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 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!


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.


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.


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. 


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 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. 

Create a one-of-a-kind canvas banner

Photo via 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. 

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

Photo via 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!

Use canvas to sew a decorative throw pillow.

Photo via 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. 

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