Thursday 12 March 2015

First Time Tips For Sewing With Leather

A Beginner's Guide to Sewing With Leather

Call it the 'Great British Sewing Bee' effect, or the fact that 70s suede and leather seem to be having a moment, but I have become infatuated with sewing myself a little something made out of leather. It's proving to be a big learning curve for me, especially as I've only worked with lighter weight fabrics in the past. Before committing to sewing, I sat down and did a little research, so here's an overview of what I'm taking forward with me for this project (more details soon!)...

Before Sewing

Do you have to pre-wash leather? Pre-washing fabric is something a lot of sewers swear by, and whilst I do it sometimes, other times I don't - especially if I'm sure it's a fabric that won't shrink. But what about leather? I know for a fact that leather items shrink if you get them wet, but what about washing before sewing? Well, according to what I've read, it's actually better not to - leather normally stretches back into shape when being worn, so preshrinking leather can lead to your finished garments being too baggy after a few wears.

Leather has a grain! Who knew, right? It's not as obvious as a grain on a stretch jersey or a cotton, but it has a grain all the same. All this means is that you have to make sure that you cut out all of your pattern pieces facing the same direction. This way, you won't get any uneven stretching on your finished garment.

Stay away from pins. Once you stick a pin or needle through leather, the pinhole is there forever, so unless you're actually sewing your leather, it's best to stay away from pins whilst doing everything else. I used washi tape for laying out my pattern pieces, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's seriously had me considering whether I can get away with using washi tape for all fabric types - there's waaay less movement than there is with pins. Clips will do the job too, but when you could use the wonder that is washi tape, why wouldn't you?

Practise! Keep a small scrap of your leather to practise a few stitches on before committing to sewing on your actual project. It makes those first real stitches a little less scary, and means you get to test out your tension and needle without ruining your leather.


No frays. A nice bonus of sewing with leather is that you don't have to worry about it fraying. This means that, if you wish, you can leave hems raw, although if you're looking for a neat finish, you can add a simple hem to keep things looking tidy.

What needle to use? You can buy leather needles specifically for the job, but as long as you've got a relatively sharp needle that goes through your leather with ease, you should be fine. It could be worth buying a fresh set, just to ensure ease of sewing.

Flatten and glue your seams. When I saw this happening on GBSB, I was a little confused, and not really sure why you would need to flatten your seams. Because leather is quite a stiff fabric, inner seams have a will of their own, and unless pressed and glued down, they have a tendency to stand up, which I can imagine would be very uncomfortable when your garment is being worn. Buying a glue specifically for leather is a must.

Turn to trusted sources. The great thing about the internet is that there is so many sources out there to turn to when you're not sure what to do. There's a few websites and bloggers that I trust implicitly, and a couple of my favourite guides to sewing with leather are this one from Craftsy, and Sallie's post on sewing a leather skirt. It all feels a lot more achievable when you can see the results and process of someone else's project, doesn't it?

So, whilst I've reached a little stumbling block with my project (I need more leather!), I'm all set to get going sewing leather as soon as I can. I'll be keeping you posted on the process and results! As it is tonight, I'm all set to plan future projects in front of the final of GBSB - I'm thinking Neil will probably win, although after last week, it all seems to play for!


  1. Great post, Charlotte, and really helpful! I'm not confident enough to sew with leather just yet, but I'll keep your post bookmarked for when I am :) I hope you enjoyed the Sewing Bee - it's definitely got me inspired to get my sewing machine out again!


    1. Thanks Gemma - before this project the idea of sewing with leather would have terrified me, but I'm finding it strangely satisfying. Yes - seeing all the patterns on Sewing Bee is definitely very inspiring - have you seen the book for this year's show? The patterns are the best yet! :)

  2. I love the idea of making something with leather, it is such a cool idea to me! I hope we get to see the finished product! ;)

    1. Seeing as you can pick up leather offcuts for a surprisingly cheap amount, I can't recommend it enough Anna! And keep your eyes peeled - I bought some more leather today, so project leather is go go go!!