Vegan Leather, Faux Leather, Synthetic Leather, Pleather. We know it's a cruelty-free alternative to real leather. We know top designers like Stella McCartney use VL in their high end fashion collections. We know that the process of turning animal skins in to leather creates tons of toxic waste and uses huge amounts of energy. We know that Vegan Leather looks great and makes us feel great, but do we know how to sew with it?? We have some really beautiful and convincing vegan leather in the shop, but I think that many people are intimidated by it. You shouldn't be! This stuff is MADE to be sewn! So why do we hesitate when it comes to sewing the stuff? Perhaps we feel that our sewing machines can't handle its bulk, or we're worried about sewing and cutting something we can't pin! I know the first time I sewed with VL I had all of these concerns too, but was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and I'd like to share some of the stuff I've learnt so you don't hesitate any longer!
First off, pinning. You can't, or at least you shouldn't. Because VL isn't a woven fabric, the pins wont find a gap in between the fibres to pierce. Instead it will perforate the surface, leaving a hole. Don't worry though, we can use clips! If you have Wonder Clips already, you are set, but if not, don't run out and buy any just yet, you may have some household or stationary supplies that will work just fine! Binder clips, bulldog clips or clothespins can take the place of Wonder Clips, and honestly as long as they hold the layers together as you sew, you're golden.
As for cutting out pattern pieces, I recommend using pattern weights and a rotary cutter to get nice clean cuts. You could always trace your pattern and then cut with scissors, but the rotary cutter will give you a more even edge. Since VL doesn't fray (BONUS!) you won't need to finish the edges and therefor want a clean cut from the get go, so I also recommend breaking out a fresh blade..
When sewing with VL, you'll want to use a leather needle. They are stronger and sharper than say, a universal needle and will do a better job penetrating the vegan leather. You will also want to lengthen your stitch a bit because if you use a stitch length that is too short you will perforate the leather and it could tear along your seamline. Picture a sheet of stamps, they are easier to tear apart along the perforated line - I know, I know, stamps rarely come this way anymore, but I couldn't think of a better example. So with this, keep in mind that the needle will puncture the material and leave holes behind, so put your stitch ripper away, because there isn't a lot of room for error. When topstitching especially, you may only get one chance!
Now when it comes to your presser foot, a Teflon foot is recommended. This type of foot has a non stick coating on the bottom that helps feed the VL through the machine a lot easier. VL and real leather tend to be sticky under a regular presser foot, so if you plan on sewing with a lot of imitation leather, than I suggest investing a few dollars in a Teflon foot. I think I bought the one pictured above for about $12. However! I have heard that if you stick a piece of masking tape to the bottom of your presser foot it will have the same effect as the Teflon foot. I have yet to try this, but in theory it sounds like it would work!
Lastly, we should talk about pressing. Because vegan leather is made from polyurethane ( that's where the P in Pleather comes from...) it could melt under the heat of your iron. You can however, iron your VL on a low setting with no steam and a pressing cloth and no steam. I like to play it safe here and use a tea towel as my pressing cloth. You can also help seams lay flat with a light tap from a hammer! Just be careful not to go full Thor as you can damage your beautiful new creation.
Ok, so all of this doesn't sound all that crazy does it? Nothing too scary or really any different from sewing with your favourite organic fabrics! All you need now is a couple metres of some gorgeous Vegan Leather (which you can find here) , an afternoon in the sewing room and your imagination! If you need any inspiration or pattern ideas you can check out our Vegan Leather Pinterest page here.
Happy sewing! Thanks for stopping by xoM