My goal today is to lead you on the right path to finding a good solid sewing machine for leather regardless of your particular needs. And, since you may have different needs than the next person reading this same article, I have mixed both home sewing machines and the best industrial sewing machines for leather that I could find on the market.
I find it extremely important that, before digging in the reviews, you learn a bit more about the main perks and downsides of both domestic and industrial machines when working on leather.
So, let’s quickly go over it.
- 1 Leather Sewing Machine: Domestic vs. Industrial
- 2 Top 5 Best Sewing Machines for Leather
- 3 Leather Sewing Machines Comparison Chart
- 4 How to Choose the Best Leather Sewing Machine
- 5 Maintenance and Upkeep of your Leather Sewing Machine
- 6 Must-Have Tools to sew Leather with a Home Sewing Machine
- 7 Sewing leather with a home sewing machine
- 8 And a last piece of advice on buying a leather sewing machine…
Leather Sewing Machine: Domestic vs. Industrial
If you’ve never sewn leather before you might not know that the most important thing you need is a machine that can continuously work at a very low speed. Any professional leathercrafter will cringe at the thought of sewing leather with a domestic machine. It just isn’t right.
However, if you just want to work sparingly on thin leather, like a vegan one, you may be ok with a domestic sewing machine. In fact, you can simply skip the rest of this piece and check the reviews on home sewing machines with the strongest motor.
If, on the contrary, you want to buy a sewing machine for thick leather, my advice to you is to get rid of the fear of using an industrial sewing machine for the first time and go try one at a local shop. But let me tell you in advance what they’ll say…
“The most important thing you’ll need to sew on thick leather is a servo motor with a speed reducer. Can you add that up to a domestic model? No! SO, you need an industrial sewing machine for leather. And don’t forget to buy a servo motor and a speed reducer.”
But what’s a servo motor or a speed reducer for? Well, the servo motor will allow you to sew at a chosen speed while the speed reducer will help the servo motor to maintain a more decent degree of power no matter how slow you want to sew. And you’ll want to go very slow when stitching through tricky corners.
And why is this important? Because sewing on leather at a fast pace will highly increase the chances of your piece of leather getting scratched and becoming a total waste.
I believe that owning an industrial machine will certainly make your experience much more enjoyable and soon you’ll find yourself planning a lot more projects. You don’t know it yet, but it will happen.
Oh! Another good and very affordable option would be to buy a hand-crank leather sewing machine.
So let’s move on to the reviews of our chosen sewing machines for leather.
Top 5 Best Sewing Machines for Leather
5. Singer 4452
Ideal for: Thin Leather. Light to Medium Weight Materials.
Singer 4452 is a straight-forward model with more stitches than the average mechanical sewing machine. When using with the correct leather needle and thread, the power of its motor and the speed will surprise you as it makes it super efficient for a household model.
Of course, since this isn’t an industrial sewing machine, it can only do a limited amount of hard work, including thin leather, but, if you have a low budget to invest in a sewing machine for leather, this is definitely a great option.
What’s awesome is that it comes with many heavy-duty accessories, such as a walking foot for quickly sewing through several layers of material, a non-stick foot for thin leather, a clearance plate for thicker seams, and some extra heavy duty needles, so you won’t need to purchase any extra accessories for your leathercrafts.
- Built-in needle threader.
- The included non-sticky foot is ideal for working on leather.
- An Even Feed or Walking Foot is included, making this machine a good option to work on several layers of material.
- Avoid using it on thick leather.
- Debris from leather thread needs to get cleaned often.
Ideal for: Thin Leather. Light to Medium Weight Materials.
Due to the reduced use of plastic parts and the lack of any electronics, the Janome HD1000 would outlast any other home machine.
This sewing machine is undoubtedly best suited for light and medium-weight materials. Nonetheless, sewing thick leather, reptile skin, canvas, twill, plastic, or rubber can cause the engine to overheat.
Furthermore, thanks to its strong motor, it works as well on heavy fabrics such as thin leather or denim as it does on lighter fabrics.
- Powerful motor of 1.0 Amp. for home use.
- The frame is made of aluminum, as used in industrial machines.
- Threading mechanism that is ideal for left-handed users.
- There are no electronics, which means the product would last longer.
- Hard cover included to keep it dust-free while stored.
- Beginner’s beware: this machine has high power and one can only regulable the speed through the pressure on the pedal.
- Debris from leather thread needs to get cleaned often.
Ideal for: Thin to Thick Leather. Light to Heavy Weight Materials.
Our rating: icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star-half-empty
- Machine Type: Iron made, cobbler hand crank..
- Foot Lift Heigth: 13-15mm
- Speed per minute: 860 spm
- Free Arm: Yes, Long Horizontal Cylinder Bed.
You can buy this super cheap sewing machine for a little more than a hundred dollars and quit sewing your leather crafts by hand.
What’s even better about this model is the slim cylinder bed, which helps to reach every difficult corner of the leather item you’re working on. This is the most affordable industrial cylinder bed machine you’ll ever find, and the consistency of the stitches is only limited by your ability to improve your skills through practice.
Most likely you’ll have to clean the extra oil and sometimes even sand the presser foot to avoid it from scratching delicate items. Nonetheless, since they are iron cast, they will last you a lifetime for a very reasonable price.
- Very affordable option to upgrade your leathercraft work.
- 360º rotating head to easily turn the direction of the stitches.
- It will last you a lifetime as it’s completely mechanical.
- Super basic system that any beginner can learn.
- You might need to clean the extra oil before the first use.
- The foot might need some sanding to prevent the leather from getting scratched.
- The Tripod stand is a bit flimsy so we recommend changing it to a more stable surface to squeeze all its potential.
Ideal for: Thin Leather. Light to Medium Weight Materials.
Compared to the Janome HD1000 the only differences in this machine are the stitch width that varies from 5mm to 6.5mm, the number of feed dogs that increases from 3 to 5 pieces, 4 extra stitches, and 2 needle positions.
Also, the bobbin winding system automatically stops when full. And, to allow all those changes, the weight goes up 2 pounds from 16.8 to 18.7.
Every other feature remains exactly the same as Janome HD1000 no matter the color edition you choose. A downside is that in this unit the design includes some plastic parts whereas Janome HD1000 has been entirely made out of metal. It’s up to you.
If you give more importance to a full-on metal frame, go for Janome HD1000. If, on the contrary, you consider it more important to have those extra features, stay with HD3000. In the end, and no matter your choice, it’s the quality of Janome you are buying.
- Leather Needles Included
- Powerful motor of 1.0 Amp. for home use
- Threading system perfect for left-handed
- Accessories made of metal
- Aluminum Body for durability
- No electronics for longer durability
- Designed to sew on thin leather and denim
- Black Edition Available here
- High power and speed for beginners.
- Debris from leather thread needs to get cleaned often.
Ideal for: Thin to Thick Leather. Heavy Weight Materials.
This triple feed machine has been specifically designed to work on heavy-duty materials such as medium or thick leather with 14 mm clearance under the presser foot and a stitch length of up to 10 mm.
The 206RB-5 model from this renowned brand, Consew, is a super complete option if you sew from automotive seat repairs, marine vinyl, or canvas to medium weight apparel garments on a daily basis and on different types of projects. Just change the needle, adjust tension and stitch length, and keep sewing.
The strength of this industrial unit can pull material through no matter how much weight is hanging from the machine, and without breaking needles. Many users have noted how quiet Consew 206RB is for what it does, making a good option for you if you will be installing the machine at home.
Additionally, you can easily press the installed lever to reverse the direction of the lock stitch and to change the bobbin, you leave whatever it’s being sewn under the presser foot.
- Triple or Compound Feed provides excellent stitch and smooth sewing
- Great for leather, denim and vinyl
- Bobbin type M to hold double the thread
- Centralized Lubrication System
- Too rough for light cloth garments
- Separate tool using the motor belt to wind the bobbin
Leather Sewing Machines Comparison Chart
*Speed Per Minute: referring to the number of stitches a machine can perform in a minute.
How to Choose the Best Leather Sewing Machine
What is your budget?
The amount of money that you’re willing to spend on a new leather machine should always be the first decision that you make. Setting a budget within your possibilities will help you not to overspend.
Even if you don’t need to spend a fortune on a sewing machine with features that you’ll never use, the following reasons give you a hint on why you shouldn’t go for the cheapest option:
– A cheap machine will normally be made of plastic parts that will eventually crystalize and break apart.
– A good quality engine will last longer and allow you to sew heavier fabrics.
– A good sewing machine should last you many years. If you have considered trying new kinds of crafts, go for a machine that includes the necessary features.
– A good investment in time will save you money in the future. However, always keep your set budget in mind.
What will you use it for?
The same reason why you wouldn’t buy a Ferrari to learn how to drive, if you’re new in the sewing world, I wouldn’t recommend you to buy an industrial machine.
Start low, check your new passion, and invest in new accessories and machines as you go along.
Also, be careful with buying a sewing machine that brings features you know you will never use. Some special features that add value, can also increase the price. But, if you don’t need those features, you will be wasting your money.
Something you probably haven’t thought of if you are buying your first ever machine, is the amount of extra money that will go into threads of different colors, extra needles, and other accessories depending on the specific craft of your choice. Don’t forget to include them in your budget.
Remember that if you buy them at the same time as your new machine, you will be able to sew straight and save time instead of waiting a few more days for a new delivery.
If you think you might use the machine for more purposes other than to sew on leather, take than into account.
A cylinder machine, for instance, will be super useful when dealing with a leather hat, a shoe, or a saddle, but might make the task tiring if later on, you decide to use for flat garments alone. You will then miss a flat-bed machine where to lay the heavy material while sewing on it.
Find a machine that is easy to use. Only you can assess how well are you learning to use new devices. Using a computerized machine can be tricky if you’re not used to new technologies. However, screen usability becomes more and more intuitive providing easier usability with each new model.
To help you decide, you could make a trip to the closest store before deciding on one model.
Always try it as soon as it arrives in case you want to use the warranty.
The price you’ll pay
The prices of specific machines made to stitch through leather vary from 120$ up to a few thousand.
Since hand operated sewing machines will cost very little and can normally stitch through very thick pieces of leather, I personally believe that owning one of these could be the perfect complement to your sewing room if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in a machine that can only sew straight stitches.
Home sewing machines are only a few hundreds of dollars but, when used for leather they can often stop running soon. In the end, even if the marketing department decided to add a Heavy Duty tag to the model name, in reality, these domestic models haven’t been manufactured to deal with heavy fabric and the motor will give out at some point. And it is so, that when dealing with machine issues if a domestic machine has been used for leather, the owner will lose warranty rights due to misuse.
All of this to tell you that for the price of two home heavy-duty machines – you will need a second one if the motor runs out -, you could perfectly afford an industrial walking foot machine that runs through leather like it was butter and lasts you a lifetime.
As for industrial or commercial machines, prices normally depend on various factors including the type of motor it uses. A nice model with a clutch motor can start at around $500 for the head only and go up to several thousand for a walking foot workhorse with a servo motor.
How to take a final decision?
– Decide a budget: this way you won’t waste time reading machine reviews that you don’t want to actually buy.
– Be realistic about future usage: Will you sew leather with your sewing machine on a daily basis? Are you sewing a spare item made of leather, and that is it? Think twice before you buy your new unit. If you are going to continuously use your machine to sew on leather, it doesn’t make sense to buy a home-use model given the fact that it’s going to give out in a few months due to misuse. In the end, you will have to buy a new machine spending twice as much as you intended.
– Choose a machine that is as user-friendly as you may need depending on your expertise. You don’t want to end up with a headache trying to figure out how to use it.
Maintenance and Upkeep of your Leather Sewing Machine
1-. Always make changes in adjustments and settings of your machine before sewing on thinner or heavier fabrics. Resting importance to this crucial step will compromise years of life from your unit.
2-. Proper needle and thread selection will help the motor run smoothly.
3-. Clean the machine regularly. You’ll want to clean the race hook and feed dogs after each use to help with keeping a smooth movement of the fabric when sewing.
4-. Don’t clean wanted grease. It is there for a reason, and removing it could mess up your machine. You don’t want to have it serviced, right? Then, don’t over-clean it.
5-. Make sure to clean thread and fabric debris from the head and bobbin case areas.
6-. Protect your machine from dust and wipe the machine head with a wet cloth often. If you weren’t given a cover case, you may as well make one as your first project. Covering your machine will save you cleaning time and give you more years of good running.
7-. Oil your machine often. With home sewing machines you can mostly forget about this part. However, if you own an industrial machine and you use it often, consider oiling it as often as 1-2 times a week.
8-. Don’t put oil where it is not needed. Check your manual to learn in which parts you should oil.
Must-Have Tools to sew Leather with a Home Sewing Machine
Some special accessories that you will be needing for sure if you decide to use a regular machine are:
· Leather Sewing Needle
As you may know, if you want a sewing machine that sews leather, whether you use a domestic machine or a heavy-duty sewing machine, you will definitely need a leather needle. And this is because leather being thicker than other materials.
The needle needs to have a specific kind of bottom point to easily stitch through the leather you want to use. If your needle keeps breaking apart, you are probably using the wrong one. It is that easy. Nevertheless, since leather needles get unsharpened, they do give in and eventually break so always store at least a spare one or two.
Don’t get confused when buying a leather needle for your home sewing machine. Be aware that the top bit of the needle must have a flat side, unlike those for industrial machines that are round all around.
· Leather thread
Using the appropriate thread will save you tons of breakage and time. Besides, with the right thread, your items will definitely look much more luxurious and will last longer.
· Walking Foot
This accessory will allow you to sew on the leather without continuous slips. Know that to sew on leather you need either a walking foot or a plastic sticky one. Otherwise, feed dogs won’t do the job, the needle will stitch where it wasn’t supposed to and, your project will get messed up.
By applying some powder on the area to be sewn on, your chances of the leather slippering around will decrease.
Sewing leather with a home sewing machine
For those who are not used to sew on leather, you must know in advance that this material is a special one. You probably know that leather is thicker and more difficult to handle than any other fabric out there. Depending on its thickness and the final look you want to achieve, you will need to use different needles and thread sizes.
Nowadays, there are plenty of domestic sewing machines on the market. And you can convert and use them all to stitch leather by changing both needle and thread.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t recommend using a regular machine to sew on leather. The reason is that even though the needle will actually stitch through the leather, the machine will also eventually give out. Don’t get me wrong. You may be able to sew on some leather with regular machines… But! Know that the motor is not big enough to carry on with sewing leather for long.
Some tips on how sewing leather on a home sewing machine
- The number one thing to learn is that leather is a very delicate material. Once a stitch is made, there is no way back so you must be sure to think before acting. You can also practice on an un-useful piece of leather before sewing on the final one.
- If you need to hold together two pieces of leather in order to sew them, there are several ways to do so. Try pinning them together, using a special glue for leather or some simple double-sided tape.
- If you are using a home sewing machine, assuming that you may not have a walking foot, try and put some basic powder on it. This trick will prevent the foot from getting stuck to the leather. You could also use a non-walking foot made out of plastic. The result? Your piece of the leather won’t get stuck, and your stitches will be more precise.
- Another thing to take into account if you are a beginner? Start by sewing the easy bits to get some practice in before going for the difficult parts.
- To easily add quality to the item, once you are done with sewing, trim off the thread and carefully burn the end with a regular lighter. Then pass your finger over. The leather won ́t suffer and you will make sure that the stitches don’t get loose.
- Remember to match the right fabric, needle size, and thread weight to avoid the machine from getting jammed.
There are plenty of tips but these will cover the basics. On a broader scale, if you want to get a quality product, get quality leather tools and loads of practice. Oh! And one last tip? Practice, practice, and practice!
Should I sew leather on a domestic sewing machine, then?
Like every time with sewing machines, it depends on how heavy and thick it will become the layers of material you are going to sew together.
If the product you are trying to sew is light, you should be fine with a domestic machine. Same for leather. If you just want to make a few items, let’s say a few wallets, it doesn’t make sense to spend a fortune on a proper industrial sewing machine for leather. You just will need to get a hold of a nice leather needle and some proper thread.
Be aware that the length of the stitches may get smaller as the piece of material to sew on gets thicker. This basically has to do with the power of the motor among others. With an industrial leather machine though, it will easily climb up sewing different layers of leather and keep a nice and neat stitch.
And a last piece of advice on buying a leather sewing machine…
Ask around! If you have the opportunity to speak to some friend or a neighbor about their sewing machine for leather, don’t doubt it and ask anything that pops into your mind. But be aware of people that want to convince you that their machine is the absolute best.
Be critical and only trust those who actually have some more profound knowledge.
Is their machine missing any essential feature? Do they work leather often? Is the motor of their machine the right one or will it give out eventually? It could also be useful to speak to your teacher if you ever attend a sewing course.
Consider paying a visit to a nearby store to have a look at your chosen machine before actually buying it. Many times we idealize a device and get surprised when it arrives and is bigger or smaller than expected. It might even look clumsier in real life. If your permanent residence is a bit isolated, make sure to measure well prior to shopping. And, even though sometimes store dealers will offer discounts on certain models, be sure to find the cheapest prices online with the perk of receiving at your door entrance.
Some other articles you may want to read: The ideal industrial sewing machine to make sure you can stitch through any kind of materials would be a walking foot or triple feed compound model. However, it all depends on different factors like the leather thickness or the budget you have. When working with leather, a walking foot machine (also called triple compound) is what you need. You might want to read right our Buyer’s Guide for more specific information. As an amateur, if you just want to use your machine to sew on leather sparingly, it could be sufficient with a heavy duty home model if you add a walking foot to it. Nevertheless, be aware that the motor might stop working soon as it may not be strong enough for the task. There are many options that could make the best sewing machine for you. It really depends on one’s needs, but no matter the machine you choose, make sure to get a walking foot with a servo motor.
What is the best industrial sewing machine for leather?
It’s such a complex matter that we have created a full article with the best sewing machines for leather in the market.
What kind of sewing machine do you need for leather?
Do I need a special sewing machine for leather?
As a professional leather crafter, you know you do.
In any case, feel free to read our Buying Guide to choose the right leather sewing machine for your needs.
Which is the best sewing machine to sew thick material and leather?
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
You may benefit from reading our Buyer’s Guide to learn what machine better suits your needs.
The ideal industrial sewing machine to make sure you can stitch through any kind of materials would be a walking foot or triple feed compound model. However, it all depends on different factors like the leather thickness or the budget you have.
When working with leather, a walking foot machine (also called triple compound) is what you need. You might want to read right our Buyer’s Guide for more specific information.
As an amateur, if you just want to use your machine to sew on leather sparingly, it could be sufficient with a heavy duty home model if you add a walking foot to it. Nevertheless, be aware that the motor might stop working soon as it may not be strong enough for the task.
There are many options that could make the best sewing machine for you. It really depends on one’s needs, but no matter the machine you choose, make sure to get a walking foot with a servo motor.