The History of Canvas

Canvas is a popular material. It’s vercatilty lends it to a wide spectrum of applications, ranging from tents to sails and bags. It is an extremely durable, water resistant, plain-woven fabric and is perfect for making items when sturdiness is required.

The word ‘canvas’ originates from the 13th Century and is derived from Anglo-French ‘canevaz’ and the Old French ‘canevas’. Both thought to mean ‘made from hemp’.

Nowadays canvas is typically made from cotton but earlier variants were made from Hemp. Hence the canvas translation ‘made from hemp’. Hemp, thought to be one of the oldest fibre-yielding plants, is a variant of the cannabis plant. The fibrous wooden core is extracted and woven into fabric. Some hemp products exist today and it is still used to made ropes, although cotton has taken over as the “fibre of our lives”.

The weave used to make canvas differentiates it from other cottons. A plain weave is used rather than a twill weave. Plain weave is a style of weave in which the weave alternates over and under the warp. The symmetrical structure creates a balanced fabric, giving additional strength. The fabrics can be woven more tightly (duck canvas) or looser (plain canvas). The tighter weave add further to the strength and makes the fabric heavier. As a rule of thumb the heavier the canvas the thicker the cotton and the stronger the material. Generally this weight is what’s used to measure canvas. Measurements are taken as ounces per square foot and range from around 7oz to 30oz. An alternative grading system can be used but this is rarer.

You can find out more about the weight of our canvas backpacks and duffel bags in our ‘Canvas. How is it made’ blog.


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