Can My Sewing Machine Sew Canvas?


Stitches in 4 layers of scrap denim

We get a lot of questions from customers who are new to sewing heavy canvas projects. Helping people get started on doing their own canvaswork is one of our favorite things to do! We hear a lot from people who want to start sewing, but aren’t sure if their sewing machine will be up to the task. If that sounds familiar, this post is for you! We’re going to share with you a quick and easy way to test out your sewing machine’s capabilities.

1. Select a Heavy Thread

You’ll want to thread your machine with a strong thread, preferably one that is recommended for use with Sunbrella®. If you have a home machine, the largest size we suggest using is a V-69 thread, but if you have a heavy-duty machine, try a V-92. You may need to increase the upper tension on your sewing machine to handle the heavier thread.

2.Try Sewing Several Layers of Denim

Take a pair of old jeans and fold them up so you are sewing through about 4-5 layers of the material and see how your machine fairs. If you can easily sew through 4 layers of denim, then you can also sew heavy canvas, like Sunbrella.

If you find that your sewing machine balks at 4 layers of denim, you probably don’t want to try canvaswork on that machine. If you’re ready to take the plunge and upgrade your machine, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed Sewing Machine can sew through 10 layers of heavy canvas.

Want more great tips on starting canvas work? Check out our guide “What Do I Need To Do Canvaswork?” which includes a list of Matt Grant’s top 11 tools for Canvas workers and some helpful materials to keep on hand.

Find all the tools you need to do your own canvaswork including thread, material, sewing machines and much more at

Do any of you sew heavy canvas on a home sewing machine? What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

  1. Tejas said:

    A tip from Sailrite itself on how to increase needle-thread tension on a home sewing machine can be found in few printed and online Sailrite documents. If turning the upper-tension to the maximum is still insufficient, wrap the upper thread twice around the tension mechanism. It the resulting tension is too much, might be necessary to ease the upper-tension.

    • Nikki said:

      You’re right, that is a tip we often tell people. It’s nice to see our tips being shared.

  2. Bill and Linda Martin said:

    Very helpful, thanks !

    • Nikki said:

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading Bill and Linda!

  3. Mary said:

    I made a deer leather purse using my Sailrite LSZ-1. It went through multiple layers like butter. I don’t remember the thread or needle size. It has been awhile. With my machine, If I can get it under the pressure foot, it will usually sew it. Naturally a person tests out thread, needle size, stitch length, tensions before sewing using scrap pieces of the same thing you will be sewing on. On some things that I can not rip out stitches, I use the hand knob so I can go almost stitch by stitch. Not long ago I did some repair work one day when our power went out, just using that hand wheel. Works great.

    • Nikki said:

      Thanks, Mary! So glad you’re loving your Ultrafeed, it sounds like you’re sewing up some really cool projects!

  4. Louise said:

    I’ve sewn a couple of small canvas projects using my no frills Kenmore home machine. I tried to keep the seams really simple, no more than three layers of Sunbrella, and it worked out well.

    However, since then, I’ve taken up quilting and absolutely LOVE it! Now I’m nervous about canvas work because it might break my quilting machine. So I either need to buy a Sailrite to do canvas and jealously protect my Kenmore, or upgrade the Kenmore to a more modern quilting machine.

    Or both! :-)

  5. Franklins Colchester said:

    Thanks for the great information that you shared for us. This is great and helpful.

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