Hand Sewing Leather Techniques

hand sewing leather

Have an itch to make something with a rock ‘n roll vibe? Hand sewing leather techniques can seem a bit daunting, but with some special tools and a little patience you’ll be whipping up leather goods like it’s no big deal. Enjoy these great tips below for hand sewing leather.

If you’d prefer to sew leather with a machine, make your own leather tote in Don Morin’s online class Making Leather Bags.

When hand sewing leather, you will need a leather sewing needle (stronger and longer than most hand sewing needles) and waxed thread (you can buy already waxed thread or do it yourself with a little beeswax). Depending on the thickness of your leather, you might need heavy-duty scissors. A box cutter will also work, but might not be the safest option for your fingers if you are cutting out curved pattern pieces.

Use pattern weights to keep your pattern in place while you cut (straight pins will be no help to you!).

To begin sewing, measure and mark your leather where the holes will be. The tougher the leather, the further apart your holes can be. Be sure to keep the holes small; this will help with durability.

Once you have the holes marked, you can create guide holes using an awl or leather punch. Be sure to place a board underneath the leather to protect the surface you are working on (unless you don’t mind a few extra holes in your table.) If you don’t have an awl or leather punch on hand, you can also use pliers to guide the needle through the leather. If you are working with a soft leather such as suede, you should be able to sew directly through the leather without creating guide holes. Either way, measuring and marking the holes in advance will help keep your stitches even.

Since you can’t easily use straight pins to keep the leather in one place as you sew, try using binder clips to keep things stable. You can also use rubber cement or glue on your seams before sewing; you’ll need to let the glue dry completely before stitching and you’ll want to be careful not to let glue seep through the guide holes you’ve made. Tape is another option, but might leave residue on the leather.

Try sewing with a whipstitch or a running stitch. You can also try using a running stitch first and then whipstitch around the edges for added stability. Also make sure that you are sewing wide seams.

If you find that your thread is not going through the leather very easily, you may need to add more beeswax (even if you are working with thread that came waxed).

You might need to protect your hands by using a thimble or wearing gloves.

To set the seams (ironing is not a good idea), place your item between two boards in a vise or under some heavy books. You can also use a rubber mallet.

Have you worked with leather before? Let me know in the comments!

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for a great book giveaway!


gillian Sutherland

Years ago I made things in leather, and found it very hard work (although the end result was worth it). I found that a layer of thick leather scrap was useful when pushing the needle through the holes – it became an ersatz thimble, ### protector(of my leg! – I used it, unwisely, as I found a table awkward)Beeswax is definitely a necessary tool, and latex glue is handy if you want a quick option – my nursing surgery and medicine text book was useful there – it was the kind of book you could throw at a burglar, sure in the knowledge that he would be knocked out long enough to call and wait for the police! No seam dare remain unsealed after that hefty tome had sat on it, that’s for sure. Bulldog clips – the type which clasp and fold down the handles to extend the hold – are excellent for keeping a keen grip instead of pins – don’t forget, though, to protect the surface between the clips by using a scrap of fabric or folded tissue. Sharp leather needles – glovers needles also work well, especially when sewing lighter leather such as kid leather, as they are easy to handle. Saddle stitching, especially on heavier leather is the best method, although whip stitching the edges is excellent as a reinforcement.

Nicole Montgrain

I find leather tough to work with. Thanks for sharing

Lynette Richardson

I have done some leather work and I am in the process of a pattern for a purse.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>