Quick Tips for Embroidering on Leathercomments (4) May 14th, 2008
When you embroider on leather, it acts like a stable knit would: it stretches, and you can’t hoop it without causing some sort of hoop burn or marks, or worse, you could crack your hoop! When leather is produced for the garment and home-décor industry, it is treated with a many of chemicals and dyes. The end results vary. When choosing leather to embroider on, it’s best to stay away from those that have a shiny, crisp finish. They tend to be a pain to work with because the thread can shred and break.
Soft, supple suede and leather is easy on the needle but tends to be stretchy. I prefer to apply a fusible mesh to the back of the area that I’m going to embroider. Most leather can tolerate a moderately hot iron with no steam (always test a scrap first!).
Fusible mesh is nice to work with because it doesn’t add stiffness to the embroidered area, and it can be easily trimmed away from the outer edge of the embroidery afterward.
Depending on the density of the embroidery designs that you are working with, you may need several layers of stabilizer. Fusible mesh comes in a non-fusible variety, sometimes called sheer, or no-show mesh. Securely hoop the no-show mesh, and use a temporary adhesive spray to stick the leather backed with fusible mesh into the hoop (this eliminates the need to hoop the leather).
As far as the needle goes, I almost always use a metallica needle. Typically, they are used with metallic threads because they have an enormous hole! Even when I am working with leather, they usually do the trick. If the thread still breaks and shreds, try treating the spool of thread with Sewers’ Aid, a clear silicone lubricant (just run a few beads of it down the length of the spool). Sometimes, it also helps to use your vertical spool pin as well (if you are still having tension issues or thread breakages, try switching to a leather needle).
As a last note about needles, bigger is not always better. Try to use the smallest needle possible: the bigger the needle, the bigger the hole you are making in your leather. A large needle can cause perforation and unsightly visible holes.
As you start to stitch out the embroidery design, watch carefully for puckers or other distortion in the leather. You can always stop your machine and slide another piece of mesh stabilizer underneath the hoop.