Sewing leather or vinyl (faux leather) trim when sewing clothing, bags and clutches can add a deluxe look to your finished product. Did you know that you can sew vinyl and leather on your home sewing machine? With a few simple tools and adjustments, you can get professional looks for your purse sewing patterns or clothing sewing patterns at home.
SEWING LEATHER & SEWING VINYL
There is not much difference between sewing leather and vinyl (also called faux leather). Faux leather often has a fabric backing which actually makes it easier to sew on the wrong side. Sewing on the right side is the same as the leather can be sticky and prevent the material from gliding through the sewing machine.
Can I sew leather on my regular machine? Yes, you definitely can! All you need is a few adjustments and tools and some scraps to start practicing on.
If you will be sewing leather regularly you may want to purchase a heavy-duty machine but otherwise, you don’t need anything special.
Further Reading: Leather Sewing Machine
The main considerations when sewing leather on your regular machine are:
- Thickness of leather
- Machine feet
- Extra tools
- Thread types
- Pinning methods
- Stitch length
Tip #1: Choose the correct thickness of leather/vinyl
Choose a leather/vinyl thickness that your machine can handle. For parts such as pockets, just use the leather/vinyl on top of the flap and fabric underneath.
For vinyl choose thin to medium thicknesses. For leather choose sheepskin or thinner goatskin. Heavy leathers are best sewn on a specialized leather machine with a strong motor. Something like this belt shown in the photo below is easy to sew with your regular sewing machine as it was made from soft sheepskin.
Choose a matt or satin finish like this belt. Don’t try and sew patent (extra shiny, wet look) leather with your regular machine as it is too sticky.
TIP #2: Use Leather Needles
Leather needles are sharp and pierce through the vinyl or leather eliminating skipped stitches. Schmetz, Singer, Hemline (Klass) and Birch brands all manufacture specialized leather needles.
Choose a needle size appropriate to the leather you are sewing. Look for needles in sizes 14,16 or 18 that will be strong and not bend. I usually use a 100/16 size for light to medium leather.
If you are halfway through your project and you suddenly start getting skipped stitches, check the needle hasn’t bent or gotten blunt. Sewing leather will test the needles and they can wear out quickly. Replace the needle and start sewing again.
Further Reading: Sewing needle guide
TIP #3: Machine Foot
When sewing leather or vinyl, use a Teflon foot or roller foot rather than your regular foot. These stop the vinyl or leather sticking to the bottom of the foot and keeps your tension and stitches even.
Personally, I think Teflon feet are much less bulky and easier to use as the open toe makes it easier to see where you are stitching. They are available cheaply for most makes of machine.
You can see in my photo below how well-loved my Teflon foot is (middle foot).
If you dont’ have either of these feet, try a walking foot. While bulkier again the walking foot will not stick to the surface of the leather as it lifts slightly in between stitches.
TIP #4: Tissue Paper
If you can’t get a Teflon or walking foot, place tissue paper over the leather or vinyl and stitch through all layers. You can then rip it out when you are finished. Just be careful when you are removing the tissue paper so you don’t cause loops in your stitching.
TIP #5: Get a hammer
You can’t iron vinyl or leather, so where the pattern calls for seams to be pressed, gently hammer the edges instead. The best kind of hammer to use is one with a very flat hitting surface. If you need really flat seams or for the seams to stay open, put a little leather glue underneath before you hammer them down.
A hammer is also great for reducing bulk in seams. Just hit gently to compress the vinyl to make it easier for your machine to go over. Stop the hammer marking the leather/vinyl by putting a cotton cloth in between before striking.
TIP #6: Use a quality thread
When sewing leather, use a strong polyester thread that won’t break. Don’t even try a cheap thread as the seams will just break. My favorite is Rasant but Coats and Gutterman make strong threads as well.
For topstitching and seams that need to be durable, use a thicker or specialized leather thread. Don’t use 100% cotton thread in leather as the chemicals in the leather tend to rot the thread over time.
TIP #7: Don’t use pins
Pin marks will show in your leather or vinyl so use double-sided tape or leather glue to hold pieces in place.
If you are using double-sided tape, use a quality brand that won’t gum up the needle or don’t place the tape directly under your stitching line. You can purchase double-sided tape from leather retailers.
Always make sure any glue you use dries clear just in case you accidentally get some on the right side of the leather.
Alternatively, pin within the seam allowance or use wonder clips. Stationary clips can also be used to temporarily hold seams.
TIP #8: Use longer stitches
Shorter stitches will cause the vinyl to perforate so when straight stitching try a length of 3.0. See how it looks and gently pull the seam to see how it looks.
Zig-zag makes a great decorative look and holds down any raw edges when doing applique. Try a zig-zag with a width of 5.0 and a length of 2.5.
Sewing Leather | In Conclusion
Now you have all the tips for sewing leather, grab a scrap of leather or vinyl and start practicing! Always keep any leather scraps as you can piece them together and make something nice like this little purse. Scraps also make nice applique pieces for leaves, flowers and initials.
Please Pin Image 🙂
More Articles on Sewing Bags
- Leather Sewing Machine: Best sewing machines
- Sewing Leather
- How to Insert Magnetic Snaps
- Topstitching Flaps
- Free Makeup Roll Pattern
Learn how to sew with more fabrics
Now you know all about sewing cotton fabric, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool