Fabric foray: leather and suede

Learn how to make a stunning winter cape in our new Butte crested cape to sew!.

Learn the proper methods for embroidering leather and suede to create fabulous stitching every time.


Leather comes in a variety of types, including:

Full flower: Leather whose upper grain and split layer are not separated. It is commonly used to make furniture and shoes.

Divide: Brushed leather on the front and back to provide a soft finish. It is generally used to make skirts and other clothing.

Top grain: Leather whose split layer is separated. It is thinner, more supple and resists stains better than full grain leather.

Corrected grain: Leather whose surface is covered with an artificial grain.

Patent: Leather treated with a shiny finish.

Sweden: Leather with a brushed finish. It is usually made from lamb and has a soft hand. Suede is less durable than leather.

The leather is usually bovine hide, but it is also made from various other animals, including snake, pig, lamb, and deer. Suede and leather come in a variety of weights, from light to heavy. Some varieties have a soft feel, while others are rough. Genuine leather and suede are expensive and available by the sheet or square foot. Faux leather and suede are available by the meter at reasonable prices. When selecting leather, choose the weight and type that best suits the project, the design and your wallet.

Leather and suede are perfect for making a variety of clothing items, such as skirts and pants, home decor items, and bags.

Sewing Tips

Use a chalk marker to mark leather and suede.

Use a rotary cutter and mat to precisely cut suede and leather.

Do not use pins, as they produce permanent holes in the fabric. Instead, use fabric weights or double-sided tape.

Use a PTFE presser foot to easily feed leather through the machine when sewing. (A).

Double stitched for a professional look (B).

Fuse a piece of interfacing to the reverse side of the suede or leather using a pressure cloth to add stability, if desired.

Gather the leather by topstitching along the length of the fabric. If using a rubber band, use a durable sports variety (VS). Increase the stitch length, if necessary, to accommodate the thickness of the fabric and avoid tearing.

Embroidery Tips

Do not use the perimeter basting feature, as needle penetrations leave permanent holes in the fabric.

To avoid hoop burn, cut a piece of flannel the size of the embroidery area. Place the flannel on the right side of the leather or suede and surround both layers with a cut or tear-off piece of interfacing. Cut out a square or rectangle of flannel the size of the pattern, revealing the leather underneath. Embroider the pattern.

Import decorative stitch designs from the sewing menu to the embroidery menu to create unique designs and all-over designs (D). The stitches are easy to work with and are generally available in widths from 9mm to 36mm. Choose a larger stitch to embroider the fabric more quickly, if desired.

Choose the thread based on the finished look you want. For example, use metallic thread for added shine or cotton thread for a matte finish.


Use a size 90/14 or 100/16 leather needle. The leather needles have a sharp tip for easy penetration without tearing. Test a stitch on a piece of fabric to make sure the needle and fabric work well together.


Use a self-adhesive cut or tear stabilizer for light to medium-weight varieties of suede or leather. Circle a piece of stabilizer with the paper side up, score the paper, then remove the paper to reveal the adhesive. Place the fabric on the adhesive; press with finger to secure. A cut stabilizer can also be used. Do not remove the stabilizer on the back of the fabric if stability is needed.


Choose a less dense design with plenty of open space. Models that are too dense can cause thread breakage or perforated fabric.

Test stitches on scraps of fabric to make sure the needle, fabric, stabilizer, pattern and thread work well together.

Select patterns or decorative stitches that match the size of the project (E). Do not choose models that are too large for small objects.

Search for unique decorative stitch patterns on a quilting machine to import them into the embroidery menu. Use embroidery software to help with positioning, resizing, duplicating and creating mirror images, if necessary. Once embroidery is complete, press using a pressure cloth at low temperature. Do not use steam.

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