Machine embroidery on leather: how to get it right

Machine embroidery on leather seems to attract everyone’s attention. I had my embroidery machine for years but I never tried leather embroidery until now. After reading some tutorials I decided to put it in practice. And here is what I made – a velvet dress with leather insert embellished with embroidered roses.

Leather, suede and vinyl, in my opinion, are some of the most mysterious foundations for machine embroidery. I have read a lot of different things about these materials online. Information is kind of diverse sometimes so  you can get lost in it. I tried to study everything and just go with it and see what works the best. 

I can’t say that I am a professional in machine embroidery and I don’t pretend that I know everything about leather embroidery but the fact that at this stage my embroidery looks nice says that I am moving in the right direction.

Machine embroidery on leather has its own secrets and nuances.

All leather-like materials are very different in weight, thickness, texture, density, stiffness. But still they have something in common if you want to use them for machine embroidery:

  • These materials don’t forgive mistakes – if a needle puncture was made, then it remains visible forever
  • Hoop marks may destroy them 
  • They may become perforated along the line of stitches – and then your leather project is completely ruined 

And these facts impose their requirements on the very technological process of embroidery on leather-like materials: the choice of needles, threads, stabilizers, hooping methods, etc. But I am sure that the right tools are the key to amazing results

My choice of leather for machine embroidery

 

For my velvet dress, I have chosen very soft thin lambskin leather. I had to cut the pattern piece from the leather before doing embroidery on it because otherwise, I wouldn’t know how to place my embroidery designs proportionally. 

I cut the piece with ⅝ inch seam allowances using my sharp shears. The skin was big enough to keep the whole pattern piece without cutting it. Note the weights used to fix the pattern on the skin for marking, pins can NOT be used here.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

The choice of needles for leather embroidery

For the choice of needles, I saw very different recommendations: some advises using a special leather needles, some says a topstitching needle is the best, some uses microtex needles, some advises to use just a special embroidery needle, and also light ball point needle. 

So I decided to go through all possible options and figure it out myself about what works with my thin lambskin leather. 

I had a piece of similar scrap leather which was not properly painted: in some places the color was blue and in other places the color was grey. So I used this piece to practice and test my designs. 

I discovered that for my kind of leather a Schmetz embroidery needle size 75/11 worked the best. I tried to use a special leather needle that was supposed to make the hole smaller but I had an impression that the cut from the leather needle on my thin lambskin leather was a bit longer (narrower but longer) so I used just the embroidery needle and the result was good. I also used Organ embroidery needles size 80/12 (a little bigger than Schmetz needles) when I was embroidering with metallic thread, and they worked great also. 

Get more info on machine embroidery needles here

25 Schmetz Embroidery Sewing Machine Needles 130/705H H-E Size 75/11 (Original Version)

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Features

  • Size 75/11 is perfect for lightweight to medium weight fabrics.
  • 5 packs of needles. Each pack contains 5 needles, for a grand total of 25 needles.
  • For use with rayon and other specialty machine embroidery threads including polyesters
  • The shank(top part) of these needles have one flat side and one rounded side.
  • These will fit all "household" models of Brother, Janome, Singer, Pfaff, Bernina, Viking, Elna, Kenmore, Baby Lock, Simplicity, Necchi, White and many others.

25 Schmetz Assorted Embroidery Sewing Machine Needles 130/705H H-E Size 75/11 and 90/14 (Original Version) (Original Version)

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Features

  • 15 needles size 75/11 for lightweight fabrics and 10 needles size 90/14 for medium weight fabrics
  • 5 packs of needles. Each pack contains 5 needles, for a grand total of 25 needles.
  • For use with rayon and other specialty machine embroidery threads including polyesters
  • The shank(top part) of these needles have one flat side and one rounded side.
  • These will fit all "household" models of Brother, Janome, Singer, Pfaff, Bernina, Viking, Elna, Kenmore, Baby Lock, Simplicity, Necchi, White and many others.

50 Schmetz Embroidery Sewing Machine Needles - size 75/11 - Box of 10 cards

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Features

  • System 130/705 H-E
  • Fits all "household" sewing machines - Baby Lock, Bernina, Brother, Elna, Janome, Kenmore, Necchi, Pfaff, Simplicity, Singer, Viking, White and many others
  • 50 Schmetz Embroidery needles - 10 cards of 5 needles each
  • Light ball point, wide eye and groove
  • Use with rayon, polyester and other specialty embroidery threads. The special scarf, widened groove and enlarged eye protect fragile threads and guard against excess friction allowing trouble-free embroidery and decorative stitching.

50 Schmetz Embroidery Sewing Machine Needles - size 90/14 - Box of 10 cards

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Features

  • System 130/705 H-E
  • Fits all "household" sewing machines - Baby Lock, Bernina, Brother, Elna, Janome, Kenmore, Necchi, Pfaff, Simplicity, Singer, Viking, White and many others
  • 50 Schmetz Embroidery needles - 10 cards of 5 needles each
  • Light ball point, wide eye and groove
  • Use with rayon, polyester and other specialty embroidery threads. The special scarf, widened groove and enlarged eye protect fragile threads and guard against excess friction allowing trouble-free embroidery and decorative stitching.

25 Schmetz Embroidery Sewing Machine Needles 130/705H H-E Size 90/14

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Features

  • Size 90/14 is perfect for medium weight fabrics.
  • 5 packs of needles. Each pack contains 5 needles, for a grand total of 25 needles.
  • For use with rayon and other specialty machine embroidery threads including polyesters
  • The shank(top part) of these needles have one flat side and one rounded side.
  • These will fit all "household" models of Brother, Janome, Singer, Pfaff, Bernina, Viking, Elna, Kenmore, Baby Lock, Simplicity, Necchi, White and many others.

Brother SAEMB7511 100-Piece 75/11 Embroidery Needles

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Features

  • 100-piece set of embroidery machine needles
  • Versatile all-purpose 75/11 size with flat back shank
  • Time-tested Organ brand ensures performance; quality; and economy
  • Packaged in sets of 10
  • For use with selected Brother models; check user manual or list below

What stabilizer to use for leather embroidery

Now about the stabilizers. I see that they are divided into lower ones, designed to take on the load and prevent leather tightening, and upper ones, designed to ensure that the stitches don’t sink in the material. 

With the choice of stabilizers, there are different recommendations also: tear-away, or cut-away, or water-soluble on top, or no-show mesh, or sticky one. The types of leather are different so stabilizers have to be suitable for the leather you use for machine embroidery. 

I tried to use tear-away but I didn’t like it for my lambskin leather – it was too stiff. I used No-show mesh stabilizer (and sometimes they call it also Polymesh cut-away  –  this stabilizer is light and flexible but does a great job. It eliminates the bulk, stiffness and shadowing characteristic of other types of stabilizers. This is a permanent stabilizer so after embroidery was done I trimmed it close to the stitched area. 

Get more info on No-show mesh stabilizer here

New brothread Cut Away Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Backing 20" x 25 Yd roll - Medium Weight 2.5 Ounce - Cut into Any Sizes - for Machine Embroidery and Hand Sewing

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Features

  • ▶PERMANENT STABILIZER: It is a permanent stabilizer will remain forever affixed to the embroidery and will provide permanent support for the design, it also helps retain the design's shape after repeated washing.
  • ▶WIDE APPLICATIONS: Best used on knits, fleece, denim and for fabric that is unstable, moves or distorts when tugged on. Great for hoop embroidery, applique, thread stretching, computerized lace embroidery and decorative stitch sewing.
  • ▶SKIN-FRIENDLY MATERIAL: 100% first-class Polyester which is acid and lead free! No any itching worries even you use our cut away embroidery stabilizer on your skin-touch clothes.
  • ▶FIT ALL THE HOOPS: The width 20" allows you to cut into any sizes to fit all hoops including 5x12 Jumbo Hoop, 5x7 Large Hoop, 4x4 Medium Hoop and 1 1/2x2 Oval Pocket Hoop, (Hoops:1"x2.5", 6"x6", 6"x10", 7"x12", 14"x14" etc.).
  • ▶MEDIUM WEIGHT FOR ALL THE STITCH DENSITY (COUNTS): It is medium weight 2.5oz (70 Grams) cut away embroidery stabilizer for light to medium stitch density, for much denser designs, you can use more than one layer.

New brothread No Show Mesh Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Backing 8"x8" - 100 Precut Sheets - Light Weight 1.8 oz - Fits 4x4 and 6x6 Hoops

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Features

  • ▶NOT ONLY CUTAWAY STABILIZER: This is no show mesh cutaway stabilizer which provides permanent support for embroidery projects. Unlike traditional cutaway stabilizer, our no show mesh stabilizer eliminates the backing showing through light colored fabrics because of its semitransparent, soft and sheer texture. (similar to Sulky Soft'n'Sheer, Weblon, OESD Polymesh)
  • ▶BEST USED ON LIGHT COLORED FABRICS: Our no show mesh stabilizer is semitransparent, it eliminates show-through, so it's best used on stretchy knits in light colored. It eliminates the bulk, stiffness and shadowing characteristic of other types permanent stabilizers. It is perfect for chest logos, pique knits, Polo shirts, T Shirts, infant items, micro fiber apparel, silk and satin.
  • ▶HOW TO USE: It is Light Weight no show mesh stabilizer. For the embroidery designs with light stitches, just put one layer stabilizer under the fabric, then hoop and stitch together. One layer can be strong enough to produce best "no show" results.
  • ▶TIPS FOR DENSER STITCH DESIGNS: For heavy stitches, denser designs or thicker fabrics, you can put one layer of light weight tearaway stabilizer underneath of no show mesh stabilizer for extra stability, then hoop and stitch together. After the design is completed, the tear away stabilizer can be torn off and just leave the soft mesh against the skin.
  • ▶SAFE MATERIAL: It is made of 100% embossed nylon which is acid free and lead-free, safe and extremely soft to use it on your skin-touch clothes (Use with any woven where softness is a consideration). The unique design of embossing can add multi-directional stability for your design.

No-Show Polymesh Plus Cut Away Embroidery Stabilizer Backing - John Solomon - 12" X 50yd

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Features

  • 1.5 oz
  • similar to Sulky Soft'n'Sheer, Weblon, OESD Polymesh, and others

OESD Polymesh CutAway White 1.5oz 15" x 10yd

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Features

EAN0652143142910
EAN ListEAN List Element: 0652143142910
MPNHBC15-15
Package DimensionsHeight: 272; Length: 1496; Weight: 66; Width: 276
Part NumberHBC15-15
Product GroupArt and Craft Supply
Product Type NameART_AND_CRAFT_SUPPLY
TitleOESD Polymesh CutAway White 1.5oz 15" x 10yd
UPC652143142910
UPC ListUPC List Element: 652143142910

OESD Polymesh Cut-Away Stabilizer White 10" x 10 Yard Roll

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Features

  • Cut-away stabilizer that's strong, but soft and comfortable
  • Use for embroidery and stitching on knits and other stretchy fabrics
  • Stabilizer is 10" wide
  • Packaged in a 10-yard roll
  • Manufacturer: OESD

OESD Polymesh Cut-Away Stabilizer White 15" x 10 Yard Roll

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Features

  • Cut-away stabilizer that's strong, but soft and comfortable
  • Use for embroidery and stitching on knits and other stretchy fabrics
  • Stabilizer is 10" wide
  • Packaged in a 10-yard roll
  • Manufacturer: OESD

OESD Polymesh Fusible Cut-Away Stabilizer White 10" x 10 Yard Roll

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Features

  • Cut-away stabilizer that's strong, but soft and comfortable
  • Use for embroidery and stitching on knits and other stretchy fabrics
  • Stabilizer is 10" wide
  • Packaged in a 10-yard roll
  • Manufacturer: OESD

OESD Polymesh Cut-Away Embroidery Stabilizer White 1.5oz 10" x 10yd - HBC15-10 (2pk)

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Features

  • Soft but very strong, Polymesh Cut-Away stabilizer is good for knits and stretchy fabrics.
  • A great choice for baby garments and for areas in direct contact with skin.
  • It securely holds embroidery stitches on fabric through repeated washing and wearing.
  • Excellent for use with light-colored fabrics to prevent show-through.
  • White, 10" wide x 10 yds long. Set of 2.

As an option for additional stabilization, I saw recommendations to stabilize the leather with regular fusible non-woven interfacing but I decided against it because I was afraid that the glue from the interfacing may “leak” on the right side of the thin lambskin leather and because I didn’t want to use a hot iron to fuse the interfacing – I did that before and I noticed that pressed leather changed the color a little bit (it became a different shade).

Threads for machine embroidery on leather

I embroider only with quality thread. Leather is expensive and therefore ruining it with poor-quality threads is the top of recklessness. On my thin lambskin leather I used size 60 polyester embroidery thread and also metallic embroidery thread. For thicker leather size 40 would be good. 

Get more info on embroidery threads here

New brothread 63 Brother Colors Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread Kit 500M (550Y) Each Spool for Brother Babylock Janome Singer Pfaff Husqvarna Bernina Embroidery and Sewing Machines

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Features

  • ★ 63 SPOOLS PER KIT + COLOR CHART - 63 spools professional assorted bright and beautiful colors Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread to brighten and beautify all sort of your embroidery projects. Using Color Chart to find similar Brother Color No. and name, Conversion Chart of Madeira is also available.
  • ★ PERFECT WEIGHT & LENGTH - Each spool has 40 WT and 500M(550Y) length, which makes these spools of Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread ideal for all sort of your embroidery projects.
  • ★ EXCELLENT TENSILE STRENGTH - Lower risks of breaking or fraying, Elasticity and Tenacity of polyester also reduces risks of looping and puckering of Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread.
  • ★ SUPER COLOR FASTNESS - Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread holds up colors even when subjected to commercial laundering, bleaching and other harsh chemicals, desirable features for workwears, uniforms and linens which are often subjected to commercial laundering.
  • ★★ New Brothread Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread always think what you think, do what you do, love what you love. ▶【NOTE: This kit DOES NOT come with wood rack!!!】▶▶【MAKE SURE BUYING THROUGH "New Brothread" (Sold by) for original WARRANTY!!!】

New brothread 64 Spools 1000M (1100Y) Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread Kit for Professional Embroiderer and Beginner

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Features

  • ★ 61 BROTHER COLORS INCLUDING 2 SPOOLS WHITE+2 SPOOLS BLACK+2 SPOOLS RED - Considering the white, black and red colors are the most frequently used polyester embroidery machine thread for most embroidery projects, we specially add an additional WHITE, an additional BLACK and an additional RED in this thread kit for you to avoid purchasing white, black and red colors separately or purchasing a new thread kit very soon.
  • ★ 1000M (1100Y) LARGE SPOOLS - Each spool of our polyester embroidery machine thread is 40W.T. and 1000M (1100Y) Length. A great valuable thread kit for professional embroidery lovers or beginners.
  • ★ SPOOL WITH LOCKING BASE RESISTS THREAD TANGLING - Our new generation snapping spool has a locking base, which is specially designed for keeping your thread tails from unwinding. So, thread spools huggers or thread nets are no longer needed for holding your embroidery machine threads tails.
  • ★ 100% POLYESTER MATERIAL - Color Fast, High Strength and Exceptional Lustre, all these Excellent Characters are based on the material of our embroidery machine thread: 100% Polyester!!!
  • ★★ New Brothread 1000M (1100Y) Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread is perfectly compatible for Brother Babylock Janome Singer Pfaff Husqvarna Bernina Embroidery and Sewing Machines. New Brothread always think what you think, do what you do, love what you love. ▶▶【MAKE SURE BUYING FROM "New Brothread" (Sold by) for original WARRANTY!!!】

New brothread 42 Spools 1000M (1100Y) Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread Kit for Professional Embroiderer and Beginner

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Features

  • ★ 40 BROTHER COLORS INCLUDING 2 SPOOLS WHITE+2 SPOOLS BLACK - Considering the white and black colors are the most frequently used polyester embroidery machine thread for most embroidery projects, we specially add an additional WHITE and an additional BLACK in this thread kit for you to avoid purchasing white and black colors separately or purchasing a new thread kit very soon.
  • ★ 1000M (1100Y) LARGE SPOOLS - Each spool of our polyester embroidery machine thread is 40W.T. and 1000M (1100Y) Length. A great valuable thread kit for professional embroidery lovers or beginners.
  • ★ SPOOL WITH LOCKING BASE RESISTS THREAD TANGLING - Our new generation snapping spool has a locking base, which is specially designed for keeping your thread tails from unwinding. So, thread spools huggers or thread nets are no longer needed for holding your embroidery machine thread tails.
  • ★ 100% POLYESTER MATERIAL - Color Fast, High Strength and Exceptional Lustre, all these Excellent Characters are based on the material of our embroidery machine thread: 100% Polyester!!!
  • ★★ New Brothread 1000M (1100Y) Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread is perfectly compatible for Brother Babylock Janome Singer Pfaff Husqvarna Bernina Embroidery and Sewing Machines. New Brothread always think what you think, do what you do, love what you love. ▶▶【MAKE SURE BUYING FROM "New Brothread" (Sold by) for original WARRANTY!!!】

How to hoop leather for machine embroidery

The problem with hooping leather the regular way is that tightened hooping can leave marks on the leather. But there are different ways to avoid it.

A regular hoop can be wrapped with soft material so that there are no marks after removing leather from the hoop. An alternative option is to use special magnetic hoops (whoever has, of course). I have the big magnetic hoop for my embroidery machine – and it’s amazing! Machine embroidery on leather is much easier with the magnetic hoop. No marks whatsoever. 

The leather in the hoop shouldn’t be stretched, it must lie freely, otherwise it will be deformed, and the embroidery may be distorted and well, ugly. Don’t over-tighten the screw if you use a regular hoop – just enough to keep the piece secure. But if you use a magnetic hoop this will not be a problem. 

So, how I hooped my leather? 

I used no-show mesh stabilizer – I cut a piece a little bit bigger than the hoop. After that I sprayed my leather piece lightly with temporary adhesive spray and stuck the leather to the stabilizer. Then I hooped it using my magnetic hoop. On top of the leather I put a piece of water-soluble stabilizer – I attached it with a regular painter’s tape. 

When I started to embroider the third flower I decided not to use the water- soluble stabilizer anymore. The results were also good. In the first case I had to dissolve the stabilizer with water and I didn’t really like it because I was afraid to damage the leather. 

Get more info on magnetic hoops here

Monster Snap Hoop LM11 10.5" x 16" for Brother/Babylock Embroidery Machine - Babylock Solaris & Brother Luminaire

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Features

  • DIME Snap Hoop Monster SH00A11M Magnetic Frames 10.5" X 16" Continuous Embroidery for Brother XP1 Luminaire and Babylock Solaris
  • Experience the effortless one-step method to hoop and align heavyweight fabrics. The secret is in the patented design of the Snap Hoop Monster. Designed for Ease Snap Hoop Monster comes with a flat magnetic top and metal bottom frame. The bottom frame includes a machine attachment that is recognized by the embroidery machine. Simply lay the stabilizer and fabric over the bottom frame and snap the top frame in place. Voila! Even the heaviest of fabric is secured. Be Creative with Heavy-Duty Fa
  • Multiple hoopings are a breeze with the Snap Hoop Monster. Just lift the magnetic top frame, slide your fabric, and snap the frame back in place. Easily achieve flawless continuous embroidery when stitching quilts, towels, and more. Stitch all the way to the edge of the fabric by securing just two or more sides in the hoop. Includes: One metal base frame with machine attachment One magnetic top frame One magnet safety shield Four adhesive centering rulers Target Stickers Model LM11
  • Compatible with the following machines: Brother Luminaire Innovis XP1 Sewing and Embroidery Machine Baby Lock Solaris BLSA Sewing and Embroidery Machine

8" x 12" Snap Hoop Monster Brother BabyLock Embroidery Hoop

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Features

  • Brother Compatible Machines: Upgraded 5100, 2200 Non-Upgraded 6700, all versions of Quattro, XV8500 Dream Machine
  • Babylock Compatible Machines: Destiny BLDY, Ellisimo all versions
  • Great for terry cloth, bulky fleece, quilt sandwiches, heavy fabrics, continuous embroidery, allover embroidery
  • Includes One flat metal frame with machine attachment, one top magnetic frame, one magnet safety shield, four adhesive rulers
  • Monster Grip for delicate fabrics and heavy-weight fabrics alike

Snap Hoop Monster Magnetic Embroidery Hoop 5" x 7" Hoop for Baby Lock/Brother

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  • Monster Snap Hoop

DIME Snap Hoop Monster Magnetic Embroidery Hoop for Janome (8" x 12")

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Features

BindingOffice Product
EAN0810065022325
EAN ListEAN List Element: 0810065022325
LabelDesigns in Machine Embroidery
ManufacturerDesigns in Machine Embroidery
MPNSH00B7M
Package DimensionsHeight: 210; Length: 2100; Weight: 285; Width: 1480
Package Quantity1
Part NumberSH00B7M
Product GroupArt and Craft Supply
Product Type NameART_SUPPLIES
PublisherDesigns in Machine Embroidery
StudioDesigns in Machine Embroidery
TitleDIME Snap Hoop Monster Magnetic Embroidery Hoop for Janome (8" x 12")
UPC810065022325
UPC ListUPC List Element: 810065022325

signs for embroidery on leather

Designs for leather embroidery should be a little bit different. 

First of all, it’s better to use designs with less density because highly frequent punctures of the needle can tear the skin.

Some embroidery machines even allow to reduce the density of a design.

Second, use designs with running stitches and avoid using satin stitches. Choose the running stitches longer and if you see some satin stitches in the design their width should be at least 3-4 mm. 

You can find online thousands of embroidery designs (paid or free) on almost any topic. But the quality of designs is very different. A high-quality design will be embroidered easily and will make the embroidered item better. Poor quality design can not only cause a lot of problems with embroidery, but also spoil your expensive leather. You can’t just remove wrong stitches – the holes from the needles on leather are irreversible. 

Of course, the embroidery machine is a computer, and in order for it to embroider, you need to load a design into it, which is a program in a special format for your machine. 

Even if you use someone else’s design (as most of us are), this doesn’t mean that you don’t participate in the process as an artist or designer. It’s your vision that makes the design unique! So choose colors and placement of the design according to your vision. 

I used these 2 designs. 

I found very many suitable designs on this site https://www.embroideryonline.com. Check them out.

Some other tips for leather embroidery

To prevent skipped stitches, the embroidery speed should be reduced. But don’t set the machine on its slowest speed either: use moderate speed settings.  

I strongly recommend to clean the embroidery machine before starting the project. 

It’s often impossible to get away from the machine when you embroider on leather – you need to monitor the progress of the embroidery so that there are no glitches and you don’t ruin your leather,  you need to change the threads, change the bobbins, etc. 

I will add that the embroidery process on the machine still fascinates me. When a design appears on the leather from under the needle, it’s a magical feeling! Machine embroidery on leather looks fantastic if you follow the above recommendations.

I also have some useful sewing tutorials on working with leather. Check them out below if you are interested. 

Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this tutorial later when you are ready to embroider on leather and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration! 

Ready to take the next step in your sewing journey? Check out more step-by-step tutorials from my blog and don’t forget to share ! 

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