brown leather

How To Stitch Leather: Useful Guidelines

Do you have a leather jacket in your closet? How about a pair of soft, suede boots? How about a buttery-textured sofa in your recreation room? No matter how it’s used, leather will always add a touch of class. Unfortunately, the price of leather makes some people shy away from buying clothes and furniture made with this product. You might balk at spending hundreds of dollars on a jacket or thousands on a furniture set for your family to use on a regular basis.

Worrying about wear and tear on leather products contributes to this anxiety. Luckily, with a little practice and a few household items, you can easily learn how to stitch leather and make basic repairs to leather clothes and furniture. Knowing how to stitch leather is a valuable skill that will come in handy more often than you think!

What Is Leather?

How To Stitch Leather

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The strict definition of leather is any material made from the skin of an animal. Some people, however, like the feeling of leather but don’t want the real thing. For those people, faux leather is the right choice.

Real Leather

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Cowhide is the most commonly used animal skin for making real leather. However, leather can also be made from lambskin, alligator skin, or even ostrich skin. Craftspeople working with rare, valuable skins have learned how to stitch leather carefully and produce beautiful garments.

For many people, nothing beats the feeling of real leather. These people can easily detect faux leather right away. While faux leather opens up more opportunities for people to enjoy the look of leather, without purchasing the real thing, those who value the feel of leather won’t accept anything else.

Real leather comes in several different forms:

Full grain leather

This is considered the highest quality leather. It includes all of the layers of the animal’s skin. It hasn’t been treated to remove scars or other imperfections. This type of leather is used for high-end shoes and saddles.

Top grain leather

This leather is considered the second highest quality. The first layer of skin in this type of leather has been treated to smooth out the skin and remove imperfections. A top coat is applied to protect the surface of this leather since the first layer has been removed. Top grain is softer than full-grain leather, yet durable. It’s often used in upholstery.

Corrected grain leather

This type is commonly used in leather purses. The top layers of the skin have been removed, so it completely lacks the pattern of the animal’s skin. For this reason, corrected grain leather has a grain pattern stamped on it. You can recognize this type because it is has a perfect grain pattern with no variations. It’s often dyed into other colors.

Split or suede

This soft leather is made with the lowest layers of animal skin. These thin sheets of leather are bonded together to create a complete piece of material.

Faux Leather

faux leather

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Some people prefer faux leather to real leather. These days, it can be hard to tell the difference.  Most faux leather is made with a fabric backing covered with a layer of vinyl or polyurethane resin.

Reasons for choosing faux leather over real leather include:

Price

Faux leather is often much less expensive than the real thing.

Personal beliefs

People who follow a vegan lifestyle avoid products made with animal material.

Durability

If you have kids who like to jump on the couch or the need for a jacket that can handle exposure to the elements, faux leather might be the right choice for you.

Is There A Need To Stitch Leather?

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If your leather product becomes damaged, you’ll have to get it repaired somehow. Cobblers and tailors might be able to patch up your torn leather, but if you prefer to save a little money, you can quickly learn how to stitch leather using the instructions below.

The stitch we’ll teach you in this article is called the saddle stitch. It’s easy to learn, and once you know it, you’ll find plenty of uses for it beyond fixing leather items. The method below is handy for sewing all kinds of thick material, including denim and canvas. You can use it to repair, or even make, leather knife sheaths, holsters, or belts.

Learning how to stitch leather is a great craft option for older children. Responsible children can create patterns in leather using leather carving tools or a wood burner and then stitch the leather pieces together to make coin purses or other items.

Before you start stitching up your favorite jacket or leather skirt, buy some leather pieces from a craft store or use an old pair of jeans for practice.

How To Stitch Leather

Before we get into the details of how to stitch leather, we need to talk about supplies. Gather together the following items:

  • Two darning needles or sewing needles
  • Waxed thread or regular thread you’ve waxed with beeswax or by rubbing it on a candle
  • Awl, pricking iron, or ice pick
  • Stitching pony, clamps, or large binder clips
  • Stitching groover or fork
  • Pliers

When you have these supplies together, you can get into learning how to stitch leather. Follow the steps below:

  1. Using your clamp, stitching pony, or binder clips, clamp both pieces of leather together with the smooth sides facing out.
  2. With the stitching groover or fork, make a row of dots where you’d like the stitches to go. Press hard so that the dots are clearly embossed on the leather.
  3. Next, use the embossed dots as a template to poke holes in the leather. Using your awl, pricking iron, or ice pick, pierce the leather over each hole.
  4. Now you are ready to start stitching!

To begin the stitching process, grab your thread and needle and follow the next set of steps:

  1. Pull out a piece of thread about four or five times the length of the piece of leather you’re stitching.
  2. Thread the needles at both ends of the thread (that’s right, you’re using two needles).
  3. Tighten thread in the needle by passing the needle into the thread (yes, sliding the needle actually into the thread) and then tying a knot at the needle’s eye.
  4. Begin to sew in figure eights, alternating needles. Sew the first stitch, then drop that needle, pick up the other one, and sew right into the same hole, but in the alternate direction.
  5. The result should be snug thread in figure eights across the row of holes.
  6. Be sure to keep the same tension as you stitch. If you begin tightly, don’t loosen up; if you begin on the loose side, keep that looseness to the end.
  7. Keep track of each needle’s “turn;” Remember that each needle has to go through the same, last hole, that the needle before went through.
  8. Try to create a rhythm as you stitch so that you don’t forget which needle comes next and so you remember to keep your tension consistent. 
  9. Playing music as you stitch the leather can help you keep that rhythm! Try it!
  10. When you reach the end, stitch backward for two or three holes, and then cut the thread as close to the leather as possible.

Problems

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Learning how to stitch leather is a challenge. It is easier said than done. If you have experience sewing fabric that experience will not necessarily carry over to working with thicker material.

Some of the common problems people encounter when stitching leather include:

The needle not fitting through the hole

In this case, use your pliers to pull the needle through the hole

The needle bending or breaking

Be sure to have a heavy-duty needle such as a darning needle. Regular needles commonly used for fabric may not be strong enough for your leather project.

Blisters or sore hands

Leather is tough to work with. If you’re tackling a big piece, then you’re bound to feel a bit of pain after holding the material and pushing the needles. Even though you’ve punched holes, there is still a lot of tugging involved when stitching a thick material. Wear some work gloves or gardening gloves to protect your hands as you tug. Have some bag balm or other soothing product nearby to treat your hands when you’re done stitching.

The holes in the pieces of leather not matching up

You can prevent this problem by applying a strip of glue on the inside part of the leather, matching up with the part where you’ll punch your holes. The glue will help to keep the pieces matched when you punch your holes.

Conclusion

Though tougher than sewing fabric, stitching leather can be an oddly satisfying experience. When you’ve stitched the piece, you can look at it and know that you’ve conquered one of humanity’s oldest materials. Stitching leather opens up many opportunities for you to repair damaged leather items around the house as well as create new pieces as gifts.  Adding this skill to your home maintenance and crafting repertoire is sure to pay off in the future.  

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