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Newbie – How to Finish

NovusAdGustum | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello. I am using my uncle’s Login so ignore the profile info. My name is Sarah and I’m a teenager starting out in sewing. I’ve no others close by to teach me the craft so my uncle suggested this forum for those times I get really stuck.

Right now I am sewing some canvas duffels for my Dad who thinks he’s a sailor. Because my machine won’t handle the thick canvas I am sewing by hand and, actually, enjoying it. I found a good book at the library just on sewing canvas and a couple af websites on hand stitching.

My problem is that they all are great on getting you started and going along but don’t tell me how to finish the stitch so it can’t undo itself. I think this would be important since the canvas would see a lot more rough use than the stuff I sew for wearing. I can’t use the same methods to finish the stitch as those I use to anchor the stitch at the beginning since the seam is now sewed close and tight. Can anyone help me?


  1. mygaley | | #1

    Dear Sarah:  I am so proud of you for your can-do attitude!  On this particular project here are some things to try:

    pull last few inches of thread taut, tie knot, stretch fabric so knot pops inside.  quilters know how to do this.

    Use seam sealant (fraychek) on last few inches of stitches or any knot you are wondering about.

    backstitch over last stitch 5 times.

    overstitch outside at ends of seams with contrasting color for decoration/function.

    on outside, stitch in the ditch to reinforce last 2 inches and keep from pulling out.

    On any bulky fabric, a corner or thick part can be hammered into submission by using--A Hammer!  I have done this many times (use a wooden cutting board underneath) Your fabric is softened and flattened and I have been able to machine-sew areas that my machine rejected.

    Also in the hardware dept. I have a big strong screwdriver about 12 inches long; it's good for turning and manipulating stiff fabrics and the broad blade (1/2") keeps it from poking through. 

    Please contact gatherings again and perhaps we can explore some needles, techniques, etc. that will help your machine accept your canvas.  Be sure to send specs about your machine.  God bless you as you sew, Galey


    1. NovusAdGustum | | #2

      Thank you.I'm sorry, but I don't even know what type of knot to use or how to tie(sew) it.

      Edited 8/4/2006 2:54 pm ET by NovusAdGustum

      1. mimi | | #3

        This is easy:  to tie a knot make a loop and come through it from underneath, pulling tight. 

        Bless you for attempting canvas as a first project, this is tough going!  Have you considered using grommets?  They require a hammer and a sturdy flat surface; you place them over holes you have cut (punched) in the canvas.  When they are all set in you just have to thread some sturdy rope through the grommets.

        To finish off the seams you have already sewn, "back up".  This means sew back down the seam the same way you have come up, and then back up again.  Just a few stitches up and down will do.  Tie off the thread by running your needle through the last stitch several times and knot.  Using Fray Check is an excellent idea to prevent pull out.

        Come back and ask as many questions as you need to!


  2. carolynfla | | #4

    SARAH!! I'm so excited that you are choosing and experimenting with different fabric (canvas vs fashion fabric) and that you are making something for your father.

    I too did a similar project for my Dad. I'm much older now (40's) but when I was in High School Dad needed a canvas cover (dust cover of sorts) for some of his office equipment. My machine (which was a hand-me-down from Dad's mom, my grandmother) was strong enough to sew the fabric.

    You stated that your machine can't handle the canvas. Is it because the machine is too lightweight or fragile, or because the needle just breaks? You can adjust the tension and use a heavier needle if you want to try using your machine again. Remember when using a larger (heavier/stronger) needle and heavier fabric, your thread strength will need to increase too.

    What type of thread are you sewing with? If it's really thick, I'd just knot it so it won't pop back through the needle hole, and leave a long enough tail so it could be woven back into your previous stitches. You could also knot the tail into your previous stitches.

    Advice from stitching leather could help. Is there a cobbler (shoe repair) in you area you could phone? I assume that how a cobbler ends their stitching would be an answer.

    Keep up your heart's desire.... and this is a good site to ask, ask, ask.... CAROLYN

    1. NovusAdGustum | | #5

      Thank you all so much. I will try to respond and tell you about how I've done.I had two needles break on me. Both of them broke at the eye. I think they were cheap needles. I tried a heavier needle but the canvas is like very tightly woven. I ended up using medium needle by Singer and it held up good.My uncle took me to the leather shop in town and that guy sews with a sail palm. I found a picture to show you. I tried to use it but I have long hands and fingers and couldn't grasp it without turning my wrist inward and that hurt. The man said it took a time to get used to. I'm not sure.When you talk about a knot I wasn't sure whether it was a knot tied by itself or tied within a stitch. I found a description on the Net that worked and (with help) made a drawing. I think it is like a figure8 knot. I tried sewing back and up but it is hard with the thread and fabric I used. I ended up doing that and a knot. It didn't look very pretty. My machine is a Necchi 543 and I used Coats&Clark Dual Duty Plus Button, Carpet & Craft thread. It seems thick when beside their all-purpose thread. No matter what I tried I could not get the bottom thread to get pulled into the fabric. I don't know what the needle size is. I guess a needle matched better to that thread may help.Sarah

      1. sueb | | #6

        Hi,I would recommend that you use a denim needle in your machine and I would use a regular weight all purpose polyester or cotton thread in both the machine and the bobbin. Some machines have a hard time handling a heavy weight thread in the machine, anything with a number lower than 40wt may be too thick for your machine. I would stitch each seam twice and stitch very slowly over the bulky sections. You may even have to hand walk the machine over the bulky sections. You don't say if you are working from a particular pattern but you may want to see if you can construct your bag in a way that means less seams. Are you pressing all of your seams flat and open before you sew them? That will also help to eliminate some bulk.

      2. MaryinColorado | | #7

        I would try a denim size 90/14 Schmetz needle.  Be sure the thread is for machine not hand sewing and probably a 60 weight, I think buttonhole twist is too heavy.  Use a longer stitch length.  I'd use the same thread in the bobbin and the needle. 

        If your machine is making odd noises or seems to be having difficulty pushing through the fabric it may be too hard on the machine.  But it sounds as though the thick thread is the problem.  (I don't like to sew such heavy tightly wovens on my sewing machine so I admit I use a serger for this type of work nowadays)

        I admire your efforts.  This will be a special gift that your dad will surely treasure.  Good luck!  Enjoy the process!  Mary

        1. lennie77 | | #8


          I found out the hard way that some sewing machines can't handle heavy threads like quilting threads.  I put heavy thread on one sewing machine and the machine broke down so I took the SAME THREAD and put it on another machine....and Guess What.....it also broke down.  I thought, well, these machines are old and are breaking down at the same time.  Well, fortunately, I left the machine threaded and the repair man said that the sewing machine could not be repaired because that heavy thread broke a part that no longer was available.  I found another repair man who created the part from a screwdriver because he used to be a tool and die man (engineering person) so he was able to fix the machine with SUPER GLUE.  There were no warnings in the instruction booklet about NOT using heavy thread.  I don't think these heavier threads were redily available at the time these machines were made. Now, I'm very cautious about using heavy thread in my new Janome.  The thread that broke the machines was called upholstery Home Dec -- Machine, Hand Sewing, Super Strong Heavy Crafts. I've watched TV Sewing Shows where the Instructor will say to use this thread and I groan because I know that some older machines can not handle it....at least two machines that I had couldn't.  One was a Citation machine from Western Auto and the other was a Singer....so be careful....please.  

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