Hand sewing leather is one of the most enjoyable skills to learn in leather crafting. When you get the hang of it, you can do a lot of leather crafts like simple purses, wallets, and bags. While the skill itself is important, knowing the right needles you can use for different tasks is equally significant as well.
What needles can you use for hand sewing leather? There are needles with sharp points, perfect for piercing leather like the Glover needles, curved needles, and awl needles. There are also the needles with round-pointed ends called harness needles. As for special use needles, there are two-prong needles that are perfect for lacing leather.
For some, differences in sewing needles may not matter so much. However, that is not the case in leather-crafting because specialty needles are needed. Knowing the names of these needles and how they differ is not enough. It’s highly beneficial if you also know how you can best use them in leather-crafting. In this article, we’ll talk about the types of needles to use depending on the craft you’re working on.
There are different types of needles used in leather sewing. While they may seem not too different from ordinary needles, sharp-end needles used for leather are generally thicker and sharper. Some types are used for specific leather thickness, while others are for specific crafts, like taxidermy or shoe-making. To name some, there are Glover needles, curved needles, and awl needles. Since they have sharper ends, piercing through the leather will be a breeze, although extensive care when sewing must be observed because you wouldn’t want to be poked by these needles.
Sharp-end needles are easy to buy and usually come in sets. Leather crafts stores such as Tandy, Weaver Leather, and Crafts n Tools carry these leather-specific sharp needles. They are also widely available online, like in Etsy and Amazon. Depending on the merchant, you can purchase a piece or multiple pieces in same or different sizes, with prices ranging from around $2.75 to $12.95.
A Glover needle is a sharp, straight needle with a triangular point that is generally a bit bigger and sharper compared to an ordinary sewing needle with a round, pointed end. Its tripoint end can easily pierce through leather, making it a must-have in your leather sewing kit. Glover needles vary in length and diameter, the size of the eye differs depending on the type of thread you’ll use it with.
However, despite its sharpness, you can only use it to sew thinner leather like buckskin or suede. You can either use the Glover needle to pierce through the leather on its own, or use it after making sewing guide holes with an awl or an over-stitch wheel. It’s impossible for local leather craft stores to not carry Glover needles like the John James Glover needles which is a household needle brand. They usually sell these in 5s, 10s, or 25s for around $3 to less than $13.
Curved Tripoint Needles
There are different types of curved tripoint needles, the s-curve, the half-moon collar, and the one with a 90-degree bend on the needle eye, which is also called a taxidermy needle. These needles are bigger and thicker than Glover needles. Collectively, they are perfect for punching through thicker leather because compared to a typical straight needle, your thumb can easily push on the bent part.
Most of these curved needles are used in upholstery, shoe-making, bag-making, and taxidermy. However, you can also use them in your usual leather crafts that use thicker, heavier leather materials like for gadget cases, belts, or wallets. While their curved shape can be an advantage in helping you pierce through the leather, getting used to sewing with curved needles obviously takes time. Make sure you wear cut-resistant gloves when using these needles or better yet, always use them with caution.
Prices for the different curved needles vary. Some stores sell these either per piece or part of a set. At Tandy’s, the half-moon collar needle sells for $2.99, which comes in a set along with straight needles, and the same price applies for one s-curved needle. Weaver Leather sells a 3-inch and a 5-inch half-moon collar needle at around $12 to $16 a piece. The 90-degree bent taxidermy needle that comes in two sizes is available at The Leather Guy for $3 apiece.
Stitching Awl Needles
Another tripoint needle is a stitching awl needle that has thicker ends because it is attached to a sewing awl to use. As you may already know, awls are the usual go-to tool when you need to punch through your leather. A sewing awl does just that while also stitching the leather as you go. The awl handle is also perfect for those who may have difficulties in handling thin needles. It may take some time getting used to this tool, so you have to be very patient and practice as often as you can.
Sewing awls are usually used in bookmaking, scrapbooking, and shoemaking and repairing. Stitching awl needles come in different points, depending on the shape of the hole you want for the aesthetics of your leather goods. They also come in different sizes to cater to the type of leather you’ll use it for. Tandy sells two sizes, five and eight, for $3.99 apiece. The Leather Guy sells three pieces of different sizes for $9.95. You can also buy a complete set of sewing awl ranging from $16 to $25.
A sailmaker’s needle is also another heavy-duty needle that is almost similar to a Glover needle, except that its triangular point is longer, wider, and slightly bent. It’s an ideal tool to add to your sewing kit in case your sharp needles aren’t strong enough to punch through your leather. It’s more heavy duty than a typical tripoint needle, so you also need to be extra careful when stitching using this type of needle.
With its sharper end, it’s ideal to use for crafts that use thicker leather, especially if you don’t want to trouble yourself creating sewing guide holes. You can also substitute this for an awl to create holes to your leather. You can use this for almost any leather crafts like wallet or bag-making, upholstery, or even shoe-making. Sailmaker’s needles come in different sizes, so price ranges for $2.35 apiece to around $36 for a set.
When sewing through leather, most leatherworkers find it easier to thread through when sewing holes are available. This is where round-pointed needles come in handy. They look similar to common straight needles, only the point is not sharp, so you won’t need to worry about puncturing yourself while sewing.
The most common of the round-pointed needles is a harness needle. While it’s typically easy to find, you can also try using tapestry needle as a substitute because of the features they share. Similar to sharp-pointed needles, round-pointed ones also sell in sets for around $2.99 around $12 in different leather-crafting stores.
Harness needles are ideal leather sewing needles because of its blunt tip and strong eyelet. Comparing it to a typical needle, it’s a lot stronger, almost the same as a Glover needle, except for its tip. It’s typical to use thicker threads when sewing through leather, so using a special kind of needle such as this harness needle is necessary to ensure that it is strong enough to pull your thread through the leather.
A harness needle is usually used for saddlery, but it’s also great for scrapbooking or bookmaking where threading is important because it adds aesthetic to the leathercraft. Harness needles come in different sizes, meaning you have to be familiar with the needle sizes that go well with different thread sizes for sewing. Usually, shops like Tandy, Weaver Leather, and Craft n Tool sell harness needles in multiple pieces of one size for around $2.99 to $11.50.
A great alternative for a harness needle is a tapestry or cross-stitch needle. It’s also a good leather sewing tool because it has the same qualities of a harness needle, but with a bigger eyelet. It’s great to use for pre-holed leather projects that require thicker thread. It can be used for sewing through edges, even for decorative purposes.
While a great alternative to harness needles, not all leather craft stores carry these. However, you can easily find tapestry needles in general crafts stores. It’s also possible that you have your own set at home, if so, then you’re good to go and can start sewing your leather crafts. The Leather Guys sells a 25-piece set of size 18 tapestry needles for $7, while you can buy a set in different sizes on Amazon and Etsy with prices starting from $2.
Lacing needles are typically used for sewing leather using leather lace. Usually, you use a two-prong lacing needle for this type of sewing. It’s a flat-type needle with prongs that can be separated to place the lace. This is ideal for those who look at the diagonal lace look on their leather crafts. While this is typically the initial choice for a lacing needle, other leatherworkers prefer a lacing needle that can hold bulkier types of leather laces.
There’s another popular type which is called a Perma-Lok needle. It’s a cylindrical type of needle that has a hole on one end, and either a chisel tip or a flat tip. To put your lace, you first need to taper the end of your leather lace and screw it into the hole of the Perma-Lok needle to secure it in place. Some find this difficult to use for thinner leather laces, so they opt to use the two-prong lacing needles.
Both lacing needles come in different sizes to cater to different thickness of laces. They are great to use for lacing in almost any project such as bookbinding, scrapbooking, and bags to name a few. A two-prong lacing needle sells for between $2.99 to $7.25, while a Perma-Lok needle sells for around $2 to $5 in Tandy and Weaver Leather.
Hand sewing is a great skill to learn in leather crafting. Knowing and understanding the tools you need and perfecting the skill are equally important. There are plenty of sewing needles out there, but each is made for certain uses. Having knowledge about the proper sewing tools will not only be beneficial to improving your skills but also refrain you from accumulating too many tools that may end up cluttering your workspace.