As promised, a blog post about the construction of my V1247 Leather And Wool skirt. First things first. Let’s not forget that all I did was insert two leather panels into a fairly simple skirt construction. So, you know, my experience is limited – but I did learn quite a few things that I’m happy to share here.
First off, I bought a leather needle for my sewing machine, see above. All resources were adamant that this was the essential first step for working with leather. Funny that I forgot to use my leather needle on one of the very last stages of the make and that it … didn’t make an iota of difference! But, you know, I wasn’t making a leather jacket or anything.
Before sewing any part of the skirt, I had some test runs on scraps of leather and wool. Excellent decision, Karen! I found that I needed to loosen the tension on my machine and that it was best to have the wool as the top layer going through the machine, and the leather as the bottom layer going through. Don’t ask me why! That’s just what worked.
Accurate cutting out. I’d originally hatched plans to work with exposed seams on the leather panels. Those plans were flung out of the window when I saw how difficult it was to cut a straight, smooth, accurate line in the leather. My rotary cutter sliced like a knife through butter, but my edges were a teeny bit wibbly wobbly. Like, very wibbly wobbly. (Is that because of the large grain in leather?) Anyway, no exposed seams for me, thank you! This is worth bearing in mind if you’re creating something like a leather buckle strap or anything where your seam lines will be on show. Practice, practice, practice – or change your plans!
Keep to narrow seams. There’s a certain amount of stiff bulk to be pressed open in a leather seam. Why use a 15mm seam allowance that may leave an impression on your fabric when pressed, and which will be awkward to trim? Adjust your measurements to a 10mm seam allowance or even less. This works well with wool and leather, because neither fabric frays or needs a seam finish:
When pressing my seams open, two items were essential: my silk organza press cloth and my wooden clapper. My iron was set to medium hot, but never wanted to travel over shiny, tacky leather. So, I’d hold a seam open, lay the press cloth over it, hold the iron down on that section of the seam, lift the iron and immediately gently press the clapper down on the seam. This allows the heat and moisture to be soaked into the seam (rather than floating off into the air) which helps to ‘fix’ the seam open. I’d honestly have struggled without either of these items in my arsenal.
How to hem a wool and leather skirt? I sewed navy bias tape along the raw hem. Then I was all set to fuse interlining to the lower bottom edge of my skirt to sew my hem to, so that there would be no obvious bulge. (Further details on this technique here.) But I only had white interlining to hand. Against my navy and black skirt? Even though this would be a hidden detail, it felt so crass and ugly – plus, I was impatient! So I decided to risk flat catch stitching the hem up without any interlining. Hey, if it didn’t work, I could just rip the handstitching out! But it did – work, I mean. I even managed to catch tiny sections of the leather:
I can only really get away with the above because this will be a dry clean only skirt. I don’t think that hem would survive the washing machine! But easy (and loose) does it, when hemming wool! In my experience, at least. If you’re not really careful about hemming wool, you’ll get a bulge. If you don’t believe me, look at one of my early makes here and check out that hem!
What other details? Below is a close up of the under stitched grosgrain used to finish the waist band and a pleat in the lining where the main shell has a dart. Top tip – if you’re lining a make, turn any darts in the main shell into pleats in the lining. You’ll thank me for that extra give!
One last thought. When researching work with leather, every resource cried, ‘Beware! Once you sew leather, you make those puncture points with your needle for EVAH!!!!’ No turning back. No room for mistakes. No second chances. Yeah, right. These are my additional thoughts: Get over it. I had to rip one seam out. No biggie, I just re-sewed incrementally closer in. Puncture marks hidden. I even managed to put pins through my leather by mistake when I was pinning the skirt hem. Disaster! Um, no, actually. I just pulled those pins out quick sharp and rubbed a finger over the leather. All gone. Let’s not have a nervous breakdown, hey, guys? Don’t let leather scare you.
So, that’s your lot! I hope it’s useful and I hope you understand why I saved all this information for a separate blog post. I know there are many more expert Sewists out there and I’d love to hear if you have anything to add on the topic of sewing with leather. We’re all learning, here! All. The. Time…