Canvas Repair: Rips & Tears

Item # X-HT-300043

Even if you sew your own boat canvas, it’s still a large investment of both time and money. So when grommets fail or you get a rip or a hole in your canvas, you want to be able to repair it to prolong the life of your cover. To help you be able to fix any rip or tear on your boat canvas, we’re sharing a three-part series on canvas repair. In this first installment, we’re going to focus on patching up rips and tears.

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Before you dive into any canvas repair, it’s always a good idea to assess the state of your entire cover. If the cover is old (over 10 years for Sattler® or Sunbrella®) you may be better off replacing the whole cover instead of repairing a canvas that’s on its way out. However, getting another season or two out of the cover might be worth it. It’s really a cost/benefit analysis of the time and effort the repair will take you.

If you decide to repair, you first need to assess what caused the damage. If chafing caused the rip (this is common around windshield corners, for example), you’ll want to reinforce the area more than if the rip was caused by something external hitting or snagging the canvas. Then, depending on your tear, you have some options for how to patch it up.

Patching at Your Sewing Machine

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If your damage was caused by external forces, you can patch just the outside of your canvas using the same material the cover is made from. If your hole was caused by chafing, you should patch the inside of the canvas with a chafe-resistant material like Shelter-Rite® vinyl or SureRite™ to keep the damage from happening again. Use the same cover material on the outside.

For the most technical, sturdy and precise patch, here’s what you want to do. Cut out a rectangle around the rip in your canvas. Cut a slit at each corner and fold the edges of the patch under and sew in place. Then, cut a rectangle of your new patch material (top and bottom if necessary) larger than the hole in your old canvas. Hem the edges of the patch fabric and baste it in place on top of the hole in your cover. Sew around the perimeter of the patch to secure.

To make this even easier, you could use a hotknife to cut out the rip and the new patch fabric and eliminate any need for hemming. Then you would just sew the patch fabric over the removed rip in the cover. If the patch is vinyl, it should not be cut with a hotknife; however, vinyl won’t fray so it doesn’t need to be hemmed anyway.

Patching in Place

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We often hear from customers who have a rip in a bimini top or an awning and don’t want to take the fabric down to take it to their sewing machine. If you want a quick, no-sew repair, try Tear-Aid® Fabric Repair Patches (Type A). These adhesive-backed patches will create a solid, quick patch as long as they are properly installed. Be sure to clean your fabric thoroughly and let it dry completely before application and use the provided alcohol prep pad.

If you can access both sides of the fabric (like on an awning) you can also use the Speedy Stitcher® Sewing Awl to sew on a patch without taking your fabric down from its application.

Want to read about more types of canvas repair? Check out the two other posts in our Canvas Repair Series: "Replacing Snaps & Grommets" (#300042XHT) and "Restitching Seams, Zippers & More" (#300041XHT).