There are few things that intimidate me more than sewing leather.
I absolutely love the look of a polished leather bag or leather accents (in the form of handles or zipper pulls), but working with leather is nothing short of frustrating, so I left the leather fantasy behind me and tried to embrace brown suede.
Except that one day I was looking for old furniture to reupholster at this random flea market/peddler’s mall. I got lost in it (the place is ginormous), and stumbled upon an entire booth filled with gorgeous leather in all shades of tan. For around $25 a huge piece, obviously I couldn’t say no. 🙂
Enter: new love. Leather is actually fun to sew, it looks gorgeous and leaves such a professional finish, it makes me want to start a new business sewing leather purses. I finished this weekender bag and I love the wool fabric, but truthfully I think the leather makes it. You may see this for sale on my Etsy shop one day… then again, it totally matches my outfit! 🙂
How to Sew Leather:
Before starting: You should know, there are all kinds of leather out there. I am no professional, so basically I determine how to sew the piece I have by how thick or thin it is.
You can see in the photo below that I handstitched these thick handle loops, as well as added a metal rivet. I have an older post on how to apply rivets here. They make a gorgeous and sturdy addition to leather projects.
- Leather machine needles (get the largest size you can find. Remember, the higher the number, the larger the needle, the thicker the fabric it can pierce through).
- Sewing Clamps or clips (like what your mom uses to close opened bags of chips).
- Iron set on NO steam and a pressing cloth
- Double stick tape
- Set your machine’s stitches to be a little longer (think 3.5 or 4).
- Replace that regular machine needle with a new, sharp leather one. Schmetz is my favorite brand… they also have an app that helps distinguish different needle types by color coding. Genius!
- Make sure you use a good quality 100 % polyester or polyester coated thread.
- Prepare the leather piece you are about to sew by holding the pieces together with clamps. Pins will leave a hole in the leather and will never go away. Also, pinning leather is nothing short of a headache! I bent so many pins doing this.
- If you are stitching on top of the slick side of the leather, use a roller or teflon foot. Or scotch tape the bottom of your presser feet and make your own “teflon foot”. Check it how to here!
- Sew as usual, going slowly and cranking down on the sewing machine’s needle dial if needed. Don’t get too crazy here, though. If the machine needle just won’t budge, you’ll have to hand stitch from here.
- To press the seams open, use a dry iron (an iron without steam), protect leather with a pressing cloth and press. You could also use double stick tape here to keep the seams pressed open. On tough leather, use a rolling pin (or something similar),and press down on the seam.
1. Using your ruler and sharpie, mark each stitching spot. (I did mine ¼” apart). This is important or you’ll get sloppy really fast!
2. Using your stitching awl, poke a hole at the marked spot as straight as you can through all the layers of leather. The awl will have instructions on how to stitch leather using only it, but honestly, it takes WAY longer to use it that way! I prefer to just use it to poke the holes, and then stitch it the way I’m describing below:
- Cut a piece of waxed thread double the length of what you’re about to sew.
- Thread a leather needle through each of the waxed thread’s ends.
- Poke one needle in through the first hole, and pull until the thread is right in the middle, leaving an even amount of thread on each side.
- Take the same needle you started with, and pull it through the second hole.
- Now take the other needle, and poke it up through the second hole.
- Repeat this process all the way till the end, pulling threads tightly together.
- End with the two threads at the same side, tie together with a double knot.
For more info on leather making, my favorite hand-stitching leather post would have to be this one from High on Glue. Best photos, so easy to understand. I love how the author gives an “even more basic” option, too!
This post by “You Sew Girl” is down-to-earth, quick and my favorite for tips on machine sewing leather.
Have fun! Don’t be shy to comment any questions you may have for me. Merry Christmas!