Do You Need a Special Needle To Sew Leather?


Leather is a special fabric that poses a challenge to many people who are learning to sew. It cannot be ironed or pinned, and if you use normal universal needles on it, you risk ruining it or breaking your needles. That said, if you use the correct tools and techniques on leather, it is a beautiful material to work with that will give you consistently beautiful results.

So, do you need a special needle to sew leather? Well, yes, you do. There are special leather needles that are designed to easily penetrate leather as you sew, making the sewing process a lot easier, faster, and more efficient.

This article will help you gain a better understanding of leather and how to sew it. 

Understanding Leather As A Fabric

To the uninitiated, leather is a complicated material to work with. It comes in various degrees of thickness and softness as well as textures and colors. Sewing leather is a completely different experience from working with other fabrics like polyester, cotton or even denim.

Leather is tough and will offer more resistance than most other fabrics. You need to use a sturdy needle on your machine to penetrate it. As you work it, you’ll also find that it is stickier than cotton. It tends to stick to the presser foot when passing through the sewing machine’s feed dogs. If the leather fabric does not pass through the sewing machine as it is supposed to, you may end up making holes in it. Such holes are usually more visible in leather than in other types of fabric. This is why it is extremely important to always use the correct sewing machine needles for leather.

Depending on the requirements of your project, you may also need to use different styles of sewing applications, which may need specific machine needles and presser feet.

Leather is usually measured in ounces, unlike other kinds of fabric. Its thickness is determined using an ounce-to-size measurement. For instance, a piece of leather that is 8 oz might be ⅛” thick, while a different 4 oz piece of leather could be 1/16” and so on.

The heavier the material you are using, the thicker the leather. This is true if the total size is kept constant. For instance, upholstery leather is generally not heavier than 12 oz. This is because it is difficult to sew heavy, thick leather pieces of leather together on a domestic machine.

Leather is also not a very stretchy or elastic material. You cannot, therefore, use certain types of needles and stitching styles with leather.

The Role of A Leather Needle

Leather sewing machine needles come in different styles. If you want to get the best results from your sewing machine, you must select the correct leather stitching needles for your project. 

The ultra-thin 8/60 needle, for instance, is used for embroidery or delicate stitching on very light fabrics. If you try to use it on leather, you’ll realize that it won’t even punch a hole in the fabric.

Compared to regular sewing machine needles, leather needles are slightly longer and thicker. They have a wedge-shaped tip and are pointed near the tip. This shape makes it ideal for sewing leather since it can easily penetrate the material and come out with the thread still packed tightly in place.

Leather needles can be comfortably used on genuine leather, suede, vinyl, suede. They will even work well with thick, non-woven fabric. Many popular sewing machine brands, like Singer and Brother, have dedicated lines of leather sewing machines allowing you to do all your leather sewing right from home.

You have to be very careful when working with leather. Unlike other fabrics, any needle holes made on it are permanent and very visible. Leather needles notoriously cause this problem because they are quite thick to allow a strong thread inside the pinholes, which are visible even from a distance.

To reduce the chances of this happening, practice the stitch you want to do on a test fabric before doing it on your final leather fabric. Also, to prevent the fabric from getting torn up, you should avoid running a backstitch on it.

Best Sewing Machine Needles For Leather

To create high-quality stitches with your leather, you must pick the right size and width of leather sewing machine needles.

Generally speaking, the slightly pricier options are almost always worth the money. They are usually made by reputable brands and you can count on them not to break unexpectedly as you use them.

Here are some of the best sewing machine needles for leather:

1. Schmetz Needles

When it comes to sewing machine needles, Schmetz has the widest range of leather needles in the market. They also offer value for your money when you buy their bulk quantity packs.

Schmetz was established in 1851. It is a family-owned company. Their needles are made to the highest standards and offer some of the best performance for a range of applications. They are high-quality and durable, both of which are important qualities when working with leather.

2. Jeans & Denim Machine Needles

For projects that involve light leather, denim and jeans, the Schmetz Jeans & Denim needles 18/110 – 5/PKG will work perfectly. These needles also work well with various Singer, Brother and Janome sewing machine models.

They are also quite durable and stay sharp for long. The only disadvantage with them is that they are not compatible with many other domestic sewing machine models, which can limit how much use you get out of them. 

3. Singer Titanium Universal Regular Point Machine Needles (Size 18/110)

Singer Titanium Universal Regular Point Machine Needles stand out because they can be used for a very wide range of leather applications. They are made with a stainless steel alloy to ensure durability and strength, which makes them last nearly five times as other similar needles on the market.

These needles are built to prevent heat and friction from interfering with the thread, significantly reducing breakage. They are compatible with almost all heavy-duty Singer sewing machine models. They are also color coded to make it easier to identify them.

They typically come packaged in an assortment of needle sizes. On the downside, it is a 50/50 chance that they will work on other sewing machine brands like Brother, Juki or even Janome.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. With the information outlines here, you should be able to get the perfect needle for your upcoming leather project. Learning how to work with leather is all about taking small baby steps towards a bigger goal. In no  time at all, you’ll be surprised at the quality of leather products you will be able to put out using just your sewing machine. Good luck!

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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