I’ve never sewn leather before, and I was pretty sure it would be tricky.
But it’s not all that tricky as it turns out – what on earth was I worrying about?!
I was pretty excited about the possibilities by the time I got home, so I hopped straight into it.
There were a few supplies that turned out to be critical to how it all worked out:
The teflon sewing foot is important because it helps the otherwise sticky surface of the leather to slide nicely under the sewing machine, which makes it possible to sew smoothly and evenly.
The double-sided tape was also great to hold the seam allowances down after a seam was sewn, ready for top-stitching. I wish I knew what brand it was, but sadly I don’t. If you call Melann’s, I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you find something similar.
And the quilting clips are priceless for using instead of pins, which would leave a permanent mark in the leather and we don’t want that. They are sometimes called wonder clips – although I think that is a brand name and mine are generic.
The leather sewing needle was great as well, but I’m pretty sure it was going blunt towards the end of this project. It was taking just that mili-second longer to punch through, and you could hear the difference (only barely). So I think these might be a one time only thing. One small project, and throw them away. I suspect if I made a larger project, like a leather jacket, I’d be going through 2 or 3 needles.
The other thing I needed was a Tried and True pattern. Because I would not be able to do much in the way of tweaking the fit. Once leather is sewn, it can only go smaller or you get visible puncture holes in your finished garment.
I used Vogue pattern V8766. I’ve made this before as a sleeveless dress (now finally blogged here), so I knew it would fit well. And I also knew that I was able to do away with the front darts, so it would be a nice, clean, simple skirt. I wanted the leather to be the feature here, not the pattern itself.
Cutting out was a breeze. The leather sits nicely on the table and doesn’t slip around. My normal scissors were absolutely fine cutting through this fine lamb nappa leather. I used weights to hold down the pattern piece, flipped it over to cut on the flat, and it all went very smoothly.
Even the sewing itself was straightforward. I used plenty of clips, and started with the invisible zipper in the centre back seam. Once the zipper was in, I just sewed the back seam as normal and used the double sided tape to hold each seam allowance in place. I then top-stitched very close to that seam on each side to hold things flat.
I was all psyched for things to be tricky, but they weren’t. The top-stitching itself was really enjoyable as the result is so quick and neat and professional-looking. Here are some more close-ups just so I can preserve the memory.
And so I went on. Sewing, top-stitching and then lining and adding the waistband as you normally would. At the moment, the hem is still being held by the double sided tape. I’ve been told to use flexible contact cement when I’m ready to make it permanent, which I’ll get around to shortly. I’m happy with this length but wanted to wear it for a bit before I decided.
And now, all of a sudden, I have a new black leather skirt.
That’s my first project already completed for #makenine2017 (see my full list here). Here is a pic of the original inspiration skirt. Obviously, in real life, a bit of extra length is wise.
I’m starting to think this whole thing about making sewing plans is, you know, actually, well, quite a good idea…
Which is a bit of an admission from me, as previously I’ve approached my sewing more like ‘oo look at that let’s do that!’
But this time I’ve sewn to a plan and I have a very useful garment as a result that works with so many things I already have in my wardrobe.
So far I’ve tried it on with just about every shirt I own, and they’re all great with it. I just think a simple leather skirt is a useful staple to have in the wardrobe. It goes with everything, but still has that ‘something special’ that makes you feel like you’ve made an effort. But actually, it’s not really much effort at all.
Untucked, it’s great. I’m still on the fence about the tucked in option. The proportions look good, but I have a bit of a tummy and the shine of the leather does highlight that a bit. Maybe spanx? Or maybe I just decide not to worry about it.
The leather was already pretty soft, but after wearing it for a little while yesterday and again this morning I can tell that it will continue to stretch and mould to my shape over time. It’s not going to matter with this skirt, but is something to bear in mind for when I sew leather again (and I WILL sew leather again).
So my one final sewing tip for leather is this: Don’t forget to make it up on the tight side. It’s going to stretch and relax to your shape over time. It stretches a fair bit more than, say, denim would. That’s why leather garments end up being so uniquely comfy!
And that’s it. My first leather sewing experience complete. It was a good choice I think, because a simple black skirt is classic and will be worn a lot. Dress it up for work, down for weekends. Not including the teflon foot (which I’ll use many times I’m sure), this skirt cost me $55 for the leather. I had the lining fabric already so no need to count that.
I have a few leather scraps left over to make something tiny (a coin purse or two or three? a pieced clutch?). And this beautiful stuff which I also bought yesterday, to make the sleeves for a jacket which I hope will happen sometime in the next few months.