Fabric Types

Canvas Fabric: A Great Choice for Sewing Projects

Canvas Fabric: A Great Choice for Sewing Projects

Canvas fabric is a great type of material to sew with. Here are all the details on what makes canvas fabric what is, similar fabrics that can be used in place of canvas, sewing projects that use canvas, and tips on buying and sewing with canvas fabric.

What Is Canvas Fabric?

Canvas fabric is a utility fabric that is a plain weave fabric made out of cotton or linen that has a fairly smooth surface. It’s a very heavy-duty fabric that’s great to use for sewing projects that you want to be durable and long-lasting.

Duck fabric, which is sometimes used interchangeably with the term canvas fabric, is more tightly woven than regular canvas. Curious about this odd name for a fabric? The word duck coming from the Dutch word doek meaning “linen canvas.”

Everyday uses for canvas include tents, backpacks, drop cloths, sails for sailboats, shoes, sandbags, and stretched canvas that can be used for artwork. Aida cloth used for embroidery is also made out of canvas.

Colorful bolts of canvas fabric

@Stacy Fisher

While the most popular type of canvas fabric is a tan solid color, you can find canvas and duck fabric in stripes, prints, and a wide variety of colors.

Waxed canvas, is canvas fabric that has been woven with a paraffin-based wax. This makes the fabric water repellent and has a bit of a shine to it. This can be used as an alternative to leather. Waxed canvas is even stronger than regular cotton or linen canvas and can be used as an alternative to leather.

While not waterproof, canvas is a great choice for outdoor cushions because it’s so durable.

Other Names for Canvas Fabric

Canvas fabric is sometimes referred to as the following:

  • Duck cloth
  • Duck canvas
  • Cotton canvas
  • Linen canvas
  • Waxed canvas
  • Linen Duck

Fabric Similar to Canvas

If you’re having a tough time finding canvas fabric, or you’re looking to use something from your fabric stash, here are some other fabrics that are similar to canvas.

  • Denim
  • Burlap
  • Muslin
  • Poplin

Sewing Projects Using Canvas Fabric

A canvas fabric tote bag hanging on a brick wall

@ Incase/Flickr

Canvas fabric is a great fabric to use in any sewing project that needs strength. Here are some popular items to sew with canvas.

Tips for Sewing With Canvas Fabric

A jacket made from waxed canvas fabric

@ kelly/flickr

Canvas is lovely to sew with. It is a nice sturdy fabric that will stay in its place and generally behave. You should have no problem using a regular home sewing machine to sew your canvas projects. If you do have some issues, here are some tips on sewing with canvas.

  1. Use a jeans needle (100/16 or 110/18)
  2. Use a heavy duty thread as both your upper thread and bobbin thread
  3. Use a longer stitch length (3, 3.5, or 4)
  4. Use wonder clips instead of pins
  5. Adjust your presser foot to hold the canvas in place
  6. Adjust your upper tension and/or bobbin tension
  7. Take your time, go slow

Buying Canvas Fabric

When you go to purchase canvas fabric, you can tell the fabric weight in one of two ways. Often the canvas fabric is referred to in ounces. The more ounces per yard of the fabric, the heavier it will be. It may be listed by a number system of 1-10, with the lower the number being very heavy canvas and the higher number being more of a lightweight canvas.

Drop cloths are also made out of canvas and you may be able to find these cheaper than purchase canvas by the yard. This is a great option if you’re looking for a natural looking canvas.

Here are a few places that carry a great selection of canvas fabric:

  • Fabric.com – They have over a thousand options for canvas fabric and duck fabric
  • JoAnn – There are 300+ options here with lots of fun prints and colors
  • Big Duck Canvas Warehouse – If you’re really serious about your canvas, you need to check out Big Duck where you can shop by weight and type

Caring for Your Canvas Fabric

Here are some tips on how to care for your canvas fabric:

  1. Prewash your canvas fabric, it may shrink
  2. If you find that your canvas fabric is more scratchy than you’d like, wash it a few times and it will soften
  3. Roll instead of fold canvas to prevent wrinkles
  4. If you need to remove wrinkles, use a steam iron or lightly wet the surface before ironing
  5. You can clean dirty canvas by machine washing (cold) or hand washing
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