The unique smell and feel of genuine leather are unlike any other, but it does come at a steep price. If your project calls for leather, it’s crucial to sew and handle it with the utmost care to get the most out of it. Alternatively, leather is a fabric that is cost-effective to sew since leather garments are always in style and quite expensive. The tips below will help you select your leather, cut and sew it with care, and also give some great pattern suggestions for getting started.
Download a free Sewing with Leather info sheet!
1. Selecting Fabric
- Leather is unique, so it’s crucial to inspect leather pieces before purchasing when possible.
- All skins are going to vary slightly in color, so keep that in mind when sewing.
- Leather comes in hides, so you must calculate how many hides you’ll need before heading out to buy leather for your project.
- A thinner leather is best for fitted silhouettes, while thicker leather is better for coats and blazers.
- Unfold leather once you get it home and allow it to lie flat, or you may end up with permanent creases.
- A mat, rotary cutter, and a metal ruler are going to produce nice straight cutting lines.
- A sharp rotary cutter is best for cutting thicker leather.
- Lay out fabric to maximize leather, avoiding any unwanted markings before cutting.
- Pattern weights are a good option for cutting out patterns that will prevent slipping without creating holes or other unwanted marks.
- Cut leather in single layers.
- For the best results on a home sewing machine use soft, thin leather.
- If your home sewing machine can tackle thick, heavyweight fabric, it’s probably able to handle thicker leather.
- If your sewing machine does not sew through heavy layers, hand sewing is going to be your best option.
- To hand sew, you’ll need an awl or hole puncher to pre-punch holes before stitching.
- Use leather needles — They are designed to go through leather without harming it.
- Heavy-duty thread is going to go through thick leather with very few complications.
- Alternatively, waxed/coated thread is a good candidate that won’t deteriorate over time.
- Wonder clips are best for keeping layers in place.
- Use a teflon foot, roller foot, or a dual-feed (walking) foot when sewing with leather.
- Keep leather scraps to test out how the machine will sew through several layers.
- Set the machine to the highest pressure setting and the longest stitch length.
- Start seams off by using the hand crank to see if the presser foot is feeding through correctly.
- Clip the leather or use a temporary adhesive to reduce bulk.
- Sew slowly to cut down on the amount of skipped stitches.
- Topstitch seams for a professional look without the bulk.
- Secure stitches by using knots on the ends instead of backstitching.
- Leather doesn’t fray, so seam finishes are not a necessity.
- Do not iron directly onto leather— it will ruin it.
- Use an iron on a medium heat setting and a pressing cloth to remove any unwanted wrinkles.
- The Jamesia Pant
- Poinsettia Dress (omit overlay)
- The Cassia Skirt
- The Calypso Jacket
- The Kalimeris Moto
Sewing with leather comes with many challenges, but the good news is that they’re relatively easy to overcome with the proper tools and a little prep work. Leather is unlike other fabrics, which makes it so desirable.
Now it’s your turn to drop some knowledge: Leave a comment below with your top 3 tips for sewing with leather on a home sewing machine.
While all sewing projects take time and patience to navigate, be prepared to give a little extra for denim. Rest assured that once your project is complete, whether you opted for a dress, coat, pants, skirt, shirt, or any variation thereof, the effort that you put in, in conjunction with the helpful sewing sips above, you’ll end up with a garment you’re proud of.
Which one of our free sewing patterns are you going to tackle first?