How to Sew Leather on a Home Sewing Machine

Sewing leather at home can be a gratifying hobby or a valuable skill for professional projects. You can transform this durable material into beautiful, handcrafted items with the right tools and techniques. This article will guide you through the essential tips and tricks for sewing leather with a home sewing machine, ensuring your projects turn out as envisioned.

Key Takeaways

  • Sewing leather on a home sewing machine is feasible with minor adjustments and the right equipment.
    • Beginners’ sewing machines can handle thick leather.
  • Use a leather needle for piercing through leather effectively.
    • Choose the right size (e.g., No. 120 for thick leather) and replace it when worn out.
    • Keep extra needles, as they may break with thicker leather.
  • Change the sewing foot to prevent the leather from sticking.
    • A Teflon foot or roller foot helps leather glide smoothly.
  • Take your time when sewing leather to avoid irreversible mistakes.
    • Use double-sided tape instead of pins to hold pieces together.
    • Practice on scrap leather first.
  • Avoid using cotton thread due to its incompatibility with the chemicals in leather.
    • Bonded nylon thread is recommended for its durability.
  • Planning saves time and resources.
    • Determine the amount of leather and thread needed for projects like jackets for a professional finish.
  • Proper preparation and equipment selection are key to achieving high-quality leather sewing projects at home.

Do I Need An Industrial Sewing Machine To Sew Leather?

If you want to learn how to sew leather, it might seem like one of those questions where you could spend hours reading about it online. But actually, it’s pretty simple. You only need a good sewing machine, thread, needles, and maybe even a leather cutting mat. Here’s what you can do:

Choose Your Sewing Machine

There are several types of sewing machines out there. Some people prefer the speed of a domestic machine, while others prefer the quality of a commercial machine. If you plan to sew leather regularly, you might want to look into buying a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine. These machines are slower than domestic models but usually offer a wide range of features, including adjustable stitches, automatic feeders, and built-in tension controls.

Find out How to Choose the Right Sewing Serger Stitches.

Use a Good Leather Needle

A leather needle is essential because it allows you to sew leather without tearing it. Most domestic sewing machines have a standard sewing needle but won’t work well for sewing leather. Instead, you’ll need to buy a leather needle specifically designed for sewing leather. There are many different brands of leather needles, so shop for the best fit for your needs.

Consider Using a Variable Straight Stitch Length

You’ll often want to sew multiple pieces together when you sew leather. To do this, you’ll need to adjust the stitch length of your sewing machine. This is done by moving the dial on the side of the machine. For example, if you wanted to sew a piece of leather 5 inches long, you’d move the dial over five times. Once you’ve moved the dial to the desired position, set the stitching width to 0.5 inches. Then, start sewing the leather.

Do’s and Don’ts of Sewing Leather

Do: Use the Right Thread

Opt for a bonded nylon or polyester thread instead of cotton, which can deteriorate when in contact with the tanning chemicals in leather.

Don’t: Use Pins

Avoid using pins that can leave permanent marks. Instead, use clips or double-sided tape to hold your leather pieces in place.

Do: Cut and Mark Carefully

Implement cutting leather tips like using a rotary cutter for precise edges. Transfer markings on leather using tools that won’t damage its surface, like chalk or a ballpoint stylus.

Don’t: Rush Your Work

Take your time with each stitch. Leather is unforgiving, and mistakes can be hard to hide. Practicing on scrap leather can help you avoid errors on your final project.

So, Can You Sew Leather With A Regular Sewing Machine?

Making leather involves many steps, including cutting out pieces of leather, stitching together those pieces, applying glue, and pressing the seams closed. This article will review how to make a basic leather bag with a regular sewing machine. We’ll start by looking at what tools are necessary and then move on to learning about the types of feet available. Finally, we’ll look at tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your sewing experience.

Presser Foot Options

You should consider three different presser feet when sewing leather at home. These will help make leather less sticky and easier to work with. It pays to know what works best for you if you sew leather often.

The first option is the standard presser foot. This is the most basic option and is usually included with every machine. Simply put, the standard presser foot provides a flat surface across the bottom of the needle plate.

The second option is the “flat” presser foot. A flat presser foot is similar to the standard one, except there is no raised edge around the perimeter of the needle plate. This type of presser foot is generally used for sewing leather because it allows you to use a larger stitch length without worrying about stitching into the raised edges of the presser foot.

Finally, the third option is the “permanent” presser foot, also known as the “sewing” presser foot or the “leather” presser foot. These types of presser feet are designed specifically for sewing leather. They provide a narrow, flat area along the bottom of the needle plate where the needle goes down.

These presser feet come in varying sizes depending on how much leather you want to sew. For example, a small presser foot might be perfect for sewing upholstery, while a large one might be better suited for sewing leather.

Teflon Foot

Teflon feet are a special type of machine foot used to sew leather. Leather sticks to the presser’s foot, making it difficult to move around while stitching. Teflon feet prevent this problem by creating a cushioning effect.

Roller Foot

The roller foot is a sewing machine foot with mini rolling pins built in – they help the foot to stay off the leather while you are sewing. They come in different sizes, from small ones that fit into most machines to large ones that fit into bigger models.

Walking Foot

This is the sewing machine foot you’ll often find on the best Leather Sewing Machines used by leather workers. A walking foot allows you to work on seams without stopping and rethreading your needle every few stitches. If you’re looking to make a nice piece of leather, this is one of the most important tools you can use.

The foot is split into two halves, each with a separate spring mechanism. Each half moves independently, allowing the foot to move up and down while keeping the leather flat against the table. You don’t want to be stitched too high or low because the pressure exerted on the fabric could cause it to stretch out of shape.

We’ve used this type of foot for some tricky pieces in our graduate school collection. They are super easy to use, and we always recommend them to anyone interested in making leather.

Leather Sewing Tools

Leather Sewing Tools

The most common question about sewing leather is how you treat it before stitching it up. While many assume that leather is like fabric, it requires extra care. Leather is a non-woven, non-knit material that does not fray as easily as woven materials such as cotton. This means you cannot simply sew leather together like you would with a piece of cloth. Instead, you must use special tools to prepare the leather for sewing. These include:

Binder Clips

Leathers do not naturally have natural holes for needles to go through, as knitted and woven fabrics do. This makes it difficult to sew leather without damaging the fabric. You could use binder clips to keep the pieces of leather together while stitching, but the problem is that the ends of the clips cut into the leather, causing small holes where the clip is attached. When the piece of leather is taken off, the hole left behind looks terrible.

We use metal ones that have been around for about 12 years now. They’re inexpensive and easy to find. If you don’t want to buy them, look for something similar online.

Leather Needle

A leather sewing needle is different than regular needles because it has a special tip. This tip allows you to make stitches in leather without damaging it. Leather needles are usually used for stitching upholstery fabrics such as leather, suede, wool, etc. They come in many sizes, including #00, 0, 3/16, 5/32, 7/64, 9/128, and 10/256.

Leather Glue / Leather Cement

When sewing seams in leather, it is important to remember that the fabric is malleable, while the leather itself is not. This means that when you sew a seam, you will often find that the seam allowance does not lay flat against the surface of the leather. You risk tearing the leather if you try to force it into position. To avoid this problem, allowing the seam allowance to lie where it wants to lie is best.

If you want to correct the situation, several options are available to you. One option is to use a unique adhesive called “glue.” These adhesives are designed specifically for leather and can be used to fix small areas of damage. However, applying too much glue will make the leather stiffer and more challenging. Another option is to use a product called “cobweb,” which is cotton thread coated with a thin layer of glue.

If applied correctly, the cobweb will hold the edge of the seam allowance in place without making the leather stiff. Finally, another option is to use a material called “fusible webbing.” Fusible webbing consists of a thin, flexible plastic sheet that contains a wonderful strand of metal wire embedded within it. The plastic melts away when heated, allowing the metal wire to fuse permanently to the leather. Once fused, the webbing cannot be removed without damaging the leather.

Pieces of Leather

We’ve been sewing for about ten years, but our sewing skills are still quite basic. We hope to improve our skills over time, though, and we enjoy making things like bags and purses. This tutorial covers how to make a simple bag with a zipper closure. If you’re interested in learning how to sew leather, you might find it helpful to read through this tutorial first.

Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters are one of the most important tools in our toolbox. They make cutting leather much faster and easier than using scissors. For less money, you can even buy pre-cut leather pieces, like shoe soles. We have two different types of rotary cutters. One size cuts 45 mm wide leather, while the other cuts 25 mm wide leather. Both can be used for both straight and curved edges.

Cutting Mat

When sewing leather-based projects, it’s essential to protect your table surface. Leather must breathe, so don’t let it sit directly against a hard surface. Instead, place a piece of scrap paper under the leather and cover it with a cutting mat. This prevents scratches and keeps the leather from getting too hot.

You might think you could use regular old scissors to cut leather, but you’d be wrong. If you do try to cut leather with regular scissors, you run the risk of damaging the leather and ruining your project.

Leather doesn’t heal itself; it requires proper care to maintain its quality. To keep your leather looking great, you’ll need to use a mat to prevent damage. You’ll find that using a cutting mat makes cutting much easier. Plus, you won’t have to worry about scratching your table.

The most common type of cutting mat is called a “self-healing” mat. These are usually sold as separate items, but you can often buy one together with a mat knife. They come in different sizes, including A4, A3, A2, and even letter sizes.

Regular Sewing Machine

We’ve been sewing for over 20 years now, and we’ve owned many types of sewing machines—some manual, some electric, some expensive, some cheap, some good, and some bad. We’ve done our fair share of research into the differences between regular sewing machines and home sewing machines. Furthermore, we are sure many people like me want to know about the difference between the two, so we thought we’d put together a list of pros and cons for each type of sewing machine. So, let’s start with our favorite sewing machine…

The regular sewing machine we use most often is our Bernina 830, which we bought second-hand around 10 years ago. It’s a very simple, mechanical sewing machine, and although it doesn’t have fancy features like a built-in needle threader, it does have one feature that makes it easy to sew leather: a free arm. This allows you to move the fabric without worrying about where the needle is, making it much easier to stitch leather because you don’t have to keep moving the fabric to ensure the needle isn’t hitting anything else. Another thing that helps with stitching leather is that the Bernina has a wide throat plate that lets you feed thicker fabrics such as leather without worrying about the thickness getting caught under the presser foot.

Sewing Awl

A sewing awl is a useful tool when working with leather because you don’t want to poke yourself in the eye while stitching accidentally. And since we’re talking about leatherwork here, we thought we’d show off some of our favorite sewing tools. When we are doing leather work, we use a variety of different tools depending on what we are making. We’ve got a few different types of needles, including a regular needle, a leather needle, and a safety pin needle. For punching out rivets, we use a small punch. To mark key points like buttonholes, we use a sewing awl. This little guy is perfect for piercing holes in leather without poking me in the eye.

Thread

If you want to sew leather, you can choose from many threads. When picking a thread, you want to ensure that it matches the type of material you are working with. For example, if you are making a bag out of leather, you don’t want to use synthetic threadlike polyester because it won’t hold up well over time. You want something durable that will withstand wear and tear. Cotton is a good choice for bags because it’s soft and easy to work with. However, if you are stitching leather together, you might consider using a heavier-weight thread, such as a topstitching thread, since that will give your project a finished appearance.

Seams for Sewing Leather

Seams For Sewing Leather

In our opinion, there are three types of seams you want to use when sewing leather:

  1. Saddle stitch seam – Two needles, two threads, and one hole.
  2. Lock stitch seam – One needle, one thread, and one hole. This is the most common type of seam used in clothing.
  3. Overlock seam – A single needle, one thread, and no holes.

We prefer overlocking because it leaves fewer marks and doesn’t fray out. We don’t like saddle stitching because it makes the edges look uneven. If you want to make something professional, we can go for overlocking.

You can find some great tutorials online, including how to sew leather.

1. Open Seam

Open seams make a clean edge along one side of a piece. They’re often used to finishing off a hemmed edge, as you might do on a pair of pants. But they can also be used to add interest to a project. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start with a fabric that doesn’t fray easily. In our case, that meant choosing a solid color.
  2. Cut out two pieces of fabric. One piece will be the front of the garment, and the other will be the lining.
  3. Fold over each raw edge of the front piece and press. Then, fold over the raw edges of the lining piece and press again.
  4. Sew across the folded edges where the two fabrics meet. There are different ways to sew this seam. For instance, you could use a zigzag stitch. Or you could trim away the excess fabric around the seam allowance.
  5. Press the seam flat.
  6. Trim away the extra seam allowances. You can clip some of the original seam allowances into the seam allowance if you want to keep them. Just don’t cut too close to the stitching.

2. Lapped Seam

A lapped seam is a type of stitch used to combine two pieces of leather. A lapped seam is very similar to a traditional seam, except it doesn’t require you to sew inside the edge of one piece of leather. Instead, you lay another piece of leather over the first piece, ensuring no holes or gaps along the edges. You then use a needle and thread to pull the two layers together and secure them.

3. Welt Seam

A welt seam is a simple seam where the edge of the fabric is folded over itself and sewn together. This type of seam is commonly used in leather craft projects.

How To Sew Leather On A Sewing Machine

The first step in learning how to sew leather on a sewing machine is testing your materials. You might want to start with a simple project like a belt or bag—this way, you know whether your sewing machine suits the job.

Once you are happy with your sewing machine, you must choose the type of needle you want to use. There are many types to choose from—some are designed specifically for leather, while others work just fine. Select the one that suits your needs best.

Next, pick your thread color and gauge. Your thread must match the thickness of the leather you are working with. For example, if you are making a bag, you’ll probably want thicker threads for the main body of the bag. But thinner threads for the handles.

Finally, you’ll need to pick a pattern. Patterns come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some patterns are specific to certain sewing machines, while others are universal. You’ll find plenty of free patterns online, or you could buy a book or magazine. Whatever you do, don’t go cheap. Good quality books and magazines are expensive but will save you time and frustration.

Step 1: Clipping Leather Sections Together

We have great news for you if you want to add some extra style to your leather projects. You can now attach leather sections using binder clips. All you’ll need are binder clips and some leather. It might seem like a lot of work, but once you start clipping away, it gets much easier. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by lining up your leather pieces. If you don’t know where to begin, just cut out one leather section. Then, place it next to another piece of leather. Continue doing this until you have enough leather pieces to do your project.
  2. Once you have enough leather pieces, take a look at your layout. Make sure there aren’t any holes or tears.
  3. Take each pair of leather pieces and lay them flat side down. Place a binder clip on each piece of leather.
  4. Press the clips into place. Use binder clips to hold the leather pieces together without damaging the surface.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have clipped every piece of leather together.
  6. Let your leather dry completely. This could take anywhere from 24 hours to three weeks, depending on the weather.

Step 2: Placing The Leather Under The Presser Foot

The next step involves placing the leather underneath the presser’s foot. This is done by lining up the edges of the leather with the desired seam allowance amount you’ve chosen. Once it’s lined up, you’ll want to ensure the upper and bobbin threads are visible and within reach. In our case, we wanted to sew a straight stitch along the length of the leather, so we placed the needle as close to the back side of the leather as possible.

Step 3: Hold Both Threads To Start Sewing The Leather

Grab the threads – we use two colors to make it easier to see what we are doing – and hold them firmly.

Start sewing slowly, forward only.

This will help prevent the leather from becoming eaten away by the feed dogs, which is always a risk if you start so close to the edge of the leather.

You can see on the photos here and here that we haven’t backstitched at all; the stitches go straight across the leather.

Note also that on the lower picture of the pink leather piece, there are two lines of damaged leather on either side of the stitching line.

This is damage caused by the feed dogs, whose teeth zigzag around the edges of the leather.

Step 4: Gluing the Seam Allowance Down

The final seam allowance is now glued down. This is important because the next thing we are doing is sewing around the edges of the fabric, and if the seam allowances aren’t glued down, then the edges might move during the stitching process.

We’ve used our sewing machine here. If you don’t have one, you can always cut the pattern pieces by hand and sew them up yourself.

Step 5: Sewing Further Seams

Once you have sewn the seam, it is ready to be joined to another piece of leather. To do this, start by sewing the seam together again, just like above. Then, grab your needle and thread and stitch across the seam, making sure to keep the stitches close to the edge of the seam. This will help prevent holes later on. Now, take your scissors and cut off about 2 inches of excess leather around the outside of the seam so that there are no sharp edges on the inside.

Take your fingers and gently pull the leather apart, careful not to tear it. Place the two pieces into position and pin them together. Add some glue to the area where the pieces meet and apply it with the applicator tool. You can always use pins if you don’t want to use glue. However, we prefer to use both because it makes things easier.

Sewing Joining Leather Seams Correctly

We didn’t want to leave things there, so we continued sewing. We wanted to show you how to do it correctly. Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure that the edges of the leather pieces are aligned.
  2. Sew the join starting from the middle.
  3. Remove the leather from the machine. Turn it over, place it back on the machine, and start sewing from one side to the other.
  4. When you’re done, remove the leather from the sewing machine, flip it over, and reattach it to the presser foot.
  5. Continue sewing around the whole area where the joint is located.

Sewing Leather on a Home Sewing Machine FAQs

Can I sew leather with a regular home sewing machine?

Yes, a regular home sewing machine can handle leather projects with the correct needle, foot, and settings.

What thread should I use for sewing leather?

Use a bonded nylon or polyester thread for its strength and durability against the tanning chemicals in leather.

How do I prevent leather from sticking to the presser foot?

Use a Teflon presser or roller foot designed to glide over sticky materials like leather without adhering to them.

Final Thoughts On Sewing Leather On A Home Sewing Machine

We’ve been learning how to sew leather lately and thought it might be fun to share what we know with you guys. This post is about sewing leather on a domestic sewing machine. There are plenty of tutorials online to do this. However, most require access to industrial machines like a serger or a dedicated leather sewing machine. We wanted to show you how it’s done on a regular sewing machine.

Check out our article for the best small sewing machines.

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