how to sew leather

How To Sew Leather

Have you ever wanted to make your own leather bag, jacket, shoes, or accessory? Sewing genuine leather or faux leather can seem intimidating for even experienced sewers. Leather’s thickness and slippery texture can flummox sewing machines, requiring specialty leather needles and tools to stitch correctly. However, with the right preparation and techniques for sewing leather, you can create beautiful hand-sewing leather creations or machine-stitching leather projects that last for years.

Gather Your Leather Sewing Materials

Sewing leather requires an industrial-strength sewing machine and components to handle the rigid leather material. Investing in these supplies makes the process much more manageable:

Leather Sewing Needles: Leather is dense and complex to pierce. Leather project needles have a sharp point and reinforced shaft that won’t bend or break when stitching leather. Choose the right thickness to match your thread and leather weight.

Upholstery Thread: For hand-sewing or machine-sewing leather projects, opt for thicker, wax-coated polyester or nylon thread that withstands the friction and heat of stitched leather. Cotton thread will shred and break.

Leather Pieces: Choose high-quality leather from a craft store, such as vegetable-tanned tooling leather. Consider weight, texture, stretch, and flexibility. Faux leather can also produce attractive results when doing leather projects.

Teflon Presser Foot: The slick coating prevents leather from sticking while sewing leather for smooth stitching. A roller or Teflon foot works best.

Stitching Pony: This clamping board securely holds leather pieces taut for hand stitching leather. Binder clips also work for small leather projects in a pinch.

Prepare Your Leather Pieces

Proper leather preparation prevents skipped stitches and frustration when sewing leather. Follow these key steps:

Trim Leather Edges: Use a rotary cutter and ruler to slice the leather material into uniform, flat pattern pieces. This allows stitching lines to glide smoothly when sewing leather.

Mark Stitch Lines: Lightly sketch stitching paths with a removable fabric marker on the leather pieces. Keep seam allowances consistent, usually 1⁄2 inch, to align leather piece edges.

Punch Holes (optional): For hand sewing leather or extra sewing control when stitching leather, use an awl, chisel, hole punch pliers, or drill stitch holes spaced evenly along the stitch line.

Set Up Your Sewing Machine for Leather

Not all sewing machines can handle leather’s rigidity. Adjust your home sewing machine properly:

Install Leather Needle: Change your regular machine needle to the specialty leather sewing needle. Check the manual for the right style and size to avoid skipped stitches.

Attach Teflon Foot: Snap on the non-stick foot instead of the all-purpose foot to feed smoothly across the leather surface when stitching.

Adjust Stitch Length: Set it to 4mm-6 mm so thick thread and stiff leather material can feed without bunching or puckering.

Stitch Your Leather Pieces

Stitch Your Leather Pieces
Photo credit: freepik

You can start stitching the leather pieces together to complete your leather project! Take these precautions as you sew leather:

Start Slow: Slowly run the leather pieces under the presser foot until the needle finds a rhythm. Check bobbin tension to avoid the tangled thread.

Backstitch Seams: For maximum toughness reinforcing leather seams and edges, backstitch 3-4 stitches at start and end.

Maintain Needle Accuracy: Stop periodically to check stitch alignment to avoid skipped stitches, tangled threads, or needle breakage through the leather.

Apply Clips When Needed: Binder and sewing clips hold the leather pieces perfectly flat for accurate seams along edges when stitching leather.

Try straight, zigzag, or saddle stitch techniques when sewing leather projects. Let’s explore top stitch options:

Straight Stitch

Suitable for thinner leathers under 3mm, the straight stitch setting sews basic seams neatly with a reinforced needle and heavy thread when sewing leather items. Remember to backstitch!

Zigzag Stitch

With dense zigzag patterns, the stitch flexes with stiffer leathers between 3 and 5 mm thick to prevent seamed leather edges from cracking over time.

Saddle Stitch

This hand stitch ties leather pieces together one section at a time in a crisscross pattern. Use an awl first to punch evenly spaced stitch holes, then pass the threaded needle through reversely on each side. Durable for heavy-use leather items!

Finish Your Leather Item

Once leather stitching is complete, add custom touches:

Burnish Edges: Use beeswax or edge dressing like gum tragacanth to smooth and seal the edges of the leather piece.

Add Hardware: Now install buckles, clasps, rivets, or other hardware to complete the leather project construction.

Apply Conditioner: Keep the leather supple and protected with oil or conditioner. Fiebing and Leather Honey make excellent leather care choices.

Tips and Tricks for Sewing Leather

Conquer tricky leather sewing situations with these handy hacks:

Thick Areas: When stitching over a thicker leather spot like a seam intersection, lift the presser foot lever to ease the leather material through without resistance.

Faux vs Real: Generally opt for genuine leather over faux leather when sewing bags and projects requiring durability. Faux works beautifully for more spartan décor or leather accessories.

Hand Stitching: For specialty leather projects, use a saddle stitch with a stitching pony tool to hold the leather pieces taut. Enjoy more excellent control hand-stitching leather.


What needles work best for sewing leather?

 Use leather hand-sewing needles or machine needles with a sharp point and shaft that won’t bend when piercing the thick material.

Should I use a leather sewing machine?

A standard home sewing machine works if you install a leather needle and Teflon foot, but industrial machines provide more power and control.

What is the best stitch for sewing leather?

The saddle stitch works beautifully for hand-sewing leather with heavy-duty thread to create durable seams for items like leather bags.

How do I make leather easier to sew?

Skive or thin the leather along the stitch lines using a special skiving knife. This allows the needle to penetrate the material and helps prevent skipped stitches.


The key to sewing leather is having the right heavy-duty equipment paired with patience and practice. Don’t get discouraged by the initial messy leather stitching results. Mastering specialty techniques for sewing leather opens creative possibilities for stylish, long-lasting leather goods. What will you stitch first from leather scraps—a bag, wallet, boots, or belt? Let your imagination run wild!


Main image: freepik

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 168

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