Leather comes in many types, textures and thicknesses. Though harder to work with than fabric, with careful planning and time, you can sew leather by hand.
After choosing the leather you’d like to work with, here are 10 tips to sew leather by hand:
#1. Pins. Never use pins on leather. When you remove a pin, the hole will still be there. So unless you want a hole as a part of a pattern, never use pins in leather. To hold two pieces together to sew leather by hand, use clips. You can use any style of clip that can be found with school/office supplies at any stores. Binder clips are a good choice.
#2. Use a Leather Needle. A leather needle is a special tipped needle that has three sharp edges to make it easier to sew leather. Some people prefer regular fabric needles. You can practice on scraps of leather to see which type you prefer.
#3. Choosing the Needle Shape. A curved needle is harder to snap than a straight needle, but may be harder to use. You can practice with both to see which shape you prefer.
#4. Thimble. A thick leather thimble is useful to sew leather by hand. It will help keep the needle from going through your finger.
#5. Pliers. Pliers are used to grab the needle on the other side of the leather after using the thimble to push it through one side. Then you use the pliers to gently pull the needle the rest of the way through the hole. This helps to reduce wiggling which will enlarge the hole.
#6. Ruler and Marker. Unlike fabric, when you sew leather by hand you cannot remove a stitch and start over without leaving a hole. Use a ruler and a marker to dot where you want the needle holes to be. This also gives you a mark to keep your stitches even and straight for a nicer look.
#7. Leather Chisel or Punch. You can use a chisel or punch to make the holes prior to inserting the needle to make the needle go through the leather much easier. If you are sewing two pieces of leather together, make sure the holes are going to line up.
#8. Choosing the Thread. There are specially made waxed threads you can buy to sew leather by hand. But you can use regular thread as well. Polyester thread is stronger than cotton thread.
#9. Beeswax. Especially if you are using regular thread, you will need beeswax to make your thread smoother. Slide your thread over the beeswax to thinly coat. This will help the needle slide better through the leather with less of a chance of getting stuck.
#10. Leather Adhesive. When you are done sewing two pieces of leather, you may want the seam to lie flat. This is best achieved by using a leather adhesive. Instructions are given with the adhesive.
Two good stores to buy leather and supplies online if you want to sew leather by hand are Tandy’s Leather Factory1 and S&D Trading Company2. I used to get leather and supplies at a local Tandy’s when I was a kid, so they have been around for a while. I really like S&D Trading Company’s online site. They have everything listed on one page by providing links in groupings to get what you want. They offer a variety of conchos and crafts to add to your leather workings. Both sites have books and kits available as well to sew leather by hand.
1 Tandy Leather Factory; Tandy Leather Factory; www.tandyleatherfactory.com/
2 S&D Trading Company, “The Leather Store”; S&D Trading Company, “The Leather Store”; www.sdtradingco.com/