How to Sew Canvas

Canvas is a heavy, durable and inexpensive material -- perfect for using in intermediate sewing projects. With the right tools and techniques you can create sturdy tote bags and chic canvas clutches for yourself and friends.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas fabric

  • Coordinating upholstory thread

  • Machine needles for denim and canvas

  • Straight pins

  • Iron and ironing board

  • Standard zipper

  • Scissors

  • Sewing machine


Some treated canvas may stick to the plastic of the sewing machine or be difficult for the needle to puncture. Test stitching a piece before beginning a project.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Step 1: Prep Your Machine

After replacing your machine's needle with a heavy duty needle, thread your machine and bobbin with a medium-weight upholstery thread.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Test your thread tension and stitch length by sewing a few sample seams on a scrap piece of canvas before starting your project. If thread tension is too taut, you may find your thread snaps frequently while stitching -- creating weak seams.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Step 2: Sew Seams

Sew at a slow and constant speed to keep your seams straight and to avoid snapping your thread. When sewing through multiple layers of canvas you might feel (or hear) the machine straining to push the needle through all the layers; release your foot from the pedal and turn the needle by hand for a few stitches using the hand wheel on the side of the machine. This will prevent the needle from snapping or bending.


Add a jewel toned zipper for a pop of color on a neutral canvas pouch.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Step 3: Reinforce Corners

If completing a project with square corners, sew and backstitch a diagonal line across your corner to strengthen the point after trimming seam excess. Trimming close to the corner before inverting will create crisp square corners after pressing.

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Trim any hanging threads and give your project a final press for a professional-looking finish.

Pressed Corners and Edges (Image: Lindsey Crafter)
(Image: Lindsey Crafter)


Use brightly colored fabric paints to add abstract artwork to your canvas -- just allow fabric to completely dry before sewing artwork together!

(Image: Lindsey Crafter)

Create cute canvas pouches to contain your clutter, or sew a collection of hand-painted throw pillows to curate an art gallery on your couch.

Have a cool idea for another canvas sewing project? Questions about needles and thread sizes? Just comment in the section below.