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Tips and Tricks for Sewing with leather



There is just nothing like sewing or crafting with beautiful materials. Chief among them for me is leather.

One of the reasons that I was late to release a pattern that requires leather is that for many people, it is tricky to acquire. It is not like you can stop by your local fabric shop and pick up a yard or two. Additionally, while leather is not difficult to sew, you do have to have a few extras available to make it turn out looking fantastic. When I wrote my book, one thing that I really wanted to stress was to not feel the urge to go out and purchase everything that you think you “might” need. As it never really ends- I promise! 45 years in and each time I learn a new technique or take interest in some new esoteric path, the cash flow woes begin! Which brings me back to the point, “Do as I say, not as I do” :)

Life is funny sometimes! Through complete serendipity, and the power of Instagram, I have made a new friend, Faina, who happens to own a leather shop! Leather, Suede, Skins, Inc. in NYC. She so generously shared some of her gorgeous leather with me to make the Poppy Convertible Tote and tutorial. But more than that, you now have a place to shop for leather and an expert to consult! Our hope is that together, we can show you how easy and fun it is to sew with leather.

There are a few supplies that you will need to get started. While some are truly necessary to achieve the correct finished look and make the process so much more enjoyable! There are a few others that are more in the “nice to have” category. I’ll share both with you.


Walking Foot, or Even-Feed Foot Don’t be intimidated- the walking foot is your friend! This genius device will evenly feed multiple layers of fabric or leather through your machine. No shifting, dragging or puckering.

Silk or Polyester Thread- this is my favorite Additonally, topstitching thread or denim thread works too. Be sure that it is medium weight and made of silk or polyester. Cotton thread will fray and deteriorate over time due to the chemical reaction to the tannins in the leather.

Double Sided Tape Double-sided leather tape comes can hold layers of leather together for stitching and can also be used to hold seams flat. Please remember to test on scrap leather before trying on your project.

Wonder Clips (Medium sized binder clips work too.) Unlike fabric, pinning leather will leave holes. Instead try using clips.

Microtex or leather Sewing Machine Needles These needles have a special shape and point which is designed to pierce leather with little resistance.

Mallet A rubber or bakelite mallet is used to lightly tap seams in order to flatten them.

Rubber Cement Rubber cement works well for gluing seams flat.

Straight Awl My go-to tool to punch holes or enlarge existing holes in canvas and leather.

Rotary Cutter- This smaller one is great for detail work and the larger size can go through leather so easily.
Leather Hole Punch Punch neat and clean holes in leather and canvas. An essential for preparing straps for hardware.

While each of these tools is really helpful, the ones that you truly “need” to begin sewing with leather are the correct needle, thread, walking foot and clips or tape. The rest can be acquired over time. You do not have to have every notion, attachment and gadget. Instead, I encourage you to start small and build your supply stash as you build your skills.

Download your free PDF sewing pattern to make the Poppy Convertible Tote

When learning to sew- or to sew with a new techniques, please take your time and concentrate on accuracy. Unlike sewing with regular fabric, sewing with leather, the threads can't just be pulled out without leaving holes from the previous stitching. By slowing down and concentrating on learning a new skill, you're much more likely to achieve a result you're really proud of.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident about sewing with leather. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch. And if you’re looking for a fun project to practice your leather sewing skills, the Poppy Convertible Tote is a great first project. It only requires sewing straight lines- no curves, and the pattern gives you detailed, fully photographed instructions to guide you step by step as you make your first leather bag.

XOXO, Hilarie