August 14, 2013

Sewing with Leather

Hello! For those of you who have seen some of my past posts, I am currently working on a Mord'sith costume from the Legend of the Seeker TV show. I have worked with leather and pleather before, but never on this scale...the entire costume is made of leather. It is a beautiful nightmare :) In my searches of ways to make sewing with leather a bit less complicated, I found there were no real good tutorials for exactly what I was doing. So, I have created a mini-tutorial of some tips I have learned! Hope this helps if you are sewing with leather on a machine :)

First, I would like to point out that some of the materials sewers may be used to are rather pointless while sewing with leather.

  • Pins: Pins are worthless unless you want to bend all of your pins. I did end up using some of my pins just to remind myself which sides I had to sew with which side. Sometimes when I create my own patterns I forget to do the notches...and then end up sewing the wrong pieces together. So by pinning, I don't forget which sides go with which sides! 
  • Binder Clips: Binder clips are a nice alternative to using pins. You can hold fabric in place, but not make any holes in the fabric. 
  • Thread: Make sure you have some heavy duty, high quality thread, it will hold up much better, and the seams wont randomly rip apart from the added strain. 
  • Iron: I don't use my iron when working with leather. And especially not when I'm working with pleather. I learned that lesson a few years ago when I was working with pleather and was ironing a seam open. The pleather melted onto my iron. Not pleasant. Ruined the fabric and my iron. Use a hammer instead to open seams, and then top stitch the seam open. (There is a more in-depth how-to below with pictures)
  • Ripping: Leather is not a forgiving fabric. So if you pull stitches out of a seam, the marks where the needle went into the leather will remain. So if you can, try not to make mistakes when sewing. Literally impossible, but take your time, slow down, and do it right the first time. It makes for less headaches later.

Leather Seam How-To:

1. Sew the seam with the pieces right sides together. I almost always do a 5/8" seam, so that is what I did here.
2. Open up the seam and hammer open.  You can either use a rubber mallet or a hammer.
3. Flip over and hammer from the other side.  I like to do this to make my seams as flat as possible.  I don't want any puckers creeping in accidentally. 
4. Top stitch over the seam.  You want to catch the seam underneath, so sew pretty close to the center seam.  I did about an 1/8" away from the seam on either side.  As you can see, I have already done the left side seam, and am sewing the right side.
5. Sometimes the leather can stick against the machine.  You can use a bit of wax paper to help it through, but the wax paper can be a pain to remove.  It's a toss up.  Either easy to pull through during sewing, and hard to remove from stitches, or hard to pull through during sewing and nothing to remove from the stitches.  I try not to have to use it if possible, but sometimes I found it necessary.
6. Trim the seam up to the top stitching, and your seam is done!
I hope these tips and tutorial helped any of you wanting to sew with leather.  If you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from readers!

Thank you for stopping by!


  1. I found when working with faux leather if you put masking tape on your sewing foot it helps. And is less hassle than the tissuepaper option.

    1. That's brilliant!! I'll have to try it out :) Thank you!