13 Insane (But True) Things About Cotton Canvas Fabric You Might Not Know

Canvas is a versatile fabric good for everything from making handbags to top sails. But did you know there’s a rich history of cotton canvas fabric? Here are 13 Insane Things About Cotton Canvas you might not know.

Canvas is Made from Cotton

An amazing and versatile plant, cotton is what canvas is made from. Both conventional and organic cotton are fairly sustainable crops. Organic cotton, however, requires much more water for production.

Canvas was Originally Made from Hemp

The word “canvas” comes from the Latin “cannabis,” and that’s because canvas was originally made from hemp. It was commonly used during the Italian Renaissance. The Venetians loved hemp canvas because it worked great in humid climates. For example, wood panels would warp with the water absorption. Canvas, however, held steady because it naturally repels water.

It’s Naturally Water Resistant

That’s right, canvas fabric is naturally waterproof! The way the material is woven keeps the weave very tight, and water naturally beads off the fabric. For extra water protection, canvas is sometimes treated with wax or chemicals.

People Use it for Painting

As we said before, wood panels were not ideal for painting for long. When canvas came around, painters from all over the world were happy for the arrival of this new, innovative fabric. Stretched over wood frames, cotton canvas fabric is an excellent material for painting. Some canvas is coated with gesso before use. This prepares the canvas for painting.


The oldest surviving oil on canvas painting is of the French Madonna from around 1410. How’s that for durability?

But You Can Print Photos on it Too…

These days, there are large format printers that can print images and patterns on canvas. From upholstery to your wedding photos, canvas is a good medium for imagery. Today, you don’t need to take a brush to canvas, however. We’ve got new technology for this.

Cotton Duck Isn’t an Animal

The work “duck” is Dutch for “doek.” And here in the United States, we still use the term and classify cotton duck one of two ways: by weight in ounces per square yard or using a graded number system. The grading system works in reverse! Therefore, #10 fabric is lighter than #6.

Cotton Canvas is Over 3,500 Years Old

While canvas was woven from hemp originally, people in ancient India were weaving cotton into canvas way back in 1500 B.C. Later, as trade opened up, cotton canvas was traded to Europe and other locations.

Sail the Oceans with Canvas

Canvas, as a water resistance, strong fabric makes for amazing sails. Canvas isn’t strained by tension stress or wind. It’s exceptionally durable. Not all sailors use canvas, however. Only people who like to sail in the original way like to use canvas sails.

Sailors Love Canvas

And not just for sails! There are many marine uses for cotton canvas. For instance, covering seating on a boat with canvas protects your cushions and helps them resist mold and mildew. Canvas is also good for sunshades, flags, banners, and coverings.

Walk a Mile (or 1000) in Canvas Shoes

Canvas is great for shoes! Keds are one brand of shoe that exclusively uses canvas to make their shoes, and with good reason. Canvas is durable, washable, and gosh-darn comfortable.

Canvas is Biodegradable

Cotton canvas fabric breaks down because it’s made from plants! However, if you treat your canvas with chemicals, the natural processes will be disrupted. As a biodegradable material, it’s better for the environment.

…And Sustainable

Cotton is a sustainable and renewable resource because it is planted and harvested yearly. Other materials, such as rayon, come from mature trees that can take upwards of 15 years to grow. As growing practices become even more sophisticated, we’ll see some major gains in making cotton an even more ethical crop.

It’s the Perfect Fabric if You’re Vegan

No animals were harmed in the making of this canvas. Really. As a sustainable fabric, cotton canvas (especially organic cotton canvas fabric) is just about the more humane product available on the market today. It’s vegan, cruelty free, humane, and ethical.

And that is 13 Insane Things About Cotton Canvas that you might not have known.

Now go out and start DIYing.