Making an outdoor quilt may not be on your radar. The concept, actually, might even sound a bit silly, however, if you have lived a moment like I did this morning, you’ll rethink your position.
This little slice-of-my-life story sounds exaggerated, but with Scrappy as my witness, it happened just moments ago. I was walking through my living room when something snagged my foot and sent me stumbling forward. I had tripped over a discarded quilt crumpled on the floor. No problem, I’ll just fold it and place it neatly on the couch – hmmm there’s already a quilt on the couch. OK...what about the corner quilt rack… Nope. Full.
Sigh...throwing the unwanted stepchild of a quilt over my shoulder, I trudge up the stairs to toss it into the linen closet. Thump. thump. THUMP. An avalanche of quilts, sheets, and other random linens hit me in the face. Apparently, this is not the first time I have tried to haphazardly throw a quilt into my linen closet.
Good grief, Suzy. This may be a sign that you have enough quilts in your house.
Lightbulb: I have too many quilts inside my house. Let’s make a quilt for outside my house! An outdoor quilt! Muhahaha.
Read More From Our Quilty Adventures!
A Fully Canvas Quilt: Can It Be Done?
You know that here at SQ we’re all about trying new substrates and combining unlikely fabrics. We even went on a Quilty Adventure discovering how to sew with each one! Our most recent adventure, if you do recall, was canvas.
Quilting with canvas is pretty new to me because I had assumed it was reserved for bag makers and home decor DIY-ers. But then I had an inspiring conversation with my new friend Tami of Premier Prints.
Tami gave me the 411 on making quilts with different kinds of canvas and water-resistant outdoor fabrics. The more she talked, the more I excitedly nodded my head. This new world of canvas would allow for rough and tough quilts for picnics, camping, movies in the park, dog beaches, human beaches, toddlers, BBQs, should I keep going??
All Premier Prints fabrics are 45” to 64” wide and are 100% designed and printed in the USA. They also do their best to be environmentally friendly by using a water-based pigment printing system.
So I got off the phone with Tami, full of excitement for my newest favorite substrate and with a steely determination that my next quilt was going to be an outdoor quilt.
Let’s do this, canvas.
How To Make An Outdoor Quilt
Before launching in with your exciting new bundle of canvas and pattern instructions, hop on over to this post on How to Sew with Canvas. There are a few tips that you don’t want to miss.
Supplies to make an outdoor quilt just like mine:
- Maypole Quilt Pattern
- Canvas. I used all 7 oz. Cotton Canvas by Premier Prints. Specifically: Color 1 - Unprinted Natural, Color 2 - Vintage Camper, Color 3 - Pixie Canal, Color 4 - Solid Village Blue, Color 5 - Wilson Village, Backing - Navy Plaid, Binding - (I deviated here a little bit and used some Kona solids I had on hand.) Kona Terracotta and Kona Brown.)
- 90/14 Needle. I use a basic Universal 90/14.
- 40 wt. thread. I used Aurifil Muslin 40 wt., but if you only have 50 wt. that will be fine too, just make sure you are using a brand spanking new needle – otherwise your thread will keep breaking.
- Basic Tools. Sewing machine, rotary cutter, mat, bla bla bla you know the drill (but if you don’t know the drill, read this post on your Must-Have Quilting Tools.)
For the most part I followed the Maypole quilt instructions, except for two key differences:
- A thicker seam allowance. I added a ½” to my seam allowance so that my seams would be nice and thick. To get that extra space in my seams, I cut all of my pieces a ½" larger. I did this because canvas has a tendency to fray and also so this quilt would be extra sturdy.
- No batting. This quilt is made up of just the backing and the quilt top. I wanted this quilt to be more like a blanket than a quilt and also if/when it gets wet and dirty, I wanted it to dry quickly and not get bulky and heavy if drenched.
One last tip! Before you run out of here screaming, "Get me some canvas!" I have one more thing to add. If you choose a quilt pattern other than the Maypole pattern, pick one that uses large pieces of fabric. Canvas seams can get bulky and if you have too many seams in your quilt top, you'll start experiencing lumps and bumps and frustrations.
Quilts Patterns that Make Great Outdoor Quilts
One way to alleviate seam bulk is to iron your seams open. I chose to do this and it helped a lot. Because I ironed my seams open, I also kept my stitch length to 2.5 – to make it extra secure.
Are you excited to make your very own outdoor quilt with canvas? If you’re a first time customer at ShopFabric.com, use coupon code BEHGDESIGNS for 10% off your order!
If you have any questions at all about sewing with canvas or making your own rough and tough canvas quilt, ask away in the comments.
(If you're wondering why there are exactly zero shots of this quilt spread out without a tiny dog on top it's because my tiny dog is obsessed with this quilt. Now that she knows it exists she refuses to sit on grass. Sigh...but that's for another blog post.)
60 thoughts on “How to Make an Outdoor Quilt: Your Guide to Canvas”
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this quilt!! The fabric is perfect and the Maypole is one of my favorites!! An outdoor quilt is so fun to have and show off at so many occasions!! It’s perfect!!!
Such a great idea! I love your quilt & especially that gingham backing!
I agree. I love the idea of using canvas and foregoing batting. The perfect beach quilt. Thanks Suze!
Oh my this is so me!! Love every inch of this one 😉 I better get moving and finish up what I’ve started, cause this is next on my radar!!
Do you have an online store that you purchase canvas from that you can recommend. Canvas available to be is pretty booooring.
The options can be limited. Very true. Did you check out Shopfabric.com? I do have a 10% coupon if you scroll up. If you check out this post I have a lot of great stares listed. In many cases your favorite fabric lines for quilting will also have a couple prints on canvas. I know Cotton + Steel usually does.
I found Premier Prints home dec canvas at Hobby Lobby!
This is a great idea, Suzy!
If you live near an Ikea, they also have fun canvas fabric and usually $9 or less for a yard!
Scrappy-on-quilts is always a good indicator of a great and useful quilt!! This one I love and I was thinking of making picnic quilts for all the newlyweds I know! Good job Suzy!! (notice I said “thinking” 🙄)
What a gorgeous little dog you have 🙂
Awesome idea. I love the dog quilt!
Very interesting post but the section about the thicker seam allowance causes confusion in my head. Are you really saying that your seam allowance is 3/4 in. Wide? Great work!
Instead of my typical 1/4″ seam, I sewed a 1/2″ seam. This pattern, however, is written for a 1/4″ seam allowance. Since I’m adding a 1/4″ seam to all sides of my fabric strips (to get that 1/2″ seam), I needed to cut all of my strips a 1/2″ larger all around. Does that make sense?
But if you add the 1/2” all round, and then sew all round with a 1/2” seam, won’t to original 1/4” be left in the quilt so as to make each piece 1/4” bigger all round?
It took me a sec to wrap my head around what you were saying, but I think I got it. What I meant was that if you add a 1/2″ it will be like adding a 1/4″ to each side. Make sense? I think you and I are arriving at the same conclusion, just saying it different ways. haha!
I’m loving all your ideas and quilts. Also the reviews are very helpful. Thank you for all your time and energy really you’re amazing!!
Love, love, love this quilt. Have a couple of ?s:
Since the Kona fabric is lighter in weight than the canvas, will the binding last?
Would using the rag quilt technique work with canvas, i.e. would the canvas fray well like flannel or denim does?
And I love the idea of this for wedding gifts!!!
Thanks, Mary! Even though the binding is slightly lighter weight, it’s still strong cotton and sewn on my sewing machine for extra strength. It should be very durable. In theory canvas will work as a rag quilt, however, I’m not sure you’ll like the feel of it. The great thing about flannel and light-weight cotton rag quilts is that they get soft and cuddly after washing. Canvas, however, will forever remain more coarse and not really a fabric you want to snuggle with.
Gorgeous!! I’m going to do this as a wedding present. What size did you make?
This is a throw. What a great idea for a present! Especially for a summer wedding.
I’m working on a canvas quilt for a housewarming gift (and it needs to be done next week 😬). I’m wanting to put some sort of water-resistant fabric as backing but the outdoor fabrics I’ve looked at are expensive and aren’t machine washable. Do you have any suggestions for a machine washable water-resistant fabric…if such a thing exists? Or is it even worth the effort to make it water-resistant? Thanks!!
When thinking about a water resistant fabric, think outdoor furniture. Usually the washing instructions for that is to scrub with soap, hose off, and then let air dry. The same kind of treatment would be recommended for outdoor fabric sewn into a quilt. Since that sounds like a lot of work washing just a quilt, I think sticking with a regular non-water resistant fabric is a great idea. 7 or even 10 oz. canvas is incredibly durable.
Would it make sense (is it worth the effort) to laminate regular quilting cotton? I have a pattern and fabric that i thought – “”wow this would be a perfect picnic quilt!”coulddo cancas on the back…
You can actually buy vinyl or laminated fabric – which will be much easier than laminating your own.
You mentioned pre-washing the canvas (be it cotton or cotton/linen blend) for shrinkage. In looking to order canvas fabric most of the care says wash in cool water & low dryer… Would it be safe to assume a regular warm wash cycle & normal dryer heat for the pre-wash? I’m thinking of doing your Fishing Net pattern for my daughters softball games & curious how much extra yardage to order to account for shrinkage. Thank you for your time & awesome tips!
That’s exactly right, Kelly. A regular warm cycle and tumble dry or low heat dry would be perfect. You can expect about 5% shrinkage.
Love your quilt (and your model)! What size did you choose?
This is the throw quilt size.
Just what I needed… to finish a quilt I know I won’t use in my house. Thanks so much for this idea!
I’m thinking, could you do the top in normal quilting cotton and do the back in canvas for those outdoor trips?!!
Tooootally! No rules, baby! This is the Wild Wild West of quilting 😉
I’m in! Damn you and your fine tutorials!
In your how to sew with canvas blog you said to use a stitch length between 3 and 4. But here are you said to use a 2.5. Can you clarify that? I’m sure I’m reading something wrong.
I’m sure you’re reading everything right and I’m just breaking my own rules. haha! I think the takeaway is that as long as your stitch is between 2.5 – 4 your project will turn out fine.
I’ve been using Quilter’s Dream bamboo batting in nearly every quilt I’ve made since your original blog post. It’s so easy to work with, and I do love that it’s breathable and not too warm for the summer. I haven’t used in a quilt for myself yet though… do you find it to be warm enough for winter months? Is it really the perfect jack-of-all-trades-and-seasons batting??
And I’ve just realized I posted this on the wrong blog post hahaha. Is it the weekend yet??
Nothing was said about sewing the top and backing pieces together—maybe at least an X to hold it all together. Would this work??
Baste and quilt the two layers together like you normally would. I just left out the batting.
Love, love, love the idea of an outside quilt! Now to finish some projects so I can start more!
For anyone entering in fairs, this is technically a blanket as quilts have 3 layers, top, batting of some sort and backing.
Suzy, would you ever use canvas for a bed quilt backing with quilting cotton on the front? I was thinking of using pillow ticking to back my king size quilt. I thought it would give it a little weight.
Oh yes, you could definitely do this! In a lot of ways cotton canvas and linen have the same…hmmm…what’s the word? Heft. haha! They have the same feel, drape and yes, heft, and I use linen in bed quilts all the time.
Thank you, Suzy, for sharing your knowledge and experience! I have benefited from it many times. 🙂
Would Tail Feather Quilt Pattern be a good choice for canvas fabric? Thanks!
Yes, because it uses fairly large pieces.
I signed up for the newsletter but was not told how to get the free pattern.
Hey Annie, if you send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll get a link to that free pattern to you right away 🙂
Years ago i bought an outside/ picnic blanket that folded up with a zipper closure and a long strap for carrying. It was so handy! Since misplacing it in a move I’ve been wanting to make something like this for a long time! Any suggestions on how to add the folding and strap parts? Or how to word a search for a part of a pattern? Maybe I could just use a yoga mat strap thingy.. Anyway, great stuff!
I think a yoga strap is a great idea! You could even buy a yoga strap and sew it to one side of the outdoor quilt if you wanted it to be attached.
question: I went to SHOPFABRIC.COM and tried to find the fabrics you used in the outdoor Maypole throw quilt you featured. I searched using: 7 oz, canvas, and each of the design names and could not find any of the fabrics you used. harrrrumph. Also are the fabric requirements noted in the pattern (I downloaded) large enough to accomodate the 1/2 inch seam allowance? Thanks. Sara
Thanks for reading! This post is a few years old and was highlighted in the newsletter because the SQ team is so excited about the changing weather 🙂 But it also means that the fabrics that were used for this quilt are likely out of print now since printed fabric is usually only in print for limited amounts of time. That means there’s all new canvas prints you can explore and put your own creative twist on the project! In the section where Suzy notes the differences she did for the Maypole pattern to make this, she does suggest cutting the pieces 1/2″ larger than the cutting instructions printed in the pattern so you can have that seam allowance. Enjoy your outdoor quilt! 🙂
Hi Suzy! New quilter here, I’ve found your site incredibly useful! Question for you about using canvas: would you ever consider making the front of the quilt with normal fabric, and then having the backside be canvas (all one piece)? The canvas side would go on the ground, and I wouldn’t have to figure out how to sew canvas with my limited experience, the soft top would be snuggly. Thoughts?
Definitely! Canvas backing makes for a wonderfully durable quilt, even if the top is make with regular quilting cotton. I used jersey as the batting and canvas as the backing for this outdoor Glitter and Glow quilt. It’s great for picnics and doesn’t soak up water the same way a regular quilt would. Read about the deets here – https://suzyquilts.com/glitter-glow-quilt-pattern-use-scraps/
I’m really interested in making this quilt. I followed the link to Premire Prints and noticed that some of these fabrics are no longer available. Also, for the fabrics that are available, they are described as 7 oz cotton, not cotton canvas. Is 7 oz cotton the same as cotton canvas?
Yes, that’s right. It’s a cotton canvas.
I’m thinking of making a small tent, mostly indoor use, for my grand niece who will be turning 1 in October. I was looking for a tutorial on tents for toddlers – you might have had one!
Do you think the cotton canvas would be a better option than regular quilting cotton? Do you have any suggestions????
We do not have a tutorial on making an indoor play tent, but I would agree with you that canvas would be better than quilting cotton. Good luck with your project! (If you don’t feel like tackling this on your own, there are also a lot of cute ones to buy on Etsy.)
Quick question. You mention use increasing the seam allowance to 1/2 inch. Did you do that for the binding, as well? (So would I cut the binding strips wider by 1/2 inch?.)
It’s a good idea to increase it by 1/2″ or even just 3/8″.