Helpful tips when using leather for machine embroidery projects.

Mandala Tote Bag Design

The idea of using leather for a machine embroidery project can be off-putting for many people.

It can be a challenging and frustrating material to work with when you aren’t sure what you are doing, but sometimes you just cannot beat the finish you get with leather.

It is tougher than most other materials we work with, which makes many of the tools we would usually use impractical.

As it is tanned hide and not stitched together like cloth, it also retains and shows any holes the machine stitches into it. These problems need to be anticipated and dealt with before they occur to ensure your machine embroidery project is a success.

Best Type of Leather for Machine Embroidery

Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a leather worker to be able to use leather for machine embroidery, there are some characteristics to be aware of before using leather for on your next project.

For example, leather comes in a range of thicknesses. The thicker the leather you choose, the more difficult it will be to use and the hardier your equipment will have to be.

Also some types of leather are tanned to be harder, which is great if you’re making a saddle, but not so good for machine embroidery.

You will want to try to work with thin and supple leather for best results.

Embroidery Machine Stitch Speed

Similarly to using metallic thread, stitch speed plays an important role in the success of your machine embroidery projects using leather.

If the stitch speed is set too high on your machine, the leather will pull up frequently due to the extra friction. Avoiding this is important, as any pattern mistakes cannot be unstitched without leaving holes in the leather which may be visible.

Lower your stitches per minute to around 300-350 to reduce the risk of the leather pulling.

Type of Needle

When using leather for machine embroidery the type of needle being used is very important.

You can purchase specific leather needles that are designed specifically for the task and will reduce the size of the perforation the stitches leave in the material.

If these are unavailable to you, please feel free to take a look at our blog ‘Choosing the Right Needle for Machine Embroidery’ which has more general needle advice and may help in choosing the right one for the task.

Stabiliser

A stabiliser should be used whenever using leather for a machine embroidery project.

The two kinds of stabiliser that can be used are the tear-away (we recommend Sulky Tear-Away) or cut-away (we recommend Sulky Cut-Away) varieties.

Most people have their own preferences on which to use and either are fine but the stabiliser should always be attached to the back of the leather.

It is also important not to use wash-away or heat-away stabilisers as both of these may damage the leather when being removed.

Pattern

The design itself being embroidered onto the leather must not be overly complex or have too many stitches.

A lot of fill can cause the design to punch itself out of the material, which is probably the most frustrating thing that can happen to your leather project.

Ensure you are choosing the right design for the right material, and you will be able to add this material to your repertoire.

Quilted Patchwork Handbag – Ethel SL Lewis
Bluebonnet Clutch

6 comments

  1. This was an excellent article and the only thing that I would add is when you are sewing the flex-leather together is to use a Teflon foot. It allows the fabric to smoothly slide through the machine. Other feet will not work as well and you’ll have more challenges than you want! That’s my recommendation!!!

  2. I would really like to have information on the thread fibers that are good, bad or indifferent for sewing on leather.

  3. Love the bag!! It looks like something I could manage for an easy tote. I have some cork fabric and I bet the same rules apply. Can’t wait to try it out! Thanks for the great tips.

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