Making Floor Cloths
by Lydia Morgan
Painted Canvas Floor Cloths has been a part of Home Dec. since the 1700ís. The material for floor cloths is not as expensive as carpeting and the design choice is limited only by the imagination of the painter. A floor cloth is a way to have something uniquely "you" in your home decors.
Floor Cloths are made from Midwest Numbered 100% Cotton Duck. It is "natural" in color Ė off-white with a few brown specs scattered on the surface. This fabric is available in both "double fill" and "single fill". The double fill is a more stable fabric, more tightly woven and costs more than single fill. It is the fabric of choice for a floor cloth. (Single fill is good for tote bags.) It basically the same fabric that is used to make Artistís Canvas and takes paint quite easily.
The fabric is called numbered duck because each weight of fabric has a number associated with it that indicates the weight or ounces per yard of the fabric. The smaller numbers indicate heavier fabric. Number 10, (14.73 oz/yd) is the lightest weight fabric that can be used for floor cloths. Number 8, (18.00 oz/yd) is probably the most popular. Some people use number 6 (21.27 oz/yd). Number 4 (24.54 oz/yd) is about like working with plywood.
"How wide can I get it?" This is the number one question from potential floor cloth makers. In number 10, the fabric is made as wide as 144 inches. The big problem for a fabric store is how to store, handle and cut 144 inch wide fabric for customers. So, in general, 144-inch wide goods are not available to the consumer, unless you want to buy a full 100-yard roll, which weighs about 160 pounds. Seventy-two inches is usually the maximum width that can be supplied in cut yardage.
Beacon Fabric & Notions stocks #10, 60" wide and #6, 72" wide. Other widths and weights are available, please contact Customer Service.
An alternative to the numbered duck is Primed Artistís Canvas. It is a little lighter in weight than the #10 cotton duck. It saves you a step, in that it already has the flat white paint that we speak of below, applied to one surface. It makes the job faster and easier. Most of the time I use the Artistís Canvas. However, due to the lightweight of the fabric, unless the floor cloth is being placed on carpet, you will probably have to put some sort of anti-skid on the bottom, like Performix Supergrip.
Other than the fabric you will need:
Flat white latex acrylic paint
A good quality paint brush, made for latex paints, no wider than 2"
Sandpaper, between somewhere around 150 to 220 grit.
Upholstery Scissors (or at least a good sharp pair!)
Acrylic Artist Paint
Various bristle and foam brushes
Clear acrylic coating for finish coat
Soft lead pencils (sharp)
Optional items would include graph paper, stencils, French curves, razor-blade knife, straight edge and whatever else you need to be creative.
Cut a piece of duck about two inches bigger than the finished size of your floorcloth. Cut Ĺ inch long slits roughly Ĺ inch apart on the sides. This will allow the duck to lay flat.
Apply three to five coats of flat white latex paint. Let it dry in accordance with the manufacturerís instructions and sand lightly between coats. Sand the final coat, very lightly. Transfer your design to the duck, using a soft lead pencil.
Apply the base (background color) coat of acrylic craft or artistís paint to the entire surface of the canvas, including the "slit" edges. Now is the time to get creative. You can achieve many different looks by the way that you apply this paint. You can use bristle brushes, foam brushes, sponges, fingers, whatever. But, donít put the paint on so thick that you canít see the pencil lines you drew.
When the base coat is dry, apply masking tape to seal off areas to be painted other colors. If you got carried away with the base coat, you might have to re-draw some of your pencil lines. You can also use stencils. Apply all the paint needed for your design.
When your design is complete, apply three to four coats of a clear acrylic coating. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can either use a flat (matte) or a more glossy coating. After the last coat is thoroughly dry, apply a coat to the underside to make it water repellant.
Lastly, trim your floorcloth to size, using a razor-blade knife and a metal straight edge. The razor blade will very easily cut into the surface. Hence, I recommend doing this on a wood surface that you are not concerned with how it looks.
Floorcloths are fun to make and are a nice gift. You would be surprised what price they will bring at a bazaar or fleamarket.
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