Canvas, Cotton Twill & Gabardine Fabrics - All you need to know

We're passionate about fabric at Sew Me Sunshine. Here's our guide to everything canvas and cotton twill, and tips on how to sew with these type of dressmaking fabric.


  • Canvas fabrics are plain weave fabrics that have a substantial weight to them
  • It has a crisp handle, so it is a great fabric for topstitching detail 
  • It is a bulky fabric and heavy in weight 
  • It is woven in a way that results in it's unique basketweave surface texture
  • It is usually made from 100% cotton fibres, but you can find blends such as flax/cotton and polyester/cotton
  • Pros:
    • Strong and durable 
    • Tailors well (ideal for making trousers and jackets)
    • Softens with wear and washing
    • 100% cotton canvas can be made using recycled cotton fibres
  • Cons:
    • The ribbed surface can weaken if the fabric is subject to constant abrasion 
    • When blended with nylon it is very stiff


  • Cotton Twill fabrics are a cotton fabric with a  fine diagonal parallel rib pattern
    • Pros:
      • Durable, especially abrasion resistant 
      • Good for tailoring
    • Cons:
      • Looser weave than gabardine so not as durable 
      • Prone to shrinkage 
      • Dark colours are not colourfast 

  • Gabardine is a tightly woven fabric with a twill weave texture that has diagonal lines that are fine and close together (sometimes it is difficult to see the diagonal lines). It is often made out of wool, cotton, lyocell or polyester, or even a blend of these fibres 
    • Pros:
      • Wrinkle resistant 
      • Dense weave means it can resist light rain
      • Durable, especially abrasion resistant 
      • Tailors well
      • Smooth surface 
      • Drapes well
    • Cons: 
      • Difficult to press due to it's even flat surface (top tip: use a press cloth and avoid hard pressing)
      • Can be expensive 
      • Polyester or polyester blends can result in pilling 


  • Pre wash fabric to prevent shrinkage
  •  Use a 90/14 or 100/16 denim needle for very heavy canvas or twill fabrics
  • Adjust the pressure foot on your sewing machine. This will help the heavy fabric slide under the foot whilst sewing 
  • Use jeans or upholstery thread 
  • Use a longer stitch length (3-3.5mm)
  • Use clips rather than pins due to the thickness of the fabric
  • It may be easier to cut your project out on the flat rather than on the fold due to the thickness of the fabric 
  • If you need to apply interfacing then only apply it up to the seam allowance this will reduce bulk in your seams 
  • You can use a bulky seam aid to help you sew over those bulky seams. Don't have one of these? Then no fear - you can use a folded piece of cardboard under your sewing machine foot when sewing over thick fabric seams
  • Sew slowly over bulky seams
  • Grade seam allowances to help reduce bulk
  • When sewing with gabardine make sure to use a press cloth and press lightly


If you have any questions or want to learn more, you can contact Team Sunshine at

You can find all of our canvas, cotton twill & gabardine fabrics on our website

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