How to Adhere Leather Pieces Before Sewing

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Gluing leather is usually done for two reasons: first, you can glue for a permanent bond. This is
done in place of sewing. Potential uses for this gluing technique include a wallet pocket or a mouse pad.

More often than not, however, leather goods will be sewn. This is done in addition to glue, especially where more strength and stability are needed – think edges of bags, sheaths, holsters, etc. In these applications, the glue is used to hold leather pieces together for sanding, for consistent stitching holes if using pricking irons for hand sewing, or to make sure your pieces don’t shift around at the sewing machine. Because leather is such a delicate material to work with – pins will leave permanent holes and the teeth on fabric clips can leave imprints on the grain – gluing is the safest, most effective way to secure leather for sewing.

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There are two methods you can use to glue leather: liquid adhesives and basting tape. Depending on why you’re gluing the leather, basting tape is an incredibly convenient, mess-free option for adhering project pieces. The basting tape sold at Sailrite is a double-sided adhesive tape perfect for holding your application together whether hand or machine sewing, including zippers, pockets, lining and more. Using basting tape will create a permanent, water-resistant seam anywhere you intend to sew.

Tips for Working With Basting Tape:

  • Be careful to not let basting tape run over the edges of leather. It is not easy to sand away.
  • If basting tape is used inside a pocket, as for a wallet, you can’t break it apart when opening up the pocket like you can with glue.
  • It’s best used when adhering leather with a woven material like a zipper plaque or a leather and canvas item.
  • Basting tape will gum up your needle if you sew through it. Clean your needle with alcohol wipes or run your needle through a bar of soap before installing it in your machine or hand sewing.
  • Press down firmly to make sure the tape adheres well to both material surfaces. Use a press roller or creasing tool to ensure a solid adhesion.

Traditional glues are either solvent- or water-based adhesives. Both work and are used in the same way. One
difference is that solvent-based glues are more viscous than water-based options. Water-based adhesives are
easier to spread but expire more quickly and can grow mold and bacteria if not stored properly. Solvent-based
adhesives thicken with time, but they can be loosened by adding an adhesive thinner. Regardless of what kind of
adhesive is used, glued leather looks, feels and reacts as one piece.

The steps for using liquid glues vary depending on the type and side of leather you’re gluing. You want the
surface to which you apply the glue to be rough or have some texture. If the flesh side of your leather is
finished or you need to apply glue to the grain, roughing the surface will help promote better adhesion. Because
leather is a fibrous material, scratching or keying it with a roughing tool, sandpaper or a scratch awl to
remove the finish allows the glue to penetrate and cling to the leather fibers better.

Once your leather has been roughed, apply a thin coat of glue to both pieces only where you want to bond the
leather together. (If you get glue where you don’t want it, you can break apart glued pieces with a folder once
they’re completely dry.) Many brands of glue come with a brush attached to the lid of the container, but you can
use a silicone or plastic spatula or a paintbrush to apply. If you’re gluing an especially large project, like
lining to a bag or briefcase, you can even use a paint roller to achieve a consistent and even glue application.
Let the glue dry until clear if water-based or until tacky if solvent-based and attach the pieces together. For
the strongest bond, tap the glued pieces lightly with a smooth-headed leather hammer or use a leather roller.

Tips for Working With Glue:

  • Make sure your work surface is clean to prevent damage to the leather. Scratches, debris and excess glue can mar the leather’s delicate grain, especially when applying pressure with a hammer or roller.
  • If you get glue on the grain of your leather, rubbing the glue with a natural rubber eraser will remove it.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended storage instructions to get the longest shelf life for your glue. Improperly stored glue will expire faster and won’t be as sticky.
  • If your glue canisters are difficult to open, apply a bit of petroleum jelly to the threads of the mouth and lid. This will prevent the lid from sticking. Alternatively, storing the container upside down will prevent the glue from drying out around the lid and sticking shut.
  • If you aren’t sewing your edge, it is best to test how your glue will interact with your chosen edge finish. Water-based burnishing compounds, dyes or paints may affect the glue’s adhesion.

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We hope this article has answered your questions about the best tips for adhering leather pieces together. Be sure to check out our other informative leather blogs and resources, as well as our selection of high-quality leather tools.