Maximize Your Tarp’s Life – Tips To Get The Most Longevity Out Of Your Tarps

There are two good reasons for making your tarp last. First, it helps you save money. If you’re not buying new tarps multiple times per year, you save money. Second, tarps are not recyclable. When your tarp’s lifespan is used up, you have to toss the tarp in the trash. Very few areas have programs that give life to an old tarp.

Tarps are only recyclable if they’re made from a plastic material that is recyclable and are stamped with that plastic’s number. As a result, tarps head to the trash when they reach the end of their lifespan. Long-lasting tarps keep material out of the landfill. The more life you get out of your tarp, the better it is for your wallet and the planet. To maximize your tarp’s life, use these tips.

Pick the Best Material

Tarps you see at discount stores are often crafted from lightweight polyester. They’re inexpensive because they’re not designed to last long. Spending more money on an industrial tarp made of heavy-duty materials leads to a longer life. It may be more expensive to start, but you’ll be purchasing one tarp to last you years instead of several inexpensive tarps that only last a few months. These are the best uses for the different tarp fabrics.

Canvas (Treated and Untreated) – Canvas tarps are made of cotton. Untreated tarps are best for room dividers, covers, and painting projects. Treated canvas tarps are water resistant and sometimes fire retardant. They are covered in a wax and oil coating, so they are not ideal for covering items that cannot be stained.

Clear PVC – The see-through nature of clear PVC tarps makes them ideal for construction sites where natural lighting is important. They’re ideal for creating a wall to keep out the weather on a front porch, deck, or entryway.

Iron Horse Polyester – This type of tarp is waterproof and much stronger than cotton canvas. It doesn’t have coatings that stain items, which makes it ideal for covering stored cars and trucks. It’s also good for covering decks and patios.

Mesh – Polyethylene, polypropylene, and vinyl-coated mesh tarps offer a wide range of uses. Each one involves allowing air to flow through the material. They block out UV rays, which makes them ideal for sunshades and privacy screens.

Poly – Poly tarps are water resistant and protect from UV rays. They’re all-purpose tarps that are typically used for jobs like covering a wood pile to keep the wood dry or covering a leaking roof until repairs can be made.

Vinyl – Finally, vinyl tarps are waterproof and resist rips and tears. There are vinyl-coated polyester tarps that are best for covering items like power equipment and furniture or creating awnings. The other option is a vinyl-laminated polyester tarp that’s flame retardant and often used for room dividers or welding curtains.

Store It Only When It’s Clean and Fully Dry

After every use, you should clean your tarp and hang it in the sun to dry out. Do not fold it up for storage until it is fully dry. If you don’t, you may encourage mildew and mold to grow. It can also cause degradation that shortens the life of the tarp.

When it’s time to store the tarp, consider putting it in a plastic tub that has a lid. Place it in a dry spot in a garage or storage area. By placing it in a tub, you eliminate the risk of mice chewing on the tarp and leaving holes.

Repair Damage ASAP

If there is damage to the tarp, repair it as quickly as possible. A coat of Canvak on a multi-purpose tarp boosts water resistance and mildew prevention. Vinyl cement and patches of a matching material repair rips and small holes. Torn grommets can be repaired using a grommet repair kit.

Purchase the Right Tarp for the Job

Make sure you pick the right tarp. A tarp’s longevity is influenced by the conditions. If you purchase a mesh tarp and plan to use it as a pool cover during the winter, it’s likely to rip before spring as it’s meant for light-duty use.

Imagine you own a restaurant that has a heated-outdoor tent for your customers. You run heaters on chilly nights. You wouldn’t want a tarp that wasn’t fire resistant. It would be unsafe, and the heat could ruin the tarp you’ve chosen. Instead, a flame retardant vinyl laminated poly tarp used to create a dining tent is the smart choice.

Don’t forget to consider the weather conditions. If you live in a region where winter temperatures frequently dip well below freezing, a laminated vinyl tarp may crack in the bitter cold. Look for materials like vinyl-coated polyester that withstand the cold. Higher elevations or valleys, where wind gusts are common, may require a heavy-duty tarp to avoid damage from the wind.

Don’t Guess and Waste Your Money. Ask a Professional

If you don’t know the best weight or material to purchase, don’t try to guess and wind up with the wrong tarp. Ask a tarp expert. Chicago Canvas & Supply specializes in tarps and tarp accessories. We even offer free fabric samples if you’re still uncertain. Do you need a custom size or help to pick the right tarp for your specific needs? Experts are ready to help. Request a free tarp quote or call for more information.

Can a Tarp Be Recycled?

After a lot of use, your tarp is worn, faded, or damaged. You need to dispose of it. You wonder can you recycle a tarp? You may end up having to find your city or town’s recycling guide for a firm answer. Each city or town is a little different. A great resource for finding a place to recycle your tarp is a recycling search tool called RecycleNation. However if your home is in Chicago, we can help you out with more info on recycling tarps as well as some great ways to repurpose tarps.

A Guide to Chicago’s Blue Cart Program

In Chicago, only plastics #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 can be recycled. Any plastic that is not identified with a number or is #6 must go into the trash. Tarps fall into the “trash it” category as it is rare for them to be stamped with one specific number.

If you search the national database Earth911, as the City of Chicago recommends, to see who may take used tarps, expect to find no results. No companies or organizations accept tarps according to that site.

You will have to toss your tarp into the trash. In the City of Chicago, bag the tarp with your other trash and put it into your curbside trash container.

Ways to Repurpose an Old or Unwanted Tarp

What if you really don’t want to toss an entire tarp in the trash? It’s understandable. While that tarp is no longer serving its original purpose, it doesn’t mean it’s useless. Repurposing an old tarp is one way to keep it from filling up your trash. Try out our handy ways to reuse a tarp.

1. Raised Bed Gardening

Do you garden? If you’ve ever thought about gardening or love to garden, raised beds make it easier to avoid excessive weeds and insect pests. Cut the unwanted tarp to fit the bottom of the raised bed. It will help kill the weeds and grass below your garden area. If you’re worried about water building up and causing root rot, a layer of crushed stone and sand will help with drainage.

2. Sandbox Bottom

Secure a section of the trimmed tarp to the bottom of a child’s sandbox. It will deter ants from trying to turn the sandbox into their home. The tarp will also keep grass and weeds from growing into the sandbox.

3. Sun Shade

Speaking of sandboxes, how about taking a smaller section of tarp and attaching each corner to four bamboo poles. You’ll find these poles in garden supplies or home improvement stores. Place that tarp over a sandbox or child’s pool to keep children from getting too much sun.

4. Waterproof Pillows

How much of the tarp is in good shape? If there are sections that are okay, cut those areas into squares of equal size. Sew two squares together on three sides. Turn the material inside out and fill with material like foam beads or polyfill stuffing. Sew up the remaining side. You have a waterproof pillow for your outdoor deck or patio furniture.

5. Charcoal Grill or  Patio Fire Pit Cover

Take your large tarp and cut it down to fit over an outdoor patio fire pit or charcoal grill. In between uses, your fire pit or grill stays dry. When it’s time for your next fire, everything is dry and kindling will ignite quickly. You also help prevent rust.

6. Firewood Tote

Take a strip of canvas. Aim for a strip that’s about 4 by 3 feet. Sew all of the edges and add handles on each shorter end using a thick section of rope. When you’re carrying in firewood, you have a log carrier that is durable and easy to use.

7. Fall/Winter Shrub Protectors

Do you have any shrubs that are close to the road? Salt and sand during the winter can damage trees and shrubs. Use old tarps to cover them and protect them from winter damage.

Donate the Tarp

Could someone else use the tarp? Post an add in a community forum, Craigslist, or on social media. Ask area schools if they could use it for student craft projects. You’d be surprised how many people can take a worn tarp and put it to good use.

Some of the places you can call to see if they need tarps are paint contractors. Tarps make great drop cloths. You can check with local daycares if they need used tarps to create shady areas. Ask at local farms, too. Gardeners often need tarps to cover seedlings during an unexpected frost.

Make Sure the Tarp You Buy is Built to Last

The best way to keep tarps from filling up landfills is by making sure you get a high-quality tarp that will last a long time. Chicago Canvas & Supply sells many tarps using different materials. We have canvas, clear PVC, Iron Horse polyester, mesh, poly, and vinyl tarps. Call us to learn more or complete the online form to get a custom quote.

10 Ways to Use Muslin Fabric

Muslin fabric has long been a fabric of choice due to its multiple uses. Muslin is a lightweight, woven, (highly) breathable cotton fabric. It is not as coarse or as heavy as a canvas fabric, for example, although it does come in a wide range of weights (delicate to coarse) . It comes in a variety of colors such as natural, bleached white, black, etc., as well as unbleached and free of dye. Muslin can be sold both as a flame retardant or non-flame retardant fabric, and in varying sizes, too. Whether heavy or lightweight, you can find the muslin that is right for your project or needs!

A wonderful way to purchase muslin is when it is 100% cotton and unbleached or dyed. This allows you to start with a base of a neutral color (off white or cream) to style and design for your particular desired use. It’s neutrality as well as it’s durability makes it more versatile for uses across professional or commercial industries, as well as for personal use at home.

How To Use Muslin Fabric

  1. Theater – Muslin has long been one of the most popular fabrics used in the theater. It’s widely used for set designs, stage flats, backgrounds and props, for example.
  2. Quilting – Muslin fabric can be used as the back of a quilt or even for the entire quilting project itself. The neutral color of the undyed fabric is great on its own, and a good starting point if you want to dye or add patterns and color to the fabric.
  3. Clothing – Due to the lightweight and breathable nature of the fabric itself, a set of pants and shirt that you could wear in the summertime or to the beach are an excellent match. Imagine how lightweight and comfortable linen is, and not only is it breathable but also protects from the sun.
  4. Upholstery – Use this fabric for an upholstery project. You could use it for a cover for a piece of furniture such as a sofa, or the cover of the seat of a dining room chair, or an armchair. The natural lighter color of the fabric could brighten up an antique piece, for example. Pillows or aisle runners are some additional examples of uses for home furniture.
  5. Blanket – A baby blanket if perfect for this type of fabric. It’s lightweight and would be great for covering a baby or child in a stroller (which also conveniently protects them from the sun and dust or wind).
  6. Adjustable baby swaddle or breastfeeding cover Muslin fabric is very commonly used among mothers for children with its characteristics and versatility. You could make an adjustable baby swaddle which goes around your body to hold a baby, and it could also be used as a breastfeeding cover so you can feed your baby with greater privacy.
  7. Pram cover  – this is essentially a cover that can go over a baby stroller. Often, strollers with babies or young children are covered with this ‘banket’ in order to protect the child from the elements (sun, wind, cooler air). The lightweight nature of muslin is unique for a pram cover since it easily allows for air flow.
  8. Washcloth – How convenient! The breathability of this fabric makes an excellent washcloth for face. It helps to remove dirt and makeup, and to exfoliate the skin.
  9. Ribbons/Home decor – are a good example of one way that muslin fabric can be used for wrapping gifts or for decorations around the home, or even a store! You can easily dye the fabric into any color you want and to take it a step farther, designs can even be stamped onto the fabric, too. This adds a really unique touch to handmade gifts! Other home decor might include accent curtains or dividers for a room, a draped ceiling and walls (sometimes these are used at a spa, too), wall coverings, window treatments, floral treatments, wall covering, or backdrops. Lastly, you can make sheets or even teabags from muslin fabric!
  10. Cooking – Although it’s not something we think about everyday, fabric can very easily be used for cooking. Muslin fabric can be used to wrap vegetables to help remove moisture from them. Another great use is for squeezing lemons. You can slice a lemon in half, cover the half of the lemon with the cloth and then squeeze the juice into a cup or jar below. This will keep the lemon seeds out, functioning just like a strainer. Perhaps the ‘fanciest’ and most delicious way to use this fabric is for making cheese. Using muslin with cheese, it is affordable, easy, washable and reusable. For cooking, use light unbleached cotton muslin fabric.

Caring For Muslin Fabric

After each use, rinse the fabric immediately. You can wash it either in the washing machine or by hand in the sink. If using a washing machine, wash it in a cold temperature for colors (and with like colors), and warm or hot for lights and white (and with like colors). If washing in the sink, use warm water and add a half an ounce or so of detergent. You can soak the items for an hour or so, and then use cool water to rinse it. Try to avoid using any detergents, fabric softeners, or harsh chemicals if you are using the fabric for food, or if there are any sensitivities to these things in general.

If you are rinsing the fabric after using it for cheese, you may want to add white vinegar to help remove any of the cheese curd. One other thing to keep in mind about muslin fabric in general is that it does wrinkle when it becomes wet.

When drying muslin fabric, it may shrink, since it’s made of woven cotton, but not as much as a knit cotton. To dry, you can lay the fabric flat or tumble it on low — and do not iron or dry clean it!

As you can see, Muslin is a very versatile choice for a wide range of projects. While this fabric is popularly used within the theater world, there are many uses for home purposes too. We sell a muslin fabric that is 100% cotton and dye free. As mentioned, this is a great starting point for many projects. Buy your muslin fabric and get started today!

How to Choose Which Fabrics to Use On-Stage

The right fabrics can set the scene, transport the audience to a different time and place, and add meaning to the story. For this reason, set and costume designers must choose the fabrics that they use on stage carefully. There are countless fabrics to choose from, which makes this job rather difficult. How can you decide which fabrics are best for your production? Follow these tips:

Remember the Lighting

The fabrics that look beautiful online may not look the same in person—especially when the spotlight is shining on them. Many stage and costume designers find this out the hard way after spending thousands of dollars on fabrics that don’t look appealing under the bright lights. Don’t make this mistake. If you find a fabric you like, order a sample before committing to it. See how the sample’s color, sheerness, and texture looks when placed under bright stage lights before deciding whether or not it will work for your production.

Research the Setting

Before shopping for fabrics, set and costume designers should thoroughly research the time and place where the play is set. You need to know as much as possible about what people of this time period wore, where they lived, how they decorated their homes, and what the world looked like at this time. If you don’t understand the characters’ lifestyle, there’s no way you will know how to choose the right fabrics for your production.

Consider the Transparency

Another factor to consider when selecting fabrics is the transparency of each material. Designers will need to use opaque fabrics to hide backstage activity or undesirable lighting since these materials lack transparency. You will also need an opaque fabric to serve as the drape that comes across the stage during intermission. This ensures the audience does not see the cast and crew racing around to prepare for next act.

Translucent fabrics are semi-transparent materials that allow some light to pass through them. Translucent fabrics are typically used to create a silhouette effect or provide backlighting on stage. If you accidentally choose an opaque fabric, you will not be able to create the desired illusion.

Remember that it is possible to layer translucent fabrics in order to adjust the amount of light that shines through. If a fabric is sheerer than expected, simply add a few layers of fabric to increase the thickness and block more light.

Think About the Way the Fabric Falls

A fabric cannot be used in your stage production if it does not fall the way you want it to—no matter how beautiful it may be. Because of this, it’s important to keep this factor in mind when narrowing down your options and choosing the right fabrics for your production. This is another reason why ordering fabric samples prior to purchasing materials is strongly recommended. Having samples gives you the opportunity to play with the materials and see how they drape over the body and props on set.

Avoid High Maintenance Fabrics

It’s best to learn about the proper way to care for each fabric before choosing materials for your production. You will need to know the best way to clean fabrics in case they are stained on set. If the cleaning process is too intensive, cross that fabric off of the list and move forward.

It’s also wise to find out whether or not a fabric is easily wrinkled. It’s hard for a set or costume designer to solely choose fabrics that do not wrinkle, however it is possible to avoid fabrics that are easily wrinkled and hard to steam. Avoiding these high maintenance fabrics will save you a lot of trouble and improve the overall look of your production.

Flame Retardant vs. Inherently Flame Retardant

Fabrics used as stage curtains must be flame retardant, but many set designers ado not know the difference between a flame retardant and inherently flame retardant fabric. The former is a fabric that is coated with a fire resistant chemical. Because the chemical is applied to the surface of the fabric, washing, dry cleaning, or repeatedly using the fabric could affect its fire resistance.

On the other hand, an inherently flame retardant fabric is one that has flame retardants built into its fibers. Since the flame retardants are part of the fabric’s structure, they will not come off when the curtain is washed, dry cleaned, or used repeatedly. Inherently flame retardant fabrics are usually more expensive, however they will remain resistant to fire for much longer than flame retardant fabrics.

Look For Cheaper Alternatives

Set and costume designers often fall in love with fabrics that are far too expensive to be used in their production. Instead of forgetting about these fabrics, designers should make an effort to find less expensive alternatives. For example, wool is a luxurious fabric that looks high-end and beautiful on stage, but it is fairly expensive. Fortunately, an inexpensive fabric such as polyester garbardine can be used to create the same look. Polyester garbardine may not look or feel like wool when it is closely examined, but it’s practically identical to it from a distance. The audience will never know the difference, so you can create the desired look without breaking the production’s budget.

Now, you should know how to choose the perfect fabrics to use in your next stage production. If you’re ready to purchase fabrics, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply for more information. We are your leading source for tarps, textiles, theatre fabrics, ropes, drop cloths, and more. We are more than happy to send free samples so you can make sure the fabrics will work for your production prior to purchasing them. To place a request for samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

Linen Gauze vs. Sharkstooth vs. Leno Filled Scrim

A scrim is a piece of fabric that is often used in the world of theatre as a screen or backdrop on set. Scrims are important to the design of the set since they can create the illusion of haziness, solid walls, and distance. To create the desired effects, it’s important to choose the right type of scrim. There are three main options to choose from: linen gauze, sharkstooth, and leno filled scrims. Here’s a look at the main differences between these three fabrics:

Texture

The most visible difference between these three types of scrim is the texture. sharkstooth scrim has a textured open weave, which means the fabric is woven in a way that creates small, rectangular openings. Leno filled scrim has a similar weave to sharkstooth scrim, however the rectangular openings found on sharkstooth scrim are filled in on leno filled scrim. Therefore, leno filled scrim is a textured closed weave, whereas sharkstooth is a textured open weave. The weave on linen gauze is very different. Linen gauze is a closely woven fabric with a fine and even texture.

Resistance to Flames

You never know when disaster will strike on set, which is why it’s best to consider the flame resistancy of each scrim prior to choosing one for your theater set. Even though the two scrims feature similar weaves, sharkstooth scrim is fire retardant, whereas leno filled scrim is not. Linen gauze scrim is typically available in both fire retardant and non-fire retardant options. If you plan on using fire on set, it’s best to choose a scrim that will not light up in flames in the event of an accident.

Material

Linen gauze scrims are 100% cotton, whereas both sharkstooth and leno filled scrims are 95% cotton and 5% polyester. Cotton-polyester blends are typically more durable and resistant to normal wear and tear. Adding polyester to cotton also makes the cotton less likely to shrink or stretch. As a result, set designers may find that sharkstooth and leno filled scrims last longer and retain their original shape and color better than linen gauze scrims.

Cotton-polyester blends are also less likely to wrinkle than materials that are 100% cotton. If you use a linen gauze scrim repeatedly or leave it folded up in storage for too long, you may need to iron or steam it prior to hanging it on set.

However, polyester is a synthetic fabric and cotton is 100% natural and recyclable. If eco-friendliness is a priority, the linen gauze scrim is probably the best option for your set.

Transparency

Transparency is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a scrim for the set of a play. Set designers must understand how the light shines through each type of scrim so they can choose one that will help them create a certain effect on stage.

Linen gauze does not have an open weave, so light does not pour out of openings on this fabric. However, it is a lightweight fabric that allows a significant amount of light to shine through. This fabric actually softens the light to create a beautiful glow on stage. Leno filled scrim is also capable of diffusing and softening the light since it does not have an open weave.

Sharkstooth scrim allows more light to shine through than leno filled and linen gauze scream because of its open weave. In fact, set designers often use sharkstooth scrim because its open weave makes it basically transparent, so it can be used to create disappearing effects that will impress the audience.

Price

Price is another factor that should be taken into consideration when deciding which scrim to purchase. The price of these fabrics varies depending on a number of factors, including the vendor, size of the fabric, and availability. Even the color of the fabric can affect the price. In general, linen gauze and sharkstooth are close in price, and leno filled scrim is priced slightly higher per yard of fabric.

Color

Set designers are usually interested in scrims in natural colors such as white, tan, black, and light shades of blue. Because these are the most sought after hues, the selection of scrims is typically limited to these colors. If you are interested in a scrim in another color, it’s best to talk to the vendor about creating a custom order. Both cotton and cotton-polyester blend fabrics can be dyed, so this may be the best option.

Hanging the Scrims On Set

You should also learn how each scrim is hung and used on set prior to deciding which one is right for your production. Linen gauze is a lightweight material that is not hard to handle or hang on your own.

However, some set designers run into trouble when hanging sharkstooth scrim if they’ve never used this fabric before. Because of its open weave and weight, sharkstooth scrim falls into somewhat of an hourglass shape when it is hung. To solve this problem, set designers must add the proper amount of support to both sides of the scrim. Supporting the sides will straighten the scrim and prevent the center from creating an hourglass shape. But, it’s difficult to add support to the sides if this area is visible to the audience. Therefore, inexperienced set designers may find it hard to work with sharkstooth scrim.

At this point, you should have all of the information you need to make this decision. If you’re interested in purchasing linen gauze, sharkstooth, or leno filled scrim, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply. We are your leading source for backdrops, textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, drop cloths, and more. We are happy to send free material samples to our clients. To place a request for samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

Top Fabrics for Theater Production Budget

Don’t Forget These Line Items in This Year’s Theatre Budget!

Another new year, is here which means it’s time to take a close look at your theatre production budget. According to a National Arts Journalism Program study on theatre budgets, physical production costs can make up 10-20% of your production budget, depending on the size. We know that you want to equip yourself with the best materials for your productions, but also want to stay within your budget. Whether you’re a school, church, community organization or professional theatre, we’ve got some tips to help plan the fabric line items of your theater production budget. Let’s get started on making the most out of your budget!  Read more

What is a Cyclorama?

Here’s Everything you need to Know

Cycloramas are used in virtually every form of theater, television, media, broadcast media, and photography productions. If you want to create an illusion of a sky, open space, distance, or simply add special effects to your set, creating a cyclorama is key to achieving the illusion. Whether you are a veteran set designer or just starting in the industry knowing how cycloramas work can be extremely beneficial to your set design productions. Follow along on our blog post as we breakdown the basics of cycloramas.

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Quick Tips on Tarp Repair & Maintenance

Increase the Lifespan of Your Tarp

Tarps have varied life spans depending on their material type. Poly tarps, for example, are viewed as disposable and can be purchased in most places for just a few bucks. On the other hand, industrial, heavy-duty tarps require some investment and are made to last.  With proper tarp repair and maintenance, they can last up to several years.

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