Fabrics 101: Embroidering on Faux Leather
Fabrics 101: Embroidering on Faux
Designer handbags are all the rage right now,
with the styles changing quickly from season to
season. They're sold for astronomical prices --
afford to stay current with the cutting edge
A friend of mine recently told me
about a trend in which high-end
clutches and bags are actually rented from week to week!
Luckily for those with a passion for fashion,
faux leather has made a big
comeback. That means that staying
current with trends can be
While real leather lasts for
decades, it has a hefty price tag,
and can be difficult to clean and
Faux leather, costs about a third of
true leather. It comes in a wider
variety of colors and sheens, it's
more versatile, and it's easier for
cleaning and care. The fact that
it's animal-friendly has appeal,
Faux leather comes
in a variety
of styles, sheens, and colors.
The category of faux
leather encompasses a variety of fabrics
including artificial leather, Koskin,
leatherette, and pleather.
Artificial leather, or American leather cloth,
was developed from calico and linseed oil, mixed
with a dryer or pigment, and pressed into a
smooth, leather-like surface. The man-made
material is wonderful for upholstery as it
can be manufactured in large quantities.
Koskin, a Swedish
"cow's skin," is another faux leather that looks
and feels like real leather. It is commonly used
for consumer goods such as CD wallets and laptop
Leatherette is a natural
or synthetic fabric base covered
with a plastic or soft PVC layer. While it is
easy to care for (it doesn't fade
or crack), leatherette isn't porous
. That means it doesn't breathe, so
your skin won't either. If this
material is used for clothing or car
seats, you'll sweat. It's most often
bound books and actually was used
quite often in the construction of 20th century cameras.
commonly used and easily found faux
leather is called Pleather.
The word is actually a combination
of the words 'leather'
support designs of any and all
complexities, including complex designs
with small detail (above).
Pleather got off to a rocky start. Created
in the 1970's, the plastic leather was
often looked down upon in a derogatory
manner, as it suggested the wearer
couldn't afford the more luxurious, real
version. But, the light weight,
breathable material persevered for a
variety of reasons.
As manufacturing techniques
became more advanced, pleather actually
started to look more and more like real
leather. By the 1980s, pleather no
longer resembled the
squeaky fakes of the previous decade. It
was less expensive and showed
support for animal rights.
For garments made with pleather, choose
light and open designs for best draping.
From a fashion perspective, pleather comes in
unlimited colors, weights, and textures.
has a touch of elasticity that makes it
comfortable, versatile, and stylish for
all sorts of garments.
Not all pleathers are created equally.
While PVC was often a component of
pleather in the past, use has dwindled
for two main reasons. First, it doesn't breathe;
second, if it's
dry-cleaned, it becomes unbearably stiff.
Today, it is more common for pleather to
be a blend of cotton and polyurethane,
giving it air flow and the option for
pleather looks so closely like real
leather these days, there are a couple
of tips you can employ to tell the
difference when you're at the fabric
store (as if the price wouldn't be the
first clue!). First, check if the
material contains any elasticity. If it
stretches, then it's pleather. Leather
has no give to it.
Secondly, check the back of the fabric
in question. Pleather often has a thin,
fleece-like backing, while leather has a
thick, suede-like backing.
Pleather comes in a variety of styles and
sheens, including the above sample textured
Gucci, Prada, and Moschino have
started using pleather in their
fashions, so the word no longer
conjures up images of cheap and
tacky textures. Instead, think chic,
fashion-forward garments, including
flattering skirts, form-fitted jackets,
shoes, and fabulous handbags. Better yet, the
multi-faceted fabric has not been saddled with a
young age range. It can be flattering and tasteful
on people of all ages and sizes.
the synthetic fabric is now also used for car
seat covers, door panels, floorings, roofing,
scooter seats, luggage, diary covers, belts, and
I searched my local fabric stores for faux
leather and found Jo Ann Fabrics to be my best
resource. They only carried pleather, but what an
excellent selection of colors and
textures they had! I chose four
diverse looks: soft black, shiny
red, snakeskin black, and textured,
metallic gold. The woman in line
behind me at the cutting station,
after curiously eyeing my
selections, wanted to know what I
was planning on making. The best
place for ideas is the
Stitchers Showcase, of course,
but the next-best place for
inspiration is definitely in the
fabric cutting station line at Jo
I found I could use the same techniques,
stabilizer, and needle for all four
a strong fabric that will support almost
any weight or complexity of design.
However, it is necessary to take into
account draping. The higher the
complexity of the design, the less
graceful the draping of the fabric may
have chosen your design, I would
recommend using a 75/11 sharp sewing
needle for embroidering. Steer clear of
ballpoint needles that will puncture the
material and leave visible holes.
stabilizer, I used medium-weight (2 oz.)
cutaway stabilizer, that I adhered to
the pleather with a light mist of KK100
spray adhesive. Then, hoop the fabric
and stabilizer together tightly.
hesitant to really secure your hoop. Pleather
is resilient, and unlike
leather, won't get hoop burn. While
you may be tempted to give the pleather
a little stretch or two after it's
hooped, resist that urge. It will distort your
are finished embroidering, you may have
a an outline where the hoop was, but no
worries, the pleather will eventually
regain its shape, or you can lightly
iron it using the tips below.
Shiny red pleather gets even more cool by
Cool Girl Wedge Placket design.
Faux leather and
pleather are considerably easier to care for
than real leather. Both can be renewed by simply
wiping them down with a damp cloth dipped in a
mild detergent and warm water. But, always make
sure to check any labels first for recommended
pleather can be dry-cleaned or hand-wiped and
hung to air dry. Never dry-clean PVC pleather.
The cleaning solvents can make the pleather
If ironing is
necessary, use a dry iron set on a synthetic
setting. Do not use a high temperature iron - it
can scorch the fabric, or in the case of
leatherette, melt it. With a pressing cloth on
the right and wrong side of the pleather, use a
light hand to slowly move the iron over the
Stitching tips for faux leather:
sharp needle (necessary for leaving
the smallest perforations in the
consider draping (open designs will give the best draping).