What Are the Best Sewing Machine Needles for Leather?

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Leatherworking can be a fun and rewarding hobby, or even a lucrative business. To do the best work, you’ll want top-of-the-line sewing machine needles designed for leather. There are a variety of needle tips to choose from — but with so many options, it can be tough to know which to use for each project.

A selection of the leather sewing machine needles available at Sailrite.

To figure that out, it’s best to know a few things about your project up front:

  • What type of leather will you be sewing? Vegetable tan, chrome tan, suede, something else?
  • What qualities or properties does the leather have? Is it thick or thin, soft or hard, hydrated or dry?
  • Do you want the finished seams to be straight or decorative?

Once you know all that, you’ll be ready to pick out the right needle tip. We’re here to help you decide. In this blog, we’ll introduce you to the types of sewing machine needles for leather that Sailrite® offers. You’ll learn why leather stitching needles are important, what to make with each needle and more. Let’s dive in!

Why Do I Need Special Sewing Needles for Leather?

If you’ve been sewing for a while, you probably have a variety of needles available. That could include Ball Point needles and maybe a pack of Serv7 or SAN 5.2 needles. These standard needles are great for sewing fabric, canvas, webbing and other common woven materials. But they’re not good options for leather.

Compare the blunt point of a standard needle (top) with the sharp cutting point of a leather needle (bottom).

You see, leather is very different from fabric. It’s a dense material and can be thick or tough, depending on the weight. Because of this, leather sewing needles actually have to cut the leather to create stitch holes, and those holes are permanent. Leather needles have sharp blades on the tip to cut clean holes.

On the other hand, a standard sewing needle pushes the fibers in a fabric out of the way to make a stitch. And once the needle exits the fabric, the fibers return as close to their original position as they can — closing the stitch hole, in effect. The tips of standard needles are usually blunt or pointed and don’t cut the material.

This difference in how leather and fabrics react to sewing is why you need specialty needles for leatherworking. It’s well worth taking the time at the beginning of a leather project to pick out just the right needle.

Types of Leather Sewing Machine Needles

Sailrite offers five types of needles you can use to sew leather. Let’s break down the details of each option:

Round/Sharp Point Needle

The point, tip, stitch holes and seam of a Round/Sharp Point needle.

First, there’s the Round/Sharp Point needle. This is the most common needle type and can be used for all general sewing. While it’s technically a standard needle, it has a sharp point that works well for sewing soft and light leathers.

An advantage of using a Round/Sharp Point is that these needles are good for multidirectional sewing. So, you can easily add a unique decorative element, such as zigzag stitch or embroidery, to your leatherwork with a Round/Sharp Point needle.

Needle Properties:

  • Creates largely straight seams.
  • Stitch holes and stitches may be irregular; a good option for hidden seams.
  • Stitches are slightly elevated and may slant.
  • Medium to long stitches recommended.
  • Works best with soft, light clothing or upholstery leathers.
  • Can sew clothing, shoes, upholstery, accessories and more.

Shop Round/Sharp Point Needles

DI Leather Needle

The point, tip, stitch holes and seam of a DI needle.

A DI leather needle has a very large and aggressive cutting tip. The tip is shaped like a diamond, with the points of the long corners running parallel to the direction of sewing.

One thing to note about DI needles is that they’re not a good option for super short stitches. That’s because the top and bottom points of the diamond-shaped stitch holes run parallel to the direction of sewing. If you used this needle for very short stitches, the stitch holes would be so close together that they’d essentially create a perforation line. You’d run the risk of tearing the leather along the stitch line.

Needle Properties:

  • Creates straight, neat-looking seams.
  • Stitches are straight and recessed.
  • Medium to long stitches recommended; not a good option for short stitches.
  • Ideal for sewing thick, dry or hard leathers.
  • Can sew footwear, bags, suitcases and more.

Shop DI Leather Needles

Twist Point Leather Needle

The point, tip, stitch holes and seam of a Twist Point needle.

A Twist Point leather needle has an oval-shaped cutting tip twisted at a 45-degree angle from the needle eye. This results in S-shaped stitch holes that match the needle tip’s twist direction. Stitches sewn with a Twist Point needle lean in the opposite direction of the needle’s twist.

Twist Point needles are one of the most common choices for leatherworking because the seams mimic the look of hand-sewn stitches. Imagine creating a leather piece that looks hand-sewn, but in a fraction of the time it would take to sew by hand!

Needle Properties:

  • Creates decorative seams.
  • Stitches are slanted and slightly elevated.
  • Short to medium-length stitches recommended.
  • Ideal for sewing soft to medium-hard leathers.
  • Can sew shoes, clothing, bags, suitcases, upholstery, belts and more.

Shop Twist Point Leather Needles

Perpendicular Point Leather Needle

The point, tip, stitch holes and seam of a Perpendicular Point needle.

The Perpendicular Point needle also has an oval-shaped cutting tip — but this time, the oval is twisted at a 90-degree angle from the needle eye. In other words, it’s perpendicular to the direction of sewing. Although the needle tip is oval-shaped, the stitch holes look like narrow rectangles.

A big advantage of Perpendicular Point needles is that they can sew very short stitches. Since the stitch holes from this needle are wider than they are tall, the risk of perforating the leather with short stitches is low.

Needle Properties:

  • Creates strong, decorative seams.
  • Stitches are slanted.
  • Suitable for very short stitches.
  • Ideal for sewing light to heavy leathers.
  • Can sew shoes, belts, upholstery, bags, suitcases and more.

Shop Perpendicular Point Leather Needles

Triangular Point Leather Needle

The point, tip, stitch holes and seam of a Triangular Point needle.

As its name suggests, a Triangular Point leather needle has an aggressive, three-sided cutting tip. The resulting stitch hole in the leather also has a prominent triangular shape.

Triangular Point needles make large stitch holes. You’ll still see them after the seam is complete, so make sure this fits the look you want for your project before choosing this needle.

Needle Properties:

  • Creates straight, neat seams.
  • Stitch holes are large and easy to see.
  • Stitches are straight and slightly elevated.
  • Medium to long stitches recommended.
  • Ideal for sewing thick or hard leathers.
  • Can sew upholstery, bags, suitcases, belts, heavy footwear and more.

Shop Triangular Point Leather Needles

Wrapping Up

We hope this blog helped you decide which needle is right for each of the leather projects on your DIY to-do list! Ready to make your purchase? Shop our selection of leather sewing machine needles to get ready for your next leatherworking adventure. Happy sewing!

If you prefer a video walkthrough, you’re in luck! This video will tell you all about these leather needles and show them in action. Check it out now: