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- 1 Do you need a special sewing machine for leather?
- 2 Are there different types of sewing machines for leather?
- 3 What kind of sewing machine is best for leather?
- 4 Best sewing machine for leather features
- 5 How much do leather sewing machines cost?
- 6 Best walking foot sewing machine for leather reviews
- 7 So, what’s the best sewing machine for leather?
- 8 check out our other sewing machine reviews
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a professional seamstress, to know that working with a material like leather is a very different proposition to other, more lightweight, fabrics.
In short, if you’re going to be working with cowhide with any sort of regularity, you’re probably going to need the best sewing machine for leather your budget will allow.
Do you need a special sewing machine for leather?
Despite the intro, the answer to this question is like so many others we face in life: it’s really not a black and white issue.
Shades of gray come into play, and the variables can seem endless. The two main ones, however, surround the material itself and the type of machine you already have in your sewing room.
What type of leather are you sewing?
Leather, like other fabrics, comes in different grades and thicknesses. Generally, in terms of grades at least, there are four types:
- Top grain
- Full grain
- Split leather
- Bonded leather
If you’re going to be using very soft grades that aren’t too thick, a good quality residential sewing machine will be up to the job. (The good quality bit cannot be emphasized enough here!)
However, those of you looking to work thicker leathers or stitch together multiple layers of cowhide are definitely going to need a tool specifically made for the task at hand. Thankfully, there are plenty of leather sewing machines on the market, and today I’m going to try and give you a good idea of what ones work and what ones don’t.
What about sewing pleather, faux leather, and PU?
Fake leathers are increasing in popularity and their quality has improved exponentially over the last decade or so. While these faux leathers are still a way behind the real stuff in terms of durability, there’s really nothing in it with regard to how they look these days. 
I’m a big fan of working with these alternatives (for ethical reasons, if nothing else). When it comes to sewing, they are generally fairly good to work with and most can be put through a normal home device without too much trouble. 
Again, though, that home appliance needs to be of a certain quality if you want to: a) maintain stitch quality, and b) not burn out your machine’s motor!
Are there different types of sewing machines for leather?
So, now you know that you have a choice dependant on your leatherwork requirements, you’ll be able to simply buy a sewing machine for leather and get to work, right?
Not so fast.
Again, things aren’t quite that simple. There are different types of leather sewing machines on the market and, again, you’re going to need to consider what kind of work you’re intending to do on them.
Consider your usage
If you’re only going to be doing very small pieces of leatherwork infrequently, you might want to consider the feasibility of laying out a healthy chunk of change on an appliance that could be gathering dust for most of the year.
You may have more viable options available to you, such as stitching your leather by hand, for example. Sure, this is going to take longer and be more of a pain in the backside, but if you’re working with leather only once in a blue moon, it may be worth the aggravation. 
Check out this excellent 273 piece leather working kit if you fall into this camp…it’ll save you a ton of money.
On the other hand, if your business revolves around leatherwork, you’re naturally going to be in the market for a workhorse capable of churning out large quantities at speed. You’re also going to need that piece of apparatus to be extremely reliable and durable, too.
Perhaps the toughest decision is for those who fall somewhere in the middle. You work with hide a fair bit, but it’s not your main game…what do you buy then?
Thankfully, there are some pretty decent sewing machines for leather out there that will get the job done without breaking the bank too much. You will, however, still have to lay out a considerable sum, nonetheless.
Leather sewing machines are not cheap, unfortunately.
What kind of sewing machine is best for leather?
As you will either already know, or gathered by reading the sections above, leather is far from uniform. Not only are there the aforementioned grades and thicknesses, there’s also weight and density, dryness and stickiness, textures and finishes to contend with, too.
This is more of a problem than it may seem at first glance. All of these variables come into play when making your decision over which is the best sewing machine for the type of leatherwork you’re looking to complete.
So, at the risk of boring the pants off of you, I’m going to reiterate the point – you really need to know what you’re going to be doing with your leather sewing machine before you make your purchase. Only then will you be able to truly make an informed decision on the best sewing machine for leather, i.e. one that fits your requirements.
Out of all the variables mentioned, probably the biggest issue people come across isn’t the one they think of first. It’s natural to automatically consider thickness to be the most significant problem, and it can certainly cause broken needles, motor and clutch complications, etc., but stickiness is often the real enemy when sewing leather.
Yep, that piece of hide sticking to the needle and lifting when it’s travelling upwards is a nightmare for leatherworkers. The trick is to take the presser foot pressure down as low as you dare so that the feed dogs can still do their work, yet keep it firm enough to suit the density and thickness of the material being sewn so that it doesn’t rise with the needle.
Many who are new to working with leather fall foul here because some of the most common usages for the keen amatuer are bag making, garments, upholstery, and such. Chrome-tan leather (actually referred to as garment leather in the trade) is a popular choice for such products, and on inspection looks thin and soft. Perfect to sew with on any machine, right? 
Chrome-tan leather can be very sticky indeed, and it doesn’t take much for uneven feeds and lifting to ensue. You can get presser feet that will help with the job, such as even feed feet, roller feet, walking feet, and even teflon coated feet to aid the process, but these are essentially an afterthought for an all-round appliance, allowing you to sew tricky materials, rather than transforming it into a true sewing machine for leather.
If you are looking to sew leather frequently, the only real option you have is a walking foot sewing machine. Don’t be fooled, a walking foot “attachment” does not make an ordinary machine into a walking foot sewing machine.
They are different beasts altogether.
Best sewing machine for leather features
There are a number of features that unite all of the best sewing machines for leather, and knowing what they are can save you a lot of wasted time and money.
Leather sewing machines obviously need a whole lot of power to drive that needle through the tough hide time after time. Unlike domestic appliances, sewing machines for leather are rated in horsepower…yep, like automobiles. 
That should give you an idea of why you’ll need a specialist machine!
Typically, there are four grades commonly found on the best walking foot sewing machines for leather, these are:
- ¼ hp
- ⅓ hp
- ½ hp
- ¾ hp
Basically, the higher the horsepower, the thicker the leather the machine will be able to sew through. A machine with ¼ hp will be perfectly suited to light garment work, for example, while tougher tasks will require more oomph.
Matching the motor to your needs is essential if you’re going to get the most from your device.
Obviously, those who are working with leather for a living will want to operate with some degree of speed whilst keeping precision and accuracy at the forefront, too. Many sewing machines for leather run extremely fast, way faster than domestic appliances, but they are also very controllable as well. 
This is usually thanks to something called a servo motor. Servo motors allow you to control the acceleration of your machine without compromising torque. Some sewing machine for leather will ship with a clutch motor, but you can fit a servo motor retrospectively without too much trouble. Just remember there will be an additional cost if you go down this route.
A few recommended servo motors include:
Thread and needle types and sizes
Choosing the correct thread for your leatherwork is essential, and so is your machine’s capability of working with it! Same goes for needles.
I won’t go into the intricacies of thread and needle types here (it’s a post in it’s own right), but suffice to say that you should ensure your new machine can handle the correct thread for the work you’ll be doing and the accompanying needle required to get the job done.
This is vitally important if you intend to work leather for, say, leads, collars, or harnesses, as threads can run as high as #346, which would require a 220/26 to 260/28 needle. Check your machine can cope with such heavyweights before you buy!
Having a reverse feed on your leather sewing machine can save a lot of time, especially when working with large, awkward swathes of leather. The main purpose of this feature is back tacking, where you anchor your stitch, but you can also use it where additional strength is required, such as on bag handles.
Adjustable presser foot pressure
We’ve already covered this above, but to reiterate, being able to adjust the presser foot pressure is essential when working with different grades of leather, as you’ll want to work with the lightest amount possible whenever you can.
Operating your machine with the lightest presser foot pressure will still allow the feed dogs to move the material through evenly, but will prevent marking and lifting when the needle returns to the upward position.
Extra high presser foot lift
An extra high presser foot lift gives you a little extra wiggle room when working with very thick fabrics. The extra clearance you get from an extra high presser foot lift allows you to work with multiple layers easily, which makes it a must-have for the leatherworker.
Large working area
Similarly, having a good amount of throat distance is vital, too. This will allow you to work with big, bulky pieces of material without fear of bunching and running out of space.
This is more for those who are looking to adapt a home machine rather than buy a sewing machine for leather per se, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway as I know many will want to find a less expensive option than the beasts below.
Add-on presser feet, such as even feed, roller, walking, and teflon coated, can really help if you are working with very thin leather on a capable home machine. That said, these are not replacements for the real thing and should only be considered if you intend to sew leather infrequently.
They may also require a degree of patience and practice to get the hang of, so make sure you have plenty of scraps to play with before beginning any project.
How much do leather sewing machines cost?
In truth, the price you’ll pay for your leather sewing machine will vary greatly depending on what task you wish to complete when using it. This is largely down to the fact that the heavier the work you want to use it for, the larger the motor…and every last part will have to be premium grade, too.
Sewing leather is no joke. Many leather workers even go as far as to “trick” out their machines, building in extra power and torque to improve their machine’s capabilities. So, while they may pay $600 for a base model, they’ll then go on to spend further hundreds of dollars on servo motors, belts, pulleys, etc.
Machines that are ready-to-go can, and arguably should, run well into four figures. These are serious bits of kit, though, and not really intended for the hobbyist, although many do lay out this sort of money if they are passionate enough about their craft.
would you be better served by an all-round heavy-duty sewing machine?
If you’re merely dabbling in leather work and are looking for more of an all-rounder, may I suggest my best heavy-duty sewing machine post instead. Many of these will be able to handle small leather jobs, despite not being specifically made for the task.
Be careful here, though. Just because they are labelled heavy-duty doesn’t mean you can throw anything at them. You can’t. If you really intend to work leather regularly, you’re far better off saving up and buying a machine built for the job…such as these below.
Best walking foot sewing machine for leather reviews
If you’ve made it this far, you’re obviously serious about your leatherwork. These machines are for specialists and extremely committed hobbyists, they are not mainstream!
Let’s get to it…
First up, we have the TechSew 5100-SE…and it’s a great place to start!
This is, quite frankly, a beast of a machine. Capable of sewing pretty much anything you throw at it, from handbags to harnesses, the TechSew 5100-SE is a serious piece of kit that can stitch leather up to 10oz and beyond.
Of all the different types of walking foot feed mechanisms out there, compound is probably my favorite for leather work, and the 5100-SE has just that. One of the main advantages of this type of feed system is its ability to work with a wide range of leathers and not experience any movement whatsoever.
It’s also pretty forgiving in terms of pressure, too. You can go a little heavier with a triple feed mechanism and it’ll still sail through nicely. In short, a good compound feed system just works! Pair this with TechSew’s TLG Laser Guide and the Swing Down Roller Guide that the 5100SE has and you’re in business with minimal user effort.
At a full 1hp, this machine’s SmartServo-NP motor is no slouch and is capable of hammering away at a wide range of materials, not just leather. Sixteen speed settings means you’re always in control, too, regardless of what you’re feeding through this wonderful piece of sewing machinery.
There’s also the additional benefit of having the needle positioning feature (hence the NP in the motor’s name) that will save you more hands-on-wheel time than you can possibly imagine.
Be warned, though, you won’t want to go back to a machine without it once you’ve had needle positioning for a while!
All in all, the TechSew 5100-SE is a fabulous sewing machine for leather, but you may have to save up for a while…or take the bank manager out for dinner!
- Compound feed
- Extremely well built
- Needle positioning
- Excellent control
To the Yamata FY335A review now.
Complete with an excellent compound feed unison walking foot mechanism, the Yamata FY335A does a brilliant job with even the most awkward materials. The confidence this machine brings to the user is profound, as even several layers of slick materials can be fed through with remarkable ease – no slippage here!
The presser foot lift is decent at ½” (13mm) and the DPx17 Needle System can punch through anything from bags and belts to sofas and shoes with thread sizes all the way up to #207. While this is by no means up their with the real leather sewing machine heavyweights, it’s a great machine when selected for the correct fabrics and tasks. It’ll easily handle up to 7/16”.
The ½ hp Electronic DC Servo Motor can rock along at a reasonable 2,500 stitches per minute, yet you always feel in control when in front of it. The reverse feed is steady and the foot adjustments couldn’t be simpler. A quick twist of a wing nut and your center foot will raise or lower accordingly, perfect for quick adaptation to thicker materials.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced machine that can take on evenly layered leatherwork without issue, the Yamata FY335A is a solid choice. However, for those who wish to sew items with differing thicknesses built in, this isn’t the one for you.
The FY335A has a serious issue with uneven seams, which renders it useless for a lot of leatherworking tasks. It’ll walk great over flat items and keep those layers in check, but show it a change in thickness without adjustment and it will balk.
So, if you know your work will consist of many hours of flat, even stitching, this machine could be worth a look. For others, though, there are better walking foot sewing machines on the market.
- Compound feed is superb
- Capable of handling a range of tasks
- Can have issues with seams and bumps
Next up, it’s the turn of the JUKI DNU-1541S review, another single-needle lockstitch walking foot sewing machine.
If you’ve been looking around for the best walking foot sewing machine, you may have noticed that JUKI have three DNU1541 machines on their product list: the “S” (this machine), the 7, and the straight 1541.
Basically, the S stands for Safety, as this particular model has a mechanism built into the apparatus that will help minimize the damage done should you run into problems whilst the machine is in use. Many mistakenly believe that the S denotes a servo motor, but it’s actually for the safety mechanism.
While some dealers will ship the JUKI DNU-1541S with a servo motor fitted, others will dispatch the 1541S with a 1/2HP 1750 RPM clutch motor instead. Be sure to double check! Personally, I’d always opt for the servo. The improved control and less deafening noise makes it a no-brainer, in my opinion.
Despite being an obviously industrial machine, the JUKI DNU1541S is relatively simple to operate. If you’re an experienced sewer, you’ll be able to work this device without any issues after consulting the manual and sitting down with a few YouTube videos, even if you’re coming from a home sewing machine.
The DNU1541S stitches beautifully and has a max stitch length of 9mm, which makes it ideal for those heavy-duty jobs. Stitches are even and balanced, even at the higher end of the speed spectrum. Handy as this machine from the Japanese giant will zip along at 2,500 stitches per minute when at full pelt.
It comes with a double capacity hook and, unlike the Yamata FY335A, the JUKI DNU-1541S will make light work of bumps, raises, and falls across seams and sections. The presser foot can be raised up to 16mm by knee, so clearance is also good.
It’s pretty compact for an industrial, so for those who operate a home sewing business this will be a definite plus. Despite its compact nature, the workspace area is ample for most heavy-duty tasks.
The JUKI DNU-1541S is definitely a machine I’d recommend checking out.
- Built-in safety mechanism will help prolong the machine’s lifespan
- Easy to use
- Produces excellent results
- Decent presser foot clearance
- Relatively compact
- Nothing much!
Another compound feed sewing machine for you now, this time it’s the turn of the Reliable 4000SW review.
Shipping complete with the excellent SewQuiet DC servo motor, the Reliable 4000SW is a decent contender for the best sewing machine for leather crown, especially at the lower end of the pricing spectrum. (Be aware that when talking about the best walking foot sewing machines, low prices are still going to make your eyes pop!)
This single needle walking foot sewing machine is capable of happily sewing away forever, providing you don’t get too ambitious with what you want to stitch. While this is indeed a great leather sewing machine, it’s really not built for the thicker stuff. For those looking to put together fashion items and accessories, though, the Reliable 4000SW is fantastic value for money.
Simple to operate, the Reliable 4000SW will not set any speed records (top whack will give you 2,000 stitches per minute) but that’s okay as it’s surprisingly pleasant to use. Back tacking is easy and the single row feed dog works well. Stitch length is decent, too, at 10mm and changes are made as easy as can be thanks to the prominent dial on the right of the machine.
The aforementioned SewQuiet DC servo motor is the star of the show here, with 550W and ¾ hp behind it. Its 12 coils give it fantastic torque that will punch its way through surprisingly dense material with consummate ease. Control over speed is at your hands, and you’ll never miss a beat thanks to the easy to read LED display on the outer housing.
The Reliable 4000SW also ships with an Uberlight 3000TL, which helps illuminate the workspace tremendously well. While this is only around $80 to buy, so a fraction of the overall cost, it’s still nice to have it thrown in, especially as it does such a great job.
If you are looking for a really good walking foot sewing machine for leather fashion items and accessories, the Reliable 4000SW is a splendid choice that lives up to its name.
- Ships with the brilliant SewQuiet DC servo motor
- Excellent torque
- Comes with an Uberlight 3000TL
- Works great on lightweight leathers
- Feeds fabric nicely
- Can’t handle really thick stuff
- Bit slower than some other models
On to the REX RX-607 review now, let’s see how this cheaper option stacks up against the rest!
If the Reliable 4000SW is still out of your price range and you want to try your hand at lightweight leatherwork, then the bargain basement REX RX-607 is likely to be on your radar.
Touted as a “portable” walking foot sewing machine, the RX-607 will also appeal to those who either need to move their kit around or simply don’t want to have to risk going through the floorboards at home! At around a third of the weight, the REX is indeed a lighter option, but you still wouldn’t want to lug it about too often.
Stability is always an issue when you take the machine’s weight down a notch, especially when working with stubborn materials like leather. To be honest, the REX RX-607 will cope with thin stuff reasonably well, but don’t expect it to hammer through anything much more than that. This is really for lightweight leather work only.
For that purpose, though, the REX does a reasonable job. It’s not the best walking foot sewing machine in the world by a long stretch, but it’ll do simple tasks relatively well. If that’s all you’re asking for and you don’t want to go above the $500 mark, this could be your perfect match.
That said, even though you may only want to sew lightweight leathers, the REX RX-607 would still benefit from a few home improvements. Consider switching out the hand wheel, which is a little puny, as this will give you greater control (many have found the Sailrite 604u Monster II Balance Wheel to be a great alternative).
While this additional piece of kit will bump the price up a little, the REX RX-607 would still work out to be a bargain for the infrequent light leatherworker.
- A lot lighter and more compact than many of its competitors
- Relatively inexpensive option
- May need a bit of tweaking and additional parts to get the most from it
- For very basic, light leatherwork tasks only
- Can be a bit wobbly
The Consew 206RB-5 is a favorite with leather workers for a reason: it gets the job done!
With a ¾ hp servo motor, the Consew 206RB-5 can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. Thick, layered leather isn’t a problem and operation is relatively simple for what is largely an industrial machine.
Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to if you are coming from a regular home appliance, but the learning curve isn’t steep enough to be intimidating if you know your way around a normal sewing machine. That being said, the user manual could be a whole lot better than it is. To be honest, it actually makes using the machine more complicated than it needs to be at times!
One thing you’ll hear users of the Consew 206RB-5 remark upon repeatedly is its workhorse qualities: this is possibly the best sewing machine for leather if you intend to put yours to use for prolonged periods. It runs, and runs, and runs, without even a hint of whining or overheating. It is an absolute beast.
As one would expect, all of the necessary requirements are taken care of with the 206RB-5: high presser foot lift (9/16” / 14mm), heavy thread compatible, compound feed, locking stitch regulator, safety clutch, easy change bobbin, and extra long stitch capability are all included to make your life easier and time in front of the machine more pleasurable.
Unlike its little cousin, the portable 206R, this leather sewing machine is a fully fledged table mounted tool that ships with extras such as the built-in ruler and lamp, as well as the handy dual cone thread stand.
Small details have been well considered by the manufacturer, which will help make your sewing much more efficient over time. Things like the positioning of both the stitch length adjustment dial and the reverse stitch lever make a big difference when working for long periods, yet could have so easily been overlooked. Thankfully, they haven’t been.
The aforementioned servo motor is pretty quiet when compared to other similarly powered machines, but those who aren’t used to industrial appliances such as this should be aware that pretty quiet does not, by any means, equal silent. The Consew 206RB-5 still makes a racket, just less so than other leather sewing machines out there.
Vibration from the machine is noticeable when sewing, but not enough to be problematic. The brilliant locking stitch regulator takes care of any potential variation in stitch length due to this anyway, so your sewing will remain even and well-balanced throughout operation.
Stitch quality from the Consew 206RB-5 is excellent and very, very fast. You’ll be making full use of that servo motor with this bad boy, as at full tilt it will rocket along at an astonishing 3,000+ stitches per minute. A speed that is not for the faint of heart!
In terms of accessories that ship with this model, you get what you need and little else. Extra bobbins and needles, a spool pin, knee lifter, tools such as hex keys, screwdrivers, and wrenches, extra screws, an oil dispenser, and, of course, your user manuals (parts and operation) all come with the machine itself.
Somewhat surprisingly for a machine of this quality, the price is at the lower end of the best sewing machine for leather spectrum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap, but when it comes to value for money, the Consew 206RB-5 could easily be crowned king.
Regardless of whether you are working with leather for pleasure or profit, this machine should be on your shortlist.
It really is a fantastic piece of engineering.
- Easy to use
- Will handle pretty much anything you throw at it
- Very well priced
- Stitch quality is superb
- Very fast (3,000+ SPM)
- Excellent locking stitch regulator
- Relatively quiet
- Attention to detail is second to none
- Solid, sturdy, and dependable
- Can vibrate a bit at speed
Next up in this list of the best sewing machines for leather is the Yamata FY5318.
This inexpensive model from the China Feiyue Sewing Machinery Group’s USA division will appeal to those looking for a bargain…but is it a false economy in the long term? Maybe.
I guess it all depends on what you are going to be using your leather sewing machine for and the amount of disposable income you have at your, ahem, disposal. If you’re buying for business, I’d stump up the extra few hundred dollars and go for the Consew above.
For those looking to buy a new machine for occasional leatherwork who want to keep costs low, the Yamata FY5318 may work out to be a better option. Personally, I’d still go for the Consew 206RB-5. It’s just a better machine all round and worth the extra investment.
That’s not to say that the Yamata FY5318 isn’t a capable machine for sewing leather, it is, but only for certain tasks. As we’ve discussed already, leather is tricky and not a one-size-fits-all type of material to work with. Differences between grades and types can have a huge impact on how any individual machine performs.
The Yamata’s main issue is the fact that it doesn’t operate with a compound feed, rather utilizing a drop feed walking foot instead. This is fine for light work with garment leather and maybe upholstery work at a push but, generally speaking, a walking foot needle feed will still outperform it and allow you to work with a greater range of fabrics should you need to.
It does, however, ship with a decent ½ hp servo motor that gives you control and confidence, although the top speed is considerably less than some of the other leather sewing machines listed here (1,350 stitches per minute).
- Quite slow (1,350 SPM)
- For very light leather work only
- No compound feed
Time for another from Techsew, the Canadian industrial sewing machine specialists. This time we’re looking at their Techsew 1460 Leather Walking Foot Industrial Sewing Machine.
Although labelled as an industrial machine, the Techsew 1460 is still a decent option for those looking to add a good quality leather sewing machine to their home, whether that be for business or pleasure.
It’s well priced, actually towards the lower end of the range, and perfectly capable when presented with anything up to medium weight leather. For heavier work, however, the Techsew 1460 isn’t going to cut it, but it will zip through 3/8″ material thickness without issue.
Unlike the Yamata reviewed above, the 1460 operates a true compound walking foot feed to get those trickier and thicker fabrics to pass under the needle smoothly and easily. Stitch quality, as one would expect from Techsew, is excellent. Nice even and balanced stitches throughout all speed variations mean that you can adjust with confidence.
While we’re on the subject, the Techsew 1460 ships with the hefty 550 ¾ hp servo motor, the company’s own device. This gives great control throughout the range, with 12 speed setting available, taking you from stop to 3,450 RPM effortlessly. At the top end, stitches per minute can hit an admirable 3,000…which is more than enough for most!
The Techsew can handle a range of thread sizes from #46 to #138 and needles #18 to #24, which makes it perfect for most light to medium leatherwork. The machine’s presser foot clearance reflects this at ½” (13mm) – enough to work with, but not as high as the heavier duty workhorses on this list.
Bobbin size is good and the reverse feed works well and is easy to operate. All the usual accessories are present and the 1460 ships complete with the table, lamp, and thread stand, too.
Something that will appeal to many is the fact that the Techsew 1460 ships ready to sew. No complicated assembly required, which can be a real pain to deal with…especially when trying to decipher instructions that seem to be talking about a completely different appliance in an unfamiliar form of English! Not with this machine. It comes adjusted, oiled, and ready to use. It’s also auto lubricating.
For those looking to purchase a capable light- to medium-weight leather sewing machine without breaking the bank, the Techsew 1460 is a worthy contender.
- Even and balanced stitches every time
- Ideal for anything up to medium weight work
- Ships ready to sew
- Fast (3,000 SPM)
- Very well priced
- Nothing much!
On to our review of the Highlead GC0618-1SC then, the first on our list from the Chinese company.
Highlead are a relatively new company in the world of sewing machines, opening their first factory back in 1992. Since then, they have launched quite a range of appliances and expanded to serve 90+ countries globally.
The Highlead GC0618-1SC is one of their flagship devices and it performs relatively well when faced with medium weight leathers. It’s an upgrade on their previous 0618 and 0618-1 models, and the improvements are evident – especially in terms of build quality. The safety clutch has also been worked on, giving greater protection to the hook should your machine get jammed up.
Although the Highlead GC0618-1SC is touted as a heavy-duty device, it’s questionable whether or not it would cope with much more than low to medium weight leather. The compound feed is good and many of the other boxes are ticked in terms of it being able to handle heavier work, but it really is more of a general purpose tool rather than a specific heavy duty leather sewing machine.
The problem the Highlead GC0618-1SC has is price, namely that it falls into the same bracket as the excellent Consew 206RB-5, which is a better machine in just about every way. There’s not a lot wrong with the GC0618-1SC, but it would attract a lot more attention if it wasn’t directly competing against what many consider to be the standard for leather work.
So, would I recommend the Highlead GC0618-1SC? I think the above says it all…go for the Consew instead.
- Upgraded model has a number of improvements
- Safety clutch is much better
- Decent compound feed
- There are better options in the price range
- Medium-weight leather and above could pose problems
Our next review is another from Reliable – the 4200SW (formerly the MSK-1541S).
Widely regarded as an excellent upholstery machine, the Reliable 4200SW is worthy of an entry on this list of the best leather sewing machines too. While it won’t be able to handle the really thick stuff, it will serve you well if you intend to use it for apparel and such.
The 4200SW ships with a 6000SM Sewquiet Brushless 12 Coil DC 550W Servomotor, which is also part of the Reliable stable and a decent choice if you are looking to buy a machine with one built in or add a servo retrospectively to a clutch operated device. It’ll hit 6,000 RPM at full tilt and this single needle walking foot lockstitch machine will give you even stitches across the speed spectrum.
Stability is good, even at top speed, and the noise is bearable although not quiet by any means. The rotary hook type is auto lubricated but the machine needs to be manually oiled to keep it performing at its peak. The Reliable 4200SW is pretty straightforward to operate once up and running, although you may have to assemble it yourself if you buy it elsewhere.
This is a very solid leather sewing machine that feels as though it’s built to last…something that will please anyone looking to lay out four figures on their next tool! The Reliable 4200SW will make light work of ¼” leather, but head up towards ⅜” and you might find things going a little sideways. It can handle it, but not consistently well.
If you intend to go above ⅜”, I’d consider a different machine altogether.
- Excellent general purpose machine
- Stable and sturdy
- Good stitch quality
- Built to last
- Bit hit and miss on heavier materials
The final device on our best sewing machine for leather review list is something a little different: the TechSew 2900L.
This industrial sewing machine for leather is a specialist tool built to specifically handle patchwork, sewing it onto leather with greater ease and range of motion than other, more standardized appliances. It’s far from a one trick pony, however, as the TechSew 2900L can also work for shoe and boot repair, as well as bag / purse / satchel creation.
The 18” cylinder arm gives you all the room you need to maneuver those awkward items and the 360° rotating presser foot makes directional sewing about as simple as it gets. As this is built for a different kind of leather work to what we have been speaking of up until now, the TechSew 2900L runs a fair bit slower than the other leather sewing machines reviewed here.
At 500 stitches per minute, it’s even slower than most domestic machines, but that’s a good thing as it affords you superb control. The variable Techsew SmartServo motor adds to that manageability, too, which is vital when doing this kind of work.
This 110v, 800W, 1hp beauty has a great range, with 18 speed setting taking the machine from 100 through to 1,800 RPM. Should you really need to, you can also operate this leather sewing machine manually by hand as well.
The needle system used is 135 x 17, with sizes ranging from #16 to #20. Thread sizes go from #46 up to #90, which gives you a decent scope for creative work.
While this is a great tool for patchwork and such, be warned – it can only handle ¼” leather at the very most. If you need to go thicker than that, the TechSew 2900L isn’t the right machine for you.
- Perfect for those looking for a more manual way of working
- Cylinder arm is ideal for awkward items
- Exceptional control
- Ideal for directional work
- Top range of 1/4″ leather
- Slow, albeit intentionally so (500 SPM)
So, what’s the best sewing machine for leather?
You’ve made it to the end of my best sewing machine for leather reviews…congratulations! All that remains now is to crown a winner, which, in my opinion, is a pretty easy task – it has to be the Consew 206RB-5.
This leather sewing machine has everything going for it and will appeal to the broadest range of leather workers. While there are better machines out there for real specialists, such as the Techsew 2900 for patchworkers, the Consew 206RB-5 is the best option for those with a more varied approach to leatherwork.
Affordable and reliable, it’ll appeal to both hobbyists and business owners alike. Don’t tell Consew, but I reckon it could easily be priced higher than it is; it’s that good!
So, if you’re on the ‘net researching your next leather sewing machine, my recommendation is clear – go with the Consew 206RB-5!
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check out our other sewing machine reviews
Looking for something different to what you’ve seen here? Read about the top sewing machines on the market in our comprehensive review posts. We cover a wide variety of categories, so you’ll definitely find plenty to pique your interest regardless of what stage you’re at in your sewing journey.
- Overstock Guides | Leather Furniture Grades Fact Sheet | https://www.overstock.com/guides/leather-furniture-grades-fact-sheet
- Dennis Green | Here’s The Truth About ‘Genuine’ Leather’ | https://www.businessinsider.com/leather-buying-guide-2014-12?r=US&IR=T
- Annie Sisk | What Is Faux Leather? | https://www.hunker.com/13412516/what-is-faux-leather
- Lisa Williams | What Is Leatherette? Is Faux Leather Fabric Really A Viable Alternative? | https://happyhappyvegan.com/leatherette-faux-leather-fabric/
- Michael Magnus | How to Sew Leather (and Other Tough Materials) | https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-sew-leather-and-other-tough-materials/
- Kausar Hashmi | Chrome VS Vegetable Tanned Leather | https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chrome-vs-vegetable-tanned-leather-karquest-impex-kausar-hashmi-
- Science Buddies | Introduction to Servo Motors | https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/references/introduction-to-servo-motors