Waxed Canvas Buckthorn Backpack + Waxed Canvas Tips

Buckthorn Backpack in Waxed Canvas - NoodleheadI am so excited about this Buckthorn Backpack! And glad you guys are loving the pattern! This backpack turned out just how I envisioned and we even got a compliment on it when doing our photo shoot (that’s my daughter by the way in these shots, yes, she’s basically as tall as me now).

I used Fabric Funhouse‘s waxed canvas for this sample, this is the Orion Blue color. I loved working with it! For me, I feel like it’s the perfect weight for this pattern. I lined the backpack with Big Sur canvas in Unbleached and used my webbing, zipper and hardware from my shop.

Oh and I’m publishing a quick little IGTV video of two ways to add leather zipper pulls to your project. I recently added those to my shop as well if you need any.

So, onto more about waxed canvas. Lucky for us waxed canvas is getting easier to find! More and more shops are carrying it. It can be a little tricky navigate what waxed canvas might work the best for you and your particular project, as not all waxed canvases are the same. Because they are made by different manufacturers, you’ll want to pay close attention to their weights and widths. As someone who writes sewing patterns, I give a suggested range of weights that will work. Typically a heavier weight canvas, the stiffer the fabric. Too much stiffness also comes with some disadvantages, it’s a bit trickier to sew. You’ll be doing more ‘wrestling’ with the fabric to get it to move out of the way while you’re sewing your project. A real advantage of waxed canvas is the ability to use it without needing interfacing. I think we all can agree that if we can skip a layer of interfacing and have our project turn out how we like, we can consider that a win! Yard for yard it is more expensive than regular canvas, and I think that’s what some people might overlook when shopping. You can eliminate using interfacing on waxed canvas (unless you’re using a very lightweight waxed canvas), so it ends up being similar in cost to buying canvas plus interfacing. Plus it’s a huge time saver! Less to cut and less time spent at the ironing board.

Also keeping in mind the width, many come in a 54″ width or wider thus getting more bang for you buck! You might want to take a close look at the size pieces you’ll be cutting from the waxed canvas and adjust the yardage you buy accordingly. Unfortunately there’s not a quick fix to figuring this out. But a little bit of math and you’ll be well on your way. Start by looking at the width of each piece you’re cutting and see how many you’ll be able to fit across the width of the fabric, then move on to figuring out the height you’ll need in the same fashion until you’ve accounted for all the pieces you need.

Another couple of notes worth mentioning is that it’s so easy to mark waxed canvas and you won’t need an iron (you’ll actually want to NOT iron it!). You wouldn’t think a thing like saving time marking centers and placement of straps or zippers, but in the end it really adds up! All you need to do is fold! In the case of marking the center of a piece, fold it in half and run your finger up and down the fold and there’s your marking! You won’t need to press your seams with an iron either, just finger press! 

Here’s a few more tips that I can pass along from my own experience from working with waxed canvas. If you haven’t worked with waxed canvas before, I hope you give it a try! Waxed canvas is excellent for bag making and is sturdy and durable. I think you’ll love it!

  • Because an 8-12 oz. weight waxed canvas is sturdy, there is no need to add interfacing to the waxed canvas pieces.
  • Use a large strong needle. I find a denim needle (size 14 or 16) works very well.
  • Use polyester thread (because I always have a lot of questions on what thread I use, I’ll link it here, it’s Gutermann Mara 100). Cotton thread will deteriorate over time and will not be as strong on some of the more stressed seams.
  • Use caution when pressing. An iron can melt the wax. Instead of using an iron, finger press the seam.
  • Double stitch within the seam allowance for extra durability. I sew an additional row of stitching 1/8” away from the actual seam (but within seam allowance)for reinforcement.
  • A Teflon foot might be helpful so the waxed canvas doesn’t stick as it’s being fed through your machine.
  • Pin holes will be visible. Instead, pin within the seam allowance or use binder clips.
  • Take your time when turning pieces right side out. The waxed canvas is stiff, so pull gently and slowly. Wrinkles and creases all add to the distressed and rugged look of waxed canvas. If you’d like, you can use a hair dryer (on a low setting) to help reset the wax.
  • Spot clean only.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!


26 thoughts on “Waxed Canvas Buckthorn Backpack + Waxed Canvas Tips

  1. Karen says:

    How do I find the IGTV video for the leather zipper pulls? Is it in the original Buckthorn video or a separate video? Thank you.

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hi Karen, I tried re-linking it again in the post. Let me know if that works. 🙂 Otherwise you can go to my instagram (@noodlehead531) and click the IGTV button (it looks like an old fashioned tv with a wave through it).

  2. Yvette says:

    Thank you so much for all the tips ! The backpack is lovely in blue.
    Your daughter is lovely too and no need to tell us, the more she grows up, the more you ar alike 🙂

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Awe thank you! 🙂

  3. Beth Raymond says:

    I made waxed canvas messenger bags for some teen friends of mine for Christmas, following a Simplicity pattern. Although I’ve done alot of sewing, bags & canvas were new to me. I bought 3 1/2-yards of 8.25 weight canvas, which was 56 inches wide. The pattern called for both a light-weight interfacing & a fleece interfacing. I bought fusible interfacing, not forseeing that you can’t iron waxed canvas (unless you want the imprint of the iron on the canvas.) Using a heavy-weight cotton thread, I stitched all that in. My machine, which is a Janome rather than an industrial machine, which would have been preferable, didn’t like the experience at all, although a walking foot got us through. I used webbing for the handles, thinking that the bags might be a passing thing. I used quilting cotton for the lining to add visual interest, as the canvas colors were not vibrant. Of course, that didn’t add any substance to the bags. Nonetheless, the bags were gladly received; but it was an experience I would not want to repeat, even though you offer much good advice. Heavier-weight canvas is definitely the way to go, especially if you want the bags to stand on their own.

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Yes, agreed Beth, everyone has their preferences! I love cotton canvas as well, always easy to work with. 🙂

  4. Terri Karasch says:

    Just finished a Compass Bag in Kaufman Waxer canvas. I love how it turned out! What machine do you sew on? This project was quite a challenge for my Husqvarna Sapphire, I wasn’t sure we’d make it to the end. Great tips, now I wish I’d used my teflon foot and poly thread. Not sure if I’ll make another project in this canvas, as much as I love it, I think it will wreck this machine.

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hi Terri, I mainly sew with my Janome 1600p (it’s a straight stitch only machine). I’d recommend it to anyone, it’s never failed me! I do have a Janome Memorycraft, too, which handles the Waxer canvas just fine as well. I would note that the waxer canvas seems a bit more sticky than a lot of the other waxed canvases I’ve used, but it isn’t enough of a difference for me to stop using it. Hope that helps!

  5. pedlarcr says:

    Anna you’ve done it again with another stylish bag pattern! I’ve purchased my copy and I can’t wait to make the backpack. I love the added feature of the binding around the zipper! ?

  6. Sandy says:

    I love this pattern! I’ve been looking for a new tote for work, so I used the backpack sizing, but made it a tote. I used waxed canvas for the exterior and duck cloth for the lining. I made the straps slightly longer so I could use it as a shoulder carry. My husband said its perfect!!
    I would not have considered using waxed canvas if it weren’t for your patterns and instructions! The bags always turn out great.
    Thanks Anna!

    1. Anna Graham says:

      That’s so awesome to hear Sandy! 🙂

  7. Mary says:

    Great pattern! I too used the waxed canvas worried that it would be difficult to sew with. It was lovely. I love the body and finish it gives the bag. Plan to make another one soon! Thanks Anna for the well written pattern. Great experience. Hubby says most professional bag I ever made.

    1. Terri Karasch says:

      Mary, what machine do you sew with? I love the Waxer canvas, but it really challenged my Husqvarna Sapphire.

    2. Anna Graham says:

      Oh that’s so lovely!

  8. Rochelle says:

    I’m making another Making Backpack, this time with waxed canvas, and I love it so far. I stupidly ironed the fabric and I could see the wax being absorbed into the pressing cloth (but luckily not into my ironing board cover). I have some otter wax which I will use when finished, just to be sure there is a good overall finish. Next time, I’ll use my seam roller for pressing and hit the whole thing with a blow dryer at the end to relax any major creases. Fingers crossed! I’m making the Buckthorne bags next (yes, both)!

  9. Liz smith says:

    Hi I wanted to know if I can use a longer zipper and cut it down. Do you foresee an issue with that?

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Yep! You can totally do that. ??

  10. Jacqueline says:

    Hello! I’d love to make this backpack but I have a waxed canvas question. I bought my first waxed canvas called Waxer Canvas from Robert Kaufman and it’s treated with beeswax. Is it normal for it to feel “greasy/waxy”? It’s a silly question considering it’s made from wax so obviously it should feel like wax lol, but I’m concerned about it staining clothes or ruining surfaces with the wax. Have you experienced any of that? Do you have a recommendation of someplace I can buy “non-waxy” feeling waterproof fabric or is wax treatment the only way to make it waterproof? So many questions lol!

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Yes, that’s normal for the Waxer Canvas. I haven’t had it rub off on anything, but that’s just my experience. You might like waxed canvas from AL Frances Textiles (Etsy) or Fabric Funhouse. I think I linked to those shops in my post, but let me know if you can’t find them. 🙂

  11. Lonnie says:

    Had a question on the lining- found even with the canvas with the pocket it’s kinda bulky but do you still press the side seam open vs sewing if to one side. Almost tempted to top stitch it down for a better seam. Thanks

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hey Lonnie,
      You could definitely do that! Also, you could grade the pocket’s seam allowance down to 1/4” or so which would help reduce the bulk. Hope that helps!

  12. Laura says:

    Great tips on the waxed canvas. Question: if you shouldn’t pin the pocket, how do you secure it to prep for sewing? I’ve tried different tapes but they don’t stick to the material very well.

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hi Laura, glad you enjoyed the tips. So for a pocket like on the Buckthorn I pin in inconspicuous places. On the pocket, I’ll pin it to the exterior along the raw edge of the pocket since it gets covered by the webbing/straps later on. If you do have a pocket that wouldn’t have a place to pin it without it being front and center (like the Pepin Tote for example), I’d recommend the magnetic sewing tiles (Sewtites for example). Lastly, once I get familiar with a particular brand of waxed canvas I like to experiment with it a bit to see if the pin holes might disappear after using hair dryer on them. For me, I find that most of the waxed canvases I use, I can pin it in a spot where it’s not going to show much and that the holes aren’t very noticeable after using a hair dryer. Let me know if that helps. 🙂

  13. Lana says:

    Hello! Just diving into a Buckthorn project and I have a quick question. I am using a lightweight DRY waxed canvas — would you recommend adding fusible fleece to this? I wonder if I can …(I suppose I could do a small sample to test). 🙂

  14. Betty J Stading says:

    I am thinking of using waxed canvas for the Oxbow bag. Where would you recommend I would find some? I need 1/2 yd. for the regular size bag, correct? I plan to make the straps from the waxed canvas also unless you recommend something different. I am going to use some Pendleton scraps for the pocket front and some cotton for the lining.

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hi Betty, I shop for mine at AL Frances Textiles on Etsy or Funhouse Fabric. I wouldn’t recommend using waxed canvas for the handles, they’ll be pretty stiff and hard to work with. I’d recommend using webbing (cotton or cotton/poly blend) that’s listed in the pattern. Sounds like a beautiful project! Email us at with further questions (don’t forget the hyphen in the email address). Thank you!

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