How do I sew leather trim?
November 10, 2010 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Where might I find a sewing site (or a book) that shows how to sew leather edging (or binding or piping) on to fabric?

I want to make something with the look of a Gilles Berthoud bag though not as detailed- I'm not that crazy. I'd be making just a boxy bag or a (bicycle) top tube cover. I took a look at Tandy Leather & they don't sell leather "ribbon." Do people always cut their own? Do you put a cord inside to give the edge some thickness/bulk?

I'm also interested in leatherette and bias tape. I don't really get how the edges of bias tape don't fray unless it's tucked under which means there's a lot of layers in a taped seam- two of tape, two of the base material, then two more of tape, right? I guess a lot of pins are required?
posted by morganw to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This blog post is a basic piping tutorial. The author does use cord, and I don't think the piping would look the same without it.
posted by elerina at 2:08 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure exactly what you are asking, particularly in your 2nd paragraph.

You make your own piping by sewing some sort of core into bias tape.

I found imitation leather piping on ebay.

As to how you sew trims like this into the seam, the ribbon or layers of bias tape will be in the seam between the two pieces of leather/fabric you are joining. You will need a leather needle and very heavy duty thread if you are dealing with real leather, and probably also a pretty hefty machine.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:14 PM on November 10, 2010

I'm not familiar with working with leather, but I'm a pretty good sewist. I would recommend buying imitation leather piping rather than trying to make it yourself.

cutting fabric on the bias prevents fraying because of the way the raw edges are cut. If you cut with or across the grain (NOT on the bias, in other words), you're really exposing the weave.

Anyway, leather doesn't have weave, so I don't think that would be a problem. You would simply cut your leather into long strips that were about 2 and 1/2 inches wide. Buy some piping cord at the fabric store (3/32 size would be the usual size for the bags I've made). You could also just use actual clothesline. Sew your strips of leather together into one mega-long strip. You can do this with simple straight seams, or you could cut each end of your leather strips on an angle as you would for fabric bias tape. Doing so means that this seam would not be perpendicular to the seam you sew around the cording. If they are perpendicular, you'll have quite a bulky seam where the two sides meet.

Put a zipper foot on your machine, wrap the cord with your strip, and sew the two sides of the strip together, encasing the cord. Don't sew too close to the piping itself when you're doing this step. In further steps when you're attaching it to the body of the bag, you don't want to see this seam.

When you're ready, sew the piping to the RIGHT SIDE of one of your fabric pieces, lining up the raw edges. Then when you sew the fabric to the other piece of fabric (right sides together), you'll encase the raw edge of the piping piece in with the main seam of the bag.

Amy Butler has a lot of bag patterns that are really good at explaining how to do all of this. You might search for a small bag that has piping on it from her stuff and give it a try. Note that most bags have an internal lining which hides those raw seams to help prevent fraying. If you don't want to line it, then you can do a zig zag stitch over the raw edge of the seam, with the needle falling off one side of the fabric. This will also help with fraying.

Sew, Mama, Sew is a good resource for tutorials, as is

Feel free to memail me with any questions.
posted by wwartorff at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The bag you referenced is bound with leather, not piped. Binding is both easier and less bulky, but much more prominent (sticks out more), than piping. Here's a leather binding tutorial.

It's definitely cheaper and offers far more variations to cut your own piping or binding strips from leather hides or long scraps, but you can buy precut strips and piping. Here's a few links.

Leather, btw, is not pinned, since that would leave permanent holes. It's glued, taped or held with paper clips, clothes pins, etc.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers? I kind of cheated by slipping in questions about piping and bias tape, but you folk came through. I was having a damned hard time looking for this myself: there's so much SEO on people selling patterns and supplies that I couldn't find tutorials and wikipedia is pretty thin on fabric construction techniques.
posted by morganw at 2:50 PM on November 12, 2010

« Older Tips for losing my virginity via online hookup   |   How/Should we rent out our cabin? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.