Canvas conjures up visions of camp chairs, carry bags and the great outdoors. Rough and ready you might think. The average seamstress may wonder if sewing canvas is a similar experience. A rough, tough ride while your machine drives over some pretty hectic seams and sewing hazards. You may even be wondering if you need a 4×4 type of sewing machine to attempt sewing canvas.
Fortunately, with some advice and a bit of practice, you will be able to venture down the road of sewing canvas. Like any road trip, you need to check a few things first.
Sewing Canvas: Tools
Before you start sewing, just check you have the right tools and equipment
- Needle size: 90 -100 universal or denim needles are best (read sewing machine needle sizes)
- Thread: Heavy duty, polyester, cotton wrapped polyester, or 100% cotton thread. (read sewing thread types). Check the bobbin will handle the thicker thread and consider marine thread for the outside as it won’t succumb to wind and sun damage so easily.
- Stitch length: Between 3.0 – 3.5 is best but as with any new experience, always try out the stitch and sewing machine tension on a scrap of the fabric first.
- Presser foot: This may need adjusting to accommodate the thicker material.
- Sharp scissors or rotary cutting knives are good tools for cutting canvas.
Step one: Cutting
It is a good idea to peg or use weights to secure the fabric when cutting canvas. If the canvas slips or is very thick you may want to cut each piece individually. If this is so, you may need to flip your pattern pieces to make sure you get a left and right or back and front side of everything.
If the article requires some interfacing then it is advisable to cut the interfacing to fit exactly into the garment, removing any excess from the seam line so that the interfacing is not part of the seam and therefore reducing bulk.
Step two: Sewing Canvas
There are three seams that suit canvas and depending on the amount of outdoor exposure and the article sewn, you may want to choose one of these three seams.
- The overlapping seam:
This is a simple basic flat seam where the two right sides are put together and sewn on the wrong side. It is not fully water resistant and the threads of the seam are exposed to UV rays. However, it is simple and does not use any extra seam width.
- The semi-flat felled seam:
This seam is popular with professional canvas workers. It provides a pro, clean finished look on the outside. The seam is stitched together and then stitched a second time to flatten it. It is water resistant and only one stitch line is seen on the outside. The raw edges are not neatened but it does have a neat finish on the outside and is not too bulky.
- Full flat felled seam.:
This version of the basic seam leaves no raw edges as they are turned in. It gives a finished edge on both sides. It offers 100% fabric strength and it is nearly 100% waterproof. It does take a bit of extra fabric before overlapping the edges to finish the seam. Trim away any excess fabric to eliminate bunching or large bulky seams.
Step three: Finishing off
The final stages of the sewing journey lead you to the finish line. How will you finish off neatly? There are several options depending on the item that is being made and its purpose. Consideration should also be given to fasteners. Will the end process just be a neat hem or will the finished edge have to support poppers, clasps, hoops or any other type of finishing fastener.
Here are a few simple tips:
- Single hem: Turn up the fabric using double sided tape to complete the hem and machine stitch down. You can trim the edge using a hot knife. Simple, flat and neat.
- Webbing: Cut and trim as before but sew in some webbing if your hem is going to support fasteners or poppers. This will add strength.
- Rolled edge: Roll the edge of the canvas up and neaten on the edge. Use the rolled hem for your neatened edge and turn up and stitch down. Use double-sided tape to secure the hem before you stitch.
- Double hem: Fold once and then a second time using the double sided tape to secure. Stitch top and bottom sides of the hem and the strength of the canvas will provide the extra thickness for poppers or fasteners.
Always check the suitability of the fabric before purchase and test a fabric sample to ensure your fabric will be able to provide the necessary strength and endurance for the any trims.
Now you would have covered all your checkpoints. Hopefully, you are ready to rev those engines and head off confidently onto the road of canvas construction.