You cannot iron leather, you cannot pin leather, your normal needle doesnot go through leather, and your pressure foot refuses to move. If this is not a disaster situation for a sewist, what is?
But Just some precautions taken care of and you can sew leather like any other fabric. Well, almost.
If you are sewing with lightweight skins, you can sew leather with your regular sewing machine. If your machine sews thick heavy weight fabrics with ease, it will sew most garment-weight leather.
If you have thick leather and your simple home-use sewing machine protests when it has to go through thick fabric layers like denim, do not read further – go on to this post on hand sewing leather.
In this article I will cover:
Use the sharpest of cutting tools to cut leather. A clean, neat cut is necessary for a professional leather work.
I use my Exacto knife to cut soft leather and rotary cutter to cut other thicker ones. But if you have even a slight doubt about using rotary cutters, do use the scissors – but the sharpest one in your sewing kitty.
Dos and Don’t on sewing with leather with a sewing machine
Stitching leather on a sewing machine
- Do use the sharpest scissors you can find to cut leather. You can also use your rotary cutter. Thin leather is also cut with a very sharp Exacto cutter.
- Do use the sharpest needle to stitch leather. You can get a leather needle in your sewing supply store – it is worth it. The machine leather needle has a small triangle shape at the tip, which makes it easier to pierce the thick material and multiple layers. You can ask for a leather needle of size 90/14. This needle prevents tearing.
- Do use the strongest thread to sew leather. A nylon thread /100% polyester thread will be stronger and more suitable than the regular cotton one we use for sewing fabric. I have read that cotton thread will deteriorate over time in leather because of the oils present in it.
- Do use a walking foot or Teflon nonstick foot, or a dual feed foot, when sewing leather. One trick I have read about is to use scotch tape on the underside of the regular foot to make it non-stick if you do not have the above-said feet. Teflon foot is the one all leather sewing experts swear by.
- Sew very slowly. This can prevent skipped stitches to a degree.
- One problem you will encounter is that the seam allowance will not open up and lie flat. Open the seam allowance and press with a hot, dry iron keeping a pressing cloth in between – but this is risky. Use something with a rounded corner to press open seam allowances. You can also topstitch the seam allowance flat from the right side on either side of the seam. Another option is to trim the seam allowance to 1/4 inch and leave it as it is.
- Do use soft garment-weight leather to sew on your home sewing machine.Your machine will thank you.
- Do get an industrial sewing machine if you are thinking of sewing leather regularly and want to sew with thick skins. The thickness of leather will be impossible to sew through with a home sewing machine, even with the leather sewing needle.
- Do use binder clips to hold edges together when sewing or cutting leather; Pins are avoided when sewing with leather as the holes made by pins are very visible and mar the leather. You can also use paper clips if you have thin leather.
- When sewing hems on leather garments, you will have to be scissors happy – I mean, be generous in trimming. This avoids bulk. Trim seam allowance to half width to reduce bulk at hems. If the folded edge doesnot lie straight, or you have a curved edge clip at intervals at the edge.
- On leather a double topstitched hem looks really nice. Topstitch with a 3-4mm stitch. The double lines can be spaced 1/8 inch apart.
Alternatives to machine sewing leather.
- Where sewing with machine is impossible you can hand sew; Checkout these posts : Best Hand sewing tools for leather ; How to hand sew leather– Best hand sewing stitches for leather; Saddle stitch
- Or use double capped rivets. You can use a drill press to make small holes for these rivets and then set them with a snap press or a hand setting tool for rivets. Learn how to attach rivets.
- If you cannot sew through the layers of the leather, you can glue the hem.
Related post – Please checkout this post on sewing thick heavyweight fabric with an ordinary sewing machine for tips applicable to leather sewing as well.