Canvas or Duck: Which One is Better?

The assumption that canvas and duck are different is misleading. That’s right – they are the same!  Canvas comes in two basic forms: plain and duck.  When you understand these terms, the confusion about the difference between canvas or duck will become clear, and it will help you make the right fabric choices for your sewing project.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a basic textile weave usually made from cotton. Originally, canvas was made from hemp before linen was used to make it for the fabric’s durability. The word canvas means “made of hemp”.

Actually, from the thirteenth century, canvas was utilized as a covering wrap on Pavise shields. The wooden surface of the shield was covered with several layers of gesso and typically painted in tempera technique.

In order to make the surface impenetrable, a transparent varnish was applied. Although canvas with gesso was ideal for painting, the canvas was mainly used to strengthen the wooden shield.

Canvas or Duck: What Separates Canvas from Other Cotton Fabrics?

How canvas is made will make it clear how it’s different from other cotton fabrics. The plain weave, which is made of tightly woven yarns, consists of vertical threads held firmly on the loom and the weft threads cross on top and under the warp. Canvas fibers are thick with threads that normally weigh from medium to heavy.

The weight originates from the two-ply yarns or two single yarns that are twisted together. This also adds texture and a uniform thickness on the canvas. The weight of the thread and the plain-weave method are what set canvas apart from other heavy cotton textiles such as denim.

The fabric is also used in different forms such as canvas splined, canvas stretched and canvas boards.

Splined Canvas

The canvas is attached to a spline at the back of a frame, which allows artists to include painted edges without using staples on the sides. This means that the frame is not required. More importantly, when the canvas begins to loosen up, artists are able to stretch the canvas simply by altering the spline.

Stapled Canvas

Stapling canvas is a traditional form of stretching the fabric. This way, the canvas remains stretched tightly for a long time. But it’s not easy to stretch the canvas when the fabric begins to loosen up.

Canvas Boards

Using glue to attach the canvas on the cardboard, the canvas is stretched and fastened at the back of the board. Normally, artists prefer to use linen primed canvas for a specific type of paint.

Why is it Called Duck?

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Duck originates from the Dutch word, doek, which refers to cloth. Compared to the plain canvas, duck canvas is a heavy-duty cotton textile. While plain and duck canvas are often used for similar projects, the choice between the two fabrics depends on the weight and strength of the required textile.

The Benefits of Duck

  • It is stronger than the plain canvas.
  • It holds shape better than the standard canvas, as it stretches more fully.
  • It’s woven more tightly.
  • It has a unique system that was set up in the 1920s. The measurement system ranges from 1 to 12. The lightest fabric is 12 and the heaviest is 1.
  • It’s only made from cotton and that is why it is sometimes called cotton duck fabric.
  • It’s cheaper and, therefore, accessible to more people.

What are Canvas or Duck Used For?

Canvas is adapted to many different activities that range from fashion to home décor. Here are some of the most common functions:

  • Sails on boats, although today most manufacturers use synthetic sailcloth to make sails.
  • The heavy-duty canvas is perfect for constructing shelters, camping supplies and textile for tents.
  • Since canvas is durable and water-resistant, it’s great for making bags, tote bags and backpacks, for example.
  • It is used to make shoes.
  • Photographers use lightweight canvas for backdrops because it is easy to carry.
  • It’s used for making clothes such as sailing jackets, as its water-resistant qualities are so useful for outdoor activities.
  • The fabric’s durability lends itself perfectly for repeated use and, therefore, it’s used for furniture upholstery.

Canvas Etc: Your Source for Canvas or Duck

At Canvas ETC, we provide you with high-quality by-the-yard and wholesale fabrics for your next hobby or commercial project. If you have any questions about our selection, contact us today.