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Follow these simple, easy tips for sewing canvas, and you’ll soon be able to successfully make any fun projects that require canvas, for you and your home!
How to sew canvas
Canvas is a heavy and durable fabric which makes it perfect for sewing projects like home decor, bags and accessories or other decorative projects. With the right tools and techniques and a few simple tips for sewing canvas, you can create sturdy, chic tote bags or clutches for yourself or friends, if you’re looking for a gift idea. Or you can redecorate your home with a few simple decorative canvas pillows! Sewing on canvas is a lot easier and more fun than you’d think!
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I’ve learned these canvas sewing tips the hard way, when I made myself the rounded top canvas bag mentioned above. I’ve also used canvas fabric in this tutorial for Corded Handles for Bags where I used this canvas fabric. It didn’t occur to me that canvas is a totally different type of fabric and sewing canvas with a sewing machine designated for home use needs a little prepping in advance. So making the rounded top bag took way longer than I expected. Rookie mistake which you won’t do because now you have these easy peasy tips for sewing canvas!
So if you plan to sew with canvas soon, better take a few moments and get yourself prepared with these tips for sewing with canvas, before starting to work on your project. It makes a huge difference, trust me on this one!
A few Q&A about sewing canvas you might find useful
Can a sewing machine sew canvas?
Canvas is a woven, pretty thick fabric but that does’t mean your home sewing machine is not able to sew over canvas or any other thick fabrics. You just have to remember sewing canvas or other heavy duty fabric requires you to follow a few very important steps in terms of needle size and type, thread thickness and presser foot tension. I’ll be highlighting all these below.
What thread should I use to sew canvas?
Heavy duty fabrics like canvas require heavy duty thread. Polyester and cotton heavy duty threads are both suitable as well as upholstery thread when it comes to sewing thicker canvas or several layers of canvas.
What is the best sewing machine for canvas?
If you follow the below tips for sewing canvas, you can easily sew canvas with your home sewing machine, designed for regular home projects. But if you want more from your canvas projects you can always invest in a heavy duty sewing machine. I found that SINGER Heavy Duty 4423 Sewing Machine is a pretty decent machine for sewing canvas and very inexpensive too.
It comes with 23 built-In Stitches, 12 decorative stitches, has a 60% stronger motor and features an automatic needle threader. The Singer 4423 Sewing Machine has a maximum sewing speed of 1, 100 stitches-per-minute, so projects can be sewn pretty quickly. It also has a heavy-duty metal interior frame and stainless steel bed frame and this cool sewing machine is good for sewing canvas as well as any other type of fabric too.
Now that we know a few facts about canvas, let’s move on to the sewing canvas tips!
- Adjust the pressure on your presser foot. Heavier fabrics need less pressure then light weight fabric, so it helps it slide easily under your foot when sewing.
- Use a size 100/16 or 110/18 Jeans needle. Since canvas is a heavy fabric, it’s important to use the appropriate size for needles, to avoid breaking them. Trust me, they will snap right away and you may even get injured! Improper use of correct needles will also end up in thread breaking or broken stitches.
- Use heavy duty thread (i.e. jeans or upholstery thread). Heavy-duty thread made from polyester, cotton-wrapped polyester or cotton are best for canvas. Wool and upholstery thread are also very strong threads but while they might be perfect on a heavy duty machine, these thicker threads may not work well in the bobbin of a home sewing machine. If you still want to use these threads, see the tips below.
- Adjustments to the bobbin tension settings or a different bobbin casing may be necessary. On the canvas bag project I found adjusting bobbin tension to lower worked well on my machine.
- Adjust the upper tension.
- You may need to clean your machine regularly while working on a project using canvas, as heavy duty thread tends to leave a lot of lint behind.
- A longer stitch length (3 to 3.5) works best with heavy duty or thick fabrics. It makes a nice looking stitch and makes sewing through multiple layers easier.
- Use clips and tape instead of pins. Multiple layers of thicker fabrics are difficult to pin, especially if you use stiff interfacing as I did with the rounded top tote.
- If you use heavy duty canvas and stiff interfacing like the one I used for the rounded top bag is best to apply interfacing up to the seam allowance so when you’re stitching, your needle only has to go through 2 layers of fabric (something I’ve learnt after I finished the project; it would’ve made my life so much easier!)
Sewing With Canvas:
- Sew slowly over bulky areas (sometimes you may even need to turn the wheel by hand). Sew at a slow and constant speed to keep your seams straight and to avoid snapping your thread.
- If you need to back stitch, do it very slowly (your machine might not like back stitching on canvas at all. In this case, do a reinforcing stitch instead of back stitching; this means sewing a second stitch over the initial stitch)
- To iron finished canvas projects, spritz the area with water and let it soak in a few seconds. Then set your iron to the highest setting and press firmly over the wrinkles, making sure to move the iron often to prevent scorching the fabric.
- Store unused canvas fabric rolled rather than folded, to prevent creases which are quite difficult to remove.
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