Last week I provided some information on buying leather for your dressmaking projects. Having bought a nice piece of pig skin I have been experimenting with sewing it, and have started to make up a skirt. I have sewn a few leather items previously – here are my tips, based on my experience, getting it wrong and experimentation.
Tips for sewing with leather
- Make a toile or use a tried and tested pattern that fits you perfectly – you are not going to be able to move the darts or let out a seam
- When laying out the pieces beware of small holes and imperfections in the leather and plan to avoid them
- You can split your pattern pieces and introduce joins to make more economic use of your leather piece eg trouser legs can be joined above the knee
- Lay the leather piece out so that the spine of the animal lies lengthwise and then place the pattern pieces as much as you can as if this was the selvedge grain
- Obviously you are not going to fold the leather so you may have to flip pattern pieces or cut out the matching half
- If you are cutting a right and left side don’t forget to turn your patten pieces over so you don’t have two left sleeves (for example)
- However once you have cut out the larger important pieces you can fit the smaller pieces at different angles if necessary
- I secured my pattern pieces with magic tape (sellotape)
- Sharp shears cut leather beautifully
- Mark the back of the leather with chalk, pencil or washable felt tips. As you will not be using pins mark the legs of the darts to aid stitching
- Choose a leather sewing machine needle as this has a little triangular blade that cuts cleanly into the leather with every stitch
- Use a nice, strong thread. I used Gutermann extra strong (upholstery) thread
- You can wax your thread too if you prefer
- Use a much longer stitch than usual – I used 3.6 and found this ideal although you could use a longer stitch. Stitching too close together risks creating a slash in the fabric.
- I didn’t use clips or anything instead of pins when sewing – I just held the pieces together and this was fine
- I used fabric glue on the waist band and hem, and to keep the seam allowances flat. I used a fabric glue but last time I used a rubber glue specifically for leather.
- I pressed the seams open on the wrong side with a warm iron (no steam). I found my leather responded well to this although I hadn’t heard of this idea before.
- I used an invisible zip which went in well. To secure it before I stitched I used wonder tape. took it through the waistband so I didn’t need any hooks or press studs. If I had I could have sewn them on by hand but even with a leather hand sewing needle it is hard work and not easy to be accurate.
- I lined the skirt with thin silk.
Have you sewn leather? If so would you agree with these methods? Do you have other suggestions and tips?