Waxed Canvas Tool Roll
Here's how to sew a waxed canvas tool roll. I’ll show you how to customize this easy sewing project to hold your specific tools, no matter what you make. And then I’ll take you through the wax process to add durability and water resistance.
For this project, you will need:
- 1 yard 100% cotton canvas
- Matching sewing thread
- Metal zipper
- Printer/paper for pattern or paper to draft your own
- Fabric wax, or blend your own (1:1 ratio of paraffin to beeswax)
- Double boiler with wax pitcher (optional)
- Bristled brush for wax application (optional)
- Heat gun (or hairdryer, or iron you don't mind using on crafts)
- Sewing machine
- Sewing pins and/or clips
- Thread snips
- Scrap cardboard for protecting your work surface from wax
This is a fun little portable kit you can put together in an afternoon. Perfect for my motorcycle tools, but also could be great for drawing, electronics, or anything where you need to bring a variety of different-sized hand tools. I provide a pattern in the write-up for this project, and you can easily modify it to fit your needs.
The waxing is an optional step that stiffens up the canvas and makes it more durable and resilient. This is a satisfying process where the melted wax soaks into the fabric with the application of heat. The cool thing about waxed canvas is that it only gets better with age.
When I was a kid, bags were the first thing I learned to sew on a machine. They’re easy because the shapes are pretty geometric and ultimately success is defined by its utility– either it holds stuff or it doesn’t– unlike sewing clothes which then have to fit and be flattering.
This project also makes an excellent gift for any makers in your life– look for 100% cotton canvas in the colors of your choice. Pick up some matching thread and a zipper– metal is preferred.
The first step is to iron the fabric and cut out the pattern pieces. You can download and print my pattern or draft your own. It’s got one big rectangle for the main body, two pieces for the zipper pocket, two pieces for the tool holder area, and a strap to tie it up.
Next up there’s a little prep ironing for a few of the raw edges. The top flap gets a double-folded edge since we’ll see both sides of it, while the tool holder piece only needs one fold at the top and short end. The strap also gets ironed with edges to the center and then in half once more.
Then it’s time to topstitch the edges that were just ironed– three edges of the top flap, two edges of the main tool holder, and along the length of the tie strap.
After that, it’s time to install the zipper. I use a special zipper foot on my sewing machine that can stitch up close to the zipper, sewing right sides together before ironing the seams open and topstitching along the zipper to finish it up. Now all the parts are ready to be assembled.
Everything gets arranged with the right sides facing together, using pins or clips to hold the fabric together. I’ll stitch all the way around the outside perimeter. Then it’s time to turn it right side out and iron the new seams flat. Another round of topstitching finishes off the edges.
Then it’s time to stitch the top of the pocket in place, as well as the short edge of the tool pockets. The distribution of the tool dividers is completely up to you– you can customize the pocket widths to accommodate your specific needs.
Lastly, stitch the strap in place wherever you like, depending on which way you would prefer to roll it up.
So this is a fine place to stop if you want to keep your fabric as-is. But I’m adding a wax coating to mine. Here you can see the difference between the unwaxed and waxed versions. The waxed one is stiffer, darker in color, and has a water-resistant finish. I also added a few patches to this one before the waxing, since it’s easier to sew the unwaxed fabric.
You’ll need some fabric wax, or make your own with 50/50 beeswax and paraffin, as well as a heat gun. I’m using a scrap piece of cardboard to protect my work surface. You can get this stuff in a bar and just rub it into the fabric, then apply heat to get it to soak in. This method takes a while, but you can control exactly how much wax is applied, in case you want less than a complete soaking. The faster way is to melt the wax in a double boiler and then paint it on, using the heat gun to help it soak in and become evenly distributed. You can use this process to reapply wax when the finish wears off.
I hope you’re inspired to make your own tool roll!
Here are some of my favorite tools available at Digi-Key to store in my new tool roll:
Key Parts and Components