Over the past few months we have been working on perfecting the best seam tape for Big Duck Canvas! It a small little product addition, but the time and sweat it will save at the sewing machine is HUGE! It was important to us for it to be the best quality we could produce at of course a good price. We are very pleased with the end result and hope you will be too!
#4 (24oz) Cotton Duck is our second heaviest canvas! The amazing thing about #4 is all the width options that are available. The selection includes 36″, 48″, 60″ and 120″! This is why it is the most popular fabric for making floorcloths. Yes, #4 is actually heavy enough to work as a floor mat especially if you add a little rug padding underneath. Many of our customers, including myself are using #4 to make floor coverings instead of buying costly rugs.
Up until now #4 has only been available in natural. Last week we added our new #4 / 60″ in Black! We are looking forward to seeing our customers response to this new option.
Many people wonder if they can sew #4 on their home machine or if it requires industrial power. We have the best answer for that: IT DEPENDS. Many home sewing machines are very heavy duty and can handle the thickness like a pro. It is best to request a sample and just run through your machine. Try sewing through 3 layers and see how it goes. The other reason “it depends” is because of thread options. Most home machines will limit you to lighter thread options. #4 Cotton Duck is heavy, so a heavy thread is ideal. I use a bonded nylon tex 69 on my floorcloths. My home machine has surprised me over the years handling thick leather and upholstery, but there is not way it is going to deliver nice seams of tex 69 bonded nylon! I must use my industrial machine. Again, just hit us up for some samples and give it try! We would love to hear about any home sewing machine that can easily handle heavy threads!
Video >>>> Sewing and Working with #1 Cotton Duck
If you are sewing light fabrics like ripstop nylon for the first time you might be surprised at how frustrating it can be compared to heavier materials. If you are set up for heavy fabrics you will want to make sure you have the right needle and thread for ripstop. Also, nice sharp scissors or a rotary cutter, and possibly painters tape. If you are working with a coated ripstop like our 70D water repellent ripstop nylon it will be a little easier than something uncoated like a micro denier. Here are a few more tips that have helped me out.
- Make sure you are using a new sharp Universal 70/10 Needle.
- An all purpose polyester or nylon thread is great. Some people like to match the thread the the fabric. Lightweight nylon fabric = a lightweight nylon thread; however, All Purpose Polyester Coats and Clarke is available everywhere and will work great.
- Slipping? Working with coated ripstop nylon, you may not have much slipping. However if you do, painters tape is great fast way to hold your seams in place, so you don’t have to pin through your ripstop. A long running basting stitch on the edge is a great last resort to manage slipping too!
- Sew Straight. Use the grid lines on the ripstop to help sew straight. Sloppy sewing will be easy to notice if your seam looks crooked next to the straight woven lines in the fabric. Keep in mind ripstop typically stretches on the diagonal.
- Use sharp fabric scissors or a new rotary cutter for clean straight edges. Once you cut out your pieces it is ideal to sew them up immediately. Leaving cut nylon lying around will cause your clean cut edges to get messy or frayed making the sewing a little more challenging.
- Check your stitch length. If your stitch length is too small it can cause problems. It can weaken your seams by basically perforating a line down your fabric that will pull apart easily over time. It can also just make the fabric bunch up, so try for around 8-10 stitches per inch.
- Reinforce those seams. If your project is going to be weight bearing, it’s a great idea to reinforce your seams with a topstich (felded seam). It will make your seams stronger and, if done well, will make the final project look more professional.
The basic design of most tote bags or Duffle type weekenders is very simple. The patterns are simple shapes with simple sewing involved. Many companies are manufacturing essentially the same bag. A similar basic pattern is often used for the “free with purchase” tote and the $1200 Open Tote at Neiman Marcus even though the quality is very different. After sourcing and manufacturing bags for several years I learned some simple ways to improve designs with some extra time sourcing and planning.
1. Fabric & Material Selection – If the purpose of the bag is to showcase a beautiful textile or fine leather it is often easier to eliminate the need for other elements like pockets, zippers, hardware. The materials will make or break your bag. Waxed Canvas is officially my favorite fabric for tote bags and duffle bags. It is cheaper than leather and holds up just as good if not better. Here is a simple example of a great tote design. To check out our best wholesale fabrics for bags click here.
2. Lining – There are some nice bag designs out there getting away with no lining, but when I see a bag without a lining I know it was a huge time saver and corners were cut. Bags with no lining become just big dump bins. A lining makes the bag more useful and usually looks letter. In my opinion it is actually easier to line a bag than bind the exposed seams. Here is a video of my method for sewing a simple tote design with a lining.
3. Pockets – Pockets and a lining go hand and hand. Many people leave out pockets because they add several more steps. They require additional planning, cutting and sewing. If the pockets have zippers that is even more time and material. That being said, bags with pockets especially strategically placed pockets are far more preferred than bags without pockets. If a bag doesn’t have pockets many people will not even consider it as an option. Bags do not need 10 pockets or anything, but even just two well planned, placed, sized pockets will take a bag to the next level. My customers always loved the secret pocket!
4. Zippers – A tote bag doesn’t necessarily need a zipper to function properly and leaving it out saves a lot of labor and material. I found that consumers tend to want zippers even if they always keep them open. The option to securely close the bag gives it more value. Riri zippers are the best quality zippers I have ever used. They are also the most expensive to source. YKK zippers are the best zipper made in the usa and the cost isn’t to bad. Cheap zippers are really just not worth it. With the time it takes to add and source zippers it might as well be good. Keep in mind It can often take 3-4 weeks to get YKK orders.
5. Adjustable Strap – Since even the cheapest bags at Walmart and Target have adjustable straps consumers expect this feature on a Weekender bag. It is easy to add to your bag with slider hardware.
6. Embellishments – Leather trim, top stitching, monograms, bag feet, and key holders and just a few of the extras bags can have. Many times an embellishment may help compensate for the lack of pockets or zippers if the design works. It may be faster to add some nice top stitching than including zipper pockets. Finding ways to incorporate special details is important. A well designed bag has just enough details to make it special without going overboard on labor and materials.
I have personally used #4 for my own projects more than any of our other products. The double filled cotton absorbs dye really well and dries very quickly. For home decor projects it can be used to make beautiful floor cloths, place mats & self standing storage containers. It is also ideal for tool pouches, heavy tote bags, and industrial bins. My experience with this fabric is based on making dyed floor cloths and tote bags.
An industrial sewing machine is required for sure. I typically use tex 69 bonded nylon thread on all of my projects and it works great on the #4.
For cleaning and care I have tried several methods with some good luck. It is heavy, stiff and dries fairly fast. When you get your #4 it will be pressed smooth and wrinkle free. The fabric is cotton, so your laundry detergent is fine to use for either cleaning method described below.
Hand Washing – To avoid wrinkles and the headache of wrinkles clean your #4 on a flat clean surface outside like a driveway, or walkway. Spray it down with a hose and use a scrub brush. Rinse out any soap and drag the fabric to another dry flat surface to dry in the sun. It dries pretty quickly and will remain smooth and flat. Hand washing is definitely easier and faster if you have a good place you can do it. This method is a must for wide widths up to 120″.
Machine Washing – I wash #4 floor cloths in the washing machine on a regular basis. Since the canvas is very heavy I always do at least two cycles. One cycle is almost pointless. I move the canvas into a different position for the second cycle. When you take the canvas out it will look permanently disformed in a folded mess! Don’t panic. Lay some towels down on the floor and smooth out your #4 as best you can with your hands and clean feet. I use my feet a lot to get it as flat as I can and then lay towels over it. As you walk or stomp over the damp canvas will become flat and dry. The more traffic over the surface the smoother it will get. Be patient, it just doesn’t happen overnight. The towels on top aren’t necessary unless you are worried about it getting dirty again. I have experimented with weights on top too with about the same result as foot traffic.
Ironing- It is only natural to try to iron wrinkles. A high pressure steam iron is a bit helpful, but for stiff wrinkles in #4 canvas, sustained pressure on a damp surface is best.
If you have any questions about your specific project please let me know!
The majority of our fabrics are perfect for slipcovers. Our 10oz fabrics are very popular, our new USA Made Canvas is great, and our 12oz options are becoming more and more popular too. All great options with great results. One fabric that tends to get overlooked for slipcover use is Army Duck. It is an amazing quality cotton fabric worth considering.
1. Extremely Dense Weave – Army duck has the tightest weave of all of our cotton ducks. The tigher the weave the less likely moisture and spills will soak in. There is a reason this fabric is used to make shelters and tents.
2. Lifespan – After years of use army duck tent fabric is often re-purposed and sewn into other things. People are using reclaimed army tent canvas for all kinds of accessory items and decor. This is the same kind of fabric we offer, just brand NEW! Army Duck is going to hold up well as a slipcover and when you are ready for a new look, the fabric will still be useful.
3. It looks beautiful natural or dyed – Cotton fabric is easy to dye at home using Fiber Reactive Dyes. The tight weave of the army duck allows for the dye to absorb very slowly creating a very soft shade of the chosen color.
4. Shrinks-LESS – It is not preshrunk, but it shrinks less than other cotton ducks. Once again, the tightly woven cotton is an advantage. There is less room for the yarns to draw up because they are already so dense.
5. Price – Our 36″ Army Duck is $4.90 or less per yard depending on how much you order. Our 60″ Army Duck is $7.80 or less per yard. That’s amazing for such a great performing fabric.
Choosing the right machine that will work for all of your projects is hard. Most hobby stitchers and small businesses just have one all purpose sewing machine and maybe a serger. If you are serious about making quality finished pieces the right machine is imperative.
I have sat at my home sewing machine and felt so frustrated. All I wanted to do is finish up a sewing project and for some reason or another the machine would not cooperate. The most common reason is usually a tension issue. And other times because I had pushed the machine to limit by sewing things that were not suited for my machine causing damage. In situations when my machine was at its limit I would schedule a repair. I was lucky enough to have a mechanic who came to my house and repaired it the same day. The first time he came he shook his head and said “I don’t know how you have even been sewing on this machine, what in the world have you been sewing?”
Eventually, I got a walking foot industrial machine and it improved my work in several ways. It was so much fun to sew again. It went fast and never seemed to mess up! It is easier to make the transition to a walking foot by the way. Using heavy thread on huge spools is more efficient and produces better work. Occasionally I get tension issues, but they are easier to resolve. It takes less time to complete a project and the finished piece looks professional. I felt silly for holding out so long on the industrial machine. There are great deals out there on used Industrial Machines. I paid $600 for mine. It was well worth the upgrade and paid for itself pretty quickly.
We have been offering our Industrial Vinyl for a couple months and it has been such a great solution for a wide range of outdoor projects. With our 10.10oz Sunforger, 600 Denier Solution Dyed Polyester and Waterproof FR Vinyl we have the outdoors COVERED. Our Vinyl opened up a whole new range of possibilities for us and we were excited to make a video. Nic, who works at Big Duck volunteered his truck for the project and here we go….
The final covered measured 74″ x 59.5″. We installed the snaps, so the cover would fit very tight with no wrinkles. We found the great hardware at Mickey’s Auto Manuals & Tools. If you have a larger truck you can always put a seam down the middle, but the little trucks have the advantage on the project. Go Little Trucks!
We just launched 18oz and 13oz Vinyl Fabrics. All of which are fire retardant. Being the hands on girl at Big Duck Canvas I get to figure out all the things we can make with it beyond the basics. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is a Bouncy Castle (duh), but before that let’s discuss how to work with this stuff.
Sewing It: A high end home machine can handle this fabric, but more than likely your project will call for a heavy thread. This vinyl fabric can handle a lot of stress, so your seams need to be able to do the same. So, we recommend the appropriate heavy thread for your project and your industrial machine. Also, since the vinyl is fire retardant why not use a fire retardant thread as well.
Heat Sealing: To be honest we have not tried this method ourselves, but we have watched several You Tube videos that demonstrate the basic technique pretty well. The equipment you would be need is pretty costly and would only make sense if you were manufacturing a product that required heat sealed seams.
Cement: Cement is ideal for patching the vinyl or attaching cut out letters instead of sewing them. Cement for vinyl is easy to find all over the web. Amazon carries HH-66
I am looking forward to getting this fabric on my sewing machine to start experimenting and see how it sews, so I can start planning the DIY Bouncy Castle!
Everybody knows that Industrial Sewing Machines are more powerful work tools, but there are a lot of amazing home sewing machines that are capable of a lot more than they get credit for. I can vouch for this after using a Bernina Activa 125 for the last 12 years to sew pretty much anything I wanted including leather! After abusing my home machine for years, I eventually moved to an Industrial Machine. It took me a while to transition over. Getting use to an Industrial Machine is hard, but once you do, it will open up a whole new world of sewing options and more professional results. I still love my home machine for certain projects, but it is like comparing an Easy Bake Oven to a Commercial Gas Oven. I want to explain what I like about each machine and why I still hold on to a good home machine.
The Reasons I love using a Home Sewing Machine (Bernina Activa 125)
USER FRIENDLY! A beginner or advanced stitcher can benefit from careful slow sewing for certain projects. Guiding the needle into to intricate areas and going slow is much easier with a home sewing machine. It’s like someone holding your hand.
ZIG ZAG STITCH: I love to zig zag and the typical industrial machine is limited to a straight stitch. Home machines come with zig zag and many many other stitch options. Industrial machines tend to specialize in a certain task.
EASE OF BACK-STITCH: On most home machines if you want to stitch backwards you press a button once and you can stitch backwards forever. On most industrial machines you have to continuously hold down a lever to go backwards.
PORTABILITY: This one is obvious, but very important. There are a lot of situations where being able to relocate your sewing project comes in handy. This is probably what I love most about having a home machine and why I still keep one around.
FREE MOTION SEWING: This is the other reason I will always have a home sewing machine. Free motion stitching is one of my favorite embellishment techniques and it must be done on a home sewing machine. There are specialized embroidery sewing machines that will do it too, but for occasional detail, having the ability to do this technique on my home machine is ideal.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MY INDUSTRIAL MACHINE (Yamata 5318, Walking Foot)
THREAD OPTIONS! The need to use heavy threads is the main factor that pushed me into getting an industrial machine. Home machines are very limited in the thread category as far as weight goes. I love sewing with Bonded Nylon Thread Tex 69 on my industrial machine. The stitches look professional and they are strong.
FABRIC OPTIONS: Home machines can sew through some pretty thick materials, but abusing your home machine can burn out the motor overtime and damage your needle bar. I can 100% vouch for this. An industrial machine is better suited for the heavy weight materials.
WORKHORSE: If you are sewing more than 5 hours a day on your home machine you run the risk of again, damaging your machine. This type of sewing time is better suited for an industrial machine that is designed to work overtime with you and then some.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Using the correct thread with the correct fabric with the right machine is an amazing concept that will produce clean strong stitches with minimal fussing (hopefully) with your machine.
The Big Duck Canvas You Tube Channel has several instructional videos that show sewing on both machines I have. In the SlipCover Video and the Tipi Video I actually use my home machine. In the Easy Tote bag Video I use my Industrial Machine. The portable home machine is ideal for making videos!