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What Sewing Machine Do I Need To Sew Leather?

Leather can be a tricky fabric to sew. What should you look for in a sewing machine when you choose it to work on leather projects? We have explained that here.

What Kind Of Sewing Machine Do I Need To Sew Leather?

A sturdy sewing machine with walking foot that doesn’t stick to the leather fabric is what you need. You also need one that delivers good speed control as leather is the kind of fabric where even the smallest mistake appears prominently. A leather needle is another requisite in for sewing leather.

Leather crafting is a popular hobby and therefore there are plenty of choices in leather sewing machine. There are simple domestic use designs and some high-end industrial options as well. Read to find out more about what to look for in a sewing machine you pick for leather projects.

Best Traits Of A Leather Sewing Machine

The one trait that distinguishes a leather sewing machine from the others is its strong motor, frame and foot. There is also a reliable feeding dog. The foot is wide enough to hold your work piece and also doesn’t stick to leather. The needle is sharp and strong enough to deliver smooth stitches without puncturing the leather fabric.

Sewing machine needles types

As you can see from the picture above, a leather needle comes with a tiny scarf that allows thread grabbing. There is a thicker thread that you would use for leather and this scarf allows this thread to pass without trouble. There are such minor differences that come as default features in a leather sewing machine.

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If you are a hobbyist carrying out some simple projects with leather fabric, any entry level leather sewing machine would be sufficient. Make sure that you understand the difference between a commercial or industrial machine and a domestic variant. With domestic machines you can handle most thin fabrics. If you need a more powerful engine and a stronger piercing potential then an industrial machine is what you need. If you pick an industrial machine you should use it regularly. Even when not in use, you should oil the parts so as to keep it in a good condition. Most industrial leather sewing machines also come with a good assortment of accessories and high-end features. These are suitable for use in places where leather stitching happens day in and day out handling heavy leather fabrics.

Whatever be your budget, if you plan to pick a dedicated sewing machine for leather stitching then here are a few parameters to consider.

  • Walking feet like the ones that you use for quilting can make the job easier. Pick a machine that comes with even fabric feeding capacity which also doesn’t stick.
  • Speed control is one of the most important traits that makes a good leather sewing machine. You might be reducing the speed on thick leather and increasing it for thin fabric. To have a versatile leather sewing machine you need something with adjustable speeds to avoid damage to the fabric. This speed control also allows you to make your stitches as strong as possible.
  • Make sure that you understand the type of motor that goes into the machine. Most of the leather sewing machine specification sheets talk about a servo motor or a clutch motor. If it is a clutch motor, pick one that offers good friction on the clutch to prevent slips. This delivers a smooth stitching consistency. In the case of servo motors, programmability is a feature that is good to have if you would be handling large scale leather stitching projects. Most heavy-duty machines come with clutch motors and the quieter ones for hobby leather projects carry the quiet and efficient servo motors.
  • Automation features on the machine also determine its usability. Most beginners look for full automation functions for their first few projects. As you learn to use the various settings in the machine you can slowly use the manual controls on it.

Types Of Leather Sewing Machines Based On Design

The most common type of sewing machine body profile you find in the market is the flat-bed design. This is also the common choice in domestic leather sewing. However, you should know that there are more options in the market intended to create different types of products with leather. Besides flat-bed machines here are the other designs-

  • Cylinder-bed – the base is not flat on this with the fabric going around the column instead of below the foot like in conventional machines. Shoes and cylindrical stitching subjects are easy to handle with this.
  • Long arm machines- these are extended versions of the flat-bed designs. For leather upholstery and other larger fabric projects the extended arm comes handy.
  • Post-bed design- from shoes to bags and automobile accessories, where leather stitching seems tricky, this design is useful. It comes with an extra column height so as to allow higher needle engagement without damaging the folds and turns in fabric.

Sewing Leather With A Regular Sewing Machine

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If you handle a variety of fabric options with leather being a rare addition, then you can often complete your job with a regular sewing machine. Make sure that you own a good sewing machine and also add the right type of foot and needle. Avoid using thick leather fabric in regular machines.

AmericanEuropeanFabric types
860Very fine fabrics (silk, chiffon, organza, voile, lace)
965
1070
1175Light weight fabrics (cotton, heavier silks, synthetics, spandex, lycra)
1280
1490Medium weight fabrics (velvet, fine corduroy, linen, muslin, tricot, knits, fleece)
16100Heavy weight fabrics (denim, leather, canvas, suiting)
18110Very heavy weight fabrics (heavy denim, upholstery fabric, faux fur)
19120
20125Extra heavy fabrics
21130

Use this table to pick the right type of needle when you choose leather fabric stitching on regular sewing machine. Therefore, for any simple leather project you need an American standard Size 16 needle. This can get you through simple leather-based crafting hobbies. If you are looking for an industrial level product of leather goods then you would need a size 20 preferably as the fabric gets heavier. It doesn’t just prevent the needle from breaking but also prevents damaging the leather fabric.

Here are a few other tips to remember when you stitch leather on a home sewing machine-

  • Teflon foot or roller foot can be handy
  • Extend the length of the stitches for leather fabric
  • Polyester threads work well with leather and also last long
  • Use the right presser foot to avoid scratches on fine leather fabric

Related Questions

Can you use a normal sewing machine for leather stitching?

Provided you invest in a good set of accessories you can use a traditional sewing machine for leather. There should be a heavy-duty motor on the machine and it should be made of quality parts to handle thick leather fabric. Without this, stitching leather leads to added strain on the motor and damage on the fabric as well.

What causes missed stitches in leather stitching?

Appropriate needle size can help prevent instances of missed stitches. Sometimes it could also be due to the use of a fragile thread. A slight change in the needle angle can also help tackle the issue sometimes. Finally, the other parameter that you can consider changing is the speed. When the stitching speed is too fast for the thickness of the leather that you handle, there are chances of missing stitches.

Can you use pins on leather fabric?

Avoid using pins to hold leather fabric or templates. This leaves permanent puncture holes on the surface. Instead, use tapes to fasten the fabric or the template in place.

Does leather type determine the requirements of a machine?

The type of foot in the machine and also the needle size all depends on the type of leather used and thickness. For example, vegetable tanned leather looks posh and supple on the outside, however, can be sensitive to handle. These get scuff marks easily and therefore you need the right type of foot on your leather sewing machine. Smooth throat plates are better than those with teeth feed design.

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