Do I Need A Walking Foot To Sew Leather?

When it comes to learning how to sew leather, one of the best tools you can find is the right presser foot. When you are thinking about working on a thick fabric or leather often, a walking foot might just be enough. There is an additional feed dog set on top of the presser foot on a walking foot. 

It sandwiches the fabric and guides it through the machine without much resistance. Having a walking foot is worthy enough if you are sewing faux leather, leather, suede, vinyl, and conventional fabric such as outerwear and heavy quits.

What Is The Difference Between A Normal Foot And A Walking Foot?

When a piece of fabric comes in contact with the feed teeth, it gets held by the presser foot. The second part of the piece rides just along. The topmost part of the fabric, however, doesn’t proceed at the same rate. The two players of the fabric are slightly mismatched after you finish the work. 

Sometimes it causes a problem with the finished work. When you use a walking foot, it puts an end to the problem. The walking foot behaves like the second feed teeth intended for the upper fabric layer. When you pinch both the layers of fabric, the walking foot allows them to move at a uniform speed.

What Kind Of Thread Should You Use To Sew Leather?

Because of the thickness, leather fabrics pose certain kinds of difficulties when it comes to sewing. However, when you choose the right thread, it makes all the difference. The longevity, sturdiness, and overall appearance of your leather project become an interesting one.

The best thread to sew leather materials ate polyester threads, nylon threads, and linen threads. The main reason to use these kinds of threads is that they have certain important qualities that give fine, durable, and professional results while stitching. They fall into two groups: synthetic and natural threads.

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Polyester is a material that mimics the appearance of lots of fibers. Also, they give you a similar feeling.

Polyester threads are robust and handle the pressure of high-speed sewing. Polyester threads have lots of elongation and strength. Therefore, it doesn’t break easily. These kinds of threads repel moisture better than linen or cotton fibers.

Nylon threads are used as a textured thread. Also, it comes as the cheapest option for stitching. When it is about leatherwork, nylon threads are perfect for your craft. It is a great choice to sew leather. It matches the thickness and weight of the leather. Also, it is durable and strong. 

Linen threads, on the other hand, are absorbent and durable. Linen threads are mostly used to stitch leather items consisting of briefcases, luggage bags, holsters, shoes, golf bags, and many more. It makes very detailed and fine stitches on leather items. However, they are not as stronger compared to the other two. 

How To Sew Leather With A Walking Foot

When you are working with leather, it is good to use a walking foot. The walking foot grabs your leather fabric from top to bottom. The thick material goes smoothly throughout the sewing process. The leather doesn’t stick to the foot. It keeps the stitches and tension even. 

Choosing an appropriate needle for your leatherwork is crucial. Therefore, watch out for needles with sizes 14, 16, and 18. That way, it would remain strong and won’t bend easily. If you are using medium leather, you can use 100/16 size. 

While most of your stitching can be done using a straight stitch, decorative leather items need a different approach. The zig-zag design on the leather item looks decorative and holds the raw edges firmly. You can try a zig-zag design with a length of 2.5 and a width of 5.0. Here are the easy steps for sewing a leather item with a walking foot.

  1. Shift to a walking foot 
  2. Change your needle according to the designing of the leather item
  3. Use about 3.5 lengths while stitching leather
  4. Make use of the right thread
  5. Never use pins on leather as they leave a permanent hole. Apply a line tape instead
  6. Use scrap leather to test the performance of your stitch
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What Are The Benefits Of Using A Walking Foot To Sew Leather?

The walking foot looks a bit menacing if you are a beginner, but they are quite powerful. It works best when you are sewing different layers together or denser fabric like leather. The walking foot is favored by quilters often.

As said, thicker fabrics greatly benefit from this kind of foot. It comes along with a quilting guide, a metal bar attachment that sticks to the other side. Some of the newer sewing machines have a built-in walking foot attachment. It houses near the pressure foot lever and you can engage it whenever there is a need.

A walking foot is helpful when you are sewing a garment with a pattern print and needs to be matched. The foot makes sure that the pieces move along when you are sewing without shifting. Because leather items are stretchy, using a walking foot evenly knits without getting the item out of shape.

With the walking foot, you won’t need excessive pinning while working on light, slippery leather fabrics. This is important because pins can damage the fabric. Also, it helps to keep the batting layers and fabric together while quilting. The walking foot comes in handy when machine quilting large, straight, or curved lines.

Is It Better To Use A Sewing Machine To Sew Leather?

When you want to sew leather, you need to have a machine that can handle the thickness of the fabric. Also, without sticking to the needle plate or pressure foot when the material moves along. Ordinary sewing machines aren’t equipped with the features needed to sew leather. 

The most ordinary sewing machines consist of a friction clutch. They tend to slip and make stitching difficult when it tries to penetrate thick materials like leather. Also, ordinary sewing machines have limited features when it comes to using thick thread. They can’t handle the type of thread that is used to stitch leather.

Apart from that, most ordinary sewing machines are made of low-quality plastic parts. As such, they cannot handle denser fabric like leather to work on them. If you want to sew leather, you may need a sewing machine with a robust cast iron body and internal components. 

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The sewing machine has to take care of issues such as hitting a grommet or needle deflection and keep on working through. That’s the reason why you need to have a walking foot so that the presser feet don’t damage the leather. 

Keep in your mind that leather fabric might be tough and thick. But the surface has a delicate texture. And, a wrong foot presser can damage the quality of the leather. Hence, it is wise to use a sewing machine that can sew leather fabric without causing damage to the fabric.

Is It Even Possible To Sew Leather By Hand?

Yes, it is possible to sew leather by hand. However, sewing leather by hand involves a challenge of its own. Because the leather is a thick fabric, it requires a lot of hard work to sew the seam stitches that joints the leather pieces altogether. That’s why it consumes a lot of time compared to stitching a normal fabric. 

So, if you are thinking about sewing leather by hand, ensure that you have the following items close at hand.

  • An ice pick or awl
  • Tape
  • Woodcutting board
  • Strong thread
  • Large needle
  • Thick gloves
  • And, leather for the project

Follow the simple steps to sew the leather by hand.

  1. Cut the piece of leather in patterns. Use tape to attach two leather pieces. Because pinholes can be removed from the finished piece, you can’t use a pin on leather. 
  2. There are two different rules you need to follow when you are using lightweight and heavier leather.
  3. When you are using a light weighed leather, use a sharp, large needle alongside a strong thread. Now, sew the piece with your hand like you sew other kinds of fabric. When you find it harder to push the needle through the leather, you can wear a thick pair of gloves. That way, it protects your hands.
  4. When you are using a heavy piece of leather, you have to punch holes into the leather before getting on with sewing. Place the leather on the wood cutting board. Take an awl or ice pick and make holes where you need to make the stitches.
  5. Next, stitch through the holes so that the two pieces of leather gets attached. Either you can use the straight stitch or loop the thread around. That way, it makes a decorative border on the leather. 


Learning how to sew leather can provide you with more projects. You can fabricate crafts or add leather embellishments, or even make a whole project out of leather.

From leather clothing to handbags, it starts with the basic skills and making good use of the walking foot. 

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