Sewing with waxed canvas

Waxed canvas has become a popular material to work with in the bag making community. The wax makes the canvas waterproof and easy to clean which makes it an ideal fabric for bags. With use, it also develops a lovely crinkled and worn look that gives your bags a unique patina.

While writing my Waterlily waxed canvas tote pattern, I did a lot of research on waxed canvas before attempting to work with it.  I’ve prepared a list of tips when sewing with waxed canvas that I would love to share with all of you.

Waxed Canvas Pouch

To help demonstrate these tips, I have chosen to make one of my most popular free patterns, the clematis wristlet. Please feel free to download the pattern and follow along!

Keeping in mind that you can’t use fusible interfacing on waxed canvas, I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing pieces with some minor changes:

Using the EXTERIOR TOP A pattern piece, I cut out a pretty floral waxed canvas print. I did NOT cut out any interfacing using this pattern piece because as I just mentioned, it’s impossible to fuse interfacing to waxed fabric. Next, I cut out my EXTERIOR BOTTOM B pieces in cork fabric, again leaving out any interfacing since cork should not have any heat applied to it. 

Instead of an 8” zipper, I am using some of my zipper tape by the metre.  I cut a piece of zipper tape that is 9” long and 2 zipper tab pieces in the floral waxed canvas.

Since I need some type of interfacing for this pouch to give it structure, I cut out my lining fabric and fusible woven interfacing pieces as instructed in the pattern for LINING C and SLIP POCKET D pattern pieces. Then I cut an additional 2 pieces of fusible fleece from the LINING C pattern piece which I will fuse to the wrong side of the fabric, on top of the woven fusible interfacing.

NOTE: I have omitted the D-ring strap and the wrist strap. 

Before you start sewing:

1. Use a size 16 or 18 needle. A denim or sharp (microtex) work best with canvas. I’ve also successfully used a size 16 topstitch needle when using heavy thread on my Janome HD9.

2. Use a longer stitch length of at least 3 or 3.5. This will make your seams slightly more waterproof because there are less holes than with a shorter stitch length. When I made this pouch, I used a stitch length of 4 for regular sewing and 6 for topstitching on the Janome HD9 with heavy weight thread. When sewing the lining with regular weight thread, I used a stitch length of 2.5.

A stitch length of 4 for assembly
A stitch length of 6 for topstitching

3. Once you’ve cut your waxed canvas pieces, zig zag stitch all of the edges to prevent fraying. Try to keep your zig zag stitches less than 1/4” wide to keep within the seam allowance. Since my Janome HD9 does not have a zig zag stitch, I pulled out my Janome Sewist 625e to zig zag the edges of my exterior waxed canvas pieces.

4. You don’t really need to press waxed canvas. Finger pressing or a seam roller usually work fine be­cause the wax helps it keep its shape. If you need to press out creases, use a pressing cloth under your canvas as well as on top to prevent wax build up on your iron. When making this pouch, I finger pressed my zipper tabs before attaching them to the ends of my zipper.

I also finger pressed my seam allowance when top stitching the seam along the top edge of my exterior bottom piece.
And lastly, I pulled my exterior and lining pieces away from the zipper and finger pressed the seam along the zipper while topstitching.

5. Do not use a fabric pen on waxed canvas. It can easily be scored with a finger nail and then simply rub off with your finger tip. Also, use CLIPS and not pins for waxed canvas.

6. If you need a bag that is 100% waterproof, you will need to apply brush-on seam sealer or tape to your seams. 

7. Once you’ve completed a waxed canvas project, make sure to clean your machine – especially the bed of your machine, the bobbin and bobbin case and the feed dogs. I use the small bristle brush that came with my Janome HD9 to clean my feed dogs and my bobbin case then wipe clean with a cloth. I use a cotton swab to clean my presser foot and my hook race.

Want to wax your own canvas?

Here in Canada, I found it difficult to purchase waxed canvas at a reasonable price. It can be very expensive! With some research, I came across several videos and blogs that showed various waxing techniques and came across a method that really worked well for me. I’ve prepared a YouTube video for anyone who might be interested in trying to wax their own canvas. I’ve used this method to wax canvas prints and even interfaced quilt weight cotton!

More waxed canvas project ideas

The Coneflower Cross Body Bag
The Waterlily Waxed Canvas Tote
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3 Responses to Sewing with waxed canvas

  1. Jayne Baldwin says:

    Awesome post Celine. I look forward to using my waxed canvas soon c


  2. Sandra says:

    Wonderful instructions. WHat Janome machine did you use for this project, please?


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