9 Tips for Sewing Leather

Have you noticed how popular leather is this season? Of course, leather is always a popular choice for fall and winter outerwear, but, this year, I've seen it incorporated into all types of everyday clothing, from skirts and pants to dresses and shirts. I love seeing it on sleeves, peplums and on the trendy moto jacket. Most of what is used, surprisingly, is not real but boy it sure looks real. Leather and faux leather feels great and believe it or not, sewing with either of them is a cinch.

Close Up on Sewing Leather on MachinePhoto via Craftsy instructor Don Morin

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Whether looking for real or faux leather, the options out there are extensive. The real stuff, if you stick with the lightweight versions (no more than the 3 oz. variety), won’t strain your home sewing machine and won’t require serious leather sewing tools. When it comes to using the faux versions, again, stick with the lightweight varieties. They perform very much like regular fabric and are surprisingly easy to work with. In either case, your sewing methods and techniques are a bit different. Not difficult, but different.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when sewing with leather:

1. First and foremost, remember there are no do-overs when sewing with leather.

Every stitch leaves a permanent hole, so do all your fitting beforehand.

2. Pins will leave permanent holes in real or faux leathers, so they are pretty much out of the question unless you stick to using them only within seam allowances.

Instead, consider regular paper clips, binder clips, invisible tape, hair clips, or you can invest in special clips sold at fabric stores designed for quilting but work equally well for leather.

Leather Hanging by Clips

3. Cut out pattern pieces one layer at a time.

I prefer to trace my pattern pieces on the wrong side and use a rotary cutter for most of the cutting.

4. If you are using patterns, be sure to transfer all markings on the wrong side of the fabric.

Stay away from traditional transfer paper and marking wheels, and consider marking pens or tailor's chalk.

5. Because the raw edges of leather will not fray, no added seam finishes are necessary.

Raw seam edges can remain unfinished or can be exposed for a great organic look.

Taped Seam in Leather Pieces

6. There are many seam options that can be considered.

Lapped seams, faux flat fell seams, single or double topstitched or just plain seams can all be used with real or faux leather. It all depends on the type of look you are going for in your project. If using plain seams, glue the seam allowances down with leather adhesive and use a wallpaper roller to seal them shut.

Using Wallpaper Roller to Seal Seams

7. Use a fresh, new needle in your sewing machine whether using real or faux leather.

Select one that is designed specifically for leather. You might also enjoy our post How to Choose Sewing Machine Needles.

8. Place a small piece of Scotch tape over the bottom of a universal foot so it glides easily over the leather.

Leather has a tendency to stick to the throat plate and/or presser foot when sewing, so use either a roller foot or a Teflon foot, or you can simply place a small piece of Scotch tape over the bottom of a universal foot so it glides easily over the leather. And, use a longer stitch length for a strong and secure seam.

9. And, lastly, test first!

Test all your stitches on a scrap of leather. Better to be safe than sorry.

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24 Comments

patternpile.com

Also unless you are using a machine specifically designed & built for sewing leather or vinyl etc… Use either a Teflon foot, or, some clear tape adhered to the bottom of your existing sewing machine foot to prevent it from sticking or grabbing.

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patternpile.com

Oops I don’t know how but I missed exactly what I was looking for in #8. My bad. Thanks for the excellent info!

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Tania Fasher

does anyone know the best place to buy leather to make a leather dress in NZ/ I need an unusual colour ‘Pea Green’ which is quite vibrant and I am going to embroider on it so I want a thin quality lamb skin for this.

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Frank B.

Hi Tania …
“Pea Green” … I was down at my local leather supplier and he’s just brought in over 10,000 feet of lambskin in assorted colors. I believe they may just have what you’re looking for. You can try reaching out to Buckskin Leather Company via their US/Canada Toll free number 1-888-723-0806 and for pricing you can check out their website at https://www.buckskinleather.com/leather-price-list/.

Good luck and hope you find what you are looking for!

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Tania Fasher

does anyone know the best place to buy leather to make a leather dress in NZ/ I need an unusual colour ‘Pea Green’ which is quite vibrant and I am going to embroider on it so I want a thin quality lamb skin for this.

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Tania Fasher

does anyone know the best place to buy leather to make a leather dress in NZ/ I need an unusual colour ‘Pea Green’ which is quite vibrant and I am going to embroider on it so I want a thin quality lamb skin for this.

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Patty

Hi! Great post! I was wondering, what is the seam allowance that you used to sew the leather?

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Linda Reynolds

you can use whatever seam allowance you want but if using a commercial pattern stick to the 5/8″ standard or adjust accordingly.

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charlie

just saying hello first time visit hope to learn some new techniques.

thanks

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Linda Reynolds

Hello to you as well. Thanks for reading the post. Hope you liked it. I have plenty more for you to enjoy.

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Mark

Just starting out is kinda fun. Like to sew by hand takes up alot of time.

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Stacy Strickland

Any info on cleaning? Incorporating faux leather to a dress that I planned to have dry cleaned – but care instructions for the faux leather state: “wipe with damp cloth” – ?? Not sure what to do about that! Thanks for the information – very helpful!

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Dina

Hi, I’m trying to repair join stitching on 2 faux leather furniture pieces by hand.
Could you please advise what type of needle I should use?
Thanks

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Ada Dueitt

I am looking for an experienced leather sewer in Houston/Houston area who can sew a leather handbag to join a newly established business. Wish to bring this industry back to the U.S. versus manufacturing in a foreign country.

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Naz

I have to use Lamb nappa and add quilt stitch for shoulder pads. Is there some kind of adhesive paper or thin paper i can draw the lines on and place that on pad, stitch it and then rip the paper off. Very difficult to know what pen to use as its a soft leather, currently having to use gel pen.

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Heidi

I don’t know if it would work or not for what you are trying to do, but when I’m hand quilting I’ll use waxed paper for whatever design I’m making. So much cheaper and since it’s semi-transparent you can see if it’s doing what it’s supposed to!

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Josefina

Is it best to use lining for faux leather? Instead of using scotch tape, can I use wax or parchment paper for it to stitch evenly. I don’t have a roller, so can I use my hot iron and place a piece of fabric on top of the faux leather and iron it flat and then top stitch the seam? Thank you

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Karen

Hi i have a lot of questions, this is my first time sewing with pleather. it calls for using interfacing , do i have to use interfacing? Does pleather have a nap? I am using a light weight pleather.I am making a doublet an i am a little nervous , i don’t want mess up the material. thanks i could use your help.

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Alan Smith

I have a Janome sewing machine, which I’ve had for years. I am trying to sew leather with it (soft stuff off an old sofa) but the machine is not doing what it’s supposed to do. I have a roller foot and leather needles, but still the machine clogs after the first stitch. The needle tries to pull up the leather through the foot (It seems to be piercing OK, but when the needle is withdrawn, the leather seems to be sticking to the needle). I tried making the tension on the foot as hard as possible, but still, when the needle is on the up-stroke, it still tries to lift the leather and pulls up the foot. I don’t want to spray the leather with any silicone or any other type of reader suggestions. I tried making the stitch length much longer, but still the same problem. I don’t want to revert to hand stitching, nor do I want to buy an industrial machine for a few experiments. Has anyone any ideas as to what is going wrong, or what I am doing wrong? I am using 100% rayon. I have also tried cotton, but get the same results. All suggestions, other than what I have already tried, are welcome.

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Alan Smith

OK, cancel that last post. I found out that the thread was too thick. Even though it was rayon, I should have chosen a lighter thread, as the thread was not fitting into the groove of the needle, causing it to jam in the leather and pull up the leather. I use a lighter rayon thread now and it works perfectly. A little trial and error, but I got there in the end. I tried it first without the thread and it was OK, so, just a matter of deduction.

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Emily

What type of thread is best? I see the last post says a lighter rayon, but I’m afraid to mess up the leather since there aren’t any redos!!!! Lightweight leather and wool together. Older Viking machine. Thoughts?

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