Learn to Sew Leather

Sewing leather

Leather is a tough, durable fabric that can lend an exotic air to your wardrobe. It is, however, very expensive to purchase. A more economical option is to buy "skins" of leather and sew your own clothing. There are a few pointers and sewing techniques to keep in mind when sewing leather, but overall, it's not as difficult as you may think. 

Here's how to sew leather clothes and accessories.

  1. Most sewing machines can easily sew lightweight and midweight leathers. You will need just a few special sewing supplies.
    • A leather needle for your sewing machine. Ordinary needles will break very easily if you try to use them on leather. Also, leather needles are very sharp, so they can pierce the leather more quickly.
    • Polyester thread. Cotton thread isn't strong enough to hold pieces of leather together. Polyester thread will provide more strength and be more durable.
    • Two-sided leather tape. You won't be able to pin patterns to pieces of leather or baste seams without leaving holes in the leather. Leather tape is a safe option that won't damage the fabric.
    • Rotary cutter. Scissors will leave unsightly, rough edges. Rotary cutters cut smoothly and neatly.
    • Leather presser foot for your sewing machine. A leather presser foot will secure the leather as you sew, without scraping or marking the pieces.
  2. Now, you'll need to choose pieces of leather for your project. There are four main types of skins:

    Cowskin: This is the heaviest type of leather, which makes it better for clothing that requires very little drape, such as coats and pants.

    Pigskin: This is a mid weight leather and is more versatile than cowskin, but it has large pores and doesn't come in large pieces, as cowskin does.

    Lambskin: This leather is very delicate and lightweight. It comes in relatively small pieces. It is not as durable as cowskin and pigskin.

    Snakeskin: Snakeskin is very fragile and is not suitable for most clothing. It can, however, be used for purses and belts.

    When you go to a leather shop to choose skins, be careful to choose pieces which have the same finish and are the same shade. Most leather pieces are measured in square feet, as opposed to other fabrics, which are normally measured in yards of 45" wide material. You may also want to consider suede or synthetic leather, which can provide a similar look at a much lower price.

  3. Now that you have your materials, you can begin constructing your leather garment -- almost! Because you can't go back and rip out sections that were measured incorrectly without leaving ugly pinholes, it's a good idea to make a sample of your project first, using an inexpensive cotton material. Make any necessary adjustments to the pattern, then carefully take the pieces apart and use them as patterns to cut the leather. Tape the pattern using two-sided leather tape and cut them out with a rotary cutter. If you're more comfortable marking the pattern on the leather, use an easily removable writing medium, such as chalk.
  4. Once you're ready to sew the pieces of your pattern together, use a fairly long stitch. If you use too small of a stitch, it will create a perforating effect on the leather, which can make it tear easily. If your sewing machine skips a stitch, finish the seam, then go back and mend the skipped area by hand. Always knot thread at the beginning and end of seams, rather than back stitching, which will make unnecessary holes in the leather.
  5. After you've completed your garment, you'll probably want to line it with another fabric to make it more comfortable. Linings are sewn in just like you would a lining in a fabric garment, but remember to use leather tape instead of pins to temporarily secure seams.

You can learn to sew leather with these simple sewing tips. Once you're done, your one-of-a-kind leather garment will be complete! Take care of it properly by having it dry-cleaned regularly and preventing it from getting excessively wet.


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