Follow these simple, easy tips for sewing with canvas, and you’ll soon be able to successfully make any fun projects that require canvas, for you and your home!
Tips for sewing with 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 with 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!
I’ve learnt these tips the hard way, when I made myself a rounded top canvas bag using (I’ll be sharing the tutorial and pattern very soon) and also 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 I need a little prepping in advance so making the rounded top bag took way longer than I expected. Rookie mistake!
So if you plan to sew with canvas soon, better take a few moments and get yourself prepared with these tips, before starting to work on your project. It makes a huge difference!
Tips For Sewing With Canvas
- Adjust the pressure on your presser foot (I had to make mine stronger). Heavier fabric needs more pressure then light weight fabric, so it helps it stay in place and slide properly under your foot when sewing instead of slipping away from your needle.
- 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!
- Use heavy duty thread (i.e. jeans 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 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 sewing, your needle only has to go through 2 layers of canvas (something I’ve learnt after I finished the project; it would’ve made my life so much easier!)
- 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)
- 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 canvas fabric rolled rather than folded to prevent creases which are difficult to remove.