The Ultimate Guide to Waxed Canvas

If you’ve taken a workshop at Klum House or used one of our maker kits, then you already know that our very favorite bag-making material to work with is waxed canvas. There are so many reasons to love this durable, water-resistant fabric, so we thought we’d take some time to acquaint you with this Klum House essential.

Waxed Canvas Finger Press

What is waxed canvas?

Waxed canvas is cotton that has been saturated with a paraffin wax or natural beeswax, giving it an extra layer of protection against the elements. The waxed finish makes it water-repellent and very durable over time. (You can read more about the difference between wovens and knits here.) Another cool thing about waxed canvas is that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side. The front and back are basically indistinguishable, so you can just pick one! Over time, it develops a nice weathered patina with a texture similar to sueded leather.

What it’s backstory?

Waxed canvas is considered to be the original waterproof fabric. It first became popular in the early twentieth century with sailors in England and Scotland. For obvious reasons, the waterproof nature of the fabric came in handy at sea. In 1894, a British brand called J. Barbour & Sons Ltd began manufacturing waxed canvas for a larger audience. To this day they are widely known for their waxed cotton jackets. (Klum House sources some of our waxed canvas from the Barbour Mill in Scotland!)

Why is it good for bag making?

We love using waxed canvas to make bags because it’s a great heavyweight fabric for beginner stitchers to learn with. It does a great job of holding its shape and giving a bag structure. It also doesn’t have a lot of movement, so it stays put nicely while you work. Waxed canvas can be sewn on a home sewing machine, allowing you can make rugged, heavy-duty bags without any industrial equipment.

What are some tips for sewing waxed canvas?

First off, you want to make sure you are using the right needle. For a medium weight waxed canvas (8-10 oz) we recommend a sharp, size 100 denim needle and a high-quality all-purpose thread. Because waxed canvas is so thick, pinning multiple layers can be tricky. ‘Wonder Clips’ are great for keeping the layers in place.

Waxed canvas has a “memory,” meaning that it records each fold, wrinkle, and crease. This means that you can “finger press” seams, no iron required! If you must use an iron, make sure to use a medium setting and a protective press cloth to keep your iron free of melted wax. Careful ironing with a press cloth can be used to smooth out unwanted creases and wrinkles.

Where does Klum House’s waxed canvas come from?

Klum House sourced some of our  waxed canvas from the original Barbour Mill in Scotland and some from a mill in New York. York. It is 100% cotton and a 10-12 oz (waxed) weight.

What colors do you have available?

These are all of the classic colors we have available. Occasionally we have special limited editions colors as well. We’re always adding more.

Waxed Canvas Colors
Waxed Canvas Colors

How should I care for my waxed canvas bag?

Your waxed canvas bag should be spot cleaned with a damp towel, never put in the washing machine or dryer. Overtime, the wax coating on the fabric will weather and fade, making it less water-resistant. Depending on how you use your bag, you might want to ‘re-wax’ it every year or two to freshen it up. You can do this yourself with a product like Otter Wax (made the Portland!).

Where can I buy waxed canvas?

You can buy a Klum House maker kit! All of our maker kits come with pre-cut and marked waxed canvas in the color(s) of your choice. If you’d prefer to buy yardage, Portland-based Vaughans Fabrics is a great online source. They are a certified supplier of the same waxed canvas fabric we buy from Scotland. Your third option is taking the DIY route! Get some 100% cotton fabric and some Otter Wax and follow these instructions.

When you’re purchasing waxed canvas, keep in mind that there is a difference between the ‘dry’ weight and ‘waxed’ weight and different companies list the weight in different ways! Just make sure that you are clear about the product description so you don’t end up with something that isn’t what you wanted.