Of all the sewing jobs around, one of the hardest is sewing leather – especially hand sewing it. Toughest among us attempt it and emerge a winner. A few ammunition at our side do help to win the battle.
Here is a list of those tools that the leather hand sewing beginner would want to have to become a leather sewing expert. Or maybe at least – to start sewing.
The basic hand sewing leather tools
- 1 Good quality leather
- 2. Needles
- 4. Diamond Awl
- 5 Rulers
- 6. Good Quality sharp scissors
- 7 Clips
- 8 Glue
- 9 Knife / rotary cutter
- 10. Cutting Mat
- Other useful leather sewing tools
- 11 Thimble
- 12 A stitching pony / Stitching clam
- 13 A drawing wheel
- 14. Sewing Hook Awl
- 15 Rivets and Rivet setting tools
- Some optional leather sewing tools
- 16 Hole punch
- 17 Edge paint
- 18 Beeswax
- 19 Adjustable groover
- 20 Sand paper
- 21 Leather skiving knife/blades
- 22 Edge beveler
- 23 Wool Daubers
- 24 Burnisher
- 25 Prong punch
- 26 A Leather conditioning product
- 27 Wing divider
- 28 Cobbler’s hammer
- 29 Carving tools
- 30 Dyeing tools
1 Good quality leather
This goes without saying but a beginner can get lost in the world of leather. There are many different types of leather – you can learn more about the many kinds of leather available for your projects here.
You can use scrap leather for your first projects and experiments and then go on to buy vegetable-tanned leather for your subsequent projects. A 2 mm (3 ounze) is needed for outer work (making wallets, backpacks etc) and for carving purposes and 1 mm is used for inner work. Super soft and lightweight leather is most preferred for making hand bags – it is easy to sew and soft to touch. 7 to 8 ounze (2.8- 3.4 mm) thick leather is used for making belts.
Buy pre-dyed leather if you are a beginner and would rather not bother about the dyeing processes. They are tooled and hand dyed and finished with stain.
If you want to dye your own leather buy pre-dyed tooling leather. The finishing and type of tanning done can make or break leather so it is better to buy pre-dyed leather if you are a beginner in leather projects
You will need two good sharp thick hand sewing needles with a big eye to hand sew leather.
There are Leather needles which make holes as they sew – they are needles (also called Glovers) with a sharp tip shaped like a triangle for cutting into thick leather.
Leather needles with longer triangular point at the end are called sailmakers needles
And you will also find other hand sewing needles like the long upholstery needle and curved needle handy for some of the projects.
You can hand sew leather with any heavy weight sewing thread – Ask the store for polyester upholstery weight thread. But the pre-waxed leather sewing thread makes your life easy. The pre waxed nylon thread is good enough for most jobs.
If you are using ordinary sewing thread rub a little bit of beeswax on it make it strong enough and reduce tangling. Cotton thread is not usually used by the experts as it may disintegrate easily. A synthetic thread with a diameter upwards of 0.6 mm can be used.
The pre-waxed thread for hand sewing leather come in many thicknesses and types – You get Linen Thread and Polyester Thread for hand sewing. You have to choose depending on your project.
4. Diamond Awl
This is used to make holes on the leather before you start sewing. You get them in many sizes.
The long metal ones as well as transparent rulers are used to mark the stitching lines on leather.
6. Good Quality sharp scissors
Self explanatory – what is sewing without a good pair of scissors.
As you already know you cannot use pins or basting stitches on leather- instead you can use binder clips to hold leather pieces together. You can even use (wooden) cloth pegs for thin soft leather. There are other shortcuts like using masking tapes, using stapler pins on the seam allowances where that is applicable etc.
You can buy shoe glue or leather glue. This is needed for attaching things before sewing them permanently.
9 Knife / rotary cutter
Leather is best cut with a very sharp knife; Cutting straight cuts, rounder corners properly is best done with a knife. Even skiving is done with a good one. You can buy a head knife or a leather trimming knife. You can also use a rotary cutter or a general utility knife (sometimes called a Stanley knife).
You can even use a really sharp X-Acto Blade- just ensure that it has disposable blades because you need them really sharp to cut through leather.
10. Cutting Mat
If you are cutting with a rotary cutter or exacto knife / knives you need to protect the cutting surface with a mat – you can use boards or rubber mats.
Other useful leather sewing tools
Thimble or finger gloves can protect your fingers from the sharp points /edges of all your leather sewing tools. You may not think this is necessary till you get that first jab/cut.( and many more to come if you will be pursuing this hobby)
12 A stitching pony / Stitching clam
Though the names sound frivolous the jobs they do, are not – they hold the leather pieces together and makes your sewing less frustrating. Once you use one of them you may decide you will not sew without them.
13 A drawing wheel
A drawing wheel/overstitch wheel makes dotted marking on fabric – these even markings are then converted to holes through which stitching is done
14. Sewing Hook Awl
This is used for sewing leather instead of using the needles. You can sew with this awl which has a hook on its eye to carry the thread.
15 Rivets and Rivet setting tools
Rivets are used as an alternative to sewing to attach two pieces of leather together.
Some optional leather sewing tools
16 Hole punch
You will need to make even looking perfect holes on leather goods like belts, bags and this tool is really helpful in that.
17 Edge paint
The edges of leather pieces will have to be painted with edge paint for a finished look.
Beeswax is used to shine leather and to grease the sewing thread
19 Adjustable groover
This is used to create stitching lines /decorative grooves/lines on leather surface.
20 Sand paper
You can use sand paper to sand the leather cut edges to a good finish. If you want a more professional and easy tool you can use an electric sander.
More advanced/optional tools in leather making by hand
21 Leather skiving knife/blades
Skiving the leather is not for the fainthearted – it involves thinning out your perfect looking leather piece to a lesser thickness – it is done to make the leather more supple or sometimes to lessen the bulk at the seams. You need the sharpest of blades for this – the specialized tool for skiving comes with disposable blades. You can buy blades which are diagonally shaped, curved and combination of diagonal and curved.
22 Edge beveler
This is another skiving tool used to trim the edges.
23 Wool Daubers
These are used to apply leather dye/ stain or lubricant; You can also use them to polish leather to a good shine.
Burnishing is a finishing done to the edge of the leather – it can make your work look very professional. Burnishing means polishing in its basic sense. The tool for doing this a very convenient way of doing the polishing.
25 Prong punch
Prong punch is a fork like tool used to create holes evenly – you can create multiple holes at the same time.
26 A Leather conditioning product
You can use these to clean and condition as well as protect leather surfaces . A saddle soap is one such product.
27 Wing divider
This is mostly used in leather projects to mark/drawing lines particularly on the leather edge.Other uses include making circles, double line for borders etc.
28 Cobbler’s hammer
When leather doesn’t behave you give it a whack with the hammer. Thick leather needs such whacks to keep its shape and make it more supple and pliable. Instead of a hammer you can get a mallet (hide/wooden) or a maul. The cobbler’s hammer do not mark leather, which is important.
29 Carving tools
These are tools you need to carve out beautiful logos and monograms on the surface of the leather – definitely advanced. Swivel knives are the most common tool used for floral carving.
30 Dyeing tools
Leather dyeing is a different game from just sewing leather and needs specialized tools and leather stains/dyes and finishes. Leather dyeing involves, dyeing and then brushing and then sealing it with wax. It needs lots and lots of practice and then an attitude of expecting the unexpected.
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