Sewing Leather on a Home Sewing Machine

Posted on 02 November 2017

Have you ever tried sewing with leather? It may sound impossible, but we're here to tell you it's totally doable!

Leather sewing projects have always been our jam here at Brooklyn Craft Company. Our Sew A Leather Tote workshop is one of our longest-running and most popular classes, and we've taught hundreds of people how easy it can be to sew a chic bag on a standard home sewing machine. In fact, our leather tote sewing class has been so popular that we're thrilled to now offer it as a kit so that you can sew your own leather tote at home no matter where you live!

(Shop our Sew A Leather Tote KIT here!)


One of the most common questions we get asked is, "Can you really sew leather on a home sewing machine?" And the answer is YES!

Any good-quality home sewing machine should be able to handle leather; you just need to make a few simple modifications to get your machine leather-ready. Read on to learn how to sew leather on a home sewing machine! 



1. CHANGE YOUR PRESSER FOOT: A regular presser foot will stick to leather, preventing the leather from feeding correctly through the machine. The good news is, there's a quick fix for this: simply change out your regular presser foot for a roller foot or a teflon foot, both of which glide easily over leather. 

2. CHANGE YOUR NEEDLE: Replace your regular needle with a leather needle -- a heavy-duty needle with a special tip that’s made to easily pierce leather. (Just look for a pack of needles labeled “leather.”) And PS: don’t be surprised if you break a needle while sewing thick areas, so be sure to have extras on hand.


3. CHANGE YOUR STITCH LENGTH: Use a longer-than-normal stitch when sewing leather; we use about a 3.5. You can use any stitch length in the general range of longer than a normal stitch but shorter than a basting stitch.


4. USE THE RIGHT THREAD: Never use cotton thread when sewing leather, as the tanins in the leather will erode the thread over time. Instead, use polyester or nylon. You may want to use heavy-duty top-stitching thread; it’s not necessary, but leather does look nice when stitched with heavier thread. 


5. TAPE, DON’T PIN: Pins should never be used in leather, as they’ll leave a permanent hole. Instead, hold pieces in place before sewing by taping them together with double-sided tape. (We prefer the double-sided tape that comes in a dispenser like the one above.) Simply apply a line of tape between the two pieces of leather you want to sew, placing the tape along the edge of your leather, within what will be the seam allowance. Then sew your seam, and the tape will remain inside the seam allowance (no need to try to remove it). Believe it or not, this is a standard leather construction method, and if you could peek inside the seams of commercially-made leather goods, you would likely find tape or glue in the seam allowances.


6. ALWAYS TEST FIRST: Sewing leather can be unforgiving; any stitches you sew will leave a permanent mark, so it's not always as easy to fix mistakes as sewing with fabric. For this reason, be sure to use scrap leather to test your thread, stitch length, tension, and general performance of your machine to make sure you’re on the right track before beginning your actual project. 


7. PLAN WELL: Most home sewing machines can't handle sewing through a lot of layers of leather, so choose simple projects without a lot of detail or bulky areas. Our leather tote kit is designed with minimal seams so that it's doable on a home machine, but if you're planning your own leather sewing project, avoid any patterns or designs with very thick layering. We find that most home machines can sew through a maximum of about three layers of medium-weight leather. (Remember to account for any areas where you'll be sewing across seams, as those count in the total number of layers!) 


If you use this tutorial, we'd love to see what you make! Share your pics and tag them @brooklyncraftcompany and #brooklyncraftcompany so we can check out your projects! 

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