Sewing Leather & Sewing Vinyl – Perfect Stitching

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Sewing leather or vinyl (faux leather) for 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 leatherPinSewing Leather


SEWING LEATHER & SEWING VINYL8 Tips for Sewing LeatherTip 1 – Choose the correct thickness of leather TIP 2 – Use Leather Needles TIP3 – Sewing Machine Foot TIP4 – Use Tissue Paper TIP 5 – Get a hammer TIP 6 – Use a quality thread TIP 7 – Don’t use pins TIP 8 – Use longer stitchesSewing Leather – Decorative StitchesSewing Leather – ProjectsSewing Leather – In ConclusionMore Articles on Sewing BagsLearn how to sew with more fabrics


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 leather or vinyl on the right side can be tricker as a shiny surface can 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. The main considerations when sewing leather on your regular machine are:

Thickness of leatherNeedlesMachine feetBackingsExtra toolsThread typesPinning methodsStitch length

Can sewing leather be done on a specialty machine? If you will be sewing leather regularly you may want to purchase a heavy-duty domestic machine or an industrial leather machine. (Further Reading: Leather Sewing Machine)

8 Tips for Sewing Leather

Tip 1 – Choose the correct thickness of leather

THICKNESS – 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. VINYL – 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. TEXTURE – The finish of the leather is important. 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.TYPE – There are many different types of leather including sheep, goat and cow. Most of these are suitable for sewing provided they are not too thick. Sewing LeatherSewing LeatherPinSewing Leather

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

TIP3 – Sewing 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).

sewing leather machine feetsewing leather machine feetPin

If you don`t` 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.

walking footwalking footPinSewing Leather with a Walking Foot

TIP4 – Use 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.

sewing leather tipssewing leather tipsPinSewing Leather Tips

Sewing Leather – Decorative Stitches

While the majority of your stitching will be done with a straight stitch, decorative stitches can also be used. 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 with a Zig-ZagSewing Leather with a Zig-ZagPinSewing Leather with a Zig-Zag

Sewing Leather – Projects

The internet is full of projects you can sew with leather. Here are a few from my blog. Start with small purses and clutches and save your scraps for tassels and applique.

Leather Purse Pattern – The Scottie DogDIY Coin Purse: Cute Mini Leather PursesTriangle Pouch Pattern: {Free Tutorial}Sunshine Clutch Tutorial: {FREE pattern}Starry Sky Clutch Pattern {Free Clutch Tutorial}Leather Tassel Tutorial

PinDog Pursetriangle pouch tutorialtriangle pouch tutorialPinTriangle Pouchclutch tutorialclutch tutorialPinSunshine Clutchmini clutch patterhmini clutch patterhPinStar Clutchmini clutch patternmini clutch patternPinMini Clutchleather tasselleather tasselPinLeather Tassels

Sewing Leather – In Conclusion

Now you have all the tips for sewing leather, grab a scrap and start practicing! Always keep any leather scraps as you can piece them together and make something nice like the little purse above. Scraps also make nice applique pieces for leaves, flowers and initials.

More Articles on Sewing Bags

Leather Sewing Machine: Best sewing machinesSewing LeatherHow to Insert Magnetic SnapsTopstitching FlapsFree 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 ChiffonBATIK – What is BatikCANVAS – Sewing CanvasCOTTON – Sewing CottonDENIM – Sewing DenimFELT – Sewing FeltFUR – Sewing FurKNITS – How to Sew Stretch FabricINTERFACING – Types of InterfacingLACE – How to Sew LaceLEATHER – Sewing LeatherRAYON – Sewing RayonSHEER – Sewing Sheer FabricsSILK – How to Sew SilkTHICK – Sewing Thick FabricsVELVET Sewing VelvetWOOL – Sewing Wool

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