Canvas is tightly woven fabric mainly used from 100 percent cotton and sometimes also from linen. It is much more sturdy, durable, and heavy duty than the normal cotton fabric. Because of its higher quality, it is often used by artists in vast variety of products making that includes bags, mats’ outdoor and indoor tents, shoes, for painting and furniture coverings.

Difference is qualities and composition of canvas require slightly different sewing technique than sewing the normal apparel fabric. Understanding and learning about different technique will uplift your sewing project by 100 percent and give it a quality finish. Not only this but it will save you from the frustration of continuous broken needles and threads.

I have shared 10 sewing tips that will help you sew through your canvas project effortlessly and that too with using your normal home sewing machine.

The machine that I usually sew my project from is Singer Tradition 2263 -Watch Singer Tradition 2263 Review and Tutorials here.

Below are some tips for sewing with canvas:

1- Needle

You will need a jeans needle or size 100/16 or 110/18 denim needles. Canvas is a heavy fabric therefore you need the right size of needles to avoid breaking them continuously. Apart from the continuous breaking of needle, a slight wrong size of needle will lead to breaking and losing the thread.

The needle that I prefer while working with are genuine Singer needles or Rocket needles. If you live in Pakistan, Rocket Needles is easily available and work just as great as the genuine Singer Needles.

2- Thread

While sewing the canvas, heavy duty thread size 40, made polyester or cotton thread wrapped in polyester is the best thread to work with. While other heavy duty industrial thread like wool or upholstery will also work great with canvas but they do not wind up in normal home sewing machine’s bobbin.

3- Thread tension

The perfect thread tension setting while sewing canvas is between 3 and 5. This will ensure neat seam finish and less thread breakage.

4- Stitch Length

Ideal Stitch length for sewing canvas is between 3 and 4 on normal sewing machine. Keep a rule in mind that thicker the fabric is, more the stitch length should be. If you are working with multiple layers of canvas, increase the stitch length to 4 or more is option available.

5- Sewing over Raw Edges/ Overlock

The canvas shreds thread fibers more often than the normal cotton fabric. It is important to make sure that you design projects that leave no raw edges (using lining). In case of exposed raw edges, make sure to thoroughly overlock the edges or apply dense zigzag stiches at the seam allowance to minimize the thread shedding and lock the fabric’s raw edges.

6- Machine Cleaning

Canvas shreds threads much more frequently than the normal apparel cotton fabric. The thread gets stuck in the sewing machine much more often and require frequent cleaning and oiling of sewing machine. It is recommended to clean your sewing machine after completing every canvas project and oil after 2 weeks for smooth running of your sewing machine. If the machine is not timely cleaned and adequately oiled, it wills start making noise and break the thread more often.

See tips on sewing machine cleaning and oiling here and watch the details video on the process here.

7- Clips v/s pins

While pins can not be avoided at certain points in a project, using of clips is much preferable while working with canvas. There are two main reasons of preferring clips over pins while working with canvas, the thickness and pin impressions. Pins are difficult to pass through thick and sturdy layers (2 and more) of canvas and leave an impression on the fabric. Avoid using pins while sewing the canvas projects whenever possible. Clips for the win.

8- Ironing

Use the steam iron or spray the canvas generously before ironing the crease. Creases are more difficult to straighten from the canvas so water spray and steam beforehand will help.

9- Storage

To avoid creasing the canvas as they are stubborn and difficult to straighten, it is best to roll the fabric than to fold it while storing it.

10- Sewing Speed and Back Stitch

  • While sewing multiple layers, go slow with the sewing. This even means you have to move the wheel manually by hand sometimes.
  • Same goes for the backstitch. Go slow with the backstitch. Again this means you have to go manual as your machine refuses to do backstitches on hard canvas. It is also preferred to do reinforced stitches (2 forward stitches) than doing back stitches to avoid broken threads and needles.