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Tools for making leather patches

wittmann

Active Member
Hi everyone, I’m gonna make the hand painted leather patches (multi lay sewed together) myself for my A-2 jackets, could you please give me any tips or advices? Such as detailed list of tools for amateur like me, leather thickness and leather type etc.

I do have some experience about painting nose arts on the leather flight jackets, but got no idea about making leather goods. What kind of simple sewing machine do I need?

Thanks for your reply in advance!

Best regards
Lee
 
Last edited:

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
I’d stick to hand sewing if you are only going to make one for yourself. Usually patches will be using leather that could be sewn with a thicker needle on a reputable clothing sewing machine.

You’d probably want to stick to 2-4 oz for leather. Most patches would be make of either goat or sheep. Maybe some in calf but calf isn’t cheap.

A good sharp knife will be good to have too. Just play around and experiment. Plenty of you tube videos out there for leather work. Good luck.
 

wittmann

Active Member
I’d stick to hand sewing if you are only going to make one for yourself. Usually patches will be using leather that could be sewn with a thicker needle on a reputable clothing sewing machine.

You’d probably want to stick to 2-4 oz for leather. Most patches would be make of either goat or sheep. Maybe some in calf but calf isn’t cheap.

A good sharp knife will be good to have too. Just play around and experiment. Plenty of you tube videos out there for leather work. Good luck.
Thanks for your useful tips
 

Bombing IP

Well-Known Member
Hi Lee made a few patches leather layered over the years for clients . I was self taught with an engineering background to guide me and my style . First off I would down load original pictures from books and off the internet any thing I could get my hands on . Patches come in two sizes ,chest patches are 5" diameter or 125mm and shoulder patches are 3" diameter or 75mm . I tried to get leather already dyed I would go after used ladies handbags this I would source from thrift stores ,tag sales or salvation army . This type of leather is thin and is of very good quality and when layered up its not to thick . The border would be horse hide and I would get this off A2 jacket makers they have a ton of leather off-cuts and can send you a full large priority box for $18.99 + what they want for the scraps (ask for horse or cow not goat ) . Next you need an exacto knife with blades of different shapes ,a compass with needle point with the ability to hold a pen or pencil . 1 good cutting board a good desk lamp ,tape single and double sided . Find yourself a good sewing machine it need not have the wiring or foot pedal because you need to convert it to manual wind ( I use a Bernina 750 from 1976),a collection of cotton threads different colors . Get a machine that is metal and in good working order and find someone who can teach to to sew ,thread it and load bobbins . Get competent with it re the tension etc etc ,once you master it it will be your best friend .If you do not it will spoil your day and your leather work . Next you need to down load the pictures of the patches on the computer to the printer black and white is fine . You then go to a staples and play around with the sizing % until you patches measure 5" and 3" and are true to size . If you want to know more let me know I do not want to overload you .

BIP
 

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
I'd agree with BIP on most points but not the "very good quality" part of used handbags. one needs to know a lot about leather to begin to separate the garbage out there that is called "genuine leather", but that takes time and experience from handling tons of the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. If you know that then of course looking at thrift stores might net you a decent find, but in my experience the good stuff is not out there as it's already been picked over. You'd be far better off looking on Etsy and finding some veg tanned or chrome tanned leather that is sold as a part of a hide or the whole hide. Trust me. I have some stuff though that would make for excellent patches if you care to pm me we can work out getting you some.
 

wittmann

Active Member
Hi Lee made a few patches leather layered over the years for clients . I was self taught with an engineering background to guide me and my style . First off I would down load original pictures from books and off the internet any thing I could get my hands on . Patches come in two sizes ,chest patches are 5" diameter or 125mm and shoulder patches are 3" diameter or 75mm . I tried to get leather already dyed I would go after used ladies handbags this I would source from thrift stores ,tag sales or salvation army . This type of leather is thin and is of very good quality and when layered up its not to thick . The border would be horse hide and I would get this off A2 jacket makers they have a ton of leather off-cuts and can send you a full large priority box for $18.99 + what they want for the scraps (ask for horse or cow not goat ) . Next you need an exacto knife with blades of different shapes ,a compass with needle point with the ability to hold a pen or pencil . 1 good cutting board a good desk lamp ,tape single and double sided . Find yourself a good sewing machine it need not have the wiring or foot pedal because you need to convert it to manual wind ( I use a Bernina 750 from 1976),a collection of cotton threads different colors . Get a machine that is metal and in good working order and find someone who can teach to to sew ,thread it and load bobbins . Get competent with it re the tension etc etc ,once you master it it will be your best friend .If you do not it will spoil your day and your leather work . Next you need to down load the pictures of the patches on the computer to the printer black and white is fine . You then go to a staples and play around with the sizing % until you patches measure 5" and 3" and are true to size . If you want to know more let me know I do not want to overload you .

BIP
Morning BIP,
what a detailed instruction, i saved this page as reference. 1000 thanks!

I'm gonna make such leather layered patches for myself and my friends, is it necessary to sew the leathers with sewing machine from the beginning or I can also do it with hand sewing efficiently after some practice?
 

Bombing IP

Well-Known Member
To answer your question on hand sewing ,in all my years of looking at leather WWII patches they have all been machine sewn . I think they were made on the base by riggers or off base by local tailors . Hand sewing will not look the part in my opinion if you are trying to get the patch look original .

I will carry on where I left off yesterday .When you want to create a patch and have a photo copy of the patch you want to make make 5 more copies of the patch ,put one in a file for down the road should you want to make another of the same . The other four are to be used as a guide and shape templates . Cut out the different shapes in the patch design with a scissors and lay the design black side down on the rear of the leather and tape it on the color of leather it needs to be .Cut with a scissors or an Exacto knife when you are done the the paper shape will fall away from the leather back . The main part of the patch will be a solid color to make this use a compass with a sharpie pen in silver set at 2.5" diameter and draw the circle on the rear of the leather and cut out the main body . Then lay out your parts as shown in one of your 4 copies and if all looks well glue everything together ,this will stop things moving when you sew the patch (the glue I use is fabritac ) . Let the patch dry for 24 hours before doing any sewing avoid the temptation of sewing after a couple of hours as the sewing machine process will pull it apart . Next you patch may need a border these look best in horse hide and outer diameter should be 5 1/4" inner diameter should be 4 3/4" giving you a 1/2 border . This to be glued on after the main body of the patch is completed with all sewing done .This way of making patches exactly duplicates originals to within a millimeter or .040" . Try using the same color thread as the leather the bobbin can stay the same color throughout ,some people use one color thread and paint over the thread the color of the leather . I say take the time to do it right as it will age gracefully with the jacket and not expose the original color of the thread . The leather layered patch was common in the CBI theater and the 20th not so common in Europe .Italy had incised patches ,England had painted, printed or chenille . The beauty of the leather layered patch is that they had a naivety about them and were often sightly different design of what they were copying .The me its a USAAF folk art during war time of service men proud to show what they represent . Today and I have said this before many maker of patches make the so perfect that they look like they were made on a CNC machine ,they do not capture the essence of what resources were available and people who offered to make these had no formal training on how to do this .Or if they went into town in India they were giving a picture to an Indian Tailor looking to make a buck neither of whom had a common language .With regard to sourcing leather I have always had good luck buying handbags of different colors ,I try to buy high end makers and the inside label has to say leather .As previous said there are a lot of bags made out of Pleather or bonded leather . A good source of white leather for me has been opera gloves its not so white white and it is thin ,and a pair of gloves go a long way as they are long . To do this well you need research pictures and patience to hone you skills ,you will know when you have achieved the skill and your patches are worthy of putting on a $1000 Type A2 .I still have some of my first patches I made and quite honestly they are pathetic ,just keep at it and I will give you pointers should you need them via this forum . Tomorrow I will cover the sewing machine .

BIP

PS Lee which country do you reside in ?
 

wittmann

Active Member
To answer your question on hand sewing ,in all my years of looking at leather WWII patches they have all been machine sewn . I think they were made on the base by riggers or off base by local tailors . Hand sewing will not look the part in my opinion if you are trying to get the patch look original .

I will carry on where I left off yesterday .When you want to create a patch and have a photo copy of the patch you want to make make 5 more copies of the patch ,put one in a file for down the road should you want to make another of the same . The other four are to be used as a guide and shape templates . Cut out the different shapes in the patch design with a scissors and lay the design black side down on the rear of the leather and tape it on the color of leather it needs to be .Cut with a scissors or an Exacto knife when you are done the the paper shape will fall away from the leather back . The main part of the patch will be a solid color to make this use a compass with a sharpie pen in silver set at 2.5" diameter and draw the circle on the rear of the leather and cut out the main body . Then lay out your parts as shown in one of your 4 copies and if all looks well glue everything together ,this will stop things moving when you sew the patch (the glue I use is fabritac ) . Let the patch dry for 24 hours before doing any sewing avoid the temptation of sewing after a couple of hours as the sewing machine process will pull it apart . Next you patch may need a border these look best in horse hide and outer diameter should be 5 1/4" inner diameter should be 4 3/4" giving you a 1/2 border . This to be glued on after the main body of the patch is completed with all sewing done .This way of making patches exactly duplicates originals to within a millimeter or .040" . Try using the same color thread as the leather the bobbin can stay the same color throughout ,some people use one color thread and paint over the thread the color of the leather . I say take the time to do it right as it will age gracefully with the jacket and not expose the original color of the thread . The leather layered patch was common in the CBI theater and the 20th not so common in Europe .Italy had incised patches ,England had painted, printed or chenille . The beauty of the leather layered patch is that they had a naivety about them and were often sightly different design of what they were copying .The me its a USAAF folk art during war time of service men proud to show what they represent . Today and I have said this before many maker of patches make the so perfect that they look like they were made on a CNC machine ,they do not capture the essence of what resources were available and people who offered to make these had no formal training on how to do this .Or if they went into town in India they were giving a picture to an Indian Tailor looking to make a buck neither of whom had a common language .With regard to sourcing leather I have always had good luck buying handbags of different colors ,I try to buy high end makers and the inside label has to say leather .As previous said there are a lot of bags made out of Pleather or bonded leather . A good source of white leather for me has been opera gloves its not so white white and it is thin ,and a pair of gloves go a long way as they are long . To do this well you need research pictures and patience to hone you skills ,you will know when you have achieved the skill and your patches are worthy of putting on a $1000 Type A2 .I still have some of my first patches I made and quite honestly they are pathetic ,just keep at it and I will give you pointers should you need them via this forum . Tomorrow I will cover the sewing machine .

BIP

PS Lee which country do you reside in ?
a wonderful instruction indeed. I'll follow it to make my 1st leather patch.
I live in Germany
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
As an aside I have more than one industrial sewing machine but if I want to use a handcrank semi domestic weight machine I always turn to our trusty black Singer 201k which was a very popular choice back in the day and remains so.

An eclectic choice I like using is a walking foot "patcher" [Singer 29k] where the walking foot & needle can be steered around the workpiece.
 

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
Yes. Hand sewing,IMO looks,or can look depending on the skill of the sewer, far better than machine sewing. But this is more for belts, wallets or other things like holsters. There you can see both sides of the stitch which looks better.
That said, BIP is right. It won’t look the same and you want the consistency of the machine in this case. Besides. Won’t be looking at the back anyway.
 

Bombing IP

Well-Known Member
Now we will cover sewing machines a good quality Singer made of metal and as said above 201k 99 or such ,I use a Bernina 750 its made of Alloy not cast iron like the older singers but does the job . You will need class 15 bobbins and a supply of good thread does not have to be 100% cotton can be a blend . You will need to purchase needles specifically for leather as these have a spear point to puncture through the leather . Know your machine and understand how to thread it and adjust the bobbin tension and the spool tension both threads should look the same the upper and the opposite side . Know how your needle is threaded side to side of front to back this is important and is related to how the needle is mounted and the groove in the needle . This area is where you will need help from some one who can watch you and point out where you are making mistakes and set you off in the correct direction with no bad habbits . Stitch length I go with 10 to the inch to close together and the leather becomes weak like a postage stamp . Know how to reverse the machine to finish off or change direction this is very handy on small patches .Find yourself a presser foot that is on the small size you do not want to be covering over what you are sewing and be able plan the direction . Sewing with a hand crank slows the process down and is important for small appliques . You will have to fit a handle that rotates on a balance wheel so you can actuate the sewing machine . The balance wheel is the wheel that is on the rear end of the machine that rotates as it cycles the machine .A little tip when you are sewing and need to change direction you do this with the needle down and the presser foot up set the position and lower the presser foot and carry on . Practice with leather different shapes and try and run parallel in 2mm from the border ,practice with sewing a star on a piece of leather this take a lot of changing direction . This skill needs to be gained because the patch will be the focus of peoples attention ,and people will notice incorrect stitching even if they do not know how to do it them selves .

BIP
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
Yes. Hand sewing,IMO looks,or can look depending on the skill of the sewer, far better than machine sewing. But this is more for belts, wallets or other things like holsters. There you can see both sides of the stitch which looks better.
That said, BIP is right. It won’t look the same and you want the consistency of the machine in this case. Besides. Won’t be looking at the back anyway.
Agreed. I like hand sewing, especially using an awl and double needles and in fact usually do a small amount of hidden hand sewing when replacing the waistband knits on A2's etc.
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
Another bit of advice from me regarding sewing machines. They need regular lubrication with a good quality sewing machine oil. Specific lubrication points will be shown in the machine's manual, if it does not have one they are usually available off the net. Keep the machine lubricated - but not over lubricated as oil can gum up in time. Don't force it if the machine binds up while sewing, stop and investigate the cause. If you force it the machine could go out of "time" and you really don't want to be sidetracked retiing it or getting it fixed by someone else.
 

wittmann

Active Member
Morning everyone,
thanks for your Information about sewing machines.

At the beginning as an Amateur I don't wanna invest too much Money on the sewing machine, so could you guys recommend a economic sewing machine to me, which costs about €100.-?

how about this one?
Singer 2250 tradition
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
From what I can see that's a lightweight electric domestic machine. Personally I would go for a manual Singer 201K which can be picked up off eBay very reasonably. They are very well made, all metal construction and don't have plastic gears like so many of the new machines these days.
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
Example here which is a later 201K or here

Or a 99K like this

I'm not sure what the recycling / upcycling arrangements are in Germany but in the UK we used to have something called "Freecycle" where people advertise items they no longer need ...for free. Both my latest 201K and 99K came from people on Freecycle - for free. They are both well looked after machines showing virtually no wear. They were relatively expensive items back in the day and therefore people looked after them.

Once upon a time most households had a sewing machine, that is no longer the case as a lot of people now no longer have the time or gumption to "make do and mend", this means a lot of these old machines are surplus to requirements. For thin leather you want to look for a machine that is solidly built - and that is not the norm with so many domestic machines on produced today.
 

wittmann

Active Member
Example here which is a later 201K or here

Or a 99K like this

I'm not sure what the recycling / upcycling arrangements are in Germany but in the UK we used to have something called "Freecycle" where people advertise items they no longer need ...for free. Both my latest 201K and 99K came from people on Freecycle - for free. They are both well looked after machines showing virtually no wear. They were relatively expensive items back in the day and therefore people looked after them.

Once upon a time most households had a sewing machine, that is no longer the case as a lot of people now no longer have the time or gumption to "make do and mend", this means a lot of these old machines are surplus to requirements. For thin leather you want to look for a machine that is solidly built - and that is not the norm with so many domestic machines on produced today.
is this singer 99k manual or electric? this sewing machine may be over 60 years old, can such singer machine work so well without any repair or big maintaince for the leather sewing?
 

Micawber

Well-Known Member
is this singer 99k manual or electric? this sewing machine may be over 60 years old, can such singer machine work so well without any repair or big maintaince for the leather sewing?
If you look on the right of the 99K machine you can see a silver wheel and a winding handle - that indicates that it's manual. The first 201K [grey body] is manual but also has been converted to electric power too, using one or the other is usually a simple matter of disengaging the handwheel. The black 201K is manual only. The old Singers were built like tanks, all metal frame, hardened shafts and gears with regular oiling they will last several lifetimes. The 99K I have here dates from the 1920's, was bought new by a lady in Cambridge and is a typical free standing wooden cabinet and she used for making and mending clothing. Her son, a university professor eventually had no use for it and passed it to me. There are obviously other makes but here at least Singers are plentiful as are spares.

Obviously I am not connected with the sale of the machines I linked nor do I know what kind of condition those particular examples are in ....just the usual arse covering caveat ;)
 

Bombing IP

Well-Known Member
Do not buy the one you suggested it is junk with no strength and plastic gears .Look in the local for sale ads and get a used old one as we suggested you can get them all day long for 50 Euro and yes they work well no problems .

Micawber has pointed out some very good models you should seek .

BIP
 
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