Sewing with the best leather sewing machine is something I know a lot about! I spent 10 years as a handbag designer and have sewn leather on both domestic and industrial leather sewing machines. If you are just going to do a one-off project, then you can get great results with your regular domestic sewing machine by just making a few simple alterations (read sewing leather). But if you are looking to sew leather regularly, then getting the best sewing machine for leather is very important to ensure your leather goods are durable and finished beautifully.
Leather Sewing Machine Tutorial
What is a Leather Sewing Machine?
A leather sewing machine is a specialized machine designed to handle the unique challenges of stitching leather and other thick materials.
You can sew leather on a home sewing machine, provided it has a powerful motor and a longer stitch length. A walking or Teflon foot and special leather needles and thread will need to be used on a home sewing machine in order to sew leather.
Unlike regular sewing machines, industrial leather machines are built with more robust components and often have a walking foot attached to ensure smooth, consistent feeding of the leather through the machine.
Choosing the best leather sewing machine is essential for those working with leather goods, ensuring durability and a professional finish in products like bags, belts, and jackets.
Why Do You Need the Best Leather Sewing Machine?
Leather is unforgiving – you can’t unpick any mistakes or bad stitching, as the holes created by the needle will bear an unkind reminder of your slip-up. So purchasing the best leather sewing machine is an important decision that will affect the quality of your work.
Summary of the Best Leather Sewing Machines
In case you want to get straight to the results, here are the top 4 domestic leather sewing machines.
Types of Leather Sewing Machines
There are 2 main types of best leather sewing machines to choose from
The first thing to consider when purchasing a leather sewing machine is, “Do I need an industrial or domestic machine?”
Before we go into more detail, here is a table showing you some of the differences.
|Feature||Domestic Sewing Machine||Industrial Sewing Machine|
|Purpose||General sewing, including lightweight leather.||Heavy-duty tasks, including thick leather.|
|Needle||Specialized leather needles available.||Heavy-duty leather needles.|
|Strength||Good for light leather, might struggle with thicker hides or multiple layers.||Excellent; designed to handle thick hides and multiple layers of leather.|
|Motor Power||Generally less powerful. Suitable for occasional leather projects.||More powerful and robust, designed for prolonged leatherwork.|
|Stitch Length||Variable stitch length, not consistent with thick materials.||Consistent stitch length and strength, even on thicker hides.|
|Durability||Wears out faster with frequent leather sewing.||Built to handle heavy materials and frequent use.|
|Speed||Generally slower.||Faster and efficient.|
|Maintenance||Regular maintenance needed, especially if used for leather often.||Regular maintenance, but more resilient with heavy materials.|
|Cost||More affordable.||More expensive.|
|Space||Compact, fits easily in homes.||Bulkier, often requires more dedicated space.|
|Ease of Use||Easier for beginners; more user-friendly interfaces.||Steeper learning curve, but offers more precision.|
|Versatility||Versatile for different sewing tasks but not optimized for leather.||Optimized for heavy-duty tasks, might not be as versatile for delicate work.|
Domestic Leather Sewing Machines
Domestic machines for home use are designed to sew thinner leather and are great for basic sewing if you are just starting out or plan on sewing leather occasionally.
A good leather sewing machine will cost you $200 to $500 USD, depending on the brand and the extra features it offers.
I sewed thin leather for many years on a simple Janome domestic sewing machine similar to this Janome HD3000 (Affiliate link) on Amazon. You will notice the HD on the model - this means heavy duty.
Domestic machines are most suited to smaller leather sewing projects such as bags and purses due to the size of their working area. While it doesn’t matter if your fabric is bunched up while sewing, leather can be left with permanent creases and scratches if wrinkled.
Choosing a domestic leather sewing machine
Points to consider when purchasing a leather sewing machine are:
- High presser foot lift – You often need the extra height when sewing over intersecting seams and placing your work under the foot when starting.
- Strong machine – Purchase a machine with a strong motor and metal frame that is built for durability. Singer and Janome both produce models with metal frames that are designed for heavy usage.
- Simple – As your machine will be worked hard, purchase a machine with manual knobs and one that is not computerized. There are fewer things to go wrong!
- Reasonable price – Accept that sewing leather is going to wear down any machine faster than sewing fabric on an occasional basis. Eventually, your machine is going to need replacing, so choose something you can afford and consider wear and tear as part of the cost of sewing leather. If you are sewing leather for craft shows or markets, then include part of this in the cost of your goods.
- Cheap to service – If you are sewing leather regularly, your machine will need services more often, so choose a make that is not complicated to service and can be repaired by your local technician without being sent away for long periods of time.
Recommended Domestic Machines
Here are the 4 domestic machines I would recommend for sewing leather. All these leather sewing machines are reasonably priced at $180-$450 and manufactured for heavy-duty use due to their metal internal frames.
All of Singer's heavy-duty machines suitable for sewing light leather have a distinctive grey color instead of the traditional white. There are currently numerous similar models in this range, but below are the most popular mainly due to the reasonable price.
Comparison Chart for Best Leather Sewing Machines
|Feature||Janome HD3000||Janome HD1000||Singer 4411||Singer 4432|
|Automatic Needle Threader||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Maximum Sewing Speed (SPM)||Approx. 860||Approx. 840||1,100||1,100|
|Drop Feed||Yes (with lever)||Yes (with lever)||No||Yes|
|Bobbin System||Top drop-in||Front loading||Top drop-in||Top drop-in|
|Included Presser Feet||Multiple (5+ typically)||Multiple (4 typically)||4||4|
|Adjustable Stitch Length/Width||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Other Features||Adjustable presser foot pressure, Overlock foot, etc.||Hard case, Aluminum body||Stainless steel bedplate, Adjustable presser foot pressure||Automatic needle threader, Needle position selector, etc.|
Industrial Leather Sewing Machines
If you need to sew heavy leather for belts and bags or are going to be doing a large amount of leather sewing, then you may need to purchase an industrial sewing machine with a walking foot.
The advantage of an industrial leather sewing machine is that they are produced with quality metal and durable motors and parts that are designed for heavy usage, which will produce beautiful stitching in your leather projects. Generally, industrial leather sewing machines can handle much thicker threads and will have longer stitch lengths to produce professional results.
The disadvantage, of course, is the cost. I have used both Singer and Juki industrial machines for leather and found both to do an excellent job. Expect to pay $1500-$2500 USD for a good quality industrial machine.
The other disadvantage that no one ever tells you about is that industrial machines are much harder on your body and ears when used for long periods of time. You could liken it to driving a heavy truck vs a car.
Choosing an Industrial Leather Sewing Machine
Points to consider when purchasing an industrial leather sewing machine are:
- Walking foot – This is absolutely necessary to prevent wrinkling and skipped stitches in your leather projects.
- Power - Check the power source is suitable for your house. Some machines need industrial power supplies.
- Specialty – Keep in mind that if you purchase a specific leather sewing machine, it will not be suitable for sewing fabric.
- Noise production – Industrial sewing machines with clutch motors are noisy and may annoy your neighbors if used for long periods of time. Servo motors are quieter and a better option for home use.
- Sewing Area – Different types of machines have different working areas. Some have a flat-bed working area, and others a free-arm style.
- Motor - Choose the motor type that suits your skill level and needs.
Types of Motors on Industrial Leather Sewing Machines
There are 2 motor types: a clutch motor and a servo motor.
- Noise - With a clutch motor, you can hear a background humming noise when the machine is on, even when you are not sewing. Servo motors make no noise until you start sewing with your foot on the pedal.
- Speed - Servo motors have adjustable speeds similar to domestic machines, making them better for beginner sewers. When using a clutch motor, it does take quite a while before you get used to the constant high speeds produced by the foot pedal. In saying that, they do make quick work of most leather projects.
- Practicality - Servo motors use less electricity than clutch motors since they are not constantly running. If you plan to be moving your machine around, then get a servo motor, as they are also much lighter.
Sewing Leather with a Leather Sewing Machine
Regardless of the type of leather sewing machine you use, there are some important factors in getting beautiful stitching. I have a full article on sewing leather, but here is a summary.
1. Leather needles for Leather Sewing Machines
These are specialty needles designed for sewing leather. Choose a size suitable for the thickness of the leather you are sewing. Generally, this will be a needle size 14 -18. I have used the Schmetz and Klass (distributed in the US by Hemline) brands of leather needles and always had great results.
2. Best Threads for Leather Sewing Machines
Use strong polyester or nylon thread, as pure cotton thread will rot from the chemicals in the leather. You can get special leather threads that are waxed, but you may need to check that your machine will sew well with them.
I always found that the best results on a domestic leather sewing machine were obtained with a strong polyester thread designed for normal sewing. You can always go over seams that need strengthening a second time to reinforce. Look for a polyester core spun thread.
3. Best Foot for a Leather Sewing Machine
For domestic machines, you will need to use a Teflon foot that won’t stick to the leather and cause skipped stitches. I always use the Janome Teflon feet as they are a little thicker, smoother, and last longer than cheaper generic brands. This is a snap on foot and will fit most machines even if it is not a Janome.
4. Stitch Length
Always choose long stitches so the punctures will not perforate the leather.
5. Best Leather to Use with a Leather Sewing Machine
Choose a thickness of leather that your machine can handle. Try thin cow or sheepskin with a matt finish for domestic machines. Goat is particularly easy to sew and great for applique as it is thin but stiffer. Consider purchasing a bag of scrap leather before you start so you can experiment with different thicknesses and types of leather.
You can purchase scrap leather by the pound on Amazon fairly cheaply. Avoid any patent leathers (super shiny) as they are so sticky they are a nightmare to sew unless you have an industrial machine with a walking foot.
Look for leather labeled garment leather as this is generally thinner and suitable for domestic machines. Garment leather also makes beautiful and supple bags and purses. Upholstery fabric is more suited to industrial machines due to its thickness.
Best Leather Sewing Machine - in Conclusion
I hope all this information helps you with your decision on the best leather sewing machine for your project.
Read More about Sewing Leather:
- Sewing Leather: Tips
Read More Sewing Machine Reviews
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