Sewing with Leather

Posted in: Tips and Tricks — By on August 31, 2011 11:56 AM

Sewing with Leather

Leather can be a tricky material to sew with.  I recently knocked off a very expensive designer bag for my boyfriend’s birthday, which happened to be trimmed with leather.  I learned a lot during this experience and thought I would share it with our readers.  Believe it or not, I sewed this bag entirely on my domestic sewing machine!

(If you don’t want to use leather, the same techniques can be applied to sewing with vinyl.)

Sewing With Leather - teflon foot

Some general tips on sewing with leather or vinyl:

  • When purchasing, see if the shop has any leather scraps.  It could be much, much cheaper.
  • Hold your pattern piece down on the leather with some weights and use a metallic or grease pen to trace the pattern onto the leather.  Then follow the outline to cut.  If you tried to cut the leather the way you would another fabric, you’ll end up with a distorted piece.
  • Use a teflon presser foot – it glides over the leather and helps to keep your stitches even.
  • Use the specialized leather sewing machine needles – they are shaped differently than sharps so that they cut through the leather as you sew.
    Leather Sewing Machine Needle
  • I was told to use a special, very thick thread, but it was too heavy for my machine.  Some domestic machines can handle a thick thread, but mine is apparently not one of them.  Good quality polyester thread worked just fine for me.
  • Leather tape is your best friend.  It’s a double sided tape that you will be glad you have.  Get a width that will easily be hidden within your seam allowance.  I used 3/8″ because my seam allowance was 1/2″.  You can’t pin leather together before you sew, but if it’s not attached somehow it will move around and you’ll be unhappy with the results.  Taping the leather down before you sew works wonderfully.  Your needle may get gunked up a bit, but just buy extra needles in case you need to switch one out.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.  Go slow because you can only top stitch once.  Once the needle punctures the leather there’s no going back…  Well you can, but it won’t be pretty.
  • Practice on a scrap piece of leather first!
With these tips, you should be ready to go forth and sew with leather or vinyl!  Be sure to check out the tutorial in the required reading for information on making your own straps and binding.

Required Reading

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  1. Emmanuel says:

    Thank you for these very useful tips! I was having such a hard time sewing with leather. The teflon foot sews like a charm!

  2. Lara says:

    I have been trying to sew a fairly thin leather on my domestic with the leather needles, the under stitching islooks loose and zig zagged. Iv tried adjusting tension on top and bottom but it doesn’t change. Could this be the thread just being too thick?

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