What Is Duck Fabric?

Written by anna-karin smith
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  • Introduction

    What Is Duck Fabric?

    Duck fabric, also known as cotton canvas, is a heavy and sturdy material that is also water- and wind-resistant. Though it becomes less stiff the more it is washed, it retains its durability and simply becomes more flexible. Because of these attributes, as well as being easily dyed and sewn, duck fabric makes a good outdoor fabric.

    Duck fabric is used to make director's chairs. (chair image by Bernd Ennen from Fotolia.com)

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    Grades of Fabric

    Duck fabric is so called "from the Dutch word doek meaning linen canvas." There are 12 grades of this type of fabric, 12 being the lightest and 1 the heaviest. The lighter grades are used for fabrics like shower curtains, the tops of sneakers, and reusable shopping totes. The heavier grades are used for fabrics such as boat covers, tents and sandbags. All duck fabric is made of the most common plain weave, which resembles a checkerboard at close distance because of the under-and-over repetitious pattern of the weave.

    Duck fabric received its name from the Dutch word "doek," meaning linen canvas. (dutch windmill against a blue sky image by Dev from Fotolia.com)

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    Outdoor Uses

    Because of duck fabric's weather resistance, some types are even treated to be mildew-resistant. This comes in handy when using duck fabric to make boat decking and awnings. Banners can also be made from this outdoor-hardy fabric. Many industrial and utility purposes can be fulfilled with duck fabric.

    Duck fabric is highly weather resistant. (path after the rain image by Samuel Birkan from Fotolia.com)

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    Other Uses

    Not only can duck fabric resist weather-wear, it is useful as a hardy fabric that can take day-to-day wear. It can be used to make tool pouches, slipcovers, dog beds, drapes, and duffel bags. It is even used to make some kinds of clothing, pillows, and bedding, and can be treated to be stain-resistant. Duct tape was initially made from duck canvas covered with an adhesive.

    Duck fabric can be used for high-wear articles such as dog beds. (westie in bed image by Alan James from Fotolia.com)

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    Artist's Canvas

    Duck fabric serves the artistic community as canvas for paintings. The duck fabric is covered with layers of gesso, which smoothes the canvas surface in preparation for the painting. Then the canvas is ready for painting with acrylics, alkyds, or oils.

    Duck fabric is often used as canvas for paintings. (woman painting on a canvas image by monamakela.com from Fotolia.com)

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    Duck Fabric or Linen

    There are benefits as well as drawbacks in using this fabric instead of a linen canvas for art. On the positive side, it is less expensive than the linen, and stretches easily. This flexibility becomes a disadvantage when the canvas is being prepared for a very large painting, in which case the linen canvas is preferable. The painting surface on a prepared linen canvas is the smoothest and most taut of the fabrics, and when paired with an oil primer, it is considered "the classical standard for oil paintings." However, duck fabric is especially useful as a canvas for students learning the art of painting.

    Students can experiment on duck fabric. (academy of fine arts image by Dmitry Nikolaev from Fotolia.com)

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