Sewing Lesson: Tips for Sewing with Leather

If you’ve ever wanted to start sewing with leather but didn’t know where to start, today I have 6 must-know tips to help you get started.

leather clutch on wood table

I’ve been sewing for a very long time but was always really intimidated by the prospect of working with leather.  I love the professional touch that a bit of leather can add to a project but always assumed that I would not be able to sew with it on my home sewing machine.

Several years ago, I started reading up on the process and realized that it was possible to sew with leather on a home sewing machine.

It will depend a bit on your machine but most machines will be able to handle it. For reference, I sew on a BERNINA 770QE. I have also sewn with leather on older machines that I have owned.

You cannot however just sew with leather the same way that you would sew with regular fabric, there is a bit of a technique involved.

I have not attempted (nor will I probably ever) to make something out of ONLY leather. I prefer instead to use it as an accent. I’ve created several projects using leather accents both for my blog and for BERNINA’s WeAllSew blog. I’ve linked many of them below.

Must Know Tips for Sewing with Leather

If you’re interested in trying to add a bit of leather to your next sewing project here are some tips to get you started.

1. Use a Leather Needle

You need a special needle in your machine to sew through the leather. Leather needles have a special tip that punches through the leather as the machine sews.  The tip on these needles can cause the fabric to snag, so be sure to test it on a scrap of fabric and leather if you’re sewing through both at the same time.   Also, a touch of “sewers aid” on your needle will help the needle glide through the leather.

2. Do Not Pin

Sewing Lesson, How to Sew with Laminate Fabrics on polkadotchair.com

Obviously you can’t pin leather. You’ll leave a hole in it that will be very noticeable in your finished project. Instead, use binding clips or glue to hold the leather in place as you sew.  I use UHU glue with my machine frequently and have never had a problem. If you’re concerned you can use glue specially designed to be used with sewing machines

3. Use Strong Thread

When I first started sewing with leather someone told me to use heavy-duty thread. That never really worked for me and I often didn’t get the result I was wanting. I think it was too heavy. Instead, I always make sure to sew with a good quality polyester thread. Do not use cotton, it won’t be strong enough.  I use the same thread in my bobbin and the top of my machine

4. Use a Teflon Foot

close up of teflon presser foot used for sewing with laminated fabrics

Your standard metal foot may not glide smoothly over the leather. I have a Teflon foot for my machine that I use all the time and love how it glides over leather. Many people have also had great results use a rolling foot.

5. Use Lightweight Leather

I purchase my leather scraps at my local leather store. You can also find them here on Etsy & eBay. I stick with leather that is about the consistency of a leather jacket. Leather is referred to in ounces based on its thickness.  The thicker the leather the harder time you’ll have stitching with it. Try sticking with leather that is less than 3 oz in weight. Speaking of leather jackets, old ones are a great source of leather for your sewing projects

6. Cut it with a Rotary Tool & Ruler

I have not had good luck cutting leather with scissors. Instead, I have a rotary tool that I only use to cut leather.  I use a larger rotary tool for straight lines and a smaller one to cut curves.  Leather will dull the blades of your scissors and rotary tools, so you do not want to use the same tool to cut both.

7 Things to Sew with Leather Accents

7 Projects to Sew with Leather

Sewing with leather does not need to be intimidating. When you're first starting out I recommend using leather as an accent in your project as opposed to sewing an entire project from leather. Here are 5 projects that use "just a bit" of leather and are great if you're just starting out.

You May Also Like:

How to Sew with Laminate Fabrics

Tips for Sewing with Vintage Linens

How to Make Piping

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