What Do I Need to Start Doing Canvas Work?


For 44 years, do-it-yourself canvas work has been a part of our business and our passion. So it’s not surprising that one of the questions we get asked most is: “What do I need to do my own canvas work?”

Starting to do your own canvas work is easy and all you really need is a sewing machine. However, depending on the project, you could also need a variety of other tools and soft goods.

Tool quality and selection is important. To help with selection, here are Sailrite Owner Matt Grant’s recommendations for a beginner’s toolbox.

Matt Grant’s Top 11 Tools for Canvas Workers

  1. Ultrafeed LS-1 or LSZ-1 Sewing Machine
  2. Knife-Edge Scissors
  3. Sailrite EDGE Hotknife
  4. SnapRite System
  5. Quick Fit Kit
  6. 1” Swing-Away Binder Attachment
  7. Deluxe Magnetic Sewing Guide
  8. Soapstone Pencil
  9. Grommet Installation Tools (die set, hole cutter, cutting block and mallet)
  10. Assorted Hand Needles
  11. Sailor’s Palm

In addition to tools, you’ll need a variety of other materials to craft your canvas creations. Fabric, binding, specific hardware, metal frames, and clear vinyl window material are all materials that should be purchased on a project-by-project basis.

There are several materials, however, that we consider staples for canvas work that might be worth keeping around.

Materials to Keep on Hand

  • Outdoor and indoor thread
  • Waxed twine
  • Repair and reinforcement tape
  • Double stick basting tape for canvas
  • Snap fastener components
  • Patterning material
  • #2 grommets in various finishes
  • 1” polyester webbing (for sew on tabs and reinforcement)

With the right tools and materials, you’ll be all set to start you canvas projects! All of these tools  materials and project specific materials are available at www.sailrite.com.

If you’ve got all your tools and are looking for a good project to start, take a look at our library of how-to videos!

Are you an experienced canvas worker or a beginner? For you more experienced sewers out there, leave your advice for beginners in the comments.

  1. Great advice. I teach Outdoor Living/Marine Applications classes at Custom Home Furnishings Academy in Charlotte, NC. Sailrite is our supplier for the class. I love giving out their catalog and talking to my students about all their products, videos and customer support. Sailrite is the best!

    • Nikki said:

      You’re class sounds great, Lorraine! Thanks for spreading the word about us!

  2. I’d suggest adding a great canvas instruction book if sewing aboard with limited Internet access and inability to get to your videos. Also I’d add a few notions like a good seam ripper and measuring tools for patterning. Thanks.

  3. I have had several people at our marina want me to do some projects for them. They have seen the canvas work that I have done on our boats and have liked it. I would like to do some small jobs but I don’t know how to price the work…any suggestions?

    • Nikki said:

      I asked Matt Grant your question and here’s his advice: “That is the million dollar question. Some work for a case a beer and others make a living from sewing. I would suggest determining an hourly rate for your area. Call canvas shops and ask what their labor rate is. Most will be from $30 to $75 per hour. Materials are generally marked up by 1.5 to 2 times. Obviously how long it takes for you to make an item can have a huge impact on the charges and this is where, as a new canvas worker, you might need to make some concessions for a while. Hope this is helpful.”

  4. Stuart Neiss said:

    I doubt if my orders puts Sailrite over the top for their yearly goals but I do order most everything I use for my little projects from them. I have called them many times over the years and spoken with them at Annapolis for advice; if the sewing business ever slows, they could open a consulting firm teaching customer service. They are one of the best companies I have ever dealt with both for my personal and professional business. I met the next generation at Annapolis this past year and it seems the company is in good hands for years to come. Keep up the great work.

    • Nikki said:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Stuart!

  5. Christine Smith said:

    We have 3 used boats that need work. This topic interested me greatly. I have zero experience in canvas work. Thought I’m a sewer. I was wondering if there was a prepared kit & the cost for a Canvas Workers Beginner Tool Kit. In the Selection Guide area I reviewed the Canvas-workers Tool Kit. I was then surprised to see a price over $900. There was one starter kit – Upholstery Starter Kit at about $80. Do I need to take the list above and order each item for my Canvas Worker Started/Beginner Kit? Your suggestions are gratefully welcome.

    • Nikki said:

      The only complete canvas work kit we offer is the Canvasworkers Tool Kit (http://www.sailrite.com/Canvasworkers-Tool-Kit) which is a very comprehensive kit, but with all the hardware & tools included is a little pricey. To start, I would suggest just ordering separately the items from the list above that you don’t already have (since some are basic sewing tools you might have already as a sewer, like scissors).

      You’ll want to make sure you have a sewing machine that can sew heavy canvas, a tool to install snaps (and maybe a few fasteners to start too), and tools to install grommets. Niceties that would help your project include a hotknife and a binder attachment for our sewing machine (if you have an Ultrafeed).

      I hope that helps clarify things for you a bit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have more questions!

  6. Elaine Portwood said:

    I am preparing to craft a golf cart enclosure in the next month and a coup!e of your videos have inspired me. Do you have any books or videos geared toward golf cart enclosures?

  7. Karen Brunhuber said:

    Thank you for all the info , Iam a sewer with a home sewing business and Iam thinking of starting a new canvas sewing & repair business. I really enjoy reading all the posts and comments .

  8. Claude Amiot said:

    I dont fine on your web site à video for sailboat bimini and dodger. Do you have that? Thanks
    Marie and Claude

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Claude, we have a video for building your own dodger over on our main website, Sailrite.com. Here’s a link: https://www.sailrite.com/How-to-Make-a-Dodger

      We don’t currently have a free video for building a bimini top, but we’ll be releasing one soon–stay tuned!

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