So, leather. We love it- almost as much as we hate working with it. There’s no denying that the result is well worth it but crafting a sheet of leather into a functional and beautiful project is a bear. To have the best results possible, you need equipment up to the challenge. Here we will go over what a sewing machine needs to be capable of for success with leather. We will also outline our top picks for the best sewing machine for leather in 2020.
Our Top Picks: Best Sewing Machines for Leather
Here we will give you a sneak peek at our top list so we can get right into the meat of the matter. You’ll also be able to read our full review below, and then we go over some more information on sewing with leather.
- Our Best Overall Leather Machine: Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
- Most Popular Sewing Machine: Singer 4423
- The Workhorse Hybrid: Janome HD3000 Sewing Machine
- Worth the Splurge: Reliable 2600Zw
- Best Budget Machine: Brother ST371HD
1. Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
The best Sewing Machine for Leather Overall
Brand: Singer | 600+ Stitch Applications | Automatic Needle Threader | Walking Foot Included | Price: 💰💰💰
This superb machine will handle any project you throw at it. It comes with a wide variety of accessories, including multiple different feet, a walking foot, and zipper foot, along with a ton of others.
It also features automatic needle threading and thread cutting, which saves tons of time. The best settings for stitch length and width for the material are automatically set for you. This machine is great for beginners as it takes a lot of the guesswork out of machine sewing.
It’s also tough enough to withstand the abuse of leatherwork with ease.
- Speed control is outstanding
- Even with tons of stitch options, it’s easy to find the best one for your project
- Tons of support videos make it easy to learn the ropes of this advanced machine
- Compared using this machine to driving a Cadillac after working with their older machines
- Some have tension issues when tension between stitches
- Packaging is less than ideal some have received damaged units
- The thread tends to build up next to the bobbin and cause jamming
- The drop-in bobbin is notoriously problematic in Singer machines, and this also faces those issues in some machines
2. Singer 4423
The best-rated Sewing Machine for Leather
Brand: Singer | 97 Stitch Applications | Heavy Duty Metal Frame | Powerful Motor | Price: 💰💰
Singer is the name everyone thinks of when you mention a sewing machine, and for a good reason. They’ve been around for about 170 years.
This machine comes with a super reasonable price tag with the power it brings to the table. The high-performance motor that is 60% stronger than a standard sewing machine motor.
- Works like a charm even after daily use
- Lays down smooth rand beautiful seams
- Impressive power in a small machine; thick and layered fabrics pose no issue
- Simple mechanisms, easy to move around, stitches super thick fabrics with ease
- Many had tension issues
- Thread backup is an issue
- Continues to have an issue with the drop-in bobbin, which has been seen in other Singer machines
3. Janome HD3000 Sewing Machine
The best Workhorse Sewing Machine for Leather
Brand: Janome | Adjustable Foot Pressure | Heavy Duty Aluminum Body | Lay-In Thread Tension Control | Price: 💰💰💰💰
This Janome machine is made for leather projects. It comes with a variety of accessories and a jam-proof top-loading bobbin system.
Comes with a large variety of stitch options and tools so you can complete any project with ease.
- Super quiet even with all that power
- Still going strong after years of heavy use
- Most powerful pressure foot on the market
- How easy it is to deal with thick and heavy fabric compared to other brands
- Repairs can be pricey
- Needs yearly servicing, which can add up
- Works well with standard leather but has trouble with specialty items like glazed pigskin
- The stitch change feature leaves something to be desired. It’s unclear what number stitch you’re on
4. Reliable 2600Zw
The best Sewing Machine for Leather Worthy of the Splurge
Brand: Reliable| Zig-Zag Machine | Made for Leather | 2500 RPM | Price: 💰💰💰💰💰
The Reliable 2600ZW can handle the thickest and toughest fabrics like leather and sails. It emits low-noise and low-vibrations. The simple stitch width dial allows you to easily modify the width.
It comes with a Sewquiet Servomotor installed with a 12 coil DC. It provides RPM up to 6000. It’s delivered with a heavy-duty table made for the machine and gives you a workspace of almost a foot.
It comes with a 1-year warranty to protect your purchase.
- Love the zig-zag
- Quiet and reliable
- The different size choices are super convenient
- Certainly the most expensive option
- The straight stitch leaves something to be desired, but still works ok
5. Brother ST371HD
The best Sewing Machine for Leather on a Budget
Brand: Brother | 37 Unique Built-In Stitches | Includes 6 Different Sewing Feet | Free Tech Support for the Life of Your Machine | Price: 💰
For the price, you can’t beat this Brother sewing machine for leather. It’s heavy-duty at a super affordable price point. It touts itself as being to handle the most elegant of silks and the thickest of tarps on the same day.
Its drop feed feature allows you to switch to free-motion sewing with ease. The built-in handle of the machine makes it easy to store and move.
While you won’t be getting that impressive 2500RPM of the budget-busting Reliable model, you will get a respectable 800 stitches per minute at a mere fraction of the price.
It includes an extra high presser foot lift capability and can sew through 6 layers of denim with no issue.
- Lightweight and easy to store
- The automatic needle threader works very well
- Can handle tons of layers without skipping a stitch
- Advertised as heavy-duty and lives up to the marketing
- Switching to this from an older machine was like going from a model A to a Porshe
- Tension issues in some machines
- Some machines broke down rather quickly
- The release arm is on the inside rather than the outside
- Some have experience poor customer service with the Brother team
What Makes Leather Harder to Work with Than Other Materials?
Many fabric crafters will approach leather in the same way they work with other types of materials. This is the first mistake.
Leather is a whole other animal (pardon the pun). It comes with its own specific types of stitches that work best and different bonding methods than other materials.
Here are the top tips for making working with leather easier:
Use a Walking Foot
Leather is tricky because it’s so thick. The machine will have a hard time guiding it through the foot. Use a walking foot on your machine to pull it in smoother.
While there are DIY methods to make your own, it’s a small investment to buy one and will be far less frustrating.
If you’re looking into the best vintage sewing machine for leather, on eBay perhaps, check to see what kind of feet come with it. Vintage machines are sturdier than modern ones, so they’re a good pick if you can find them.
Make Sure You’re Buying Specific Leather Needles (And That You Have a Good Thimble)
Make sure not to get them mixed up with your regular needles, though. They’ll leave large holes in standard fabrics.
A Stitching Groover Gives Your Leather Projects a More Finished and Professional Look
Have you noticed that leather items have an indented ridge along the stitch line? This is achieved with a stitching groover.
It creates a well that your stitches will lay in and makes the final project smoother and more finished.
What to Look for in a Sewing Machine for Leather
Since leather has such a different set of needs from traditional fabrics, there are specific leather sewing machines on the market. However, these are super pricey and don’t make a lot of sense for the average crafter working on a variety of materials and not specializing in leather.
Here are some of the key elements you’ll look for when purchasing a domestic sewing machine that will give you good results when using leather.
Your Machine Needs a Strong Motor and Frame
Leatherworking requires a lot of power from a heavy-duty sewing machine. It can burn out some of the basic models meant for quick patches. You want to look for a powerful motor with a decent RPM behind it.
Some great names in the industry that have metal frames on all their models are Singer and Janome. These machines are designed for heavy use and are workhorses that can handle anything you put through them.
Look for a High Presser Foot Lift
The high pressure allows you to get some extra height when sewing over seams that run together or intersect. This will also make it easier to get the stitch started.
It gives you the extra push you need to make sure you get cleanly through the layers and maintain your beautiful stitch.
Avoid the Fancy Technological Advances and Go for the Old-Fashioned Simple Machines
While most of the time, the most advanced piece of machinery is the best for the job, this isn’t the case when choosing the best leather sewing machine.
Leatherwork is going to put the machine through the wringer, and it’s far easier to adjust on the fly when all you must do is turn a knob- rather than cycling through computer menus. The simple machines have less that can break and more things you can quickly fix yourself as well.
Now, some brands do technology better than others, but there’s something about simplicity that works in a leather sewing application.
Speaking of Service, You’ll Want to Consider That as Part of the Purchase Price
If you’re planning on working with leather on a regular basis, you’ll want to make sure you have somewhere to bring your machine in for service. The best sewing machine for canvas and leather is the one you can easily fix.
This concept goes back to the simple machine. These will be easier and less expensive to fix when something goes wrong.
Some brands need more love and care than others. Some require yearly maintenance, while others will go a lifetime without needing anything. Make sure to pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions on the best ways to care for your new investment. At the end of the day, even the most affordable sewing machine isn’t necessarily “cheap” so you want to take care of it to keep you going strong.
For this guide on Sewing Machines for Leather, our team spent 10 hours researching the most popular options from over 15 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about one thousand user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each Sewing Machine. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 5 on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.
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