Ah… it’s Friday and there is nothing better than starting out the day talking about waxed canvas.
My brother’s good friend, Edward, inspired me to write this post. I’ve known Edward since we were in elementary school, but we haven’t see each other in quite a few years. I ran into him this week and while we were catching up, he asked about my business. He asked me why the bags I make are unique and what it’s made out of. I told him it’s a lightly waxed canvas fabric. He said he’s never heard of waxed canvas before and asked what’s so special about it. Of course, this gave me the perfect opportunity to go on and on about it. Hey, he asked! Anyhow, Edward’s curiosity about this fabric inspired me to write about this.
To begin, I should talk about what this textile is. Waxed cotton canvas is fabric that that has been impregnated with a paraffin based wax, woven into a cloth. This makes the fabric very strong and waterproof/water repellent. However, the production of this kind of fabric is highly specialized and only 2 manufacturers, that I know of, still make this kind of incredible material.
Here are the 4 Reasons Why Waxed Cotton Canvas Is Such A Special Material:
1. It’s a highly specialized material. There are only 2 suppliers, that I know of, who make this kind of fabric today; one in the UK and the other in the US. There might be some other overseas manufacturers of waxed cotton out there and if there is, I believe they can’t beat the quality of the two textile houses that have been doing it since the 1880’s and 1930’s, respectively. Each textile house has their proprietary waxes, fabrics and technology. I order the waxed canvas for my bags from the US supplier because they have the lightly waxed canvas that I like to use for the bags. They are a small family operated business in their 7th generation.
2. History. Waxed cotton appeared in the mid-19th century from the sailing industry in Scotland. Early mariners applied fish oils and grease to waterproof their sailcloth. The result was efficient sails when dry and lighter sails when wet. Later waxed cotton was used for military applications. Since it was strong, comfortable and had the waterproofing capability, it was used for uniforms, tents and military duffles. For commercial use, the early adopters that used these materials for their apparel was J. Barbour & Sons for their waxed jackets and Belstaff for their motorcycle clothing. They’ve been using it for generations and still use it today in their iconic clothing line.
3. Quality and Durability. The length of time that the UK and the US suppliers have been in business is a testament of their quality product. Using their own proprietary formula and technology, they are able to make a strong and water resistant product. Waxed canvas and cottons are hard wearing, meaning they last a long time. These 2 suppliers are used by many fashion brands such as J. Barbour & Sons, Belstaff and Jack Spade. There has also been a resurgence among independent labels, such as my own, who use waxed canvas fabrics for their product line.
4. Beauty. Fully waxed canvas wears like leather; it will age beautifully. With a fully waxed canvas, there will be what I call a “cracking effect” that happens over use. This is due to the wax wearing in and it creates unique lines. Some people love this and some don’t. I’m kind of in the middle. I like this hard wearing canvas, but I do like the consistency of a lightly waxed canvas more. That’s what I use for my bags. I like that over time, the colour remains even toned, that the fabric is smooth to the touch and the light layer of wax makes the fabric even more water repellent.
Well, I’ve said my bit about waxed cotton canvas…for now. I’m just touching on the subject. It has a whole history to it that I will talk more about at a later date.
Have a great weekend everyone!