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What Is Cotton Duck Fabric?

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Cotton duck fabric is a heavy material made partially or completely from cotton fibers, and is commonly used for outdoor upholstery, awnings and heavy duty sacks. The heavier grades may be used for sandbags, large tents and boat covers. Cotton duck is a versatile fabric, which can be machine washed and dried, and is easy to dye and sew.

Origin of the Name

The name duck comes from the Dutch word doek meaning linen cloth. Linen duck is still available, primarily for use as artists' canvases, but cotton is now the most common material for duck cloth. Duck fabric is always a plain weave fabric without sizing or chemical finishes. Many fabrics called duck may also be referred to as canvas.

Weights and Measures

Cotton duck is available in a number of different weights, which are delineated by number. The heaviest weight is naught duck, which weighs 19 ounces or more in a piece measuring 22 inches-by-1 yard. Nineteen-ounce duck fabric is written as 1/0 weight, while 20-ounce fabric is written as 2/0. Lighter weights are indicated by a number from one to 10, with higher numbers indicating lighter fabric.

Cost and Characteristics

Cotton duck is a relatively inexpensive, durable fabric which is easy to wash, dye and sew. It does not require special care, and takes weatherproofing treatments easily. Unlike synthetic canvases, duck cloth breathes, allowing air and moisture to pass through easily. This may make it more comfortable than synthetics as an outer garment fabric. Since it is made from natural fiber, duck fabric requires little petroleum to produce.

Common Uses

Duck fabric is used in a wide range of utility applications. In the lighter weights, this material may be used to make shoes, fabric shower curtains, laundry bags and tote bags. Heavier weights may be used for hammocks, boat covers and sand bags. Cotton duck is rarely used in day to day apparel, though it can be used to make coats and other outerwear.

Potential Drawbacks

As a natural fiber, cotton is subject to greater wear and tear than synthetic alternatives. It may stretch and weaken when wet, and is prone to mildew unless treated against it. Cotton duck tends to be more expensive than some synthetic materials, and products made from this material are also more costly. Cotton production uses a significant amount of water and pesticides, giving cotton duck a fairly large environmental footprint.

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