How to Sew Leather on a Home Sewing Machine

Sewing clothes is an awesome hobby that keeps you busy for long. Fabrics like cotton, linen, satin and flannel etc. are easy to sew in the regular sewing machines but ever wondered how to sew leather in your home machine? Leather is a little challenging to sew on a standard machine but we are here to simplify things for you. With the below tips and tricks, you will be able to craft your leather pants, caps or anything successfully.

You don’t need any expensive special machine to sew leather but these tips will work just fine for the thick leather used to make shoes straps and accessories. Collect these tools before starting to sew:

Tools required

  • A sewing machine
  • Leather material
  • Matching thread
  • Paper clips
  • Leather needle
  • Iron and pressing cloth
  • Ironing surface

Select the leather material

Depending on the item you want to make, choose the appropriate piece of leather. Close fitted apparels need thinner leather whereas coats or blazers will need thicker and durable leather. When you choose, keep a close check on the stretch factor to accommodate the design.

Leather needle

When sewing leather on a home sewing machine, you got to buy the needle specially made for leather. Install the needle in the machine before sewing and ensure that the needle is large enough to move in and out of the leather piece smoothly. Since the large needle allows the thread to go in the deep layers of the leather, you should definitely prep your machine with this needle.

Look for the needle at the local craft or sewing store. They are available in different sizes like 100/16 and the end of the needle is in spear shape. This shape allows the needle to pierce cleanly through the fabric and once you are done with one project, changing the needle would be good to ensure fine results.

Thread type

The type of thread to sew leather is different from the regular one. Each fabric has different properties and because leather is thick, the thread should be according to that. Nylon thread is suggested for thick leather whereas for thinner leather, all purpose polyester coated thread works wonders. It is usually fine to sew leather with polyester thread but never use cotton thread as it is not that effective. With time, the cotton thread tends to lose its control over leather due to the tannins and the apparel gets ruined.

Slow sewing

Don’t rush into things! The basic mantra to sew leather is to go slow with the power of your machine. Sewing through the leather can be an annoying experience if any of the things go wrong like thread, needle or machine power. Thick seams may be difficult on the home machine so make sure to keep the leather straight and hammer the stitches for a smooth finish. Because the edge of the leather material is thick, it might be hard to stitch it so you can place a folded fabric at the back of presser foot to let things start easily.

No to pins, yes to clips

Leather is a fabric that is very easy to take holes and they look really bad. As in the other projects, pins are used to secure the fabric roughly before sewing, you cannot use pins in leather. Pins leave holes making it difficult to make the stitches afterwards. So once you are 100% sure of where to sew the material, only then sew it. Also, avoid using pins and get your hands on paper clips or bobby pins as they are most suitable. Although they are not as good as pins, at least they don’t leave any permanent holes.

To hold the layers together, use clips and make sure they don’t have any sharp edges to cut the leather. Before tying the fabric, check the pins on a rough piece to see if it’s good enough.

Double sided tape

Alternatively, double sided tape is a good idea instead of clips. This tape is quite sticky to hold the layers together and also it can be perfectly used in long, short, trimmed or medium pieces. Holding the fabric with tape is a wonderful idea but use it a few centimetres away from the stitching line or else the needle will catch it while sewing and the tape will hamper the performance of your machine.

Slide on

The presser foot automatically sticks to the leather instead of sliding over it for sewing. It is natural because leather is sticky so to avoid this issue, you should buy a Teflon foot to fit your sewing machine. On the other hand, if you want to save these bucks, better placing a washi tape or clear adhesive tape on the bottom of zigzag foot and see how the foot slides over easily.

Tension test

Few machines adjust the thread tension automatically to deliver fine results but if your machine doesn’t, you have to check it midway. The purpose of sewing machine is to provide the stitched finished clothes without showing any seams or stitches to the user. So the threads should hold the leather perfectly without displaying any seams and for that, you have to test the tension. Once you are done sewing one side, take it off the machine, press it and check if the threads are visible.

Iron gently

Yet another important thing to do is iron the leather to remove wrinkles. Never ever iron it directly as you will end up ruining the ironing unit and the leather piece as well. Use a cotton or linen cloth and place it over the leather to press with a medium-heat iron. Remove the top cloth and you will see all the wrinkles are gone making the leather look clean and tidy.

Hammer it

Leather is heavy and has height which can be reduced by hammering it. Once you are done with the clipping the layers together, hammer the leather to make it easy to sew through. Also, for topstitched seams, hammering works great but make sure to cover the piece with some cloth. Or else the hammer will leave marks or scratches permanently on the leather.

Topstitch

Leather sewing is interesting because the edges don’t need special finishing. But topstitching the seams is suggested so as to make the leather look flat and not bulky. Trim the seam allowance of the side before you topstitch it as doing that the sides will be covered. Also, you should hammer the seams so they appear smooth much while sewing.

Lengthen the stitch

As already mentioned leather is sticky and doesn’t slide over quickly through the machine. So in that case, we recommend using long stitches so that the material gets sewed quickly without getting stuck. Use a stitch length longer than you normally use for regular clothes but don’t use too long stitches as they look non professional. As you make the length longer, the machine will pull out more leather fast and you will get the results soon. The longest stitch length is 4 but varies from machine to machine – keep the length at least 3-4mm while sewing leather or else the short stitches cause the leather to tear.

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