What is Waxed Canvas?
Waxed canvas is a cotton canvas that has been impregnated with wax and is water resistant. First used as sailcloth by 19th century mariners, waxed canvas is durable and has a look similar to distressed leather.
THE LOOK AND FEEL
- Waxed canvas has slightly waxy feel and gets a rugged mottled look with use. The surface shows creases and marks easily, contributing to the character of the fabric. You can choose to emphasize this by deliberately scrunching it in your hands then smoothing it out. There are several weights available in waxed canvas available on the market today.
- When you first receive your waxed canvas, you may notice a slight discoloration towards the edges...don't worry! This is mostly likely due to the wax not having cured all the way when rolled up and packaged for shipment to us. The easiest way to speed up the curing process is to lay your canvas out flat in a warm, clean area overnight. In the morning, you should notice that the discoloration has disappeared.
- The first thing you notice about it is the weight. Waxed canvas has a natural substance and heaviness to it that bags or clothing made from synthetic materials simply don’t have. When you pick up a waxed canvas bag, even when empty you’ll notice a little heft and when you rub the material through your fingers it feels sturdy. There are two reasons for this: the weight of the heavy gauge cotton used to make the canvas as well as the waterproofing wax itself.
The History of Waxed Canvas
- Waxed canvas, linked to oilskin, is a heritage fabric tied to the history of clipper ships. Historically, impoverished sailors would sew scraps of ruined or discarded sails and rub them with fish oil, grease, and later, linseed oil to create a waterproof poncho that protected their skin from harsh weather conditions at sea. In the mid-1800s, taking a cue from history, a Scottish mill contracted as a sail maker for the British military fleet responded to the creation of fast-moving clipper ships by replacing flax sails in favor of sails made from cotton impregnated with linseed oil. While early mariners noticed that wet sails were more efficient than dry ones, their weight slowed the vessels down. These new sails were stronger, lighter and more waterproof in heavy gales. This trend rapidly spread to protective clothing worn by fishermen and sailors, who now, not weighed down by sodden clothing, could respond more quickly to dangerous situations. However, all linseed-oiled cloths suffered the same issues: stiffness in the cold and a tendency to turn yellow with age.
- The turning point for waxed canvas came during the 1920s with the invention of a paraffin-impregnated cotton. Paraffin is a waxy substance derived from petroleum. The benefit of paraffin, as opposed to other oils or waxes used previously, was both its excellent waterproofing properties, breathability, but without the stiffness or yellowing. Linseed oil treatments were replaced with paraffin wax in the 1930s, a big improvement over linseed which hardened and cracked with age.
- Water resistant waxed canvas garments expanded from nautical use, becoming profoundly useful to farmers and outdoorsmen. Co-opted by the military and motorcycle enthusiasts during both World Wars, waxed canvas gained a foothold in the fashion and millinery world. After the war, the surplus of army clothing was sold off to the public, making waxed canvas clothing popular on both the hiking trails and the streets throughout the 1940s and 50s.
- Although many new innovative waterproof materials have since been developed, people still have a strong affection for waxed canvas items because of their proven long-lasting nature and the weathered vintage aesthetic it brings to gear and clothing. Newer types of wax blends and melding methods also mean that modern waxed canvas clothing can also be very sleek and lighter weight than many older wax canvas items were.
- Use of waxed canvas in bags and clothing is enjoying yet another renaissance as people once again favored durable, quality materials that last a lifetime. Today, many high-end outdoor and clothing companies still sell some very practical and great looking waxed canvas clothing and gear.
A Few Eco Facts:
- Our waxed canvas is part of OCS (Organic Content Standard) as well as BCI (Better Cotton initiative)
Our waxed canvas is manufactured with C4X wax, which contains no parabens, petroleum, formaldehyde or PFOAs.
Our wax has excellent water shedding properties, outperforming traditional wax in shower rating, hydrostatic head and Bundesmann testing.
- Our waxed canvas is fully biodegradable, food grade, and vegan.
…And now our makers can utilize this amazing and versatile fabric in their own projects!
Is FF Waxed Canvas food-grade, biodegradable, and vegan-friendly?
- Yes it is!
How do I clean my Waxed Canvas?
- Shake or brush off dirt, sand or any other abrasive material.
- Grab a sponge or soft brush and scrub with cold water. DO NOT use soap!
- Gently massage the soiled surface.
- Rinse with a sponge and cold water. Let the fabric air dry.
Why is my waxed canvas discolored?
- When you first receive your canvas, you may notice discoloration towards the edges...don't worry! This is mostly likely due to the wax not having cured all the way when rolled up and packaged for shipment from the manufacturer. The easiest way to speed up the curing process is to lay your canvas out flat in a clean, warm area overnight. In the morning, you should notice that the discoloration has disappeared.
What should I AVOID doing to my waxed canvas?
- Never wash your waxed canvas in the washing machine
- Never use warm or hot water to clean it
- Never have it dry cleaned
- Never use soap, detergent, solvent or starch-based stiffener
How do I sew with Waxed Canvas?
PRESSING AND PINNING
- Expect imperfections. This is the main thing to be aware of when sewing with (or buying) waxed canvas. The wax shows creases and scratches easily, but this is all part of the character of the fabric. Its look is meant to develop with use. Creases can be removed by pressing, provided you protect your iron and your ironing surface from the wax by using a press cloth. You can also simply hand press, intentionally distress the fabric which will cause the fabric to soften and loosen any deep creases, hang overnight in a warm clean area, or use a heat gun or hair dryer. Sometimes pinning can leave visible pin holes so try to pin carefully within the seam allowances or forgo pins and use wonder clips instead (highly recommended!). When sewing with waxed fabric, each puncture mark (with your sewing needle or pins) will show. If you make a mistake and need to seam rip a line of stitches, use your iron or hair dryer to help those puncture marks disappear into the waxed fabric — they really will vanish!
- If you iron it, use a pressing cloth. While you'll find that finger pressing suffices with the majority of your projects, you may occasionally turn to your iron. Use a pressing cloth when ironing to avoid any wax buildup. The waxes and oils can melt with the heat of your iron, so protect it with a press cloth and make sure you are using a medium setting.
- Use a clapper to press. A clapper allows you to apply pressure and steam for a longer period of time, letting you get crisp edges while avoiding contact of the iron to the cloth. If you’ve never used one, it’s really easy! Just apply steam with your iron, then quickly apply the clapper and use your body to apply lots of downward pressure as the fabric cools. The clapper traps steam in the fabric as you press. This is our preferred method over actually ironing the canvas, however you’ll wish to protect the surface underneath the waxed canvas with a pressing cloth.
- Use the right needle. As with any new sewing project, it’s important to equip your machine with new, sharp needle. For waxed canvas, it’s best to use a size 100/16 or 100/18. Heavy duty thread is also helpful as is using a longer stitch length of 3 for a professional looking, attractive stich. A roller foot or Teflon coated foot can assist when sewing on fabrics like this that may tend to grab. If you’ve got a walking foot for quilting, you can try that as well since the foot “walks” vs. sliding along the fabric surface. As always, find what combination works best for your machine!
- Clean your machine. This is the number one thing to remember. After sewing with waxed canvas, be sure to give your machine a thorough cleaning to remove any potential buildup left behind from the wax. Wipe the surfaces down and use a fresh needle for your next project!
When do I need to re-wax my Waxed Canvas?
- Though this does depends on how often the fabric is worn or used, it is recommended to re-wax your item once a year with regular use. Another great way to tell: place several drops of water on the canvas, if it doesn't roll off or it absorbs, it's probably time to re-wax!
How do I re-wax my Waxed Canvas?
- Clean your waxed canvas following the instructions above.
- Gather a container of hot water, your C4X wax bar, and a tin or bowl small enough to place in the water.
- Choose a warm room or outside on a warm day.
- Stand the bar in the tin/bowl in the pan of hot water to soften it.
- Work the wax well into the garment a small section at a time, paying attention to seams, creases, and dry patches.
- Rub in well, don’t just paint on.
- Do not use excess wax.
- For a 'factory' finish, blow dry evenly with a hairdryer to help the wax completely absorb into the fibers.
- Hang the garment overnight in a clean, warm place to allow the wax to cure.