What is canvas? You might have heard about this particular fabric when talking about oil paintings. While that is known as canvas as well, there are also other applications for this popular fabric. With that said, learn more about what is canvas and what its various applications are below.
What Is Canvas Made Of?
What is canvas made of? It is a fabric made typically out of cotton or linen with a plain weave. Canvas can also be made from hemp or PVC and other man-made fibers but these are less common. How it is woven is a critical factor in attaining its outstanding durability.
Throughout history, canvas fabric has been essential in some of humankind’s most significant milestones. For example, canvas was used in sails, which resulted in progressing countries stumbling upon many discoveries centuries ago. It was also used for manifesting the countless ideas of renowned artists through paintings. Additionally, canvas is also produced as a wearable fabric. It can be used for shoes and bags because of its waterproof capabilities.
What is Canvas Fabric - Properties?
As mentioned, canvas is an incredibly durable fabric. It is due to the tightly woven cotton or linen in a plain-weave pattern, forming a thick yarn. In fact, this fabric is similar to denim in terms of durability and thickness.
Most canvas fabrics have a low thread count. This means that as you cut it and observe the trimmings, you’ll find fewer threads protruding due to its thickness. Canvas can also have a softer texture by increasing its thread count. However, it needs to sacrifice its thickness and its durability to make this happen.
Another unique property of canvas is that it is naturally water-resistant. Its thickness helps contribute to that quality and is also reinforced by its finishing coating. These qualities are what make canvas a popular fabric.
What is Canvas Fabric - Origins?
Now that you have a better idea of what is canvas, let’s discuss its impact throughout history. While it is popularly made from cotton, the term “canvas” was derived from the plant “cannabis.” This is because canvas was initially sourced from hemp, a plant in the cannabis family and a close cousin of marijuana.
It was the people of India who started using cotton instead of hemp around 1500 B.C. As the world continued and the age of imperialism and exploration was in its heyday, trading remained the prevalent mode of exchange. That is why the reputation of canvas spread throughout the leading nations at the time, particularly in Europe.
Many people liked canvas because the material was considered durable and easy to transport. It became mainstream when artists across Europe during the medieval ages and the age of thinking began using canvas for oil painting. This immortalized many masterpieces throughout the centuries. Until today, this fabric remains relevant, particularly in the art industry.
What Are the Different Types of Canvas?
Now you know more about what is canvas, it is also essential to identify its types. From two varieties – plain and duck, canvas now has around eight types. Check them out below.
- Drop Cloth - It is an absorbent subtype of duck canvas used for making slipcovers and painter’s drop cloth.
- Duck Canvas - This is also known as cotton duck canvas. It is made from coarse yarns that have been tightly woven together. It is usually used for objects constantly dealing with intense pressure like shoes and tents.
- Marine-Grade Canvas - This refers to all canvas fabrics used in marine applications, such as boat cushions’ coverings and awnings. It is composed of strong acrylic fibers.
- Needle Point Canvas - Needlepoint canvas is an open-weave fabric with small holes in between the yarns. It is mainly used in needlepoint embroidery.
- Organic Canvas - Also known as ‘plain’ canvas, this is made from 100 percent organic cotton fibers.
- Polyester-Cotton Blended - This canvas is composed of cotton and polyester and weaved together. Nowadays, it is used for painting and also for printing photos and other artworks.
- Waste Canvas - This type has a loose thread with a grid pattern needed for embroidery. Its main application is embroidering any fabric on top without a weave.
- Waxed Canvas - This is a type of canvas that uses wax as its coating. It is used for making bags, jackets, and outdoor gear.
How is Canvas Made
By now, you have a clearer idea of what is canvas and its types. To help you better understand these differences, stated below are the general steps of how canvas is made.
- Materials Preparation - The base material of canvas has gone from hemp to cotton and, now occasionally, PVC. Man-made versions of canvas offer a more economic advantage in the art world and have gained a reputation of being more suitable to the application of acrylic paint.
- Yarn Production - After selecting one of the base materials, the yarn can now be made. As the process continues, the yarn is usually carded instead of combed. This is done so because softness is an irrelevant factor for canvas, with sturdiness being what is canvas all about.
- Weaving - After producing the yarns, they will now be woven together. The spacing and patterns can differ depending on the application, but most canvas fabrics are made using two-ply yarn. For art use, using single-ply yarn is sufficient.
- Finishing - After weaving all those yarns, the result may or may not be applied with a finishing layer. If the canvas is for industrial use, a PVC layer will be applied to the outer surface. For painting and textile, the canvas will be bleached first and then applied with a gesso layer.
What Is Canvas Used For?
So, what is canvas usually used for? It’s often used for the following applications.
- Furniture Upholstery
- Sails (old boats)
You may have observed that the majority of its uses are outdoor. This is due to its durable quality and waterproof property. Aside from that, canvas is easy to transport and work on. Therefore, it can be used for many outdoor applications.
What Are the Advantages And Disadvantages Of Canvas?
Its strong points made what canvas is today. However, there can also be disadvantages in using canvas. To give you a clearer idea, here are the pros and cons of using canvas.
- Printability or ability to be printed well.
- Can be favorable to chemical treatments for enhancement of its natural properties.
- Flame retardation, mildew resistance, and low maintenance after being chemically treated.
- Chemicals used in the treatment are not that eco-friendly.
- Doesn’t have much drape so is not suitable for most clothing items.
How Much Can Canvas Fabric Cost?
The prices for canvas can vary. Mostly, cotton and linen-made canvas are the least expensive because they are naturally occurring. Hemp-made canvas can be costlier. Since hemp is also used for medical purposes, its price has gone up in the marketplace due to its demand.
What Is Canvas’ Impact on the Environment?
Now you know what is canvas made of, you can now gauge its impact on the environment. If the process used in making canvas involves only natural materials such as cotton, linen, or hemp, it has low negative implications for the environment.
However, in this modern era, synthetic materials are also used, negatively impacting the environment due to how they are manufactured.
Although gesso is applied in the finishing stage of art canvas, it is still a mixture of natural and synthetic materials, including PVC. While there is an all-natural option for gesso, the ones predominantly used incorporate PVC into their formula.
Nevertheless, canvas is seen as more or less neutral. Since synthetic materials almost negate the low environmental impact, it seems that canvas has no real impact at all.
Rejected or discarded canvas materials, particularly those with traces of PVC, need to be disposed of properly.
How to Handle Canvas?
Now that you understand what is canvas, how it is made and applied, and its impact on the environment, it’s time to learn how to maintain it. To make it more simple, we will be focusing on the maintenance of canvas shoes and upholstery.
Cleaning Canvas Shoes
- Remove shoelaces completely.
- Remove the surface dirt using a brush with soft bristles.
- Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing a mild detergent and water. The ratio has to be ½ teaspoon of mild detergent for every one cup of water. Mix it well.
- Soak the laces for about 15 minutes.
- While the laces are soaked, scrub the shoe’s surface with a brush soaked in the soapy mixture.
- After scrubbing all parts, rinse the shoe. Make sure to avoid getting any liquid inside it.
- After soaking the laces, scrub them while rinsing.
- Air-dry the shoes and laces or let them be exposed to sunlight.
Cleaning Canvas Furniture
- Brush any surface dirt off by hand. You can wipe them off or use force by hitting the surface to remove debris.
- As you remove the canvas cover, if stated in your furniture’s label that it is machine-washable, you may do so. But to be safe, you can choose the handwashing option.
- Prepare a cleaning mixture in a bucket. Fill it with 2 gallons of water and approximately half a capful of any mild detergent. Mix well until suds are formed.
- Soak a cleaning sponge or rag in the solution and use it to clean the canvas’s surface. You can also use a brush with soft bristles for scrubbing stubborn dirt.
- When you’re satisfied, rinse the canvas by spraying it lightly with clean water. Suppose you are cleaning the canvas cover without removing it from the furniture. In that case, you can still apply the procedures since it is water-resistant.
- Allow the newly cleaned canvas to dry naturally. To avoid discoloration, do not expose it to direct sunlight.
- To protect the canvas from further damage, consider using a fabric protectant. Make sure to follow its instructions.
What Is Canvas – In Conclusion
So, what is canvas? Canvas is a fabric known throughout history for its exceptional durability and functionality. It has both its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, this has helped you understand what is canvas and its various applications. Having a deeper understanding means you can consider canvas as your fabric of choice, especially if you’re in the apparel or furniture business, outdoor gear manufacturing, or working in the art industry.