Sewing with leather does not have to be tricky when you have the right gear or leather sewing machine on hand. Always sew leather carefully and slowly since it cannot be unpicked without leaving a trail of telltale holes. Make use of other things like roller feet a nylon thread to make your leather sewing project less of a pain. When working with leather, you need to work as precise as possible because there are no do over’s. One wrongly placed stitch will leave a permanent hole in the leather fabric.
You cannot pin leather for the same reason so you will need to use other methods such as clips or double sided tape to secure the leather. Trace your pattern pieces on to the wrong side of the leather fabric and cut using a rotary cutter wherever possible. Use marking pens and tailors chalk instead of transfer paper or marking wheels to transfer markings on to the wrong side of your leather material. Always use a fresh new needle in your machine when sewing with leather.
A needle that is specially designed for leather is best and you should always test your stitches on a scrap piece of leather before working on your actual material. Long stitches are better for leather material because shorter ones will perforate the leather, allowing it to tear later on. Leather has a tendency to stick to the presser foot when sewing. To minimise this you can use a roller foot or place a piece of scotch tape over the bottom of a universal foot to help it glide easily.
What kind of Needle is used to sew Leather?
Sewing with leather is whole different experience compared to sewing with cotton or other material. Leather has more bite and resistance when passing over the machines feed dogs. This is why using the correct needle is extremely important when working with leather. The sewing application you will be performing with leather will determine the type and size of the needle you will need. Leather is generally measured by the ounce and the thickness is gauged by an oz measurement.
The heavier the oz measurement, the thicker the leather will be. Leather does not have a high elasticity percentage and that is why a cutting point needle should be used. Cutting point needles are designated by the letters “DI”, “S”, “LR”, “LL” and “D”. This type of needle has a special shape which is designed to slice and penetrate leather without resistance.
Needles that have a wedge shaped point are ideal for sewing thicker material such as leather sued and vinyl. Be careful when using these needles as they will leave a permanent hole in your fabric and will cause perforation if stitches are stitched too close together.
How do you Stitch Leather?
Check your leather material for any scars, holes or other imperfections. Try to remember that this material was once on the behind of an animal which spent most of its days traipsing around in a field and therefore scars are a random feature. There is no safe way to pin leather using pins because they will leave tiny telltale holes in the leather after you remove them. Use cardboard patterns and trace around these with a piece of tailor chalk or rotary cutter.
Use the correct type of walking or roller foot on your machine and place a piece of scotch bright under the foot to prevent the leather sticking to the presser plate. The proper foot will help keep your leather material in position and give you more control when sewing. Always use a needle that is specifically designed for sewing leather applications. Nylon or polyester thread is the best type of thread to use when sewing leather since thinner cotton thread will perish easily and cause the leather to pull out of shape.
Leather does not hold a sharp crease well and therefore cannot be pressed. Make use of double sided tape or paper clips when you need to hold seams flat. Always sew leather using a longer stitch, short stitches that are close together will perforate the material and cause it to tear.
What Type of wax for Leather Sewing?
Waxed thread is regular thread that has a light coating of wax applied to it. This waxed coating makes the thread stiffer and water or mildew resistant while making it less stretchy. The wax has a tendency to leave a waxy residue on your sewing machine which can melt when exposed to warm temperatures. This could leave you with fatty marks on your material and is more useful for hand sewing. Waxed thread is typically used when you want the stitches to stand out or be the focal point of your project.
For this use you should use the thickest waxed thread available because thread visibility increases with the thread size. A wax coating makes thread look darker but overtime the wax will wear off and the stitching will become lighter. It is ideal for hand stitching that needs to be fine and straight. Taxidermy, leather work, shoe repairs and preparing the decease are all perfect examples of where waxed thread is useful.
Remember that if the waxed thread is too thick, the material will tear while the stitches remain intact. Thicker thread will mean using a bigger needle which will make large holes in your fabric and it will be more difficult to push the needle through the fabric. The strength of waxed thread is rarely a factor since all sizes have roughly the same amount of strength necessary for a variety of applications. The thicker your thread, the more your stitches will stand out.
What is a Leather Sewing Awl?
An awl is a tool which is used to make holes in a variety of materials which can then be stitched. It can be used to enlarge existing holes that are already present in the fabric. An awl has a thin, tapered metal shaft which ends in a sharp point which can be straight or slightly bent. They usually have an eye piercing at the pointed end through which thread can be fed.
Sewing awls are used to make lockstitches and are used by shoe repairmen and other leather workers. The needle, with the thread is pushed through the leather. The thread is then pulled through the eye to extend it. Using a leather sewing awl to sew leather is a sure fire way to make sure your stitches are neat, tidy and evenly spaced.
Stitching leather can be a daunting experience that rewards you with fantastic results. The main thing to remember when working with leather is that it is tough and resistant but can be easily ruined if handled incorrectly. Handle leather with care and you will get satisfying end results each and every time.