From handbags to jackets to shoes, leather embroidery has hit the runway and home shopping networks. Embroidery takes on a whole new meaning when you use leather as an artistan medium.
If fear of total ruin is the only thing holding you back from letting your artist flag fly, fear not. Here are a few tips that can have you designing the latest trends in embroidery fashion.
Watch the video at the end of the article for more tips.
- Leather is unforgiving of mistakes
- Once a hole in leather always a hole
- Carelessly or closely make stitches will cause disasterly chiseled holes the size of your design
- Leather embroidery is not for the faint hearted
- If you sell your work, leather will at least double your price
- Embroidery looks simply fabulous on leather and that's why we keep trying
Stiffly tanned leathers simple won't adapt well to embroidery. You'll want to use chrome tanned leather, which has been tanned with chromium salts. It's supple, pliable, holds its shape well and doesn't discolor.
Avoid leathers tanned with oak, bark or vegetable compounds as they create a stiff leather that will not accept stitches properly.
Most patterns are too dense for leather so lighten them up. Or, just when you think it's perfect, out will fall the hole that you carved with too many stitches made too close together.
A dense pattern will make a stiff area on your leather and will not be complementary to the material. Avoid density, such as filler stitches, as higher stitch count will pucker the leather.
Most leathers will stand a moderately hot iron for transfer of patterns (test first) or otherwise you'll need to hand sketch.
Cotton, polyester, silk and rayon do quite well on leather projects. Run you needle and thread through a silicone lubricant sewing aid. Obviously avoid all thick flosses.
The smaller and sharper, the better. You want a needle just strong enough to pierce the leather but small enough to minimize the hole. However, it is better to trade a larger hole for the least resistance in penetrating the leather.
Don't tug on the needle and don't allow it to pull the leather upwards; you are just creating a bigger hole in doing so. Rather, switch to the next larger size needle.
You'll also want to pass as little needle length as possible through the leather so use the shortest needle possible. Unfortunately, you will have a few needle causalities in your project as even soft leather can be quite tough.
All that said, a 70/10 needle seems to work best but give a scrap piece a test run before committing.
Generally, leather will regain its shape after hooping but be careful. It's also very easy to scar the leather so follow these tips:
- Pad your hoop with muslin, thin foam or soft cloth
- Use a small hoop to avoid minimizing "lift" of the leather as you stitch - avoid frames
- Don't tighten the hoop as much as you would with fabric
- Use tearaway stabilizer that you attach temporarily with spray adhesive to minimize stretch
- Never ever leave your design in a hoop; once done stitching, remove it and flatten and smooth the leather
If you are working on a constructed piece, such as a jacket, the lining will help stabilize the stretch.
If they can happen, they will and do to the best of embroiders. Try not to remove stitches; you will only be left with the needle holes. Instead, just get creative and do a re-design. Should the worst happen - the dreaded hole - you can again creatively stitch it back into the project. You can also replace the missing leather with a beautiful patch.