Overcome Your Fears in Sewing

Dec 12, 2012

Much as I love suede, I have always been afraid of sewing it. It's probably because I have edited one too many articles on  sewing suede and I've always felt that I had to have a phalanx of expensive tools to get me a satisfactory result.

In fact, this fear would likely have kept me from ever taking a needle to suede if I hadn't enrolled in an accessories class. One of the projects is a pair of moccasins, and, while we had the option of using fabric, I just couldn't imagine moccasins made in anything but suede.

I headed up to Global Leather in New York City's Garment District, and I was completely overwhelmed. This is a place that serves the trade and there was every kind of leather available in every imaginable color.

I asked for suede and I was pointed to lamb, pig, and calf suede (I think there was goat in there too, but I'm not sure.) I balanced my squeamishness with my awe at the sheer luxury and beauty of the rainbow-hued skins. 

I was pretty much left to wander the aisles and finally settled on a mossy green calf suede as the right weight for my moccasins, while still having that soft, buttery feel.

Now that I had my skin, my challenge was how to sew it. We had not sewn leather in the class, but I know that the machines used to do so are heavy-duty industrial contraptions.

 

  

I had never seen so much leather, in so many colors. This antique spool of silk is 5 inches tall.
The suede came together surprisingly easily.
     
I was thrilled with the neatness of my home sewing machine stitch. I was able to sew through as many as five layers on the suede binding.
Never underestimate your home sewing machine!

I asked my teacher if I could sew suede on my home sewing machine. She said that if I could sew denim on it, I could sew suede. I didn't have any special thread for sewing, except an ancient spool of silk upholstery thread that I had purchased at the Brimfield antique show. She shrugged her shoulders and said that could work in place of the specialty thread.

Other than figuring out how to use my oversized silk spool on my machine (I wound it off on a bobbin), the sewing was surprisingly straightforward. I used masking tape instead of pins to hold the layers together. Suede, while thick, is soft and molds well. The needle penetrated it easily. In fact, I was able to stitch through up to 5 layers of suede with no problem.

Here I had thought all those years that I needed all sorts of special machinery and tools to sew suede, and I was able to use what I happened to have on hand, combined with a little resourcefulness.

It just goes to show you (and I hope the beginners to sewing out there are listening!) that you should never be afraid to just dive right in and try something at sewing. It's never half as difficult as you think and you don't need a lot of fancy equipment for most stuff, even sewing suede!

For lots more sewing projects that will help beginner and expert sewists alike tackle their fears, check out the last day of 12 Days of Deals (12 deals for $12.12!) in the Sew Daily Shop.

Do you have anything you fear in sewing? Let me know!

Happy stitching!


Amber Eden

 

 

 


Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

TraceyC@15 wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 6:29 AM

A lot of years ago, I was unemployed and my sewing machine was broken.  I've always had difficulty hand sewing much because of hypermobility and arthritis, but couldn't afford to get it repaired.  Luckily, a charity shop around the corner just happened to have a very battered (no case, and not even the bottom box was complete!) vintage hand crank Singer.  I bought it for £2.50, and was delightedly back to sewing.

I'd always been reluctant to put leather or suede through my machines having nearly wrecked one just with 4 layers of moderately heavy duty cotton despite an appropriate needle, but this dear old hand crank machine will power through up to 6 (probably more, but I've never had cause) of absolutely anything with ease, and because you have such exceptionally fine control of the needle penetration with a hand crank machine there are never any issues of any kind in keeping everything lined up perfectly.

The machine very seldom gets used since I inherited my grandmother's 1950s Singer, a lovely machine that I used among other things to make my wedding outfit and much of my husband's.  It's one of the ones that uses bakelite discs to do anything other than straight stitch!  At some point I'll probably get an overlocker, and would love a decent embroidery machine, but for the vast majority of my sewing, I can't imagine using anything other than one of my much loved vintage Singers :)

Kokopelli wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 6:37 AM

I'm a leatherworker for long now and it really depends on the leather/suede if you want to sew it with a home sewing machine. The appropriate needle is very important. Thin suede and all other thin soft leathers are no problem, but sewing thick materials over a long time with a home sewing machine will ruin the motor. But a pair of mocs won't.

on Dec 12, 2012 6:38 AM

Hi Amber:

My biggest fear in sewing is not being perfect...the bane of all perfectionists, I think.

In many of your blogs, you mention either going to this flea market or that antique store or the New York Garment District. I think many readers would be interested in how one finds these venues and does one need a tax ID# to shop in the Garment District.

I always enjoy reading your blogs.

Happy Holidays!

Marilyn Gural

JudeMB wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 8:26 AM

What an interesting article!  Love the idea of stitching suede, but like you wouldn't have imagined being able to do it on my ordinary sewing machine, now that I know it's possible I feel a suede bag being added to my list of 'must makes' for 2013.

Judi

Mrsmohammed wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 12:37 PM

My fear is mostly related to cutting. When I first started sewing again after about 20 years break I actually broke out in a sweat while cutting as if I had been at the gym! With repetition it's gotten much better but I still get a bit of butterflies XD

Mrsmohammed wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 12:43 PM

Ahh yes-as mngural@aol.com wrote it would be awesome if you did an article on sourcing fabrics, laces, & other items! I'm especially interested in NY area as I'm planning a trip there at the end of march for sewing items!  :-D

MaryK@39 wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 4:46 PM

Leather is simply dead animal skin.  Someone tortured and killed those innocent animals.  You could just as well make the same things from ultrasuede or other artificial suede.  If you continute to promote cruelty to animals, I will unsubscribe.

digupstuff wrote
on Dec 13, 2012 5:06 AM

Hi Amber:

My biggest fear in sewing is not being able to complete a project due to the threads getting all bunched up and messing up both my projects and my machine. I guess I am sewing machine challenged, but it seems like every time I try to sew something, it botches up on me. It's so damned frustrating for me that I opt to hand sewing instead, and with my arthritis, that hurts a lot! I know it's all about the tension, I just can't seem to get it right for some odd reason. I have gone through a few machines with this problem too. Please help!

Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, Happy New Year, awww heck! Happy Holidays!

<3 Elizabeth Frevillle <3

Clara Oliver wrote
on Dec 15, 2012 6:54 AM

Hi Amber! thank you for all the tips and advice.  I always enjoy your newsletter. Please give us some tips on sewing very stretchy material which seems to be the trend in clothing.

Thanks

Charné