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6 Tips + 4 FREE Patterns for Sewing with Canvas

Canvas — typically 100 percent cotton fabric used for ship sails, painter drop cloths, shoes, works of art and even clothing — is the perfect medium for creating simple, durable home decor and accessories. Canvas fabric now comes in a variety of colors, prints and weights, making it ideal for a multitude of decorative projects!

Sew a fun clutch with canvas!

Photo via Craftsy member sewVery

Follow these tips for sewing with canvas, and you’ll soon be on your way to successfully making new canvas bags, pillows, curtains and more!

Needles

Since canvas is a closely woven, heavy fabric, it’s important to use the appropriately sized sewing machine needle when sewing your new home decor or accessory items. To avoid breaking needles and frustration as you attempt to sew through multiple layers of canvas fabric, use a size 90 to 100 Universal or Jeans needle. If you are adding decorative finishes to the seams, consider using a Topstitch needle along with topstitch thread to give your item a professional look.

Thread

Heavy-duty thread (size 40) made from polyester, cotton-wrapped polyester or cotton are well suited to a heavier-weight canvas. Wool and upholstery thread are also very strong threads often used when sewing with canvas. Just remember, however, that these thicker threads may not work appropriately in the bobbin of a home sewing machine. Adjustments to the bobbin tension settings, a special bobbin case or regular thread may be necessary.

If sewing a canvas item that will be used outdoors, consider sewing with marine thread specially designed to withstand exposure to the sun, water, salt, chemicals and other pollutants.

Stitch length

Typically, when sewing with thick or heavy fabrics, a longer stitch length (3.0 to 3.5) produces a nicer-looking stitch and makes sewing through multiple layers easier. 

Clips and tape

Multiple layers of thicker fabrics can be difficult to pin. Instead, hold unfinished seams in place temporarily with clips or double-sided tape (slightly smaller in width than the seam allowance). These two items will make sewing canvas so much easier and reduce your frustration in dealing with stiff, heavy fabrics at the sewing machine.

Ironing

To smooth out minor wrinkles and folds in canvas fabric, spritz the area with water and let it soak in a few seconds. Then use a hot iron set to its highest setting (usually for cotton and linen) and press firmly over the wrinkle, making sure to move the iron often to prevent scorching the fabric. You can also use a damp press cloth instead of spraying the area with water. 

Storage

Keep canvas fabric rolled rather than folded to prevent difficult-to-remove creases. Storage is a cinch when you keep canvas rolled up or on the bolt.

Ready to try out these tips for sewing with canvas? Then give one of these four FREE canvas sewing projects a go!

Sew a fun canvas zipper pencil case

Photo via Craftsy member MadebyMT

1. Zippered Canvas Pencil Case

Let your creative juices flow and design your own canvas print! Use fabric markers or paint to free-draw your favorite animal or scenery onto natural-colored canvas fabric. Then follow the pattern instructions to sew together this multi-purpose zippered pouch. 

Get the FREE pattern »

Create a one-of-a-kind canvas banner

Photo via Craftsy member See Kate Sew

2. Canvas and Leather Wall Hanging

Decorate your home with this simple, modern canvas and leather wall hanging that includes letter templates for the phrases “For Like Ever” and “Merry & Bright.” Since the instructions include options for sew or no-sew assembly, this banner would be a great crafting party project for guests to assemble. 

Get the FREE pattern »

Sew a canvas tote to use at the market or at the beach.

Photo via Craftsy member The Inspired Wren

3. Lined Canvas Tote

Sew this 8½” x 11½” x 4″ tote with an exterior slip pocket and full lining using mere remnants of canvas fabric. Shop in style at the market when you use canvas or duck home decor prints for the exterior of this bag. Line the interior with standard quilting cotton. To give the bag even more structure, try canvas for the lining, too!

Get the FREE pattern »

Use canvas to sew a decorative throw pillow.

Photo via Craftsy member The Sewing Loft

4. Star Fringed Canvas Pillow

Update an indoor or outdoor family space with a few new star-fringed canvas pillows. Use the star template or create your own appliquée design to stitch to the outside of the 16″ square canvas pillow cover. 

Get the FREE pattern »

14 Comments

Sew Happy

Once again, not all of the patterns are complete. You need to know what to do when sewing the banner/wall hanging. Plus the seam allowance for the pouch are in metric. Easy to figure out but why. I know others have to figure out the metric all the time.
Happy Creating but be careful of independent patterns. Free or Low Cost

Reply
Chelle

Hello, thank you for these tips. I have a beautiful Braemore upholstery fabric, cotton canvas, that I will be using to make grommet curtains. I haven’t been able to decide if I should add a lining, an interlining, both, or neither. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

Reply
Tabitha

Hi Chelle,
You may want to line your curtains with a light weight synthetic fabric. The sun is hard on natural fibers and that synthetic lining can make your curtains last longer. I usually use white lining so my windows look consistent.

Reply
Gillian McKnight-Tutein

My ongoing fight with canvas is when I try to line with a lighter weight cotton. The thread bundles and knots on the underside. It’s my greatest frustration because the cotton fabric has African prints that I can’t find in a heavier weight. I wish I could find an answer for this combination.

Reply
Craig

Try placing the canvas on the underside and the cotton fabric on top when sewing. Check your upper and lower tensions by testing on off cuts.

Reply
Jema Park

Hi!
Try bigger size needle such as Jean Needle size 16 or even 18 which is bigger.
And be sure the sewing foot of your sewing machine is in UP Position when
you thread your machine. The thread bunching up under side often means
your sewing foot lever was down touching the feeddog. Sewing foot should
always be in UP Position while threading. Good Luck. Jema

Reply
Cindy L Smith

How about fusing another fabric to the wrong side of your beautiful light weight cotton. This will bring the cotton fabric up to the weight of the canvas and it should sew together much easier. Wish you well on your project.

Reply
Kerry Lee Haas

What type of needle are you using? I just made a canvas cross body purse with a kona cotton liner (interfacing on the back of the cotton). I used a heavy duty needle, the one above a denim needle, and the tension is set to the highest my machine can handle.

Reply
Linda

You might try bringing your bobbin thread up before you start sewing. For me, this eliminates knotting or nesting of the thread at the beginning of a seam.

Reply
tote

This is really awesome,cause I not only can sew on my canvas tote but as well as the curtain ,wall picture canvas shoes and clothe.That’s inspiring and intriguing.Anyway I want to design patterns by myself.Is there any possibility that I have my designed patterns made by factory ,some really exquisite and detailed ones that can’t be handmade by myself.

Reply
Anisa

Could you give me a tip on how to prevent the threads of the canvas from coming off at the edges after I cut them to size. Thanks!

Reply
Jerri

I have either Serged the edges or use an appropriate size zig zag stitch to stop canvas from fraying.

Reply
Kit Hannigan

It sure is nice to know that heavy-duty, polyester-made thread would be best to use on heavier types of canvas. My sister really enjoys sewing, and she’s thinking of starting a career in design. Her birthday is coming up and I think I’ll drop by a crafts shop to get her some sewing supplies. Thanks for this excellent collection of tips for sewing with canvas!

Reply
cheryl bowles

Thank you so much for the information on how to sew with canvas – I am hemming my husband’s chore coveralls, but I can see that I can be quite happy sewing with canvas with the other projects….wonderful

Reply

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