Embroidering on Leather: 5 Things you need to know before you stitch!
If you tuned into the OML Embroidery youtube channel back in the day, we released an Embroidery Case files dealing with embroidery on leather, specifically lettering on leather. There are a few things to take into consideration when you are working with leather. Let’s look at a few of them in detail – make sure you watch the video, it will help make sense of my recommendations.
Once you make a hole, it will always be there. The leather is unlike most other materials that you stitch on. Yes, you CAN stitch on leather with minimal issues (I make leather patches all the time) but you really have to make sure you know what you are doing – with the design AND the machine. There are no do-overs or second chances working with leather. Once you make a hole in leather, it is going to stay there – you can’t close it up or change it. If you make too many holes, you will cut through the leather. Sure, you can use specialty leather needles if you wish, but the end result is the same: a hole in your leather. If there is embroidery already on something, and someone asks you do do something over it, the answer is no, there is a good chance the whole area will fall apart once you remove the stitches. So yes, stitch on leather, but be very careful.
Density is extremely important: Density and holes go hand in hand with this one. If your design is too dense, then you are making too many holes in the leather! See above – too many holes make a mess in leather, so make sure you are using great embroidery designs created for leather, or have the correct density and underlay for leather. If you don’t have enough density, then you will have the leather showing through – so you really need to have the right design created for leather.
The leather is thick. A leather jacket is VERY thick: Leather is generally thick and most definitely expensive for the most part. Thick things require different hooping techniques and styles. In the video, we show you a leather jacket that was hooped, but not properly. The jacket is a winter jacket, so it has a lining, padding and a few layers of leather going on. It really was an expensive mistake, but with the jacket being so heavy (it really is a BIG jacket) it pulled and weighed so much that it moved things out of registration. I would not put any of my machines, no matter how many needles they have or how old or new they are, up against this jacket! I would be too afraid of breaking one of my machines – they are not meant to embroider through layers of leather, lining and winter insulation.
Bird’s nests are a sign that something is wrong! STOP stitching immediately. If your machine is stitching away happily on one type of fabric and you switch to another one that is too thick (as in the case of the winter jacket) you may have some tension issues. You don’t want the tension too tight or all of the stitches will be pulled down. If the tension is too loose, then you will have bird’s nests and possible tearing of your fabric. I have had a bird’s nest that was so bad years ago, it took me more than an hour to cut it all apart! I had to clean everything out, clean the tension disks and the bobbin area and do a test stitch before going back to work. So if you have a bird’s nest going on, stop your machine immediately and get cleaning! On the example of the leather jacket, there was more than one bird’s nest, and they cleared the thread nest and then kept going – we can see the density issues and the pulling of the stitches down into the leather – creating a pucker and making the lettering completely unreadable.
There are a few things that I will not embroider, and one of them is leather jackets, including my own. So many things could happen with the embroidery and the embroidery machine, I don’t want to risk the leather jacket – it is not worth having to replace it. If you complete embroidery that you can’t even read, that is not worth it either. Everything that you embroider on for anyone should always be the best it can be – if you don’t think the results are perfect, you need to do more work, more research and better designs to get the results that you are proud of as an embroiderer.
Learn to say NO: Anyone doing embroidery for a business or even a hobby should realize that saying NO is a perfectly acceptable answer to a job or an idea. If you are not comfortable with the job, or you have no idea how to hoop it, or what stabilizer to use, unsure about density, fonts or final results, you can always say NO. It doesn’t mean you are a failure or are turning away potential customers, it means that you will not put out second rate embroidery – you will find out the answers and learn how to do it properly before you do work for a customer. And then get doing some research and some testing, test stitching so you know how to do it for the next time, and you can confidently say YES to that same job.
Stitch you later!
Until Next time,
Happy stitching and know your work!