Apparel Graphic Academy

Embroidering on leather

Leather can be somewhat tricky to embroider on. It always presents a challenge but to a brave embroiderer it can be done.

The level of difficulty always depends on the grade of the leather. Heavy leather is always a problem. At Decosource we have honed our skills and at times will accept leather for embellishment on a cost vs worth basis. We will not do one jacket because of the potential loss.

Easy to work with

Natural leather is very easy to work with because it does have a soft hand. The hand of the leather depends on the tanning process. There is oak-tanning, bark-tanning or vegetable tanning. This type of tanning involves the use of tannic acid. This is where we get the term “tanning.”

Another type of tanning is referred to as chrome-tanned. Chrome tanned leathers are soft to the touch and easy to work with.

One important item to consider is the various types of leather which include Cowhide (one side is suede and the other is smooth)

Split cowhide results from the hide actually being split in the finishing process and both sides of the leather are suede. Stay away from this type of leather

Deerskin is the favorite of all hunters. Sportsmen love to get a jacket made out of their trophy and embellished with a custom logo. This is a great background for embroidery.


Leather varies in thickness. It is best to stay away from thick leather unless you want to become a specialist. The cowboy boot manufacturers will give you all the work you can handle. Jim Yates of Yates Embroidery made a good living doing single color boot designs.

Its best to use a backing with leather work. At Decosource we found that the backing will actually protect your hooks form debris getting clogged in your machine. Some companies even use newspaper just to give the leather some stability. You can also use wax paper or a light weight iron backing.

Use a thick backing for soft leathers so it will hold the stitches. Thick leather you can use anything.

You should always use a sharp needle for soft leather and a ball point for thick  leather. Ball points will always leave a smooth finish.


robison-anton-polyesterThe best thread is a 40 weight with a loose density in the design. You must give your needle penetrations some space. This can be done in the digitizing.

When programming us a longer stitch and a loosed density. The objective is to not stitch so close that you  punch a hole in the substrate.

Is summary experiment with a scrap piece of leather before taking the big step.