Sewing Leather – Part 2 – Straight Seams

If you haven’t already, read ‘Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Sewing Straight Seams

  • Your stitch length should be no smaller than 8-10 stitches per inch (2.5-3.5mm).  Smaller stitches could cause your seamline to tear. 
  • Do not back stitch at the beginning or end of your seams.  To secure your threads pull the upper thread through to the underside and tie the two threads in a knot (or pull both threads to the middle between the layers and tie off there)
  • You can loosen your top and bottom thread tensions slightly if you think this improves the look of your seam.  This will probably be necessary if you are using a thicker thread.
  • Leather doesn’t ravel and it’s neater if you keep your seam allowances quite small.  I used 1cm seam allowances but you can use ½ inch seams if you are an inches and feet kind of person.
  • To convert this post to imperial measurements substitute 1/2″ when I’ve used 1cm and 1″ when I’ve used 2cm.

Now we’re up to the action part.


Sample 1 – Straight seam pressed open

IMG_0943

I’ve used a lightweight suede for my sample

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 12x10cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
  3. Open your seam allowances and gently hammer or roll them open
  4. Apply a very thin layer of glue to the underside of your seam allowances and stick them down.
  5. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
  6. Clip corners off first seams to reduce bulk then open and glue seams open as you did for the first pairs.
    IMG_0937IMG_0936

Sample 2 – Straight seam pressed to the side and topstitched

IMG_0973

In this sample you’ll be learning a clever trick called ‘seam splitting’.  This is used to reduce bulk where seams intersect.  The measurement rule for your seam split is that it is twice the width of your seam allowance or hem, therefore if your seam allowance is 1cm your seam split will measure 2cm.

There is very little gluing involved in these seams because the top stitching holds most of the seam allowances flat.

  1. Cut 4 squares or rectangles.  Mine are about 10-12cm
  2. Sew them together in pairs, right sides together.
    IMG_0938
  3. Snip into one seam allowance.  In this case I have a 1cm seam allowance so I’m making my snips 2cm from the raw edge.
    Note:  Clip only one seam allowance
    IMG_0939
  4. The ends of the seams are pressed open and the middle of the seams are pressed to one side (the side you will be topstitching on).
    IMG_0971
  5. Edgestitch (or topstitch) your seam.  With right sides up, start from the opposite side of the seam to where your edgestitching will be.  Begin by sewing across the open seam allowance to secure it about .5cm from the edge (this also anchors your thread).  Sew across the seam, sink your needle and swivel your work then edgestitch the seam, checking that your seams are folded the right way on the underside and being caught in the seam.  When you near the seam split at the end check that the seam allowances are open.  Edgestitch to the end, sink your needle, swivel your work and stitch across the seam and the seam allowance.

    IMG_0941
    Once you’re done this is what it should look like on the right and wrong sides.
  6. Place your pair of assembled pairs right sides together.  Match your seams exactly and use clips to hold them together while sewing.
    IMG_0972
  7. Snip into one seam allowance 2cm from outer edges as in step 3 above.  Edgestitch the seam as you did in step 4 above making sure that the seam allowances at the seam intersection are open as you sew across.  You will only catch one of them and leave the other free.
    IMG_0975
  8. Glue down the loose seam allowance in the centre of the seam to form a square at the intersection.
    IMG_0976

Seam Splitting Rules

Seam splits are used to reduce bulk in areas of the garment where seams will intersect.  Leather seams can be quite bulky and splitting the seam, so that it lies open at seam intersections, reduces bulk and helps those areas lie flat.

  • Use seam splits where you are top/edge stitching seams.  You don’t need to use them for seams which are pressed open and glued.
  • Only snip one seam allowance – the opposite seam allowance to the side where your topstitching will be.
  • They are always twice the width of your seams or twice the width of your hem.  Therefore if your seams are 1cm you’ll make your clip 2cm from the edge.  If you have a 3 cm hem, you’ll snip 6cm from the edge.
  • Seam split 1cm (1/2”) above and below the sewing lines of any pocket or tab stitching lines, ie if you’re going to be sewing a pocket welt, jet, patch pocket, tab or anything else across a seam later in the construction process you’ll want to put a split in the seam to reduce bulk.
  • Make sure you catch both seam allowances with your top/edge stitching.
  • Always glue down loose splits, like you did in the centre of the seam.  Don’t leave them flopping about.

Further reading

There are many other ways to sew seams in leather.  I’ve included these two because they’re the ones I’m planning to use in the garments I’ll be sewing.  For more techniques you can refer to other resources like:

Coming Soon

I’ll be adding tutorials for sewing curved seams, trimmed facings, jet pockets and zipped sleeves with godet inserts as time allows.

Please note:  I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

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