How to sew suede and leatherette
Modern faux/synthetic leathers and suedes are great to work with and look fabulous without ethical issue. They are similar in look and feel to their natural counterparts, they rarely need neatening and can be handled in the same manner when seaming and constructing a garment. Varieties include faux suede, suedette, ultra suede, leatherette and pleather.
For your first project with synthetic suede or faux leather, choose a design that has minimal seaming and is simple to construct. Look at the suggested fabrics on the pattern envelope – look for medium-weight woven fabrics such as gaberdine, double crepe etc – if a pattern can be made in this type of fabric, it will also look good in synthetic suede. Feel the ‘handle’ of your chosen faux leather or suede – how does it drape and fold? Will it cope with a collar or be too stiff, can you gather or pleat it or is it too bouncy or firm? Consider the handle when choosing your design.
Sew a suede trench coat using Butterick 6793
Try a fly front skirt in faux leather with McCall’s 8149
Vogue 1850 is a chic wrap skirt perfect for leather and suede
Why not make a matching bag using McCall’s 8272 and any leftover material?
Use Vogue 1848 to make a modern pair of leather trousers
GENERAL SEWING TIPS
- Many faux suedes will have a fuzzy surface texture, so when brushed one way will look darker than when brushed the other way. So always use the ‘with nap’ layout on a pattern – making sure all pieces are positioned in the same direction.
- Avoid pins as they will leave permanent holes. Alternatively use binding clips, paperclips or even bulldog clips to hold seams together before stitching. lf you must pin, pin ONLY within the seam allowance.
- Use a new sharp Universal needle, size 90/14 for medium-weight fabric. You shouldn’t need a special leather needle for faux fabric as it’s less rough and tough.
- Use a teflon-coated presser foot to help glide over the fabric. In a pinch you can apply Sellotape to the bottom of your machine foot cutting a gap for the needle. This will leave a sticky residue when removed so keep this in mind.
- Always use a pressing cloth made of organza or scrap fabric when pressing seams to prevent damage to the fabric or unwanted shine.
- Consider the type of seam and finish you want. As these fabrics rarely fray, you don’t need to neaten seam edges but may want to add something for aesthetic reasons. We’ll cover this topic in more detail later in the article.
DIFFERENT SEAMS TO USE
These are perfect for fabrics that don’t fray such as faux suedes, leathers and fleece. Fabric edges are overlapped rather than sewn with right sides together. Again two rows of straight stitching are used. Lap vertical seams away from the centre and horizontal seams down. On the fabric that will overlap, mark the stitching line then trim the seam allowance away to within 2-3mm of this marked line. Place the cut edge over the other fabric piece, right side on top of right side, so that the marked stitching line just overlaps the stitching line of the under piece. Stitch the first row along marked stitching line. Stitch again, in the same direction 6-13mm from the first row, catching the seam allowance of the under piece in the stitching.
Welt and double welt seams
These are similar to a lapped seam. Welt seams are particularly suitable for heavyweight fabric such as faux leather. Again the seam is formed with two rows of straight stitching. Sew a regular seam with right sides together. Having stitched the seam, ‘grade’ the seam allowances to reduce bulk. Trim the under seam allowance to 6mm. Then working from the right side, sew again 6-13mm from the first seam, catching the untrimmed seam allowance in the stitching (at the same time, this will encase the trimmed seam allowance). A double welt seam has another row of stitching close to the seamline.
Used on sportswear and simple reversible garments or where the inside will be visible such as on unlined garments, this seam technique sews and neatens the seam allowances, with the seam allowances on the right side of the fabric. As with a French seam, first stitch a regular seam with wrong sides together. Press seam allowances together to one side. Trim the under seam allowance to 3mm. Tuck under the raw edge of the upper seam allowance and press in place (if preferred baste in place). Stitch close to the fold from the right side.
One of the best things about faux leather and synthetic suede is that they don’t fray so you don’t need to neaten seam allowances. And where you can use the seams above, you won’t need to do anything more. However, on normal seams, you may want to do something for a neater finish.
Seam allowances that are encased may need to be trimmed in order to reduce the bulk within the seam area. This can be done by clipping and notching (on curved edges, clip diagonally into inner curves and cut wedge-shaped notches from outer curves). You can also trim and grade. Grading is simply cutting the two seam allowances to a different width, which cuts down the bulk of the fabric and prevents unsightly ridges showing through on the right side. Trim the seam allowance closest to the main fabric to 6mm and the under seam allowance to 3mm.
You can neaten straight stitched seams with pinking shears to reduce the seam allowance and provide a neat finish. Cut to within 6mm of the seam. Press seams open.
These are often used in tailored garments, particularly if the inside might be visible. Also known as a Hong Kong finish, the seam allowances are bound with bias binding tape or special tricot seam binding tape that folds in two, encasing the raw edges. Use straight stitch on woven fabric and zigzag stitch on knit fabric, stitching through tape and seam allowance, catching both top and underside of tape at the same time.
Often faux leather and synthetic suedes do not need hemming. The edges can be left raw. If you are using a pattern that includes a hem allowance, cut off the hem allowance using a rotary cutter/mat and ruler to get a lovely clean line. If you do wish to turn up a hem, use strong fusible hem webbing rather than stitching to provide a clean finish. You can trim the edge of the hem allowance with pinking shears to cut down on any possible ridge showing through. Turn up the hem allowance and insert the double-sided webbing. Cover with a press cloth and press from the inside.
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