Have you ever tried sewing with leather? It isn’t nearly as tricky as it sounds. Later this month I will be releasing a free pattern for making a leather bag. Before that, I thought it might be fun to give you a small- and instantly gratifying project to get your mind thinking about all things leather.
Leather comes in many varieties, weights, textures and colors. It can be a bit intimidating to purchase and to cut into the first time. However, once you understand it- there is no turning back! Unlike fabric that is comes on a bolt, leather is sold in hides and pieces- and by weight. The weight though doesn’t refer to it’s actual weight. Instead it is a gauge of the leather’s thickness. Generally, each ounce of leather equals 1/64th of an inch or 0.4mm thickness.
Since leather comes from an animal, there will be some variation. As such, leather is generally listed for sale in a range of weight. For example 2-3 oz, 3-4 oz. Most home sewing machines will easily stitch leather up to about 3-3.5 ounces.
For the most part, the leather that I use is purchased from Abe’s Leather in Brooklyn, eBay, Etsy and Mood Fabrics. There is a new to me resource that I am excited to share, Leather Suede Skins, in NYC. Also- I tend to love to take apart old clothes and bags too. So keep the thrift store and your closet in mind as an alternative.
Price is based on quality, type of skin, country of origin, size and finish. It doesn’t have to be too expensive so shop around.
Once you have selected your leather, lay it out on a flat surface and examine the hide for imperfections, holes and variations in thickness. Leather does have a grain, but for bags and small accessories, it really isn’t necessary to place patterns along the grain line. Instead, arrange the pattern pieces to fit and to maximize the available leather.
When you have determined the optimal layout, you will want to place a pattern weight (or some close object that will function as a pattern weight and allow you to trace the pattern piece onto the leather. In working with leather, you do not want to use pins as they will leave permanent holes and marks.
Tracing a pattern on leather doesn’t really require anything special- a ruler and some kind of pencil. I tend to use a pen, pencil, chalk, marker or even a tracing wheel. It really depends on the color of the leather, how smooth or rough the hide is, and what is on my table at the time.
Leather is easily cut with sharp scissors or a rotary cutter. I generally use a rotary cutter for most things- but for this hair tie project, scissors work just fine.
Here are some of my favorite tools that I use for cutting leather:
Olfa Rotary Cutter I like both the 45 and the 28MM sizes.
Self-Healing Cutting Mat You will want a large mat to comfortably lay out your pieces to cut
Omnigrid Quilting Rulers These come in a variety of useful sizes. Because of their relative thickness, I prefer these rulers over others for guiding my rotary cutter. Fingers can get cut way too easily without the ruler.
In my next post I will share some tips on getting you started sewing with leather on the machine. Needles, feet, thread, interfacing and adhesives.
LEATHER HAIR TIE TUTORIAL
Trace the pattern onto the back side of the leather piece.
Cut along the traced line.
Place the leather tie right side facing down and slip into the elastic hair band.
Tie the leather into a knot around the elastic band. The object is to end up with the right side (pretty side) of the leather on the outside of each side of the bow and the center knot.
Before pulling the knot tight, twist the sides around a bit to make sure you are happy with the way the leather faces.
For this version, tie in the same manner as above making sure that the pretty side of the leather is facing up.
The pattern for the hair tie is just a rectangle. To give you a bit of wiggle room to make it symmetrical, I didn’t add the angled ends. Once your are satisfied with the way your leather is knotted, just cut the ends at an angle.
Aren’t they pretty? I would love to see what you make. Please tag me @littlestichstudio when you show off your fancy work.