Monday, October 14, 2013

From One Beginner to Another: Sewing with Leather

After completing my first leather project,
and after lots of research and personal trial and error,
I decided to write down what worked for me when it came to machine sewing leather.

Must Haves and Tips


Leather needles
These are a must!
They have a cutting edge that helps pierce the leather.
If/when that edge/tip gets broken, you will know!
The needle will have a difficult time piercing the leather,
and mine made clanking and puncturing sounds while sewing.

Nylon thread
There are actually other recommended types of thread you can use,
but 100% nylon was the easiest for me to find and worked really well.
As long as you can't break the thread when you pull it hard
 (like I do with cotton thread when I can't find the scissors)
then it should withstand sewing the leather.
Plus, the nylon thread had a glossy feel/finish, which I think worked similar
to waxed thread, which I read in various places was recommended for leather sewing.

Corn starch/baby powder
Ok, this is actually a trick I found while searching the web.
Ideally, you should use a Teflon or walker foot for your machine.
I didn't have one, so I used corn starch (because I didn't have baby powder)
to dust the working surface of my machine, the bottom of my foot,
and the surface of the leather I was working with.
This reduced the drag and helped feed it through more evenly,
reducing the amount of teeny tiny bunched up stitches.
It does make a mess though.
 I would recommend getting the special foot, but in a pinch, this trick will help.

Thread tension
On some scrap pieces, I experimented with tensions
and found that it worked best between 1.5 and 2.
Whatever your numbering system is, you just want to reduce the tension.

Feed dogs
Leather has bulk and sticks,
 so lower the feed dogs a lot so it will feed through more easily and not bunch up.
Some posts I read, the seamstress completely lowered the food dogs
and fed the leather through manually.

Bobbin tension
I used a nylon thread for my project,
and when I inserted the bobbin into the case, I realized it was very tight.
Depending on the thread you use, make sure to adjust the tension.
I follow this little method to test and set my bobbin tension.
 I just use my finger nail instead of a screw driver.
It works all the time and it is so easy.

Thread length
You don't want teeny tiny stitches, so adjust your length to a longer stitch,
I had mine set at about 3.5- 4.
(4 is the longest stitch setting on my machine).
Don't back stitch!
When leather is pierced, the holes remain.
So why make more holes and put your machine through the extra strain of back stitching?
Instead, pull your thread through to the backside and tie your ends.
Use this method to tie your string and finish your ends,
it is the same method I used to do the detail top stitching for this peplum blazer.

Trim Edges
To reduce the layers and bulk when sewing over edges/seems,
trim them down...this will make it much easier on you and your machine.

Fold Once
Leather doesn't fray, so you don't need to roll or double fold your hems.
In fact. DON'T. It is way too much work to sew through.

Go Slow
This may be a no brainer, but take is easy and go slow so stave off broken needles and mistakes.

These methods worked for me, so I wanted to pass along what I learned.
I am in no way an expert, I have in fact to date only sewn on leather once!
But if you are a beginner, you might find this helpful.
If you are more experienced, I welcome your comments and suggestions!
Good luck!


  1. It's so helpful to have the benefit of your experience, all in one place. I've never sewn leather or suede, and never even realized there was more to it than having a strong needle! This expands the possibilities!

    1. I hope my lessons help you in the future if you decide to tackle a leather project!

  2. Lots of inspiration to find here.
    Thanks for shearing.
    Ellen :)

    1. I'm glad you could get something out of it, you are welcome!


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