How to Sew Suede By Hand Or Machine (9 Sewing Suede Tips)

With sewing fabrics you do get a lot of choices. One of those choices has you deciding between sewing by hand or by machine. Hand sewing is nice when you have the time and the patience but machine sewing saves on body wear and tear.

One of the differences in sewing suede by hand or machine is that the machine saves you a lot of energy and time. Use a leather point needle in either case and heavy-duty thread. That needle should be between 14 and 18 gauge thick.

To learn more about sewing suede by hand or using a machine just continue to read our article. In a few minutes, you will be able to start sewing suede a lot better and create some great outfits

Tip #1: When cutting suede for your sewing project, always cut with the nap. You do this by making sure all your pattern pieces are facing the same way.

Tip #2: To make suede more pliable use steam from the wrong side along the seams. Then when the suede cools you should be able to shape it better. Just brush the nap out if it gets a little crushed during this process.

Can You Sew Suede?


Yes, you can and you need the right equipment to do the job correctly. Some of those pieces of equipment needed are leather point needles, heavy-duty thread, Teflon presser foot, tissue paper, masking tape, scissors, tailor’s chalk, and pattern weights.

Do not use pins as those items will scar the leather. It is best to use pattern weights to hold tissue or patterns in place while you prepare the material for sewing. Preparation is important as well.

You need to mark all darts, notches, and so on clearly with tailor’s chalk and make sure you always cut with the grain or nap. Doing the opposite will ruin your project and make you spend more money.

Because leather is expensive make sure you go slow and take your time. Being careful will help you correct any mistakes before you move to the next step.

Tip #3: Press your seams open and then topstitch down both sides. If you own a Bernina sewing machine you can use the #10 Edge stitch foot or the #5 Blind stitch foot. Also, lengthen your stitch to 4 or 4 1/2 mm.

How to Sew through Suede

To achieve this goal, you need one of the more trustworthy friends a sewer can have. The thimble and a very sharp needle. If you are sewing by hand, the thimble lets you put enough pressure on the eye without hurting yourself.

Then you need a very sharp needle to get through the fabric if the leather is nice and thick. But you can also use a pair of pliers to help get the needle through the tough fabric.

If you do not want to use the pliers then a specialized glove will do the trick and keep you from losing time if the thimble drops off your thumb or finger. If the suede material is thin, you may not have any problem getting the needle and thread through the fabric.

Just play it by ear as what tools you use will be determined by the thickness of the suede.

Tip #4: to soften the seams after you have topstitched, just trim away the rest of the seam allowance. This act will help you when it comes time to turn the facing or hem.

How to Sew Suede by Hand


The first thing you need to determine, even before selecting the type of fabric, the color, and so on, is to make sure you have the hand and arm strength to sew suede. Thick suede will be harder to sew and will take a lot of energy. Make sure you are prepared for the work involved.

Then the next step is to select the thickness of the suede you want. The purpose of your project will help you make that decision. After that, you need to find some real heavy-duty thread that will be strong enough to handle the weight and movement of the material.

Finding several sharp 14 to 18 gauge needles is what you do after selecting the thread. You want several on hand just in case the needle dulls, bends, or breaks as you work. Sewing suede can be tough on needles like it is on your hand.

Next, make sure you follow the tips given in this article. They will help guide you through several different aspects of working with suede. Before we forget, make sure you stock up on thimbles or buy a good pair of pliers or glove to use.

Tip #5: Avoid using pins at all costs. Suede is not a fan of pinholes and if you need to use pins keep them in the seam allowance. Fabric clips are a good option when you need to use pins.

Sewing Faux Suede

Faux suede may be easier to work with than real suede. It is not made from the tough animal hide but synthetic materials that are generally softer to work with. Your project will determine which weight of fabric you will use.

There is a lightweight for blouses and similar clothing articles. Then there is the heavyweight for coats and other similar items. The lining is something you will need to consider and a fusible interface is a good choice for that task.

Next, pre-wash the fabric with fabric softener but do not use dryer sheets. Get the shrink out first before you start sewing. Also, avoid using your iron when it comes to pressing the suede. Follow the nap when cutting.

For sewing, you can get away with using a 9-11 standard needle as long as it is sharp and polyester or a cotton-poly blend thread. Set your tension a little weaker to stop thread pulling from creating holes. Don’t stretch the material as you sew but hold it taut so puckers do not develop.

Tip #6: Select your project carefully. Suede does not drape well so you want a pattern that has simple lines and an easy style to work with.

Sewing Microsuede


The key here will be the needle that you use. Some sewers have used a stretch needle and a 2 1/2 mm stitch length with no problems. Others have used a Microtex needle with the same good results.

Next, you should keep the fabric taut as it goes through the needle. This will help avoid puckering and other sewing with microsuede problems. Then still another sewer went with 2 strands of thread through one needle and did her topstitching that way.

Then some experts recommend a ballpoint needle which if sharp enough should do the trick. As long as it is coupled with a very small zig-zag stitch length. You can get away with polyester thread and using glue sticks where necessary.

Don’t forget to pre-wash the material so you do not lose any size when you go to wash the outfit for the first time.

Tip #7: Make sure to pre-wash ultra suede materials. This fabric doesn't drape very well either and it may take several washings to get it pliable enough to work with properly. Don’t use dryer sheets as they may leave oil spots on the material.

Can You Sew Suede On a Regular Sewing Machine?

This will depend on the type of suede material you are working with. Normally, anything other than pig suede will be too thick, too tough, and too hard for your regular sewing machine.

Some people disagree with that answer and claim that if you make changes to your regular sewing machine you can sew leather products on it. Those changes are:

  • Change your presser foot to a roller presser foot to avoid sticking.
  • Change your needle to a leather needle.
  • Change your stitch length to about 3 1/2 mm.
  • Change your thread to polyester or nylon.
  • Change your sewing habit. In other words, choose a leather project that doesn't have layers to it.

Tip #8: Baste your seams to make sure the fabric stays still while you work. You can do this by hand or by using basting tape.

How to Sew Suede With a Sewing Machine


After you do all the pre-work with the fabric, now it is time to do a little work on your machine before you start to sew. If you can use a Teflon or roller foot. These will help the fabric from getting stuck on regular presser feet.

Next use masking tape to ‘pin’ the seams together or you can use glue sticks or rubber cement and so on. If you are using interfacing get the sew-in kind that is made to work with leather.

Then make sure you are using a 14 to 18 gauge needle threaded with heavy-duty thread. You can press as you work using the lowest setting on your iron and using a pressing cloth. Or you can use books but leave the books in place for about 24 hours.

Depending on the fabric, your presser foot tension should be set between 0 and 2.

Tip #9: There will be a time when you will sew suede to another fabric. When you do this make sure to keep the suede on top next to the feed dogs. This will help prevent sticking and skipped stitches.

What Size Needle to Sew Suede

The best needles to use would be a 14 gauge one that is really sharp. Other needle options are the 16 to 18 gauge. The needle size you will use will depend on the type of suede you are working with and its thickness.

Also, there are different needles for faux suede and microsuede. You should check with your sewing store to see a complete list of the different needles you should use with leather. There are a lot of options for you to choose between.

Just make sure the needle is sharp and have extra needles around as the suede should be making those needles nice and dull very quickly. Also, check to make sure those needles are straight, not bent or broken. You do not want any delays or other sewing problems if you use the wrong one or insert them wrong in your machine.

How to Sew Suede Elbow Patches


After practicing on some scrap pieces get your pattern ready and cut the suede to the size you want them to be. Double-check your sweater to make sure you have marked the right spot where the patches are supposed to go.

Then slide a piece of paper inside the sleeve so you do not sew the sweater sleeve shut. If you are using interfacing use an iron on one and trim away the allowance before you start to sew.

Now begin to hand sew your patch into place. Just go all the way around the patch until you have sewn it in place. Then move on to the next sleeve and repeat the process. It shouldn’t take too long to get both patches in place. You should be able to wear the sweater when you are done.

Some Final Words

Sewing suede is not going to be easy. Not because the fabric may slide around on you while you work but because it is a tough fabric at times to work with. But if you have tough, strong hands or a very good machine you will find that sewing suede is like sewing other fabrics.

Just make sure to have a few thimbles, a pair of pliers, or even a special glove on hand to make sure your hands remain protected. When you are done, your suede outfit should look great.

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