Leather is one of the most popular fashion fabrics when it comes to dressing. And if we look outside the dressing department, we find leather being used to make sofa covers, table mats, wallets, etc. In other words, leather has a wide variety of uses. And people always have to go to a professional tailor or a busy market to get things made with leather.
A lot of people don’t know that you can sew with leather at home too. In my experience with home-sewing, a question I come across many times is, “How to sew with leather.” Today, I am finally giving my answer – and the answer is yes. You can definitely sew on to leather at home; you will just need a specific set of sewing machine accessories to make it compatible with leather.
To learn how to sew with leather, we must know first about leather as a material.
How to Sew with Leather using Compatible Accessories?
As a fabric, leather has been in use for ages – and it is definitely going to stay for long. A misconception is that leather only provides warmth during winter—which is true—but leather can be used at any time of the year – and for almost everything.
Pants? Leather pants. Tops? Leather jackets. Coats? Leather coats. Not to mention, gloves, caps, shoes, etc. cover the whole regime of clothing. And as described above, leather is also popular outside of the clothing segment.
When it comes to sewing, leather is indeed a rugged fabric. Before the revolutionization of sewing machines, leather was being sewed by hands. Some people still sew leather by hand because ordinary household sewing machines do not have the power to cope with leather – the needles break down when you try the machine on leather – or because they do not know how to sew with leather using a sewing machine.
However, now that sewing is not just a profession—but a hobby, interest, and a brilliant way to be creative—we have gotten more aware of different trips and tricks about how to sew with leather at home using a sewing machine.
Before learning how to sew with leather, we must understand how it works. There are somethings that you need to note down.
Leather – What Kind?
When we talk about leather, we are not talking about a wide range of different kinds of leather – each of which is very different from the other. Moreover, each type of leather also comes with a variety of different textures.
There is Rexine, which is not basically an original leather but is quite popular as artificial leather. It can also be used to design clothes.
In other words, you should do comprehensive research and figure out which leather is best for what you are planning to make.
The silver pen is also known as a leather marking pen. It works as a grease pencil against the leather. The cuts on the leather have to be accurate – and they cannot be marked by chalk – that is why you need a silver pen. With this pen, you can trace a pattern of cutting on the opposite side of the display.
It is common knowledge that needles that are used for leather stitching are very much different than those used for other fabrics. We cannot use ordinary needles on leather—they’ll break down. Therefore, specific leather needles must be with you before you start sewing.
These leather needles have triangular points, and they are very sharp and long; they pierce leather efficiently and not tear it apart. I’d recommend you to start practicing with these needles on a scrap piece if you want to learn how to sew with leather.
Before working with leather, you must need to change your presser foot. An ordinary/regular presser foot will stick to the leather and won’t allow it to feed correctly through the machine. This problem can be eliminated by changing your presser foot.
Ditch the ordinary one and get a Teflon foot that looks like it is made of plastic; it glides smoothly over the leather.
When learning how to sew with leather, it is recommended that you change your stitch length, make it longer than normal. Usually, the stitch length we use on typical fabrics is about 3.5 to 3.4mm. Keep your stitch range longer than this number. It helps leather sew correctly without a glitch.
However, some users claim that leather can be sewn with any number of lengths between the range of 3 to 4mm. It also depends on your sewing machine, speed, and accuracy.
Use Tape Instead of Pin
Usually, before stitching, we hold the pieces of cloth together by pinning them. That can prove a sustainable method in ordinary fabrics but not in leather. You cannot use pins to hold the leather; they will leave a permanent, noticeable hole.
Instead, use tape. I prefer double-sided tape; I have seen people recommending it because it proves to be the best method.
Just put a line of tape between two pieces you want to sew and hold them together. Remember to place the tape along the very edge of the piece, so the allowance of the seam is visible. When you sew it, let the tape be inside the seam allowance.
Another method is glue—not hard ones. A dissolvable glue marker can also be used. Just not the pins.
Look for Marks and Scars
Leather is a kind of fabric that is obtained organically but goes through many changes before a consumer gets their hands on it. Tanning, dyeing, stretching, and pressing are just a few of the many processes leather might have gone through before it becomes suitable for you to wear.
Therefore, do not expect clean and scarless leather. There will always be some marks if it really is original leather. What you can do to eradicate that problem is to cut the pieces from places where there are marks.
To make something displayable or wearable, like a jacket, pants, etc., you will obviously have to cut the leather to size—and then stitch it. So why not cut it from places where there are scars. That way, the chance for someone to spot the marks will be minimum.
But when you are having a test run while learning how to sew with leather, make sure to do it on the most flawed piece – and save the best for the actual job.
Select the Ideal Thread
When sewing leather, cotton threads are useless. Many people ask how to sew with leather using cotton, but the truth is: ordinary cotton threads will leave the leather as time goes by. The ideal threads to use while sewing are polyester and nylon. The top-of-the-table heavy-duty threads not only keep the leather tightly stitched, and together, they also provide excellent finishing and look appealing.
Never Forget to Test
When you are all set with the accessories and plans, never forget to test first. You have probably planned exceptionally well; there can still be a chance of error. So, have a test run and be sure.
Moreover, testing yourself is the first step if you want to learn how to sew with leather.
Let’s Get Sewing – How to Sew with Leather?
Sewing with leather is difficult and crucial, but not impossible. So, let go of stress and anxiety. Only with a relaxed mind, you can learn how to sew with leather. It’s just a 2-step process.
STEP 1: Patterning and Cutting
The first step to learn how to sew with leather is to mark the pattern and cut the pieces out.
The pattern can be marked with the silver pen – make sure to mark it on the opposite side of which you will display. It is already said not to pin the pieces; use tape instead.
Another thing to note here is to not layer up the leather over each of the pieces. Cut each piece and keep it separate.
Furthermore, do not fold the leather, that can leave crease marks. Just trace the cutter on the pattern; there is no need to fold. And once cut, and you need to store them, always roll them.
STEP 2: Stitching
The next step is stitching. Now, remember: perform the test stitch on a scrap piece before stitching the actual piece. By testing before actually stitching, you can have a clear concept about needles you are going to use, the presser foot you will control from time to time, and how you will run the machine precisely on the marks. In short, testing will give you a brief experience of sewing leather.
What Not to Do When Sewing a Leather?
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced with leather, you should know – or would know – that leather is as sensitive as it is challenging. Therefore, there are somethings that you should never do with leather. And if you want to have a glitch-free experience in learning how to sew with leather, you might want to follow the pieces of advice below.
Do Not Pull the Leather
Leather stretches. When you are sewing with leather, make sure that you do not pull the leather accidentally. If it stretches once, it cannot be shrunk.
Do Not Fold the Leather
Never fold the leather. The folding creases can leave unremovable marks. Always roll the leather if you want to keep it safe.
Leather Can Slip
If you have even a little bit of experience with leather, you must have observed the leather slips. So, when you are sewing the smooth ends of leather, it slips. Be extremely careful when sewing the smooth ends, because one wrong stitch can mess up your whole project.
The best solution to eradicate this slipping problem is to clip down the pieces to the sides and the top. This way, the chance of friction gets removed, and leather stays still.
Do Not Iron the Leather for Seams
Since leather cannot be ironed, there is another way to finish off the seams. You can either stick glue to the fibers of the edges or use the hammer.
Sometimes, hammering and rolling of seams are the best choices. Take a thick wooden board, keep the leather above it, and hammer the seams.
Do Not More Than One Layer
Leather is hard and tough; it cannot be cut in layers. If you try to cut leather with layers, like paper, there is a chance you might mess it up. Therefore, always cut one layer at a time.
Do Not Mark on the Front Side
I have said it before, I am repeating it: always draw the patterns on the wrong side of the leather – that is the side that you are not going to display. If you mark on the front, revealing side, you cannot remove it.
Do Not Start Sewing with the Needle Up
When you start sewing, remember to lower the needle and pierce it into the leather before hitting the pedal. The needle can be lowered by the use of the handwheel. If the needle is up and you start sewing, it can create an instant hole in the leather, and although the stitch will be done, it might stay loose and messy.
To wrap it up, I’d say that now you know everything there was to know about how to sew with leather. You know all the tips and tricks. Just remember not to stress – and follow the steps carefully.
If I am fair, sewing leather is not as difficult as it seems. You just have to be careful about each and every step. And, as I said before, always have a test run before actually start stitching. The test stitching not only lets you have an idea of what you are working on but also helps to get your hands set with all the changes in your machine and the change in the fabric.
Now, we have covered how to sew with leather, what to do and what not to do, and what type of accessories, such as needles, threads, presser foot, you would need. I believe that you have learned to sew with leather just by using a sewing machine at home.
You are all set to go. Make a plan and start sewing!
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