>> Sewing With Leather
Sewing With Leather
Sewing leather and fur do not differ too much from sewing other
types of material. The key to sewing leather is to always try
your stitch on a piece of scrap before you start the actually
sewing and then make sure you have your pattern accurate for the
piece you will be sewing. The reason this is so crucial is that
once you have stitched leather, if you make a mistake and need
to undo the stitch, the leather will be weakened and you will
be left with holes.
Another tip is that depending on the thickness of the leather
or fur, you want to lengthen your stitch to three or more. Obviously,
the thicker the seam will be, the longer you need to make the
length of the stitch. If you make your stitch too small, what
happens is that the leather is punctured too close together, causing
Another important tip is that you should always leave long threads
at both the start and end of the seams so you can tie them off
by hand. The only time you would use a backstitch is when the
seam will be encased or crossed over by another seam. You can
keep the seams together simply by placing a very small, strong
in the seam allowance when sewing.
As you work with patterns, you will discover that leather garments
have the same interfacing in the same locations just as you would
find with other types of material. If you need to fuse your leather,
an excellent product on the market called Leather Fuse is made
specifically for leather. With this solution, the leather is fused
quicker and at lower temperature settings, as not to damage the
Now keep in mind that if you need to press an area of a pattern
down, you can by using a small amount of steam. Since leather
goes through a quality tanning process, there is no need to worry
about shrinkage. Just be sure you place a brown paper press cloth
in between the iron and the leather and never leave the iron sitting
on the leather for very long.
If you have leather with thick spots, you can use a rubber mallet
to pound them out. However, you will need to protect the leather
by covering it with paper or cloth to ensure you do not scratch
or dent the leather.
If you want to create a leather garment that is more casual,
you can use lapped seams. Simply topstitch to hold the seam allowance
and then with a single-hole throat plate, you can stitch, which
will keep the stitching nice and straight.
As you stitch the leather garment, you might experience skipped
stitches. If this happens, do not stop stitching, just keep going.
What you want to do is when you have finished all the machine
stitching, go back, and stitch over those skipped areas by hand.
Start by anchoring the needle between the layers of the garment
and then bring it up through the first skipped hole.
Now, pass the needle over the thread of the floating thread that
was skipped and then pull the needle back through the hole. Be
sure you pull the stitch tight and do this for each skipped stitch.
This way, you keep the integrity of the machine stitching in tact
while providing reinforcement.
If you are interested in making leather clothing, crafts, or
upholstery, you will need specific items that include the following:
Presser Foot leather needle for the machine and
Glover’s needle for hand stitching
Thread that is 100% polyester – do not use cotton or cotton
blend because the chemicals in the leather from the tanning will
cause the thread to rot
* Rubber cement or two-sided adhesive tape
* Rotary cutter to cut clean edges
* Wax chalk to use for marking
* Cold tape
* Rubber mallet
When sewing leather, you do not need a special pattern. You can
simply choose a fabric pattern that you like and use leather instead
of other fabric. Just be sure you choose the pattern carefully
since some patterns will have multiple seams that do not work
well with leather.
Additionally, if the pattern has large pieces, chances are you
will have to do some custom work in that the leather pieces will
probably not be as large as the pattern. For example, if you were
sewing a pair of pants, you would have to piece two hides of leather
to create one pant leg. Now this can be done but just keep in
mind that depending on the pattern you choose, you might need
to get creative with your sewing.
Always keep in mind that when sewing leather, muslin is crucial.
The reason is that once leather has been stitched, letting out
seams or making alterations is very difficult since the original
needle hole will still be visible. By using muslin, once the alterations
are complete, you can take it apart and then create a new pattern
using a heavy type paper.
Sewing leather is not really that difficult but most people feel
a little uncomfortable with it. If you want to create something
using leather, you can always start with a small project first.
Rather than starting out with a pair of pants or shirt, choose
a simpler pattern such as a sleeveless vest. Once you have accomplished
that, you will feel more confident and be ready to try making
something a little more involved.
When sewing with leather, choosing the right skin is very important.
Be sure the leather is soft and supple. Each type of skin will
vary somewhat as you will see below.
Since this type of hide is typically large, you will find that
they are most often divided in two pieces called Sides. Because
the hides are so large, they make a great choice for many patterns.
The only drawback is that cowhide is tough by nature and therefore
best suited for outerwear.
Pigskin is another type of leather that is typically found in
larger pieces. With the leather being a good medium weight, this
makes a great choice for many pattern types.
For lambskin, the leather is smaller and therefore is best used
with smaller patterns. Because the leather is very soft and lightweight,
this makes a great choice for skirts, jackets, and tops. The only
thing you need to remember is that because lambskin is lightweight
and thinner, it can tear and rip so use care when using it for
You will find that skins sold for sewing are pre-measured and
sold by the square foot. For price, it will depend on the type
of skin you choose as well as the tanning process used. Typically,
a supplier will lay out a number of skins, sorting by color, texture,
and size. If you visit a supplier in person, you will be able
to choose leather skins that match best.
Additionally, when buying in person, you have the opportunity
to look for damage caused by thin spots, tears, holds, folds,
flaws, and so on. If you do buy from an online supplier, chances
are you will receive quality leather. However, just to be on the
safe side, it would be best to always buy from a supplier that
offers a refund on uncut skin should you find it does not match
or is damaged.
If you are not sure how much leather to buy, you can use the
following formula to convert the traditional 45-inch fabric measurement:
Take the yardage required for the pattern and multiply it by
1.25 Then, add 15% for waste. If you are not sure you are buying
enough, ask the supplier what their rule of thumb is.
Cutting / Marking
The way leather works is that the grain runs along the backbone
of a skin. If you buy whole skins, you will find this grain running
in the center of the skin. If buying a side piece of leather,
then the grain would be located on the cut edge.
It is important to remember that the lengthwise grain of leather
is not the same as with other fabric. For one, it will not stretch
as much but it will be stronger. Therefore, be sure you always
place the center fronts and backs along the grain. When you lay
out your pattern, be sure you work with the finished side of the
skin, facing up.
By using masking tape as a way of attaching the pattern pieces,
you avoid poking unnecessary holes in the skin. Then with a rotary
cutter, you will get a nice, clean edge. Just be sure you do not
leave the masking tape on the skin for very long, as it can take
off some of the finish.
For the markings, they can be transferred easily. For instance,
for the notches and darts, clip very tiny pieces into the seam
allowance. Then to mark the hem allowances, darts, pockets, buttonholes,
and so on, simply use wax chalk, testing it first on a piece of
The dart points should be marked on the wrong side of the skin,
piercing the pattern with a pin. Be careful that the pin does
not go through the leather skin or you will have an unwanted hole.
Now, gently lift up the pattern, make your marks with the chalk,
and then draw the dart line for stitching with chalk and a ruler.
If you are working with a soft type of leather, you can use an
invisible zipper to create a clean look. Just be sure you use
a narrow piece of fusible interfacing as a way of securing the
zipper. Rather than baste seams closed, you can tape them together
and then just baste the zipper using rubber cement before you
do the topstitching.
Another great idea for leather is to use covered buttons. Often,
by using an exposed button, the leather can be scratched. Choose
a metal toothed button so that as you stretch it over the skin,
it will grip and hold. Then to sew the buttons on, you can use
dental floss, which will stop the button’s metal shank from
cutting through regular thread.
Once you have completed your first leather sewing project, you
will be amazed at how fun and easy it is. The key to success is
working with the right type of skin, using the right type of tools,
and taking your time so holes and tears are avoided.
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