Decoration - Leather Layer
How To Embroider Safely On Leather Apparel
Leather has a high-end look, and adding custom embroidery to the supple material ups the perceived value – as long as it’s done right.
“With the depth and texture of the thread and the design and color options available, you can create a product that is unique, very attractive and represents a high value to your client,” says Pam Morris, decoration manager for Burk’s Bay (asi/74600). “There are some risks whenever you put a needle through leather, but with the proper steps you can minimize those risks and provide your client with a truly exquisite look.”
The first, and perhaps most crucial, step is digitizing, keeping in mind the type of leather being used, whether cowhide, lambskin or pig skin. “You simply cannot reproduce the detail you can accomplish sewing on cotton or other woven materials,” Morris says. She recommends reducing the density, allowing for greater tolerance and planning for larger letter sizes, a minimum height of one-quarter inch. Backfills give more flexibility, but increase the stitch count and reduce material strength. Consider a fill stitch rather than satin for large letters.
Proper needle selection is also important. Burk’s Bay uses titanium-coated regular point 75/11 needs and occasionally drops down to a 70/10. Cowhide requires a larger needle, whereas softer lambskin allows for more flexibility, and a smaller, more precise needle can be employed.
Be careful, though: A smaller needle means a greater chance of needle and thread breaks. Morris recommends using sharp needles that are changed often to minimize the risk.
Be prepared to slow down your embroidery machines when running leather, about 490 stitches per minute for lamb and up to 550 stitches per minute for cowhide or pigskin. Loosen the bobbin thread when sewing patches on leather. To avoid hoop burns, Burk’s Bay uses magnetic ones, which Morris says have been “a real boon to embroidering leather.”
Leather jackets offer a surprising number of location options: left chest, right chest, left and right bicep, cuff, yoke or full back. An embroidered leather patch sewn inside at the neck label or near the inside breast pocket is also popular.
“Clients like the discrete location for their logo, award message or personalization,” Morris says. Another trend for leather is tone-on-tone embroidery, to give a subtle, but rich look to a garment or bag.
As with any new technique, practice – and patience – makes perfect. Try out simple logos on leather swatches to get comfortable before taking on the real thing.
Embroidery tip: Use a satin stitch for small logos and a fill stitch for large letters.