Sewing with Leather- a beginner's experience

On a whim, I bought some metallic copper goat leather skins online a couple of years ago.  Never having sewn with leather before, I bought them mainly because they were a cheap price, and I wanted something to experiment on.  When I got them, the metallic finish was *WAY* more metallic than I had anticipated.  They also smelled pretty strongly of chemicals.  I aired them outside for a few days, and then put them away until now.

I've been noticing a lot of metallic finishes in fashion this year, so I decided this was the time to take the plunge.  I bought enough for a jacket (which I have already cut out) and I had enough left to do a purse.  I thought I would start with the purse, and then work my way up to the jacket.

Burnt leather
The purse pattern I chose was Vogue 8310 (now discontinued)- basically several variations of a hobo bag.   The first thing that I had to do was interface the bag.  I chose fusible fleece to give it more body.  Here is my first attempt at fusing for 20 seconds at the cotton setting.  It took the finish off, burnt the leather and made it stiff as cardboard!  Lesson #1 learned- leather doesn't like heat. The next time I fused the interfacing for only 10 seconds at the wool setting, and it didn't change the leather at all. 

Pieced together from remnants
This was a pretty big piece of leather that I had now destroyed.  I didn't have enough leather in one piece to fit the pattern piece on, so I pieced some of them together.  I used a size 14 leather needle and it sewed through the two layers beautifully.
I actually really like the pieced look!  
Tough area to sew- zipper meets straps
This purse design is very basic- just 3 outer pattern pieces- a strap, a side piece, and a front/back piece.  The difficult part of this piece was where the straps meet the purse.  There are so many layers there that I broke 3 leather needles trying to get this part done.  Although I had used an upholstery weight thread for most of the construction, when I switched to regular weight thread, I was able to get the stitches to hold in this area.  I had to hand crank the wheel on the sewing machine, but it worked.  If I were to choose this pattern again for a leather purse, I would use the rings in this section, so that you aren't sewing sew many layers together.

I have to share where I found the zipper-  They have all lengths of metal separating zippers for about  $.50, and if you've ever priced them in a fabric store, you will know that this is a steal.  I didn't need the separating aspect of it, so I just hand sewed a few stitches above the separating end, so that it will stay together.

Funky blueberry print lining
The purse is lined with a pocket with two compartments.  My lining is a polyester charmeuse.  It is one of those fabrics that I ordered thinking it was little blueberries, and when I got it, the blueberries were HUGE.  Blueberries have a personal significance for me, and you hardly ever find fabrics with blueberries, so I kept it. I would never wear it, but it works fine for this lining!

The strap length was really long- I think it was probably meant to be a cross-body bag.  However, when I tried it on, my 17 year old daughter said that length was "fine if you are 13".  In other words, "Mom, you are too old for a cross body bag."   So, I cropped it about 8 inches to make it hit at my high hip.

My 19 year old daughter came home from college the same day, and said "You made that?  I would totally buy that.  Can I borrow it tonight?".

I call that a home run!  Now, wish me luck on the jacket.:)



  1. Great bag - and what a great post-fuse save!

  2. that's really nice. I'm about to make a leather bag also, so thanks for the handy tips. perfect timing for me!

  3. Can I ask what sewing machine you use? I am thinking of buying a new one as mine is so inadequate even on knits. But I would really like to sew leather too....
    Beautiful bag (and absolutely inspirational jacket).


  4. Hi Hatty,
    I have the old style Bernina 830 from the 70's. I highly recommend it, and you can still find them on ebay. They are workhorse machines.

  5. Love this bag and also love your fusible fleece tip. I've got some leather that is also aging nicely and a purse would be a great first project. Your jacket has just blown me away, it's so wonderful on you. I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that project yet but you inspire me to put it on my list.


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