How to Sew Canvas

Canvas can be used to sew tote bags, floorcloths, tents and more. Keep these suggestions in mind whenever you work with canvas.

Prewash canvas before you sew. This is especially important if you plan to sew something that will be exposed to the elements (like a tent or shade). If possible, prewash canvas at least two or three times at the hottest setting.

Use a large sewing needle (size 16 or 18) and a heavy-duty thread. The larger needle is made to penetrate thick layers of fabric.

Set your machine at a stitch length of 8 to 12 stitches per inch. A shorter stitch length will cause your fabric to bunch or pucker and could jam your machine.

Feed the canvas through your machine at a slow, steady pace. Pushing or pulling the fabric could damage your machine's timing mechanism or cause your needle to break.

Sew many layers of canvas on an industrial sewing machine if possible. These machines are available for rent and are made especially for sewing thick layers of canvas and denim.

Use a flat-felled seam on most canvas projects. This seam is very durable and useful for heavy fabrics. See "How to Sew Basic Seams" for instructions on making a flat-felled seam.


Wash canvas pieces too large for the washing machine outdoors. Saturate with a water hose and dry in the sun. Repeat this two or three times.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvases
  • Garden Hoses
  • Heavy-duty Threads
  • Industrial Sewing Machine
  • Size 16 Or 18 Sewing Needles
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