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Mood's Tips for Sewing Leather

I made this simple unlined leather tote bag using a regular home sewing machine. The leather is Ralph Lauren closeout leather available at Mood NYC.

"I'm afraid to sew leather!" We hear that from customers all the time at Mood. Would you believe that leather can actually be quite easy and simple to sew? And that you can sew lightweight leather on your home sewing machine without any special equipment? Read on for Mood's tips on working with leather:

• Start small with your first leather project, just to get the feel for working with leather. My first leather piece was a basic tote bag. Very often leather dealers will have small scraps you can buy to practice on.

• Buy your leather from a place that will take the time to show you the types of skins that are appropriate for your project. Excuse the shameless plug for Mood's leather department, but Dmitry (shown below) is really wonderful about patiently advising customers on the different types of skins and what will and won't work.

• For your first leather garment, take a cue from today's fashions and only sew a part of the garment in leather. For example, you could make a jersey t-shirt with the sleeves in leather, or  a wool dress with just the front yoke in leather. One skin can usually give you two short sleeves or part of a bodice, saving you money on leather.

•  Bring your muslin or pattern pieces with you to the leather store so you can lay out your pieces on the skin. Skins vary in size, and you can save several dollars by buying just the right size skin for your needs. • Use a rotary cutter to cut out your pattern. Use weights to hold your muslin in place as you cut. • Only sew with leather when you are alert and using all your smarts. Mistakes in leather can be fatal because needle holes show. Set your machine speed to turtle, and think, think, think every step of the way. Remember, you can take in leather seams but you can't let them out because the stitching holes will sew. • Seams can be topstitched or pressed open and glued in place with Stitch Witchery or contact cement. • Leather can be pressed with an iron (press on wrong side of hide) or pounded with a rubber mallet. • Wonder Clips (Clover) are perfect for holding pieces together in lieu of pins as you stitch. (Pins leave permanent holes.) • Use a stitch length of about 3.0 for seams, longer for topstitching. Tools for sewing leather:
• Universal sewing machine leather needles in sizes 90/14 or 100/16 (I'll admit I've used regular sewing machine needles and haven't had a problem with them)
• Regular nylon or poly thread
• Teflon sewing machine foot (doesn't get stuck on the leather like a regular foot can)
• Stitch Witchery for adhering seam allowances flat
• Leather glue/contact cement can also be used to hold leather in place
• Rotary cutter (you can cut leather with sharp scissors too)
• Wonder clips from Clover (available at Mood NYC)
• Rubber mallet for flattening seams and other areas
This is Dmitry of Mood's leather department. Every time I start a new leather project I go to him for tips. He's incredibly helpful.

Mood is holding a class on learning to sew leather on Monday, November 5, 5:30 p.m., on the Home Decor floor. It's taught by noted sewing instructor Kenneth D. King, and he'll let you in on all the ins and outs of working with leather. Click here to register today.

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