biodegradable willow carrier

Natural Burial Body Transportation
Available Here

This is a sustainably-produced carrier specifically designed for transporting the body for a natural burial. Most often, it is used in conjunction with a burial shroud, but you can use it with a clothed body as well.

Burial shroud with handles

How to carry a body for natural burial
Available Here

These premium burial shrouds are designed to support the full weight of a body, tested to 350 lbs. The handles are made into the shroud itself, which includes a sewn-in pouch that you can use to slide in a support board.

The board is optional (and you will need to supply it yourself from a local hardware store), but it helps keep the body straight and even during movement.

DIY carrying board

Natural Burial Ideas

You can make your own carrying board. Here’s how:

  • Cut a sturdy 1/2″ board between 22″ and 36″ wide
  • Make the length about 12-18″ longer than the individual’s height
  • Cut holes in at least 1″ from the sides for handles
  • Stain the board if you wish, but most eco-friendly cemeteries require untreated/unfinished wood
  • You’ll want six handles, two holes per handle set about 4-6″ apart from each other
  • Tie the end of a thick, sturdy rope in a figure 8 knot, then run it upwards through the hole so that the knot stops against the bottom of the board
  • Set your handle length at about 12″, then cut and tie off the other end after passing it through the nearby hole
  • Repeat for each of the 6 handles

These are rough instructions; modify materials, dimensions, or process to suit your needs. Make sure you contact the cemetery or burial grounds for approval of any materials you use, if you plan to have the carrying board buried along with the decedent.

Stretcher

Available Here

This might be a good option if you’re on a budget. You can order non-rigid stretchers and have it delivered quickly via expedited shipping.

You won’t be able to bury the stretcher, since it is not made from natural materials. Or perhaps you may know someone with access to a stretcher that you can borrow and return after the burial service.

Natural Burial Casket

How to carry a body for a natural burial service
Available Here

Lastly, and perhaps the most traditional and simple option of them all, the natural burial casket.

With a casket that is eco-friendly, biodegradable, sustainably produced, and acceptable by pretty much all green or natural cemeteries, this is the premier choice to carry the body for a green burial.

How to Personalize a Burial Shroud

Burial shrouds are typically very plain. If you’re looking for some way to make the shroud more personal, the good news is that this gives you options.

Here are some ways to personalize your loved one’s shroud:

Embroidery. Embroider the burial shroud with name, dates, favorite quote, Bible verse, poem, etc. This will take time and skill, but it is one of the most beautiful additions you can make to personalize your burial shroud.

Paint. Use biodegradable paint to add designs, words, the person’s name, quotes, and more. Get the kids involved and make it a colorful collage, or hire a talented artist to paint something beautiful.

Markers. Participants can use markers to personalize the burial shroud at the time of burial, or at a memorial service prior to burial. Not everyone will be comfortable writing on a burial shroud with a body inside, so the best way would be to pick a time before shrouding.

Keepsakes & Notes. You can tuck notes and special tokens into the outer straps, or place them inside prior to shrouding. Use biodegradable paper for notes.

Flowers. For the natural burial, flowers are always a good choice to add life and color to the proceedings.

Patches. Sew on a Gryffindor Crest patch, cut out a design from a favorite t-shirt, a patch from a quilt, or a pocket from a well-worn pair of jeans. Anything that can be cut out and sewn is an option. Browse popular patches here.

Make Your Own Shroud. If you’re DIY type, there are simple and free burial shroud patterns available here. These include both sewn and no-sew types.

Shop Shrouds & Natural Burial Caskets

Premium-quality burial shrouds and eco-friendly caskets are available at our retail site Urns Northwest. Keep in mind that shrouded bodies can be buried in the shroud only, in a natural burial carrier, or in an eco-friendly casket. Any of these options will also work for use in cremation.

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7 thoughts on “Burial Shrouds: How to Wrap a Body for Natural Burial”

  1. Hi Ray,

    As far as the state and city government is concerned, it’s legal, it is more a matter of who owns the property. There is no master list I’m aware of for this. You would need to find either 1) A ‘green’ cemetery, or 2) private property. It’s ultimately up to whoever owns or manages the land on which the burial is taking place.

    Thank you!

  2. Can I wear a natural fiber nightgown IN the shroud? Or does the body have to be bare?

  3. I think natural burial is typically done with a “bare” body, but I’ve also heard of the body being buried in clothing. If you are being buried on your own property, it’s up to you. If you are being buried in a natural cemetery, you’ll need to ask them. Great question!

  4. My dearest and most beloved best friend just passed away yesterday, and I want to wrap her in a beautiful sheer floral material and place flowers upon her . She will be cremated, and I feel this is a more dignified and a beautiful way to show one last act of love to her directly. I myself want to wrapped in a shroud by my children when my time comes. I find it romantic, dignified and it’s an ancient custom from many cultures.
    I will be making her shroud and maybe even my own.

    Peace to my sweet Irene.

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