How to Buy Leather Fabric

    by Contributing Writer

    When making a purse, bag, shoes or upholstering a piece of furniture, you may need leather instead of woven or knit fabric. Because it is a natural product, every leather hide will be somewhat unique, which makes shopping for leather different to shopping for fabrics sold off the bolt. Many fabric stores will not carry leather, so you need to know where to locate good leather with the right characteristics for your project.

    Consider the size of your project. If you're not using a pattern that clearly states how much leather you need, measure and add all the areas you will be covering in fabric. Add seam or hem allowances to each measurement. Leather is generally sold by the hide, which is measured in square feet instead of yards. Allow extra square footage to give you room to cut around any imperfections that occur naturally in the leather.

    Check the upholstery section of your local fabric store. If no leather is available on the floor, talk to a salesperson for suggestions on leather vendors. Also, ask if you can special order fabric through the store.

    Ask for a swatch before buying all you need if you are purchasing the leather in person from a store or vendor. Take the swatch home and consider it in its future setting. This is particularly important for an upholstery project.

    Find leather for sale online and see if the vendor offers free swatches. Some, such as Tandy Leather Factory, instead offer a swatch book to allow you to get a sense of what the leather will be like. For the most part, though, websites will give you magnified, detailed photos of their leather fabrics as well as a written description.

    Check thrift stores or yard sales for old leather jackets, bags or skirts. You may be able to repurpose the leather into a new project.

    • Always buy a more leather than necessary to account for mistakes. You can use the scraps for a smaller project later.