What is Canvas Fabric?

Canvas is known for its strength and durability across the globe. The word itself comes from the 13th century Anglo-French canevaz and the Old French canevas (a word which is still used by present-day speakers). Over the centuries, canvas has lend itself to various uses. It became a favourite of European painters during Renaissance due to its easy availability, portability and lesser cost. The fabric was already being used for boat sails due to its sturdiness. Early canvas was made of linen but the present-day cloth is mostly made with cotton fibres.

History of Cotton

The cotton plant which itself has a history of almost 7000 years was first employed to make the thread to hold beads together, making it probably the world’s first necklace. As per the American Cotton Council, in the Indus Valley Civilization of present-day Pakistan, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothes.

Scientists searching caves in Mexico found bits of cotton balls and pieces of cotton cloth that proved to be at least 7,000 years old. They also found that the cotton itself was much like that grown in America today.

In the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothing.

Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe about 800 A.D. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahama Islands. By 1500, cotton was known generally throughout the world.

Cotton was first spun by machinery in England in 1730. The industrial revolution in England and the invention of the cotton gin in the U.S. paved the way for the important place cotton holds in the world today.

Manufacturing process of canvas


From the field, seed cotton moves to nearby gins for separation of lint and seed. The cotton first goes through dryers to reduce moisture content and then through cleaning equipment to remove foreign matter. These operations facilitate processing and improve fiber quality. The cotton is then air conveyed to gin stands where revolving circular saws pull the lint through closely spaced ribs that prevent the seed from passing through. The lint is removed from the saw teeth by air blasts or rotating brushes, and then compressed into bales.


In simple words, this is the making of yarn from cotton. Modernization efforts have brought major changes to the textile industry.

Lint from several bales is mixed and blended together to provide a uniform blend of fiber properties. The blended lint is blown by air from the feeder through chutes to cleaning and carding machines that separate and align the fibers into a thin web. The web of fibers at the front of the card is then drawn through a funnel-shaped device called a trumpet, providing a soft, rope-like strand called a sliver (pronounced SLY-ver).

Roving frames draw or draft the slivers out even more thinly and add a gentle twist as the first step in ring spinning of yarn. Ring spinning machines further draw the roving and add twist making it tighter and thinner until it reaches the yarn thickness or “count” needed for weaving or knitting fabric.
After spinning, the yarns are tightly wound around bobbins or tubes and are ready for fabric forming.

Weaving of canvas

Twisting of yarn

Cotton fabric manufacturing starts with the preparation of the yarn for weaving. The very first step is yarn twisting to achieve the required specifications of the canvas. The single ply yarn can be twisted up to 6plys according to the final fabric required. The single ply yarn is twisted and tightly wound around paper cones again for the next step.


Warping is the second stage of the processes used after twisting. The process involves transferring yarn from a predetermined number of cones positioned on the creel onto a warper’s beam. The yarn is transferred from the cones onto a beam of weaving machine to start the fabric making process. Warping determines the


The objective of sizing is to coat the warp yarn with size paste. This helps the yarn to withstand the weaving tensions, by imparting additional strength. The sizing also helps to cover the protruding fibres in the yarn thereby preventing yarn breakage in weaving due to entanglement of neighboring ends. Sizing also increases the abrasion resistance of the yarns.

Canvas is mostly made by tightly weaving yarns together in a plain weave, which is a very basic textile weave. The warp (vertical) threads are held steady on the loom, while the weft threads cross over and under each warp. The fibers used in canvas are thick, usually medium to heavy weight threads. Most cotton canvas is made with two-ply (or more) yarns, which adds weight, texture, and creates an even thickness throughout the fabric.

The process used to make canvas fabric differs depending on the fabric’s intended purpose. Canvas fabric intended for painting goes through additional post-production processes. Despite the fact that textile manufacturers can make canvas from cotton, linen, or hemp, each of these fibers have similar attributes, so the basic production processes used to make canvas remain the same regardless of the selected fiber.

Canvas used for sails is usually unbleached, and canvas used for tents, apparel, and other purposes may be dyed.

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