The 5 Best Sewing Machines for Leather

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Let’s face it: leather can be difficult to work with.

It sticks, it can’t be pinned down without ruining the fabric, and it can be difficult to stitch — so it’s no wonder finding a leather sewing machine is important.

The only way to decide on the miracle sewing machine for leatherworking is to look at your needs — starting with what kind of leather you use. 

We’ve compiled this guide to what to look for in a sewing machine for leather, and the best leather sewing machines on the market right now.

Here’s a sneak peek at our top 5:

Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
In our opinion, the Singer 9960 Quantum stylist is one of the best sewing machines on the market right now, but it’s also particularly good for sewing leather.
[View on Amazon] [Read Our Review]
Brother ST371HD
If you’re looking for a cheaper sewing machine that can handle leather, the Brother ST371HD should be at the top of your list.
[View on Amazon] [Read Our Review]
Janome HD3000 Sewing Machine
Janome are famous for their high quality sewing machines and the HD3000 is the perfect hybrid between a domestic and industrial leather sewing machine.
[View on Amazon] [Read Our Review]
Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1
This is the only industrial leather sewing machine we’ve included in our list. It’s definitely expensive, but it really can’t be beaten for heavy duty materials.
[View on Amazon]
Singer 4423
The Singer 4423 is one of the most popular heavy duty sewing machines of all time — not only is it very capable, but it’s cheap too!
[View on Amazon]

Before we deep-dive in to what makes these such great machines for sewing leather, let’s look at some of the criteria you will need to consider.

Leather Sewing Machine: Domestic vs. Industrial

Simply put: domestic machines have smaller engines and weaker needles, but they cater to more fabrics, whereas industrial machines are created for durability, but are designed with specific fabrics in mind.

What does that mean?

Well, if you’re working with thin leathers — like the kinds used for lighter jackets and wallets — you might consider a domestic machine.

sewing leather machine

If you’re working with heavy-duty leathers — like for chaps and holsters — you should lean towards an industrial machine.

An easy way to distinguish between industrial and domestic sewing machines is to analyze the descriptions of each machine’s engine: if it’s described in amps, it’s probably a domestic machine, whereas if the description mentions horsepower, it’s likely an industrial machine.

Generally speaking, industrial machines tend to be bulkier and faster because they’re created for factory use, which means non-stop sewing.

A domestic home sewing machine is usually smaller for the sake of storage and recreational use, which means they accommodate starting and stopping to move the placement of pins.

If you’re familiar with sewing machines, you might also notice the difference in needle sizes: again, the leather industrial machine is likely to be larger, so that it can work through thicker materials with a specialised leather needle.

Leather Stitching Machine Needles

Domestic machines have weaker needles, so if the leather you’re using is too thick for this machine, the needle might break before puncturing the fabric.

Domestic machines are also designed to hold thinner fabrics, meaning the foot might not clamp on your leather or the stitches might be too small, which would snap the thread.

best sewing machine for leather

Industrial machines have denser needles, so if the leather is fairly thin, this machine would create larger holes that might go against your design.

Similarly, industrial machines use larger stitches, which means the leather you sew together would be easier to break apart.

You’ll need to decide which is best for your needs.

How to Sew Leather

All fabrics behave in different ways: chiffon is delicate, polyester stretches, and leather has its own set of qualities to be mindful of when sewing (as does faux leather!).

Certain leathers are known to be “sticky” – meaning, when it comes time to use a sewing foot to hold the fabric in place, the leather can stick to the foot. This will lead to uneven stitching if you’re not careful.

You also have to be careful about how you sew leather because once you make a hole in leather, it’s difficult to disguise unlike other fabrics.

sewing machine for leather

Due to its unforgiving nature as a heavy fabric, you can’t use pins to hold the material down unless you plan for those holes to be a part of your design, which is why getting a sewing machine specifically designed for this leather is vital.

Leather Sewing Machine Accessories

Maybe you want to experiment with leather projects, but your machine isn’t cooperating and you don’t want invest in a new leather sewing machine.

Maybe you just bought a new machine, but you want to make it more efficient.

Whatever your reason, here are some accessories you that can improve your experience overall.

Stronger Feed Dogs

Leather can stick to your machine’s presser foot, which makes it difficult to guide the fabric, but you need the foot to keep it in place – so what can you do?

Well, the feed dogs — the mechanism that keeps your material in the right place as you stitch — are designed to gently push your fabric so the sewing needle can do its job.

The stronger the feed dogs (and the more you have), the better your machine will be able to guide the leather as you stitch.

Stronger Sewing Needle

Whatever you do, when you’re stitching leather you need a leather sewing needle.

You can buy these easily and cheaply online and they should be able to fit most general purpose sewing machines — but remember to check compatibility with your specific machine before you buy!

The wrong sewing needle will lead to either large, unsightly holes in your leather or at least a broken needle.

The Best Leather Sewing Machine: Our 5 Top Picks

So, now you know all about sewing with leather, you’re probably wondering which machines are the best for tackling this material.

Here are our favorite leather sewing machines on the market right now. They’re all perfect for sewing with leather, although we’ve included a balanced list of pros and cons for you to make the best decision before you buy.

Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist

In our opinion, the Singer 9960 Quantum stylist (available on Amazon) is the best sewing machine on the market right now, but it’s also particularly good for sewing leather.

It’s not a specific heavy duty sewing machine like the others on our list, but it’s perfectly set up to handle leather, with an impressively smooth fabric feed, strong feed dogs, and an extension table when you’re working on larger projects.

The 9960 Quantum Stylist is the best sewing machine for clothes making, which many of you working with leather will be doing. It’s got an incredible 600 built-in stitches, lots of editing and customization options and numerous easy-to-use features to boot.
Pros

  • Ideal for clothes making
  • 600 in-built stitches (including 13 auto 1-step buttonholes and 5 fonts)
  • Automatic needle threader, thread cutter, bobbin winding, stitch size adjuster
  • Top drop-in bobbin system
  • Extension table
  • Needle up/down button
  • Comes with lots of accessories
  • Computerized digital information advisor
  • Electronic auto pilot to sew without foot pedal
  • Speed control lever
  • Very bright workspace
  • Great on leather and denim

Cons

  • There might be too many features for people who want a simple leather sewing machine
  • Singer customer service leaves a little to be desired
Read Our Full Review of Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist Check Price on Amazon

Brother ST371HD

Brother ST371HD for leather

If you’re looking for a cheaper sewing machine that can handle leather, the Brother ST371HD (available on Amazon) should be at the top of your list.

While not quite as heavy duty as some of the more industrial, expensive machines on this list, it’s very well suited to beginners and those on a budget.

It’s easy to use, a great sewing machine for leather, and good for other sewing projects besides.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy to use — automatic needle threader, jam resistant Quick Set drop-in top bobbin
  • Brightly lit
  • Smooth fabric feed
  • Comes with heavyweight needles and 6 sewing feet
  • Can handle multiple layers of lightweight fabric
  • 37 built-in stitches
  • Free arm
  • Easy stitch selection

Cons

  • Not particularly sturdy
  • Not so good on multiple layers of heavyweight fabrics
Read Our Full Review of Brother ST371HD Check Price on Amazon

Janome HD3000 Sewing Machine

Janome HD3000 leather sewing machine

Janome are famous for their high quality sewing machines and the HD3000 (available on Amazon) is the perfect hybrid between a domestic and industrial leather sewing machine.

It’s very easy to use, with an automatic needle threader and jam proof top-loading bobbin system, while also incredibly effective on heavy duty fabrics, like leather. It can also do plenty more besides.

Pros

  • Easy to use — automatic needle threader and jam-proof bobbin
  • 18 in-built stitches
  • Easy stitch selection
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Free arm
  • Comes with lots of accessories
  • Excellent stitch quality
  • Can sew through multiple layers
  • Can easily handle leather and heavy duty fabrics
  • Works quietly

Cons

  • Heavy, not portable
  • Not so good on lightweight fabrics
Check Price on Amazon

Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1

The Sailrite Ultrafeed, a heavy duty leather sewing machine

The Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1 (available on Amazon or Sailrite) is the only industrial leather sewing machine we’ve included in our list. It’s definitely expensive, but it really can’t be beaten for heavy duty materials.

Obviously, if you’re looking to poodle around on something at home, this isn’t the machine for you. It’s for serious, perhaps even professional, sewers that need a machine that can handle leather and other heavy duty fabrics at high speeds without breaking a sweat.

It’s stand-out feature is undoubtedly the patented Posi-Pin clutching system, which puts all other feed dogs to shame, in our opinion! It grips the material easily and allows for strong, even and smooth stitching.

The Sailrite LSZ-1 also has an extra-wide presser foot and a high lift for the thickest of heavy duty materials — it can sew up to 10 layers of heavy canvas!

Pros

  • Incredible strength and accuracy
  • Can handle multiple layers of heavyweight fabric with ease
  • Great for sewing leather saddles
  • Steel balance wheel — twice the size and power of traditional balance wheel
  • Zigzag or straight stitch
  • Extra wide presser foot
  • Variable stitch length and width
  • Personalized customer support
  • Variable speed control
  • Hand crank for when there’s no electricity

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May be a little overwhelming if you only need it for leather sewing
Check Price on Amazon

Singer 4423

Singer 4423 leather sewing specialist

The Singer 4423 (available on Amazon) is probably the most popular heavy duty sewing machine of all time — not only is it very capable, but it’s cheap too!

It’s not quite at the industrial strength and power of the other leather sewing machines on this list, but it’s a great machine for a beginner or someone on a budget.

It sews incredibly fast — at 1,100 stitches per minute — and is just as easy to use as any other Singer sewing machine.

Pros

  • Ultra fast stitching — 1,100 spm
  • Cheap
  • Automatic needle threader and top drop-in bobbin
  • 23 built-in stitches (including 1 auto 1-step buttonhole)
  • Smooth fabric feed
  • Accessory tray
  • Extra high presser foot lifter for thick fabrics
  • Free arm
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not great on multiple layers
  • Not particularly sturdy
  • Works quite loud
Check Price on Amazon

So now you should be clued in on all of the best sewing machines for leather.

What’s your favorite leather sewing machine?

For more round-ups of our favorite sewing machines, tools and accessories, be sure to check out our Best Sewing Gear portal.

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About Author

Jane Kallinger

Jane is the Editor of SewingFromHome.com and has over two decades of experience sewing, knitting and embroidering. She runs a small teaching business in her native Kansas and is passionate about helping her students learn a variety of crafting skills.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I think it’s admirable you’ve included the Brother Strong and Tough as it’s obviously the low cost option, but I have to warn you that it doesn’t compare to the other machines for sewing leather. OK for the odd job here and ther, I guess, but not for professional level sewing.

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