Waxed Canvas or Leather: Which Is Better?

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Are you a hobby crafter or DIYer who loves using durable and stylish materials for your bags, wallets and other accessories? If you answered yes, then you’ve probably heard of two popular options: waxed canvas and veg tan leather. These materials are known for their rugged beauty, durability and timeless elegance.

Choosing between these two quality materials can be a tough decision, and that’s where we come in. Both are excellent options for your custom-made bags and accessories, but each material has its own unique features that set it apart.

In this blog post, we will look at the sustainability, durability, care and maintenance, ease of use, and cost of each material. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of waxed canvas and leather.

Are you ready to learn more about these top-quality materials? Let's dive in and discover whether waxed canvas or veg tan is the right fit for you and your DIY projects!

Can't decide between waxed canvas or leather for your handmade bags and accessories? This blog breaks down the important features and considerations of each material to help you make the right decision for your DIYs.

Environmental Impact & Sustainability

Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas is known for its eco-friendly nature. It's made from cotton, a natural and renewable resource. The wax used to coat the canvas and give it its signature look is either paraffin or beeswax, which are relatively sustainable choices. The production process of waxed canvas consumes fewer resources and generates less pollution compared to some leather tanning methods.

DuraWax™ Light Waxed Canvas is our paraffin-coated option. Paraffin is less stiff than beeswax, making it slightly more flexible. However, paraffin, unlike beeswax, is derived from petroleum and is not a natural, organic product. DuraWax™ Heavy, our beeswax-coated offering, has a stiffer feel when first used. But, the material does soften up beautifully with use.

Veg Tan Leather

Veg tan leather is produced using natural tannins found in tree bark and other plant sources. This method is more environmentally friendly than chemical forms of leather tanning, including chrome tanning. Veg tan leather is biodegradable. It has a lower environmental impact, which makes it a more sustainable choice for leather crafting than other leathers.

All leather sides and panels, including veg tan leather, are a by-product of the meat industry. Animals are not raised solely for their hides.

Durability & Longevity

Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas is a durable material. The wax coating protects the cotton and adds a layer of water resistance to the fabric. This makes waxed canvas a great choice for outdoor bags and accessories. Thanks to the fabric’s tight weave, it can withstand daily wear and tear. This makes it an excellent choice for items like wallets, bags and work aprons that need to endure daily use.

A unique aspect of waxed canvas is that you can rewax it to extend the material’s longevity and performance. It’s a simple process of re-treating the fabric with a new wax coating. By restoring the fabric’s original water repellency, you can extend the life and durability of your waxed canvas accessory.

As waxed canvas ages and is used, it takes on a weathered, wrinkled appearance. This adds to the fabric's unique look and vintage charm.

Veg Tan Leather

Veg tan leather is also highly durable. It has a natural resistance to abrasion and ages beautifully, developing a rich, attractive patina as it's used. With proper care, veg tan leather items can last for generations. This makes it an excellent choice for daily products like belts, wallets and watch straps.

The untreated veg tan leather wallet patinas naturally with age and takes on a beautiful, rich color compared to the new leather hide.

One topic worth addressing is that leather, unlike waxed canvas, is not water resistant. With its wax coating, water beads up and rolls off waxed canvas. Veg tan leather is a porous material and does not have any waterproofing treatment applied to the natural hide.

Though leather itself is not waterproof, you can apply a topical water-resistant coating using various Fiebing’s products. We keep them in stock and readily available at Sailrite. You’ll learn more about this in our care and maintenance section, up next.

Care & Maintenance

Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas is easy and simple to clean. Brush loose dirt and dust off the material with a soft-bristle brush. For tougher stains, a gentle soap or spot cleaner product can be used. Most importantly, if the wax coating on your item has worn off, you can easily rewax the material to restore its water-repellency.

Veg Tan Leather

If taken care of and maintained, leather goods can last for generations. There are cleaners and protectants readily available to keep your leather looking like new. Just as your skin needs lotion, your natural leather goods need to be conditioned to prevent drying out and cracking. Maintaining your leather items means they have the potential to last your lifetime and beyond.

Sailrite stocks Fiebing’s leather care and cleaning products. Since 1895, Fiebing’s has been a leader in the leather care industry. Known for quality products that deliver exceptional results, Fiebing’s has a product for every step of the leatherworking process. These professional-grade cleaners, protectants and more will keep your leather goods looking like new for years to come.

Shop All Fiebing’s Products

Fiebing's products keep your veg tan leather goods looking like new.

Ease of Use & Sewability

Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas is easy to work with for crafting and sewing your own bespoke, handcrafted bags and accessories. It doesn't require a specialized sewing machine, and beginners can easily create DIY items using waxed canvas. With a domestic sewing machine (or hand-sewing supplies) and some basic sewing notions, you can craft unique and professional-looking waxed canvas goods.

Veg Tan Leather

Working with veg tan leather can be more challenging than waxed canvas, especially for beginners. It requires specific skills and techniques that must be practiced and honed. Like waxed canvas, leather can be handstitched. So if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can still experiment with leather crafting and making custom pieces.

Sewing with veg tan leather comes with a bit of a learning curve. As a specialty material, you’ll need to practice on scrap pieces to achieve the proper stitch tension and look you desire for your leather goods. Crafting with leather requires specialty tools to cut and stitch the leather. Dyes, protectants and other finishing products add to the item's quality and look.


Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas by the yard is more affordable than a hide of veg tan leather. This makes it a budget-friendly choice for those looking for durable and stylish accessories without breaking the bank.

There are also fewer tools and supplies needed to sew waxed canvas. You can use the same fabric scissors, pins or clips, thread, and needles you use for other sewing projects. A domestic sewing machine should be powerful enough to sew waxed canvas.

Veg Tan Leather

Veg tan leather hide is far more expensive than an equal quantity of waxed canvas material. In addition to the price of a hide, there’s another type of cost to consider. Leather, unlike waxed canvas, is not a forgiving material. A wrong stitch hole or accidental cut or scuff in a leather hide is permanent. Making a mistake can be costly in scrapped material and time spent on the project.

Creating a leather accessory also requires specialty tools and products. A veg tan wallet, for example, requires more products from start to finish than a waxed canvas wallet. You need to weigh the cost of investing in leather and the accompanying tools and finishing products against the beauty, quality and longevity of the item. If you desire the look and feel of supple veg tan, the cost of getting started in leather crafting might easily be worth the final result of a gorgeous, bespoke leather accessory.

In Conclusion

Waxed canvas and leather are both great options for your bag-making and hobby sewing projects. Both materials have proven durability and longevity. They both feature a timeless style with a bespoke, classic look that gets better with time as the material ages and patinas with use.

Waxed canvas and leather pair together beautifully in the Sailrite Waxed Canvas Backpack Kit.

If you’re a beginner sewer or want to get into bag making and hobby crafting, we recommend experimenting and honing your skills using waxed canvas. Once you’re comfortable with your new DIY skills, you can upgrade to veg tan if you like the look of leather in your handmade goods.

Shop Waxed Canvas

Shop Veg Tan Leather

Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you can't go wrong with either waxed canvas or veg tan leather. So, pick the one that suits your lifestyle and personal preferences, and enjoy your stylish and reliable accessories! Or better yet, combine both materials to create beautiful, custom pieces with unmatched craftsmanship and quality.