Working with leather – part two, sewing leather

In my last post I spoke about sourcing leather and cutting it out. This post is expanding on that with leather general sewing advice.

What sort of needle should I use?

You can buy specialist leather needles. These needles are slightly different to universal needles in that they have triangular ends. They act like a blade to cut through the skin. Yep, be warned that means both leather and your own skin.

Personally I would used these needles for the tougher leather only. Because of the blade like tip, sometimes it can shred finer leathers. For most of you sewing a bit of leather at home, a regular machine needle should be fine. I would use either a size 90 or 100, just because the thicker needle is more up to the task.

Just be aware that wherever you stick the needle, whether it’s the right or wrong place, it will make a permanent hole. Sometimes you can discreetly hide the damage by doing another stitch nearby but you will always have a fault. So be careful and confident in your stitching.

Sewing machine feet

You can sew leather with a regular sewing machine foot however the leather tends to stick and you don’t want to be yanking it through. A walking foot works really well (its great for anything bulky like quilting) but I generally prefer a teflon foot. You can widely buy regular shaped teflon feet and zipper teflon feet.

How do I press the seams open?

Well you can’t. You can use the iron to apply some heat but DO NOT use steam. I’ll tell you want happens if you do, it just shoots the steam right out the edges as the leather will not absorb it and it burns your hand. The amount of times I’ve done this and it bloody hurts! You can use a roller to press seams open. But if you want a really flat finish you can glue seams. There is specialist leather glue but copydex is latex based and works just as well.

When gluing a seam, avoid slathering loads everywhere, you are much better off using a small amount, spread thinly so that it’s almost at the point of drying and then pushing your seam allowance back. Once the glue sets, it really sets and it will not come unstuck. Especially if its suede touching suede. It doesn’t stick so well when its patent stuck to patent. If you can hammer the leather with either a tailor’s clapper, a wooden ruler or something similar, it will really flatten seams nicely.

On the Trekoda backpack I’m making, I’m using patent black leather for highlights. To make the zip detail, I inserted the zip onto the black leather. The other edge of the black leather I cut using scalloped pinking shears. Then I cut the zip seam allowance off the yellow piece (it would be too bulky if it’s involved) and used copydex to attach it to the black leather. The cut edge of the yellow is up against the stitch line of the zip. I’ve then top stitched. The glue wouldn’t be strong enough without it and I don’t want to risk it peeling off. Also the top stitching gives a really strong look.

With the side panels, the seam allowance needs to be pressed down. So I had to glue the two seam allowances together and then I could glue the seam down. As this seam allowance isn’t on show like the previous seam, there is no need to stitch through.

Assembling rest of bag

The rest of the bag is straight forward enough to assemble. Although you’ll notice I did an alteration to the front of the bag and made a jaunty angled zip pocket. Birthing the bag through the small hole requires a fair amount of huffing, puffing and swearing but once turned, looks fab.

I should’ve got thick sliders for the straps as the four layers of leather make it quite hard to move. But I just love this bag, the contrast between the black and yellow is fab in my opinion. I have far too many bags now so I’m giving it to a friend but I will miss it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this

Rosie xx

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