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Sewing leather garments

raven99 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Does anyone here have any experience with sewing leather?

I’m about to sew a leather jacket with a pattern I’ve used a couple of times before, so I know the pattern well, and I know the fit etc will work, but one of the things that concerns me is easing in the set-in sleeve. Does leather ease well? I have sewn leather before, in fact, one of the very first garments I made was a red suede jacket using an old favourite jacket that I took apart to use as a pattern. Fools rush in but the jacket turned out great and I wore it for many years. Now that I know a lot more about sewing, I’m feeling less sure about sewing this leather garment–sometimes ignorance is bliss!

I’ve been looking around online and one of the things mentioned on one site was that you should never use cotton thread because it will rot quickly due to the tannin in the leather. True? If so, what’s the best thread? Polyester? I was considering using an upholstery thread from Guterman, but I can’t remember the content of it. I think it is poly cotton. Another site says that you should never attempt to sew leather with a home machine because the stitches aren’t long enough and the machines aren’t powerful enough to go through the leather. I’ve already purchased the leather and I’ve done some test sewing using the longest stitch and I’m able to get through four layers without trouble and that was with a conventional needle (not a leather needle) so I think I’ll be alright with my home machine. Another of the sites says not to use a leather needle for garments, but to use a regular needle. Also true?

Any thoughts or advice before I dive into this project will be greatly appreciated!



  1. rekha | | #1

    The video clip by Sandy Scrivano on http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/tvt010.asp gives most of the details you will need. I used her techniques to sew a handbag. Also, I think she has published two techniques on the subject

    1. raven99 | | #2

      Thanks for pointing me to the video. It prompted me to do a search on Sandy Scrivano, and I've located her book, Sewing with Leather and Suede at my library. I'm sure I'll find some good information in it.Thanks again,

      1. rekha | | #3

        Brilliant, you don't have to buy the book first as I usually have to because our public libraries in the UK don't keep that many books on sewing published in the US

        1. raven99 | | #4

          I know--I was amazed. I was just about to put in a request to my favourite local bookstore to special order it for me, and in the last second I decided to search for it at my library (the internet is a wonderful thing!). Imagine my surprise when they listed 4 copies available in our little Vancouver Island, BC library system. I have the feeling I'll end up buying it anyway, but its nice to be able to have a good look at it first. Had I special ordered it, I probably would have felt obligated to buy it. Have you read it?Marion

          1. rekha | | #5

            Unfortunately, no because I'd have to buy it first. Also my leather sewing is limited to small items helped by Sandy's video clip. Good luck!

          2. FitnessNut | | #6

            If you decide to buy it (as I have), you may want to consider ordering it from http://www.chapters.indigo.ca. I found it and had it shipped easily when my local bookstore was of no help.

          3. raven99 | | #7

            Ahhh! You have the book. What do you think of it?I was kind of surprised that it isn't listed in the Taunton Store. I'll keep Chapters in mind if my bookstore can't get it, but they have been great so far and I really like to support local businesses when I can.Chapters lists 2 editions of the book, one published in 1998 by Lark Books, and another published in 2001 by Sterling. Which do you have?Thanks,

          4. FitnessNut | | #8

            I have the Lark Books edition, though the front page states that it is a division of Sterling ;-) I completely understand about supporting local businesses. I do the same thing whenever possible.To be fair, I've only been through the book briefly as it was a recent acquisition (oh, maybe not....early 2004 perhaps?) and I got sidetracked with other projects and now my impending move. It looks like a well-researched book with lots of good, practical information. The garments shown aren't all to my taste, but that's fine by me. I'm more interested in techniques and their application, as many of us who sew are. I can see that this book will be heavily used when I finally get a chance to sit down and make something in leather. In my opinion, it is definitely worth the money I paid for it!Hope this helps.

          5. SewNancy | | #9

            I have the book too and bought it in  antcipation of making leather pants.  I have the book, the leather and am still working on getting the pattern right!!!  I have finally worked out the front problem, but I have such a low, flat rear that I am still having a problem with that.


          6. raven99 | | #11

            Ah yes, getting the pattern and fit right before you cut! I bought a pattern last year with the intention of using it for this leather. I made a fabric (linen) jacket with the pattern in order to get an idea of the fit and how comfortable it was to wear before cutting the leather. Now, I'm having second thoughts and I'm probably going to fall back on a pattern I've used twice before because, bottom line, I know the pattern fits well and I really like the jacket itself. I haven't laid out the pattern on the leather yet and the only thing that causes me some concern is that the second pattern has larger pieces and I may not be able to lay it out around the flaws in the leather. We'll see.You are making leather pants, I'm impressed! May I ask where you got the leather? DId you order online or do you have a supplier near you?Marion

          7. SewNancy | | #12

            I got it in NYC.  I can't remember the name of the place, but it was wholesale only and I was with my cousin who is a jewelry designer and she was able to use her tax number.  It was on sale and is perfectly lushious lambskin.  I have had it carefully rolled for about 2 years!!  But, I am getting closer to the perfect fit.  Maybe I'll have them done for the fall.  Would be nice.


          8. raven99 | | #13

            Well I got the book from the library and it looks very good. I think the information on the tanning processes and the types and grades of leather is really great (I'll sound more knowledgeable if I ever order leather!) and it seems to cover various techniques and tools quite well. I'm definitely feeling more confident about sewing this jacket now, although I have to pat myself on the back for intuitively doing a lot of things right when i sewed my red suede jacket many years ago. Nancy, that lambskin must be wonderful!! Good luck with the project and let us know how it turns out. I've had my leather rolled and wrapped in kraft paper (was relieved to see that Sandy recommended that as the best way to store leather!) for about 2 years too. I'm finally feeling armed and ready to tackle it.Oh, I've ordered the book from my local bookstore. I may be sewing a lot more leather in the future!Marion

          9. SewNancy | | #10

            Woops, forgot to mention that the book is good with clear pictures and instructions.



  2. bobbin10 | | #14

    Sewing with leather

    Recently a leather jacket has been created using a zipper on the front that has been positioned on a slant.  The zipper runs on an angle at what I think is a 45 degree angle.  There are also other small pockets that have zipper closings.  This jacket would be perfect for travelling as items can be contained without being lost. I would like to make it, but of course, can't find the pattern.  I have some suede material and am anxious to make the jacket if I can find a pattern to follow.  Has anyone seen a pattern for this jacket?  Can I get a pattern resembling it?  I hate it when I see something I really like, but can't find a pattern to follow.  I don't know enough about sewing to be able to draft and then sew it.  I also wonder why patterns are so far behind fashion.  By the time I find the pattern, the style will be out of date.  What can I do?  Thanks for any help.  Are patterns protected by copyrights?

    1. Pattiann42 | | #15

      Sewing with leather

      You can alter a pattern, but you cannot make changes and then sell the pattern you have created.

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