What Do I Need to Start Doing Canvaswork?

Item # X-HT-300176

Canvaswork tools, supplies and fabric are a huge part of our company. So it’s not surprising that one of the questions we get asked most is: “What supplies do I need to do my own canvaswork?” Since 1969, do-it-yourself canvaswork has been a part of our business and our passion. Canvaswork is everything from your boat's bimini and dodger to a T-top and boat cover. But canvaswork is not just for marine sewing. It's also sewing a patio awning, grill cover, patio furniture covers and more. 

To get started in canvaswork, tool quality and selection are important. The right tools and supplies will make all the difference in the success of your project. For someone wanting to get into this craft — or even a first-time sewer — this list of essential tools and supplies will help you navigate the world of canvaswork and get excited about starting this new and rewarding sewing venture.

13 Beginner Canvaswork Tools & Supplies

Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LS, LSZ or Fabricator® Sewing Machine

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For sewing canvaswork, you can't go wrong with our Ultrafeed and Fabricator Sewing Machines. Our lineup of sewing machines is unmatched in their power, performance and dependability. All of our sewing machines use proprietary technology designed and patented by Sailrite®. Our all-metal internal components are robust and engineered for lasting performance.

The Fabricator is a full-size, industrial straight stitch sewing machine. It's ideal for canvasworkers who have a designated sewing station or workshop. The Ultrafeed, however, is portable. You can take it from room to room, on the road, to the marina and even on your boat. The Ultrafeed LS is our straight-stitch only version. Canvaswork projects are typically sewn with a straight stitch. However, if you also own a sailboat and sew your own sails or make sail repairs, you'll need a machine that does both straight and zigzag stitch. That's why we recommend the Ultrafeed LSZ to our customers who sew both canvas and sails.

To learn more about our powerhouse sewing machines and to help decide which one is right for you, we have dozens of blogs and videos highlighting the performance, qualities and capabilities of our machines. Our blogs "Why Choose an Ultrafeed?" and "Why Choose the Fabricator Industrial Sewing Machine?" are a great place to get started.

Sailrite® Edge Hotknife or Edge Cordless Hotknife

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A hotknife is an essential canvaswork tool. When cutting synthetic fabric with scissors or shears, the cut edge will fray and unravel. On a lot of canvaswork projects, the hem will be seen (biminis, dodgers, T-tops, awnings, etc.) and a frayed hem is both unprofessional and unattractive. A hotknife cuts and seals synthetic fabric, webbing and rope so your material will never unravel.

We carry two versions of our best-selling Edge Hotknife: a corded version and cordless version. The original corded version is great for canvasworkers who sew in a workroom with readily available outlets. The lithium-ion, battery-powered cordless version is ideal for DIYers who work on their boat, at the marina, outside or want the ultimate mobility of a cordless hotknife. Both the original and cordless Edge heat up in seconds and provide smooth, precise cuts for professional results.

Sailrite® Tempered Cutting Glass

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Pair your hotknife with our Tempered Cutting Glass for optimal and convenient cutting. This sturdy, 1/4-inch-thick piece of tempered glass protects your work surface from damage when using a hotknife. It is manufactured to be physically and thermally stronger than normal glass. It's also safer than normal glass as it is designed to crumble into chunks instead of jagged shards should it break. The 30 x 11-inch size provides a large surface for making long, precise cuts.

Sailrite® Drill Hole Cutter Set

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This hole cutting set is the easiest, fastest and most convenient way to cut holes for installing grommets, snap fasteners and more in your fabric assembly. The all-in-one kit includes seven hole cutters ranging in size from 1/8 to 5/8 inch. The kit comes with the Sailrite® Cutting Block & Die Holder. This is a two-block set — one block is a hard, durable plastic and the other a resilient rubber cutting pad — so you can choose which cutting surface to use for various projects.

A well-made carrying case keeps everything together so you don't lose any components. It's great for taking on your boat, in your car or anywhere you work on canvas projects. The Drill Hole Cutter Set is compatible with a 3/8-inch drill chuck or larger (drill not included).

Sailrite® SnapRite® System or Pres-N-Snap Installation Tool

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Every canvasworker needs a professional-grade snap fastener installation system. The SnapRite System is Sailrite's patented fastener installation system that you won't find anywhere else. It consists of a professional, heavy-duty rivet gun with four dies that are color-coded so you know at a glance which ones are compatible. The system installs button, socket, stud and eyelet snap fasteners with incredible ease, speed and precision.

The Pres-N-Snap Installation Tool comes with six dies for installing button, socket, stud and eyelet components, as well as #1 plain washer grommets. This tool sets snaps with a one-handed squeeze, making it very easy and convenient to use. Additional dies are sold separately. To help you decide which snap fastener system is right for you, read our blog "Comparing the Sailrite SnapRite System & Pres-N-Snap Installation Tool" (#300211XHT) for a more thorough comparison of the two tool systems.

Easy Fit Kit Snap Positioning System

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The Easy Fit Kit is an incredibly helpful positioning system for use on boat covers, tonneau covers, enclosures, biminis, dodgers and side curtains. After you install the stud portion of a snap fastener on your boat, use the components in the Easy Fit Kit to align the socket portion of the snap fastener for a great fitting cover without sagging or loose fabric between snaps. And the best part is, this kit can be used over and over — all the components are reusable!

Sailrite® 1-Inch Swing-Away Binder

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Sewing binding onto fabric edges is a common way to finish awnings, dodgers, biminis and more for great-looking results. A 1-inch binder is a must-have accessory for your canvaswork toolbox. This binder attachment's swing-away design automatically guides and folds binding tape into place over the edge of the fabric. The swing bracket swings out of the way when you're done sewing the binding so you can continue working on your project without having to remove the binder.

Deluxe 5 1/2-Inch Magnetic Sewing Guide

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This magnetic sewing guide is a lifesaver for keeping your stitches, seams and hems perfectly straight. Compare this sewing guide to a fence on a table saw — it provides an extra-long surface to push a fabric edge against while sewing. The super-strong magnets keep the guide firmly in place while sewing even heavy and thick assemblies. This easy-to-use seaming and hemming guide is made exclusively for Sailrite.

Soapstone Pencil

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Every canvasworker should have this sewing notion on hand. Use a marking tool to trace panels, mark measurements and cut lines, and to indicate the right and wrong side of your fabric. We like using the Soapstone Pencil when we work on canvas projects here at Sailrite. It shows up very well on medium and dark colors and, best of all, the marks are very easy to remove with a rag and water. The transparent barrel shows how much soapstone you have left, and the pencil is sharpened with a regular pencil sharpener.

Fabric Scissors

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A toolbox basic, every DIYer should have a pair of sharp, high-quality scissors. Fabric scissors or shears should only be used for cutting fabric — never use them for paper, cardboard or plastic as anything except fabric will ruin and dull the blades. We carry the industry's best brands: Gingher® and Fiskars®. We offer scissors for both right- and left-handed sewers and in different blade lengths so you can select the pair that's right for you.

Grommet Installation Tools

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Installing grommets is a very common part of canvaswork. Grommets are used in wire-hung canopies, tarps and tie downs, awnings, to ventilate boat covers and so much more. We sell the tools needed for every step of the grommet installation process: die sets, hole cutters, cutting blocks and mallets. We carry die sets for installing spur grommets, plain washer grommets, vent grommets and large eyelets. And we have a variety of high-quality cutting blocks, hole cutters and mallets to choose from that are all guaranteed to get the job done.

Sailrite® Canvas Patterning Ruler

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Made exclusively for Sailrite, this multiuse patterning tool is not your standard ruler! The holes located every 1/4 inch allow you to pattern perfect circles on your canvas with a set radius. You can also set the lipped metal edge against the fabric's edge to scribe a line a set distance from the edge of your fabric. This is very useful for quickly drawing hem or fold lines from the edge of the fabric without having to repeatedly measure and mark lines.

Clear Acrylic Ruler

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The Clear Acrylic Ruler measures 6 x 24 inches and includes measurements along all four sides. This ruler is great for canvaswork measuring and patterning. You can easily mark strips for binding, trim pieces, piping and more. The ruler also features clearly marked lines for cutting 30-, 45- and 60-degree angles. We use this ruler in almost all of our canvaswork projects. It's a fantastic tool you'll rely on again and again.

Other Canvaswork Supplies

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 canvaswork that are worth keeping stocked and ready for your next project.

Materials to Keep on Hand:

  • Outdoor and indoor thread
  • Tear-Aid® Fabric Repair Kit Type A (#83211)
  • Seamstick Basting Tape for Canvas (#129, #104984, #122064, #122066)
  • Snap fastener components
  • Dura-Skrim® Patterning Material (#103134)
  • #2 grommets in various finishes
  • 1-inch polyester webbing (for sew-on tabs and reinforcement)
  • Weighted sandbags (Check out our how-to tutorial and sew your own weights for holding down large fabric panels when patterning and marking: #300362XHT.)

With the right tools and materials, you’ll be all set to start sewing your own canvas projects! All of these supplies are available right here at Sailrite. Once you're stocked up with the items you need, head on over to our blogs section to explore hundreds of free DIY videos. We organize our how-to section by marine, outdoor living, RV and auto, and more so you can find project tutorials quickly and easily. And if you're brand-new to sewing, our "Learning to Sew" video series is a must-watch for beginners and will have you sewing like a pro in no time!