In a recent article, a popular arts and crafts website seller mentions how she set up a six-figure income business with her penchant for sewing leather. All it took was some creativity and one of the best leather sewing machines for a career change that has transformed her life completely.
Leather continues to defy trends and be in vogue year after year. It makes an appearance this year in uncanny ways on peplums and sleeves. Not to forget that the demand for handcrafted leather goods has exploded ever since the arts and crafts marketplaces arrived.
What’s your leather style quotient? Weekend warrior, moto-jacket savant or a beginner looking to learn the ropes of sewing leather?
Irrespective of your skill level, goes without saying that sewing leather is a gratifying and rewarding experience. But you absolutely need the right tools and at the forefront of those, is a leather sewing machine.
We are not talking about industrial grade machines that can overwhelm you with an abundance of features and cost thousands of dollars. These are professional grade sewing machines that can handle thicker fabric, go over seams and bind without getting jammed.
If this is the first time you are venturing into leather sewing machines, then here’s a small guide into the nits and grits of buying one that best suits your interests.
What To Consider When Buying The Best Leather Sewing Machine
One of the most important but overlooked factors while buying leather sewing machines is that there are many varieties of leather that vary in their thickness, weight, texture and density. What works for sewing some types of leather may be a very poor choice for sewing others. The first thing that you need to determine is what type of leather you are looking to sew.
For example, if your need is sewing leather garments, then you may not need a heavy duty machine that can sew saddles or holsters and vice-a-versa.
Speed: Most entry-level to mid-range leather sewing machines have a top speed of 1000 stitches per minute which more than suffices for most types of leather work. Advanced industrial machines can stitch up to 5000 stitches in a minute.
Portability: The rise in popularity of leather sewing as a hobby, has led to the creation of portable and compact leather machines that are made of lightweight metal alloys and toughened plastic. A far cry from the heavy all-metal sewing machines of yore, these are ideal for home use.
Control: If you are graduating to leather sewing from garment sewing, then get ready to be greeted with a few additional controls than what you’d typically expect.
Feed Style: Another equally important factor is the ability to feed the material evenly and prevent uneven stitches or filigree. This mostly happens with smooth top grain leather material which is sticky and even with vinyl. This problem can be circumvented by choosing walking foot machines.
Some manufacturers also offer aftermarket pressor feet. These don’t work as effectively as true-blue walking feet machines but can help you avoid the problem with the leather sticking on the bottom. You can also alter the pressure being applied to prevent skipping.
There’s a whole lot of literature to write about the different varieties of walking foot machines too. But that would actually be overwhelming for a beginner.
Without further ado, here’s a list of the best leather sewing machines in the market. We have rounded these based on their features, ability to sew with a variety of leather types, ease of use, portability and features. While the ideal machine for you is a very personalized decision with more variables than what can be listed here, this list should help you narrow down on some of the best choices you have.
Our Pick Of The Best Leather Sewing Machines
A lot of old-school sewing enthusiasts absolutely despise the all-plastic bodied new age sewing machines that are advertised as portable. The Janome HD1000, despite being a recent entrant into the world of heavy duty sewing machines has a cast aluminum body which is heavier and more durable than any other machine at this price point.
But the reason why it is our #1 pick in a market that is flooded with options, is beyond the durable construction. The Janome HD1000 boasts of a bevy of impressive features which let you tackle most types of leather and thicker garments with ease.
Ease of use
The Janome HD1000 has a barebones control system which is mainly mechanical. A single lever access to most functions including a needle-threader, 14 built-in switches and adjustable tension make this a breeze to use, even for newbies.
There are two large rotary dials which allow you to select the type of stitch and alter the stitch length. Other than this, the Janome 1000HD boasts of a four step buttonhole, a free arm, a reverse stitch lever and a thread cutter.
The HD1000 can tackle most varieties of thick garments for up to 4 layers with ease.
With 14 stitch options, you are not exactly going to show off your stitch work but it is enough to ensure that you have good quality steady stitch work which holds.
You may find that winding the bobbin or even accessing it is a tad different from the newer machines. Also, threading on the HD1000 is from the left to the right. But these are just minor niggles that can easily be overcome.
Verdict: Barebones but incredibly effective, the Janome 1000HD offers unbeatable value for the price. It has a massive fan following among hobby sewing enthusiasts as well as leather professionals who swear by the performance. Hard to go wrong with a proven workhorse!
With an under $150 price tag and packed to the brim with features, the Singer 4411 is a name that needs no introduction among hobby and professional sewing enthusiasts. With an all-metal construction, the ability to stitch even heavy duty garments and a bunch of automated features, the Singer 4411 should be a great buy for anyone looking for a budget priced leather sewing machine.
Strong motor and faster stitching
At the forefront of its features is a powerful motor that the company touts is 60% stronger than the motors used on conventional sewing machines. Top this up with 1100 stitches per minute and you have a very heavy duty machine that sews fast and takes on most stitching jobs with ease.
The 4411 has a total of 11 built-in switches that include 6 basic ones, 4 decorative ones and an auto buttonhole.
Despite the all-metal internal and external construction, it weighs a pleasant 14 pounds allowing you to carry it for your weekend classes or outdoor projects.
Practical features for easy use
The Singer 4411 does not have a lot of bells and whistles. Instead, it has a set of practical features that really outshine the competition when you are looking for speed and precision with your sewing tasks. A stainless steel bedplate prevents the garments from getting stuck and feed is precise each time irrespective of the type of fabric. The drop-in bobbin design makes it easy to access the bobbin and a bunch of accessories included in the package make it complete value for money.
Verdict: Unbeatable value. From costuming to quilting and upholstery work, the Singer 4411 is one powerful leather sewing machine that can do it all. It has a proven track record and an unbeatable price tag.
Our next pick from Janome is the HD3000 which is a sleeker and modernized upgrade to the HD1000. It boasts of a metal frame with a hard plastic case that makes it sleeker in appearance. It looks a lot like the new age computerized sewing machines but in essence is a powerful mechanical machine that stitches fast and strong.
Going by the popularity of the sewing machine, the combination is a winner.
Simple operations, efficient performance
The HD3000 stays true to Janome’s conscious effort to keep the operation simple. You have a built-in needle threader that takes guesswork out of threading, slider buttons to adjust the stitch length and a dial to select the stitch type. Like the HD1000, a stitch selection guide across the top of the case lets you select the type of stitch with ease.
It includes 18 built-in stitch options with one buttonhole. For the leather sewing newbie, the HD3000 includes a presser foot option which is accessible by a single dial that is intuitively placed. It allows you to select the best presser foot from seven different ones and adjust the length and width of the best stitch type.
Stitch leather with ease
The Janome HD3000 will sail through thick and multiple layers of leather, fur, canvas and other thick fabrics. You can select from any of the built-in stitches, bind and do double seams and run through a quit sandwich without the needle breaking off or skipping stitches.
Clubbed with the easy stitch selection and the guide, this really simplifies the stitching process no matter how complicated the stitch is.
The free-arm included in the package lets you tackle stitching in hard-to-reach areas like cuffs and hems.
Verdict: Hands down, one of the best leather sewing machines under $500. It is powerful, fast and efficient. Comes with Janome’s reliability behind it!
After selecting three mechanical leather sewing machines, we figured it was time to go digital for some of our tech-savvy sewing aficionados who prefer the automation and love digitalized LCD screens. The 9960 is one of Singer’s premium offerings that boast of a whopping 600 built-in stitch options, 13 buttonholes and countless other automation features that increase speed and efficiency during the most complex stitching tasks.
Tons of controls
It is a misconception that the Singer 9960 can be intimidating for the beginner, especially due to the plethora of buttons on the control panel. Instead, it is one of the easiest computerized leather sewing machines to use.
The buttons are large, easy to access, intuitively placed and lets you access most functions like needle up/down, twin needle control, stitch selection, tack and reverse. It may take a little practice especially if you are used to mechanical machines but once you do, you’ll appreciate the ease of use that digitalization brings to the table.
More stitches than you’ll ever need
The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist has an amazing 600 in-built stitch types that include 103 basic stitches like straight, cross and hemming, 13 buttonholes, 34 decorative stitches and 90 characters in different fonts. The automatic locking stitch and the tack button let you tie the stitches to perfection.
From professional clothes to embroidery to leather upholstery and basting, there is very little than the 9960 cannot handle.
Verdict: The only thing that is lacking in the Singer 9960 is a knee lifter which is a must have for heavy quilting work. But considering that our main review focuses on sewing leather, this is an absolute beast of a sewing machine.
Last but not the least; we have Singer’s mid-range leather sewing machine, the 4432 with its heavy duty metal frame and a top speed of 1100 stitches per minute. It retains Singer’s extra powerful motor that has been a USP for all its entry and mid-range bridge sewing machine models that thin the gap between a consumer machine and a heavy duty industrial grade one.
Add 32 built-in stitches and a bevy of automation features, you have a sewing machine that sails through most type of stitching tasks with ease.
Compact and Durable
The Singer 4432 has the same design as some of its lower and higher priced brethren, albeit, with a little color thrown in for good measure. The large dials are positioned right on the front and are accessible with ease for on-the-fly alterations. Despite the all-metal frame, it weighs only a light 15 pounds which makes it a portable choice.
As always, Singer keeps it simple but effective. The features are a mélange of function and practicality. You have a clear-view bobbin cover with a drop-in bobbin design that is easy to access. Further, needle threading is automated simplifying one of the most tedious and time consuming prep tasks.
The 4432 is designed for heavy duty stitching. From denim to quilt to a variety of leather, it will easily handle the most tedious stitching jobs without getting jammed or breaking off. The 32 built-in stitches, including 6 Basic ones, 7 Stretch stitches and 18 decorative ones are more than sufficient for most basic and even some advanced stitching jobs.
A stainless steel bedplate allows precise feed into the machine; while the high presser foot lifter allows additional clearance which lets you stitch multiple layers of thick fabric.
The needle positions can be switched according to the type of stitching task you are performing and an automated reverse stitching function lets you strengthen the stitches. The package includes all the accessories that you need to complete your stitching tasks with ease.
Verdict: The Singer 4432 easily outperforms much higher priced machines with its automation and features. At the price point, you would be hard pressed to find anything better. Go for it.