How to Repair Canvas for Your Pop-Up Camper

As you may have read, we recently acquired a 1991 Starcraft Starbust pop-up camper. Surprise! It’s a fixer! Below are some pictures of the camper the day we bought it, just to give you an idea of what we are working with here. She may not be pretty, but she’s ours and we have big plans for her.

Ripped Canvas You Say?

For those of you looking to buy a pop-up camper, a full canvas replacement is extremely expensive. We priced ours out and the best value we could find was $975. But that’s only because it was on sale at the time. The standard canvas replacement price for our camper was $1,025 no matter where we looked and shipping takes about 12 weeks.

But we had to do something with the canvas looking like it did below. There was NO WAY it would hold up for long. It had been patched with gorilla tape, points for ingenuity! But we both knew that that was definitely not a solid long term solution.

The Perfect Patch Kit

Neither Nick nor I can sew, so we needed to find a patch kit that was stitch free. We did a little research and found a super helpful glamping website, The Southern Glamper, that recommended a great sew-free patch kit. We ended up buying two full kits on Amazon to make all of our repairs, which was plenty of fabric and glue.

Required Patch Supplies

Patching Steps

  1. Remove the ripped sections of canvas from the camper
    • Unzip all of the canvas pieces
    • You will probably need a drill with a fitted bit since each section is anchored with a screw
      • Tip: Don’t forget to keep the screws in a safe place and take pictures so that you remember how everything was installed
    • From there, it should easily slide off the top and bottom tracks
    • If you have any electrical wired into the sections of the canvas, make note of that and keep that section in place while you patch rather than removing it
  2. Pick an easy patch to start with and spread that canvas out on your work space
  3. Measure your rip and add 1-2 inches all the way around it
    • This will ensure that you have enough good fabric to grip onto
    • Note: You may need to patch on both sides of the rip if your fabric has disintegrated like ours had. You’ll just want to make sure you give the glue time to dry on side 1 before starting side 2. Otherwise, this works very well.
  4.  Follow the instructions on the package
    • Cut the patches out and place them over the rips to make sure they fit properly
    • Add glue around the outer edges of the patch
    • Place the glue coated fabric over the rips in the canvas and smooth onto place
    • Let dry for 4 hours before you re-install the canvas into the camper or 1 hour before flipping and working on the other side of a particularly bad rip
      • Note: We waited 24 hours to reinstall ours just to be safe
  5. Finish the rest of the patches and let them dry
  6. Reinstall the fully patched canvas into your camper using your saved photos and screws

To Sew or Not to Sew

If you find that sewing is required on some of your patches, as it ended up being for ours, fear not! This fabric holds up very well to sewing. We actually enlisted my mom, Joy, to help us with this part. I am HOPELESS when it comes to sewing and she actually rebuilt an entire edge for us using the patch fabric, heavy duty thread, a sewing machine and a leather needle.

If you don’t have someone to turn to for help, JoAnn’s Fabrics offers sewing classes a pretty reasonable price. I will definitely be taking the introductory class, along with a no-sew curtain making class in the next month. Lastly, I totally recommend signing up for their app. Their coupons are out of control and save you a ton of money!

Patches Complete!

We now have a fully patched canvas that’s ready to rock and roll! The glue is VERY sticky and once you have your patch in place, it’s very difficult/mildly impossible to change. Just something to keep in mind as you continue through this process.