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’s a pain to stitch.
So if you plan on sewing leather, you need to find a machine that is specifically designed for working with tougher fabrics. That means it will need a strong motor, heavy duty needles, and the right kind of walking foot.
In our experience, most machines offer mixed results.
Some of the top rated sewing machines that claim to be “perfect for working with leather” are fine for small wallet or purse projects – but they simply can’t handle the requirements of a heavy coat or leather jacket.
Here’s a sneak peek at 3 of our top picks:
Let’s take a look at what makes these such great machines for sewing leather.
- What Is The Best Leather Sewing Machine?
- Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
- Brother ST371HD
- Janome HD3000 Sewing Machine
- Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1
- Singer 4423
- Domestic vs Industrial Machines For Sewing Leather
- How to Sew Leather
- Best Accessories For Sewing Leather
- Where Can I Buy A Used Leather Sewing Machine?
What Is The Best Leather Sewing Machine?
Here are our favorite leather sewing machines on the market right now.
They’re all widely used for sewing with leather, although we’ve included a balanced list of pros and cons for you to make the best decision.
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
In our opinion, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist is the best-rounded sewing machine on the market right now, and it is 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.
- 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
- 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 the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
If you’re looking for a cheaper sewing machine that can handle leather, the Brother ST371HD 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.
- 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
- Not particularly sturdy
- Not so good on multiple layers of heavyweight fabrics
>> Read our full review of the Brother ST371HD
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.
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, particularly medium weight leathers.
- 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
- Heavy, not portable
- Not so good on lightweight fabrics
Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1
The Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed LSZ-1 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!
- 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
- May be a little overwhelming if you only need it for leather sewing
The Singer 4423 is probably the most popular heavy duty sewing machine of all time — not only is it very capable, but it’s cheap too!
The Singer 4423 is a heavy duty sewing machine that is perfect for leather work. It has a powerful motor that can handle tough fabrics, and it comes with a range of attachments and feet that are perfect for sewing leather. It’s also easy to use, even for beginners, making it a great option for those new to leather sewing.
It’s not quite at the industrial strength and power of the other models 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.
- Ultra fast stitching — 1,100 spm
- 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
- Not great on multiple layers
- Not particularly sturdy
- Works quite loud
So now you should be clued in on all of the best sewing machines for leather.
Let’s dig a little deeper and look at the criteria we’ve used to pick them.
Domestic vs Industrial Machines For Sewing Leather
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.
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.
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
See our full guide here: 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.
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.
Here’s a helpful video you may find useful:
Best Accessories For Sewing Leather
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.
Leather needles have a cutting point that’s designed to pierce through the tough leather fibers without getting dull too quickly.
This is important because a dull needle will start to skip stitches, which will ruin your work.
Adjustable Stitch Length
You might not think it would make much difference, but being able to adjust your machine’s stitch length is key when you’re sewing with leather.
A shorter stitch length (around 2mm) is better for penetrate the thicker leather fibers without leaving big holes.
Too long of a stitch and the holes will be visible and weaken the structure of your project.
Investing in a specialty presser foot for leather can help your projects look neater and more professional.
A presser foot is the part of your machine that holds the fabric in place as you sew and there are all sorts of different types available for different purposes — including sewing leather!
One type of specialty foot is the Teflon or roller foot.
This type of presser foot is coated with a slippery material (usually Teflon) that helps the fabric move smoothly under the needle without sticking.
Another helpful type of presser foot is the walking foot, which has extra feed dogs that help guide thicker fabrics like leather.
You should always use waxed thread when sewing leather — it’s stronger and less likely to break than regular thread.
Waxed thread is also less likely to fray, which will make your stitches neater and less likely to come undone.
You can find waxed thread at most craft stores or online.
Where Can I Buy A Used Leather Sewing Machine?
Looking to save a few extra pennies while gaining the full ability to work with leather projects?
eBay is a great place to find a used leather sewing machine.
You can find machines from all different brands, in all different conditions, and at all different price points.
Just be sure to read the listing carefully so you know exactly what you’re getting.
From our experience, you should be able to pick up our recommended models at anywhere from 20-50% off the retail price.
Take a look here:
- Used Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist For Sale
- Used Brother ST371HD For Sale
- Used Janome HD3000 For Sale
- Used Singer 4423 For Sale
As always with eBay, be sure to read over the small print so you know exactly what condition the machine is in before buying!
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.