6 Tips For Sewing With Duck Cloth (Needle and Tension)

Some play hard, live hard and put their clothing through the test everyday. That is why you should consider using duck cloth for many of your sewing projects. Not only is the fabric strong, but it can also endure the test and pass it with flying colors.

When sewing with duck cloth, you are going to need a tough needle. One recommendation is the 100/16 jeans needle. It is made for tough fabrics like denim so it should be a perfect fit for when you are sewing with duck cloth.

To learn more about sewing with duck cloth just continue to read our article. It has the information you need so your duck cloth project is a success. All you have to do is spend a few minutes of your time and read our article.

What is Duck Cloth?


For those of you who have never heard of this fabric before or have never worked with it, duck cloth is a very tough fabric. It is probably tougher than denim. Which is good as all your outdoor activities may not be easy on your jeans and you need a tougher material to make pants.

To get duck cloth the manufacturer uses two yarns in the warp and one in the weft and the result is a plain-woven heavy cotton fabric. Don’t let the plain weave for you as duck cloth has a variety of uses.

It is used for sneakers, tents, paint canvases, sandbags, lunch, tote, duffel, handbags, stroller covers, aprons, and baby carriers. It is an almost 1001 use fabric that meets some essential needs.

Also, the expression tough as nails is applied to duck cloth. Since it was used in sailor pants, sails and other tough on the job material, it has a very tough reputation and the fabric holds up well.

Its only drawback may be that its main colors are more drab than bright and exciting.

Tips for Sewing Duck Cloth

Since this is a tough fabric, it may be a challenge for some people to sew with it. That is why a few tips are to make sure your sewing project moves along smoothly and doesn’t give you a lot of hassle.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • 1. storing the fabric - before you sew you may need to store your duck cloth. The best way to store duck cloth is to roll it. Folding may put some almost impossible creases to remove creases and may make it tougher to sew with when you are ready to start your project
  • 2. needles - the tougher the better. If you want a good needle then the one we mentioned above, the jeans or denim needle, is the one to use. You can try a heavy-duty universal needle as well
  • 3. Thread - you have 3 good choices when it comes to using the right thread when sewing with duck cloth. The first requirement is that the thread is designed for heavy-duty fabrics and use. You do not want it to break on you at the wrong time.

Next, those three thread options are polyester, cotton covered polyester or a tough cotton thread.

  • 4. Stitch length - you may want to try a longer than normal stitch length. It is said that a 3.0 to a 3.5 stitch length is perfect for duck cloth and if you are sewing through more than one layer. A longer stitch length creates a better-looking stitch pattern as well.
  • 5. Clips not pins - heavy fabrics are hard to keep pinned in place. It is hard to pin heavy tough fabrics like duck cloth. That is why you should change to clips or tape. These items will be easier to use and they attach to the duck cloth better
  • 6. Ironing - use a little sprinkle of water and let it soak in. Then using the highest heat move the iron frequently over the wrinkle so you do not scorch the fabric. Or try using a damp cloth between the iron and the fabric instead of sprinkling water.

Best Thread for Sewing Duck Cloth


The size of thread is important when sewing with duck cloth. The clothing item you are making is only as strong as its weakest point and that is usually the stitching or thread.

When sewing with duck cloth you should use a 40 weight cotton thread. But that size is good for normal use items. If you or your family members play rough outside you may want to use a water-resistant bonded polyester thread.

That thread gives you strength as well as longevity because rain, snow, and puddles should not harm your hard work. There is a word of warning when you switch to a heavier thread on your home sewing machine.

Your bobbin may not handle the thicker thread and you may have trouble sewing. To fix this issue you may have to adjust your bobbin tension or replace your regular bobbin case with a special one. Or you may be stuck using regular thread in which case your sewing project’s weakest point may be the thread you use.

What Size Sewing Machine Needle for Duck Cloth?


Needles are labeled with 2 sizes. This is because the are distributed throughout the world and more than one needle size system is used. The European sizing goes from 60 to 120 with the smaller number being the fine needle and the larger number the larger needle.

The American system goes from 8 to 19 with the smaller number indicating the fine needle and the larger the biggest needle available. So if you see a number like 90/14 universal needle then you know that is the size of needle you need for duck cloth.

Or you can use a 100/16 jean needle to do the same task. Just bear in mind that the first number is for the European system and the second number is for the American system.

It is the weight of the fabric that determines what size of needle you will use. So with duck cloth being a very heavy tough fabric, you will want to use a larger needle than you would if you were sewing silk.

Just be careful when you use larger needles. They tend to leave permanent holes so yo need to be very precise with your sewing technique.

Sewing Machine Tension for Duck Cloth


This is something you are going to have to play by ear. Not all home sewing machines will be able to work with heavier 40 weight thread. You may have trouble finding the right tension to use. If you do, you may have to swap out the heavier thread for the lighter version.

The key to this issue is to make a few test-runs first and see what your sewing machine will allow you to do. If it handles the heavier thread with the tension setting you have chosen then you should be able to sew worry-free.

If not, you will have to adjust the tension till you think you have it right or as said earlier, go to a lighter thread and hope for the best. Your sewing machine should be able to handle a 40 weight thread but again, make sure you do the right tests first to make sure.

Do You Wash Duck Cloth Before Sewing?

This would be a good idea to do. As we have said in a previous article, duck cloth has a reputation to shrink a lot. One pre-wash may not do the trick. The reason for the shrinkage factor is that duck cloth is made from cotton and linen or a combination of the two.

Both fabrics do shrink some and a linen blend may shrink quite a bit. With this fact in mind, make sure you buy some extra yardage so you can make up the difference when you are sewing.

Read the label to see what fibers are used to create the cloth and then wash according to how those fibers are supposed to be cleaned or treated. Don’t be surprised if your finished sewing project still shrinks a little.

That is the main drawback when sewing with canvas. It is hard to tell when the shrinking will stop.

Duck Cloth Sewing Projects


Now that you have the difficulties and the bad news of sewing with duck cloth, a little good news is in order. First, when you sew with this fabric you have a very long-lasting cloth that should keep your sewing projects lasting along time.

Second, you have a myriad of projects to choose from. You should never run out of ideas when trying to create something using duck cloth. One of those ideas and it is a massive project is to create a sail for your husband’s sailboat. Or you can make him special sailing pants when he is out on his or a friend’s boat.

More home projects include quilts and these would be good for when you go camping or you live in a very good geographical region. Then you can make a zippered pencil case, canvas and leather wall hanging, a canvas tote bag, canvas pillow and so on.

If you like to carry a bag with you then you have lots of choices as you can do corded bag handles, rounded top canvas bag, reversible tote bag, a two-toned bag and a lot more.

With the list we gave you above, you can see that you have lots of sewing projects that you can customize to fit you and your family’s needs.

Some Advantages of Using Duck Cloth

You may not like the look of the cloth but you do get some great advantages when you sew with this fabric. Here is a shortlist of those benefits:

  • 1. the texture of the canvas is smooth and it usually does not snag or tear.
  • 2. In blocking the wind and the cold it is a fabric that is second to none save for a leather.
  • 3. Its anti-destructive nature means that it is a bit burn resistant. While it is still flammable, it can withstand some heat before holes get into the clothing item.
  • 4. The fabric will eventually soften and feel good. You just have to wear it awhile and wash it several times before that softening effect takes place.

A Few More Sewing Tips

  • 1. Watch your seams - the canvas is fairly bulky so you want to flatten the seams out as much as you can. A device called a tailor’s clapper may help you in this regard.
  • 2. Speed is not an option - you want to sew slowly and keep a very firm grip on the fabric. You do not want to push or pull the fabric through the needle if you do the cloth may break the needle.
  • 3. Elevate the foot - you may have your presser foot on its highest level but according to one expert you can still raise it some. That is what you want to do when sewing with duck cloth/ With thick fabric you want as much elevation as possible.

Some Final Words

The name may not be an attractive one but that is okay. The fabric comes with properties that make it very advantageous to use n a variety of projects. Its heavyweight provides your sewing projects with toughness and longevity.

Those are two properties you want in a kid’s clothing item or garments or shoes that will be enduring a lot of very difficult outdoor activities. Over time, if your family complains about the stiff nature, the fabric will soften and become their favorite clothing when it softens.

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