What is Canvas Duck?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Canvas duck is a type of durable fabric typically made from cotton, although it is also possible to find it made with linen. It is also referred to as cotton duck, duck cloth, or simply duck. This textile is used in a wide range of applications, from shoes to sandbags, and it is readily available at most craft stores in a range of weights and colors. Specific weights can also be ordered from specialty companies.

Canvas duck may be used to make shoes.
Canvas duck may be used to make shoes.

Typical canvas duck is constructed with what is known as a plain weave, meaning that the threads criss-cross each other to form a simple checkerboard pattern. The plain weave is both easy to construct and very strong, especially when made with heavyweight threads. Duck is often reinforced with two warp threads to every weft thread, creating a characteristic stiff, heavy feel.

Hammocks may be made out of canvas duck.
Hammocks may be made out of canvas duck.

Most textile manufacturers grade their products before sale, using a widely standardized numbering system. Duck is graded by weighing a sheet of a specific size; the lighter the fabric, the higher the grade. Grade 10 is the lightest form, while grade one is the heaviest. Some manufacturers also make “nought duck,” which is even heavier than grade one duck.

Canvas duck may be used to make canvas bags.
Canvas duck may be used to make canvas bags.

Heavier weight canvas duck may be used for things like upholstering, sailmaking, shoes, and hammocks, while lighter grades are suitable for canvas bags, work garments, shower curtains, and similar products. Classically, this fabric is sold in an unbleached creamy color, although it can be bleached or dyed if a specific color is desired. Like other fabrics made with cotton, it is generally easy to care for, and it takes dye very readily.

Canvas duck may be used for sailmaking.
Canvas duck may be used for sailmaking.

No ducks are involved in the manufacture of this product. The “duck” is derived from a Dutch word, doek, which refers to linen canvas. Since all canvas used to be manufactured from hemp, textile manufacturers wanted to be able to differentiate between traditional versions and ones made with other fibers, and the term spread to other languages, including English, where it metamorphosed into “duck.”

Canvas duck is the fabric commonly used for sandbags.
Canvas duck is the fabric commonly used for sandbags.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon217198

I am making a motorcycle leisure suit out of #8 duck. I am going to try bleaching it and dying it. Whatever you do, wash and dry hot first to shrink.

anon84184

I screen print on duck canvas to make band patches. works great.

anon37924

I am trying to make a fabric-covered headboard and footboard and came across this type of fabric and was wondering if it would work well for a project like that?

lemmings

I'm almost positive you can - I think the only thing to worry about is shrinking but in my experience, cotton duck is a pretty hardy material.

anon15937

I have a good quality bedspread made of cotton duck with a tropical print. The tag says to dry clean and I was wondering if I could wash it in cold water. I have successfully washed many dry clean only items but am not familiar with this fabric.

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