Working with leathers is much the same as sewing textile fabrics. Many of the same sewing techniques that you use in sewing cloth can be used when sewing leather… with a few easy modifications.
Changing the sewing machine needle is the first step to prepare for sewing most leathers. Ideal for sewing natural leather, suede, buckskin, use a leather sewing machine needle (Wedge Point 14/90 or 16/100), which has a slight cutting point (almost like an arrowhead) and a larger eye to accommodate thick heavy-duty thread. Use a longer stitch length to prevent perforation of the hide and slightly “looser” tension for using heavy-duty synthetic thread when sewing leather.
Next, change the presser foot. I prefer a Dual Even Feed foot (aka walking foot) that “walks” over the leather to assist with keeping layers feeding at the same rate. With this foot attachment, leather can be sewn without shifting or puckering since the leather is gripped and fed by both upper and lower feed teeth.
Or you may use a Roller Foot (aka roller guide) for leather, suede, synthetics for more control and less friction. Perfect for all sewers and DIY-ers when you need to feed the fabric or layers perfectly. The metal roller will not imprint the leather.
The last option, can be a Teflon® foot (aka non-stick foot). The Teflon® foot is designed to prevent fabrics such as leather and vinyl, plastic, suedes and Ultrasuede® from sticking to the bottom of the foot and to the foot plate of the sewing machine. It is made of or coated with Teflon®, a material well-known for its non-stick properties and allows leather to glide right under the foot. The foot unlike other sewing machine feet has a distinctive look; like that of a white plastic material which prevents drag.
Another method to prevent drag or friction when sewing leathers is to lightly spray the foot plate of your machine with a silicone spray. A light coat will aid the leather hide not to stick to your working surface.
Here are some other specialty items to have in your sewing kit when working with leather:
- rotary cutter (45 mm dia.) and mat – to cut leather hides
- razor/scalpel knife – to spot-cut leather
- metal ruler with cork backing – for use with rotary cutter and measuring
- awl – to score leather and make stitching holes
- double-sided mounting tape (6mm wide) – to adhere leather pieces together
- cold rubber tape (10mm wide) – to “stay” leather edges
- rubber cement glue – to adhere leather pieces
- glover’s hand-sewing needles (#5-7-9) – to hand-stitch leather
- leather (wedge 60) sewing machine needles – to machine-stitch leather
- alligator clips – replacement for dressmaker’s pins
- nylon seam brayer – to “press” leather seams
- rawhide mallet – to “press” leather seams flat
- hole punch (4 mm dia) – to make holes
- wax chalk(s) – to mark leather
- skiver – used to bevel leather edges
click on image to magnify