Tips and Tricks for Sewing with Leather

comments (0) June 17th, 2008     

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Shannon_Dennis Shannon Dennis, contributor
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Leather is so much fun to work on, and if you set up your machine properly, it’s easy, too. 
 Leather needles cut into the fabric instead of piercing it, allowing for a more consistent and complete stitch.
Leather is so much fun to work on, and if you set up your machine properly, it’s easy, too. 

Leather is so much fun to work on, and if you set up your machine properly, it’s easy, too. 

Photo: Courtesy of Bombus Design/Flickr

The first thing to do when working with a leather project is determine if the leather is real. Pleather is a very common faux fabric created to have the same texture and some of the features of real leather. The quickest way to tell them apart is to give them a little tug. If the hide stretches it is pleather, if it does not stretch it is leather. Another way to determine if you’re dealing with the real thing is to look at the backside of the piece. Real leather is fairly thick with a suede-like backside. Pleather most often has a fleece like backing and is much thinner.

Once you've determined that you are working with the real deal, be sure to use a leather needle. It is also a good idea to increase your stitch length by a few millimeters. This will ensure that your stitching will actually hold your hide pieces together and not just perforate them.

Next, ease up on your presser-foot pressure as well as your thread tension. Lightening your presser-foot pressure will keep the thick hide feeding through your machine easily and prevent it from getting caught. Decreasing the thread tension on your machine will keep the thread flowing through your machine with less pressure so that the thread can move smoothly through the machine, needle, and fabric. Make sure you are using a heavy thread—such as topstitching thread—so your seam is extra durable.

Finally, do not use pins to hold your seams together. This is one of the trickiest parts of working with leather. Here are a few solutions if you really need your seams “pinned” before you sew:

  • Use safety pins to hold the hide together. Do not sew over them.
  • Use a quick-drying, secure glue, and tack the seams together. Be sure to use the glue in places where it won’t be seen. I recommend that you use glue only within the seam allowance.
  • If you really need to pin, pin only in the seam allowance, as the holes made by the pins are permanent and will not come out of the hide. Holes will also weaken the hide where it is pierced, so if you keep them within the allowance you should be OK.

There is a big advantage to working with leather, too: it doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to finish any seams.



posted in: leather, tips, tricks

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