One our favorite materials to use at Owen & Fred is canvas, specifically Duck Canvas. Its strength and durability are quite impressive, leaving a consumer with a product that will last years, if not generations. With all of the materials we use, we like to understand exactly what makes them so great. Canvas is no different.
The word canvas derives from the early 13th century Anglo-French word canevaz, which itself derives from the Vulgar Latin word cannpaceus, which translates to “made of hemp.” That’s because originally, canvas was made of hemp, not cotton. However, while the word may have origins in the 13th century, hemp has been made into fabrics since the around 3,000 B.C. in China. Not until 1500 B.C. did weavers in India began to use cotton to create new and interesting fabrics.
While these fabrics may have had a certain similarities to present day canvas, they lacked the durability that we now know as canvas. The kind of material we think of when we refer to canvas, didn’t come for many years later, probably around the same time it was given its Anglo-French name in the early 13th century. This kind of fabric was first primarily used for making sails for ships. The area that is now Italy especially, was known to be one of the first to adopt canvas very strongly. The canvas used in this time varied from hemp to linen to cotton, what makes it specifically canvas is the weave type: the woof thread goes over one warp thread then under the next (woof or weft is the yarn drawn through a warp to create the cloth, the warp is the lengthwise thread in the roll).
The second use for canvas that popularized the fabric was painting. Before canvas, many artists used pieces of wood. Painting (specifically oil painting) on canvas can be dated back to the early 1400s, though it still took a few hundred years for its popularity to completely take over. Now, almost all oil painting is done on canvas with both linen and cotton duck canvas being the most popular fabrics to use.
Duck canvas, which we often use, is an even stronger version of canvas. Duck canvas, also referred to as cotton duck or duck cloth, uses a more tightly woven thread to create a fabric great for a long list of uses from hammocks and sandbags to work clothes and shower curtains. The “duck” has no reference to the animal, quacking, or the classic 90’s hockey team/movie. In fact, it derives from the Dutch work doek, which translated to cloth or linen canvas.
It’s great to know a little history of canvas, but we’d like to address why exactly this material was able to gain such popularity and draw us so much to it. First, the weave is extremely strong. Along with it being water-resistant, it’s also fire-resistant. Of course under enough heat, the material will ignite, however, if a spark lands on canvas or the material is placed too close to heat (say while hanging with buds at a campfire), it won’t become damaged. Think of a spark landing on nylon or other synthetics and how easily a hole can burn through it. Canvas (especially Duck Canvas) won’t take that crap for a second.
As well, canvas, with its wide range of uses, proves to be a manly and strong material. From sails to army duffels to sandbags, its a fabric that screams tough. With every one of its uses, you can recognize its courage. Canvas is the Navy Seal of fabric. While silk, linen, or velvet may look good on a suit, you wouldn’t dare put those fabrics through a thunderstorm, canvas welcomes the challenge.
Canvas is great for survival gear, as well as the urban jungle, as dirt and stains are easily manageable. Simple spot cleaning with soap and water can make your canvas look like new. Of course, new isn’t necessarily desirable. Another great aspect of canvas is how great it looks when it ages. Dust, dirt, and general wear gives canvas a softer feel with a terrific look. It's a material that can be handed down through the generations only to look better every decade.
We employ canvas in both our duffel and shaving kit bags. That way, your bags can be as versatile as you want them to be. For a run to the gym or a weekend getaway, your bags will look great while staying tough.