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Leather is thick, resistant, and it’s difficult to stick a needle into it. However, this material is one of the most fashionable and inspiring to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Some hobbyists sew leather by hand or using a regular home sewing machine with a special needle and foot. But if you want to create custom leather products like a pro, it would be wiser to use a sewing machine made with leather in mind.
We made an original research to help you choose the best sewing machine for leather based on your needs. Although there are special-purpose industrial sewing machines for leather that perform better—and cost more, if you are an occasional sewer, you might not need one, as some non-industrial heavy duty machines can get the work done as well. However, we included both types in our review to cover all your possible needs. Below, we explain the difference between industrial and domestic sewing machines and cover many other features that you should consider before buying, such as general sewing machine performance on leather, availability of special-purpose feet and needles, etc.
Based on hundreds of customer reviews, tens of product features, and our own judgement, we picked eight models that have a good price-quality ratio and a high performance. The things that set these sewing machines apart are highlighted in the table below. Further, we give a description of each product, with pros and cons, in detailed reviews. In a buying guide, we get a closer look at the essential factors affecting your choice. And in the end, we announce our three overall best sewing machine for leather.
The Janome HD3000BE is an affordable sewing machine with an industrial grade aluminum body and metal construction for superior durability. This machine can handle heavy fabrics with ease, it comes with 18 built-in stitches, a one-step buttonhole and 9 snap on presser feet, including: hemmer, zigzag, satin stitch, blind hem, button sewing, buttonhole, overedge, zipper and transparent buttonhole. The faceplate is hinged for easy access and the top loading drop-in bobbin is convenient when you’re working on a tight schedule.
This sewing machine has a top speed of 860 stitches per minute and a side mounted thread cutter. A convertible free arm, extra presser foot and a built-in needle threader ensure that your sewing time will be productive and efficient. The stitch length and width are adjustable up to 4mm and 6.5mm respectively. As an added bonus Janome has included a quilt kit which adds a great deal of value to an already impressive bundle. Free motion quilting is possible with the open-toe darning foot and a cloth guide can be screwed into the machine bed to help you sew straight seams.
The heavy-duty construction and striking black body make this sewing machine really stand out from the crowd. Janome have included an astounding number of useful accessories, including: a hard case, a pack of bobbins, a pack of universal and leather needles, an ultra-glide foot, a combined power cord and foot control unit and a helpful instruction book. The presser foot is adjustable and it has an extra high lift for added convenience. Making fast stitch selections is simple and the super bright LED lighting means that you can focus on the details. The Janome HD3000BE is a great choice for advanced users or sewers that are ready to make the step up to a more feature rich machine.
What makes it stand out?
The extensive kit including 9 feet and quilt kit
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
While it is to be expected from a heavy-duty machine, it is heavy
The Brother ST371HD is mentioned in many reviews as low-budget but good enough sewing machine for leather and other thick materials. The heavy-duty machine is designed to handle continuous hours of work. Novices appreciate the ease of use and simplified manipulation. If you want to start your home business with little money, this machine is the right choice. It can tackle a wide variety of material weight and thicknesses from denim to satin. The machine is durable and portable; it includes a built-in handle that allows you to transport it whenever you want. The product has 37 built-in utility and decorative stitches for zipper insertion, stretch stitches, blind hems, and buttonholes. The ST371HD comes with heavyweight needles.
According to reviews we found, most of the beginners are completely satisfied with this model, yet some of the accomplished users think that on stretch and thin fabric, the machine performs not so well. If you have a budget, then you better own a more feature-rich and professional leather sewing machine. However, if your choice is limited by the price of a product, this is a solid and affordable machine. After all, the ST371HD is backed by a 25-year limited warranty and a free hotline for technical support. And the Brother company is well-known for the top-notch customer service.
What makes it good for leather
For sewing leather, it is better to use the Brother ST371HD with a specialty non-stick foot for smoother fabric feeding. With it, the material goes through machine easily and does not move. This will protect you from spoiling the fabric.
What stands out?
Free arm for sewing leather cuffs and sleeves
Easy needle threader
Automatic bobbin winding system
37 built-in stitches
25-year limited warranty
Free technical phone support for the life of the product
The Singer 4423 Heavy Duty is a true workhorse when it comes to performance. The motor provides great piercing power, and the machine makes thick seams easily and fast. Maximum sewing speed is 1,100 stitches per minute. If you want to move carefully, you can slow it down. The Singer company is famous all over the world by smart design and outstanding quality of sewing machines. With more than 150-year of success, The Singer deeply knows how to surprise and satisfy even experienced sewers.
The Singer 4423 Heavy Duty has literally everything that is required for sewing leather and other thick fabrics like canvas or denim. The machine offers 23 built-in stitches including stretch, decorative, basic, and buttonhole stitches. The automatic needle threader helps you to effortlessly thread the eye of the needle. The machine comes with a lot of sewing accessories. Included are the button sewing foot, zipper foot, all-purpose foot, quilting guide, and many others. In reviews of the product, sewers often describe their experience in positive key even if they have never sewed before. Easy-to-use and smart features make this machine one of the best picks for both beginners and professionals. The Singer provides 25-year limited warranty for this machine, and the Singer Sewing Assistant App will help you anytime you need.
What makes it good for leather
The Singer company offers extra accessories for leather sewing. The most popular choice is the specialty even-feed walking presser that makes sewing a breeze. This feature is especially helpful in working with real leather that is pricier than the faux one. The walking foot has its own feed dog that works in combination with the machine regular feed dog. Together they grip the leather and produce the most accurate seaming.
The JUKI DU-1181N is an industrial sewing machine made for professional sewing of light- to medium-thick leather items. The model is feature-rich, it provides a motor with speed control. The machine is durable, fast, quiet and can sew up to 3/8″-thick leather. In their reviews, the beginners often mention its heavy-duty construction which allows to sew multiple layers of fabric, denim, and leather. The motor has automatic needle positioning that lifts the needle right in the end of a seam and puts it in the bottom position. This feature will make your sewing faster and more comfortable.
What makes it good for leather
When it comes to pro leather sewing machines, the TechSew 2700 is one of the best choices thanks to three dedicated features it has. The first is the motor giving great piercing power. The second feature is the compound walking-foot feeding mechanism that makes feeding the thick and bulky materials easier. And the third is the cylinder bed that allows you to sew into hard-to-reach areas.
Why is it special?
Top and bottom feed
Table, stand, motor included
Limited lifetime warranty
Free technical support for the life of the product
The Reliable Barracuda 200ZW is well-known among professional sewers. In more than 95% of the reviews, people share their positive experience in creating leather items with this model. The machine is designed for sewing heavy materials like upholstery fabric, canvas, vinyl, leather, denim, and even sailcloth. It is tried and true in up to 10 layers of canvas and up to 8 layers of Sunbrella-Plus which proves high-quality stitching. The machine features both top and bottom feeding which makes each stitch accurate and secure. The unit comes with a built-in speed reducer as well. These features make it easy for the needle to penetrate the fabric and provide a great accuracy of stitching. The base is solid; the all-metal construction makes it a durable and reliable investment.
What makes it good for leather
The machine is good for both real and faux leather. These materials are very sticky and difficult to work with, but with the special-purpose walking foot, the performance will exceed your expectations.
The Heureux Z6 has an excellent quality of stitching and can sew through heavy materials like denim, leather, or canvas. The device is tried and true in up to 9 layers of soft denim and 12 layers of hard denim. It has a whopping 200 built-in stitches, including stretch stitches, blind hem stitches, overlock, decorative and applique stitches. All types of stitches are shown on the convenient panel on the machine, and you can easily choose a stitch for your project. The machine features an automatic needle threader that saves your time and makes needle threading that much easier. The product comes with a bunch of accessories including six feet for different materials and purposes, three needle packs to start sewing immediately, and a tutorial.
In their reviews, professional sewers write that the Heureux Z6 s is perfectly suitable for working with denim. Unfortunately, there are not so many reviews of this model and we consider this as a minus. If you love leatherworking and sew regularly you can own the machine and successfully use it for both leather and denim projects.
What makes it good for leather
This machine has a great piercing power, so it can sew even through very thick leather. It also comes with the presser foot adjustment made specifically for proper feeding the leather and creating accurate steams. Due to these advantages, the Heureux Z6 s is a perfect choice for custom leather or denim design.
The JUKI TL-2010Q offers awesome straight stitching quality. Although there’s no zigzag stitching option, which limits the variety of your projects, the model has a long list of advantages. Beginners appreciate that it is easy to setup and operate. This is a mid-arm machine, also excellent for free motion quilting. The smart microcomputer controlled speed control allows sewing through a tough material in a low or high speed. You can set a speed from 200 to 1500 stitches per minute or choose any speed in between. If you are into precision sewing and quilting, this is a must-have feature. The Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment sets the amount of pressure that the presser foot exerts on the material. To switch between multiple levels of heavy fabric and lightweight pieces of cloth, you need to vary the pressure, so this feature will be extremely useful.
If you are looking for a portable lightweight sewing machine, the JUKI TL-2010Q may be not an option. The weight of this model is 25.4 lbs, which some of the users feel as hefty. Others, on the contrary, consider this as an advantage while working with heavy and large pieces of cloth. The machine remains steady even when you move the fabric.
What makes it good for leather
The JUKI TL-2010Q is excellent for sewing leather and quilting, thanks to the high performance, smart speed control, and Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment.
Leather is a material that will never run out of fashion because of its superior look. With a professional leather sewing machine, you increase your possibilities of creating unique leather clothes and accessories. But if you just begin your journey, new information you need to keep in mind can just overwhelm. Our buying guide is a wrap up of all principle things you need to know about sewing machines for leather.
Can you use your home sewing machine to sew leather?
There are many tutorials with tips for sewing leather on your regular home sewing machine. Most of these tips are recommendations to buy specialized accessories like needles or foot for leather. The truth is, even after the investment, an all-purpose machine will not achieve the perfect quality of stitching leather. To create belts and other thick leather items, you need a powerful machine that can penetrate heavy materials. If you are deeply into leather sewing and seriously aim to make your dreams come true, you should get a good heavy duty sewing machine for leather and arrange your workplace accordingly, buying all necessary special-purpose accessories for the machine itself and perhaps even a sewing table to handle such projects. If you sew rarely or need to sew only thin leather items, then you can use your regular sewing machine.
What makes the best sewing machine for leather?
When people describe a sewing machine using a word ‘best’, they can put at least two different meanings in it. By ‘best’, most of the hobbyists—especially beginners—mean price-quality ratio. But although special-purpose heavy duty or even industrial sewing machines for leather can cost you a fortune, it doesn’t always have to be this way. For example, Singer 4423 is a very affordable option, yet it sews different types of leather with precision and makes accurate seams. Leather clothes and accessories designers often don’t worry about money, their concern is the possibilities of the machine and by ‘best’, they mean ‘great performing, feature-rich, specialized’. If you’re serious about sewing leather and that’s the way you think, something like the JUKI DU-1181N would be a great option for thin leather, and for heavy leather, you can choose models like the Reliable Barracuda 200ZW. These models feature such accessories as specialty feed dogs or a foot designed for leather. Consider your budget and requests to decide what is best for you.
Domestic vs. industrial sewing machine for leather
There are three differences between domestic and industrial sewing machines. First, domestic machines have a smaller engine and less piercing power. Thus, penetrating thick and heavy material with accuracy will be difficult. The second difference is needles. Industrial machines have stronger needles. These devices often come with a bunch of useful accessories like extra needles for very heavy leather, canvas, denim or satin. The last difference is a construction. Industrial machines are built for sewing all day long; they are productive and reliable, created for durability. With such heavy-duty industrial sewing machines, you can successfully run business and create as many masterpieces as you want without any machine durability issues. For professionals, it is the right choice. Hobbyists and occasional sewers may find this investment unnecessary. They will be perfectly happy with devices like the Janome HD 3000.
Stronger needles, feed dogs, and a special-purpose foot
There are different types of needles for thick and thin materials. The needles penetrating multiple layers of fabric need to be strong. The needles of industrial sewing machines usually are the strongest. In addition, you can easily order extra needles. Such companies as the TechSew, Toyota, Brother, and Singer provide high-quality needles made specifically for heavy-duty tasks.
The mechanism that feeds the fabrics under the needle is called a feed dog. Choosing the right feed dog is critically important when it comes to working with delicate fabrics like thin leather. The TechSew 2700 has a specialty feed dog that prevents the piece of cloth from tearing while sewing.
When it comes to working with faux leather or other sticky fabrics, a special-purpose foot is better than a normal basic presser foot. The first one prevents the material from sticking and helps with feeding through properly. A walking foot is probably the most popular type of specialty foot. If you want to grip the thick leather from both the top and bottom and feed it through easily, you should pick the walking foot. For example, the walking foot that comes with the Reliable Barracuda 200ZW allows you to fully control the movement of the thick and heavy material. The other sewing machines from our research also have a special-purpose foot for leather or a presser foot adjustment. Honestly, you can choose any of them. Both options make your sewing more comfortable and shield you from unintentional mistakes. For example, the JUKI TL-2010Q and Janome HD3000BE with their presser foot adjustment are the common choices for faux leather projects.
Leather doesn’t forgive mistakes – you can’t fix them. Sometimes, to make a perfect steam, you need a speed control. Beginners appreciate this feature because they yet cannot sew quickly and accurately. For professionals who create many items in a short time, it is best to have a fast sewing machine. Anyway, it is much better to have options than to have not. Depending on your project, you can choose from 200 to 1500 stitches per minute.
When a company offers a long-term warranty, this means that risks are calculated and the probability of breakage is low. Domestic sewing machines like Singer 4423 Heavy Duty and Brother ST371HD are usually backed by 25-year limited warranty. But the warranty on industrial sewing machines is much shorter and can last from two to five years.
We think that the Janome HD3000BE is the best sewing machine for leather because of its combination of productivity, durability, and high performance. For thin leather, we choose the specialized JUKI DU-1181N which has all that you need to work with delicate leather. For heavier leather, we pick out the Reliable Barracuda 200ZW, which is incredibly powerful and portable, and the Heureux Z6, which is great for sewing leather and denim. If you are a beginner or need a sewing machine for occasional leather projects, we recommend the easy-to-use Brother ST371HD or the extremely affordable Singer 4423.