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Leather Needle – Which to Use and When for Great Projects

When researching choices for a project, I learned a lot about leather needles. Having the right needle can make quality work easy and fun.

Leather needles are thin, cylindrical metal tools with one sharp point and one eyelet. They are used to draw thread securely through holes in leather in hand and machine sewing. They are available in a range of thicknesses and lengths, with varying-shaped points and eyelets of varying sizes. Leather needles generally cost a few dollars for a few needles.

There are many leather needle variations based on preference and the type of leather being sewn. Let’s explore what might be the most helpful option and which will be the most handy to have around the shop.

What Is a Leather Needle?

Leather needles are 1-2” cylindrical metal objects with a diameter of .035-.063”. Hand sewing needles have a hole formed at one end of the cylinder, called an eye, and typically a blunt end for pushing through the pre-made hole of the item being sewn.

Needle Case - Leather Needle - Liberty Leather Goods
Needle Case – Leather Needle

Sewing machine needles are similarly shaped, except the point used to push through the item being sewn is sharp, and the eye is near the sharp tip. The other end is designed to be fitted into the sewing machine. The thread is passed through the eye for stitching. Leather needles are essential leather sewing tools that come in various sizes and types to suit different projects and techniques, ensuring precise stitching whether done by hand or machine.

Types of Leather Needles – Hand Sewing

When it comes to hand sewing leather, selecting the appropriate type of needle is crucial for achieving the best results. Leather sewing needles are designed with specific purposes in mind, catering to different kinds of leatherwork projects. Here are various types of leather needles and their uses:

Glovers Needles

Glover needles are named thusly because glove makers use them. They are one of the few hand-sewing needles with a sharp point for penetrating leather as it is sewn. They have triangular points on one end and an eye for thread on the other. Glover needles are generally used for sewing hide and buckskin articles together. They are also useful for sewing suede or buckskin jackets, vests, or moccasins. 

Leather Lacing Needle

Lacing needles are used for lace instead of thread for items with pre-made holes in a leather article. They are often used for decorative work on belt edges, purses, holsters, or other items that may appear more rugged in nature.

There are two main types of lacing needles: 2-prong and Perma-Lok. The 2-prong needle is made using two flat pieces of metal sandwiched together, one slightly longer. One end is pointed, and the other end, with one piece longer than the other, allows them to be separated so that lace can be placed between them. A small tab formed into the non-pointed end of the needle is used to hold the lace in place. 

Perma-Lok needles are cylindrical with a blunt, round, or chisel-tip end. The other end is open and threaded where the lacing attaches instead of an eye. The lace runs parallel, or in line, with the needle and simply twists into the threaded end.

Leather Hand Sewing Needles - Leather Craft Tools List - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Hand Sewing Needles

Harness Needle

Harness needles are cylindrical in shape, with a blunt point on one end and an eye for thread on the other. They are the main needle type used when stitching leather using thread. Sizes vary and are selected based on the eye size, which determines the thickness of leather thread that can be used.

Curved Leather Needle

Curved leather needles are similar to harness needles, except they are not straight. Sometimes, they are semicircle-shaped or S-shaped. Sizes vary to accommodate thread thickness. Their primary use is sewing leather pieces on different planes.

Leather Sewing Awl

Leather sewing awls are used to manually make holes in leather, allowing needles and thread to pass through them. Awls are advantageous for leather thicker than ¼” and curved or hard-to-reach areas that may be difficult to punch holes with stitching irons. Leather awls are handy tools for precise hole placement and can greatly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your leather sewing projects.

Leather needles are 1-2” cylindrical metal objects having a diameter of .035-.063″ with a triangular point for piercing heavy materials.

Types of Leather Needles – Machine Sewing

A leather sewing machine can be a game changer for crafting leather goods efficiently and with professional results. Machine needles have a special shank that allows them to sit in a sewing machine. There are two main shank styles: flat and round. The shank style will depend on the sewing machine model.

All machine needles have a sharp point to penetrate leather. Pre-made holes are not necessary, as the needle perforates as it sews. The style of the point will be determined by the type of material and the finished appearance of the stitching.

Sewing Machine Needle - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Machine Needle

Diamond Point

Diamond point needles are used for heavy, dry leather. They actually cut through the leather instead of separating the fibers, which is helpful for thicker leathers.

Round Point

Round point needles have a conical sharp point that pierces the leather, leaving a round hole for the thread to pass through. This type of needle is particularly useful for delicate leatherwork where minimizing damage to the leather surface is essential, ensuring clean and even stitching lines.

Twist Point

Twist point needles incise the leather diagonally to the stitching line. This allows for uniformity, especially in footwear, and a very finished look.

Cutting Point

Cutting point is a category of cross, wedge, twist, diamond, cross point, and triangular points. Some are used for 2-needle stitching, while others provide a decorative finish.

Cross Point

Cross point needles allow for very straight seams in items such as footwear, belts, car seats, large garment bags, and straps. The actual perforation direction follows the seam, ensuring neat and uniform stitching

Here is a detailed video look at some of the most popular needles:

Leather Needle Size Chart – Hand Sewing

Type:Size:Helpful For:
Glover1 (largest)Thick hides / buckskin
Glover3Rugged buckskin jackets
Glover5Moccasins
Glover8Small buckskin items (medicine pouch)
Glover10 (smallest)Beads on leather
Lacing NeedleSmall Round Tip3/32″ and 1/8″ lace
Lacing NeedleMedium Round Tip1/8″, 5/32″ and 1/4″ lace
Lacing NeedleJumbo Flat / Chisel Tip5/32″ and 1/4″ lace
Harness NeedleSize 4 (004)- Smallest NeedlesPairs with 0.6mm thread
Harness NeedleSize 2 (002)Pairs with 0.8mm thread
Harness NeedleSize 0 (1/0)Pairs with 1.0 mm thread
Harness NeedleSize 00 (2/0)Pairs with thread 1.0mm to 1.2mm
Harness NeedleSize 000 (3/0) – Largest NeedlesPairs with thread 1.2mm+
   
Hand Sewn Leather Needle Sizes

Leather Needle Size Chart – Machine Sewing

Generally Used For Sewing:Size:General Thread Size:
Watch straps70 / 10 to 80 / 12Size 15 / Tex 16 / Govt. 00
Wallets, purses80 / 12 to 90 / 14Size 33 / Tex 35 / Govt. AA
Wallets, bags, footwear90 / 14 to 100/ 16Size 46 / Tex 45 / Govt. B
Wallets, bags, small items100 / 16 to 110 / 18Size 69 / Tex 70 / Govt. E
Wallets, bags, small items110 / 18 to 125 / 20Size 92 / Tex 90 / Govt. F
Belts, holsters, sheaths120 / 19 to 140 / 22Size 138 / Tex 135 / Govt. FF
Backpacks, sturdy items140 / 22 to 180 / 24Size 207 / Tex 210 / Govt. 3-Cord
Heavy leather items, suitcases180 / 24 to 230 / 26Size 277 / Tex 270 / Govt. 4-Cord
Heavy leather items230 / 26 to 280 / 28Size 346 / Tex 350 / Govt. 5-Cord
Heavy leather items280 / 28 to 330 / 30Size 415 / Tex 410 / Govt. 6-Cord
Heavy leather items330 / 30 to 360 / 32Size 554 / Tex 600 / Govt. 8-Cord
Machine Sewn Leather Needle Sizes

Leather Needle Care and Maintenance

Most needles are plated to prevent rusting. Before use, inspect the needle for any damage to the point or burrs/damage to the eye, which can cause thread breakage. Wipe down with a dry cloth or paper towel to ensure no debris or contaminants are on the needle.

Leather Needle Case Storage

Needles can be stored in almost any manner. One could make a case from scrap leather, use a pin cushion, magnet, or simply a nook on one’s work surface. There is no special way to store needles other than keeping them clean and free of damage.

In Closing

Choosing the right needle can make sewing leather easy and enjoyable. With all of the various options available, it’s a fun category of tools to learn about, get experience with, and add to the shop. Whether you’re using a machine or hand sewing leather, exploring different needle types allows you to tailor your approach to different leather projects.