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I’ve recently rediscovered the magic of sewing with canvas in one of my latest projects, so I thought we could all rediscover the magic of one of the best blog series’ of all time… our quilty road trip of 2017!
After the last Quilty Adventure post on sewing with Lawn, you thought our beautiful trip was over. But guess what. It’s summer, and we’re going on a reunion tour. Destination: Canvas.
Canvas is both tough and outdoorsy, but also has an edgy, artsy side. You may remember it from such outdoor adventures as: sailing. Or such works of art as: any work of art on a canvas (yes, that’s the canvas we’re talking about!)
Canvas’ durability can be reaaally useful, especially for backing quilts that you plan to take with you into the great outdoors, so let’s get a feel for how this baby operates.
Read More From Our Quilty Adventures!
WELCOME TO CANVAS
It’s all smooth sailing from here
How to Sew with Canvas: The History
Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, but back in the day (like waaay back in the day), canvas was made from hemp! Though canvas is similar to denim in its heaviness and durability, it is a plain weave instead of a twill weave. (See this post on Denim vs. Chambray for a full rundown AND diagram.)
Historically, came in two types: plain and duck. Duck! Though it’s funny and I wish Duck canvas got its name from ducks, it actually comes from the Dutch word for cloth, doek. The Duck variety is more tightly woven than plain. The word “canvas” comes from the french word canavaz, or canevas, which basically comes from the Latin word for “made of hemp.” Real creative.
But canvas DID get real creative when it started being stretched over wood frames for painting in the 1400s! For hundreds of years, canvas has been home to some great paintings, as well a medium for tents, shoes, sails… and some really cute bags. Thank you for your service, canvas.
Canvas is a one-of-a-kind fabric with some pretty impressive stats. First of all, it’s incredibly strong, it’s durable, and some canvas fabrics are treated to be awesomely waterproof. This is a huge plus when making outdoor furniture coverings, bathroom bags, or backing quilts you plan to use outdoors (why do I keep mentioning that over and over? Oh I don’t know… you’ll just have to see…)
Even though the tough, heaviness of canvas can be intimidating, it can be a useful and pretty simple fabric to work with if you have the right tools...
How to Sew with Canvas: What to Pack
Canvas is strong and heavy-duty, so everything you take with you should be strong and heavy-duty, too. A lot of people ask if it’s okay to sew with canvas on your home sewing machine. The answer is YES! With an asterisk. And that asterisk stands for this stuff:
- Thread: Bring strong thread. 40 wt. cotton thread will do the job, but if you’re worried about lots of outdoor use, I suggest a water resistant bonded polyester thread. Before quilting with that heavy duty poly thread, run a few tests to see what works for you and your sewing machine. Try these different variations: 1. Thick poly thread as just the top thread. 2. Thick poly thread in both top and bobbin. 3. Adjust the tension of the top thread as needed once you have the combination of top and bobbin thread that you like.
- Needles: Strong thread needs a strong needle, especially when you have a closely-woven and heavy fabric like canvas. Broken needles are the wooorst. Try using a size 90/14 universal needle or 100/16 jeans needle.
- Rotary Cutter: Make sure that blade is sharp. If you haven't switched your rotary blade in a while, now's the time to safely dispose of it and get a new one.
- Machine Tension: Make sure your machine can handle it. Like I said previously, you don’t necessarily need UV-protected, water-resistant thread. If your machine if unhappy with you after a few tests, switch back to the 40 wt.
The above quilt pattern, Glitter & Glow, will be available on June 27 in the shop!
It’s time to plan out our great canvas adventure! Now that we have the roughest, toughest tools that sewing has to offer, we can get excited about the journey ahead. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- The Prewash: As we mentioned earlier, most canvas is now made from cotton, linen, or a blend of the two. If you're wondering how canvas shrinks and frays, look to see what's in it and treat it appropriately. This Rifle Paper Co. canvas shown in the pics is a 50/50 blend – so I went ahead and prewashed it because I knew that even just 50% linen could cause some major shrinkage.
- The Stitch: Use a longer stitch than normal – between a 3 and a 4. With any heavy fabric, longer stitches will give you a nicer look, and smoother sailing (pun intended).
- Flat Seams: Pay extra attention to your seams. Specifically, get them as flat as possible. Canvas is pretty bulky, so cut back as much as you can. (Hint: Use a Tailor's Clapper!)
- Sew Slowly: Take your time. You’re going to want to hold your canvas as firmly as you can while you feed it into the machine. No pushing, no pulling, no risking a broken needle. Hold it firmly, and let it do it’s thang.
- Clips Over Pins: Finding canvas tough to pin down? Try clips. Unfinished seams can be held in place for a limited time with some handy clips. (They also have a dual purple of keeping my chip bags closed!)
- The Foot: Put your presser foot in the air like you just don’t care. If you think your presser foot can’t get any higher than its high position… check again! It probably can. And you’re going to want it higher than normal since you are sewing thicker layers.
Before You Check Out
One last tip: when storing canvas, it’s better to roll than to fold. Creases in canvas can be easy to form and hard to remove, so rolling canvas can save you all the heartache. Do you sew with canvas on the reg? Any tips you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!