The Gospel of Pleather/Vinyl.......Day One.....Paradiso Strap Tutorial Update!!

Welcome to the Gospel of Pleather Series...
for four days you will learn how to sew with pleather and use 4 different techniques to march on and rock your handbag making world.......please come join in on the FUN!!

 A Paradiso Designs Tutorial....
an new updated tutorial with alotta new information!!
I LOVE the look of a pleather/vinyl (P/V) strap on my own hand crafted handbags.  It is a designer detail that I strive for in my handbag and clothing designs, plus it is a less expensive and a greener alternative to leather.   Some people call this stuff pleather, the lovely editor Sarah @ Threads Magazine likes to use the title Faux Leather....and it can be called vinyl too.  Regardless....I love working this this stuff!!  The Day One Paradiso Strap Tutorial will show you how to sew a leather looking strap with a tri-fold method that I developed myself, and hopefully you will understand enough to want to get your fingers wet and try it out!!

When I started designing handbag patterns I would rather not use fabric for the straps.  After working at Nordstrom for over 20 years my eyes had seen many designer handbags, and I wanted to be able to produce the same look with my very own hands!
So I came up with this strap tutorial a while back, but I had learned so much working with pleather that I knew I needed to update my Strap here goes. 

But before that........we must understand what we are working with.....
Pleather Sewing Tip One:  Find the right materials that will work for sewing straps.  If the P/V is semi-easy to fold, and the texture looks like leather, then it will work.   Always buy a little more than you think you will need.  Keep in mind the kind of P/V that is stretchy and thin is better suited to making handbag bodies.  My experience with thin P/V is that it will simply stretch too much to work for a strap.  Your stitches will pop, and it all becomes a mess.  And I made many a HOT mess...before I figured out a few things, and I learn new things all the time.

It became apparent to me that it is hard to find pleather, and many fabric store owners have a hard time investing in a bolt of pleather...and they want and need to buy merchandise that will sell.   So I looked high and low to find not only good pleather that sews well, but pleather that is gorgeous and will make your handbags look that much better!!   I started the Paradiso Pleather Collection with 9 different pleather colors and finishes in 3 different kits!! 

Paradiso Pleather Strap Kit #1 can be a companion piece for the following Paradiso Designs handbag patterns:  The Urbanista Hobo, the Okashi Courier Bag, and The Eclectic Tote.  This strap kit can also be used for the strap and the trim of a handbag, or a finished 1” and 1.5” straps for other bag designs.

This Paradiso  #2 Pleather Strap Kit is a 2 piece set with pieces for a bag strap and for a bag bottom too!!It can also be used with the following Paradiso Designs Patterns: the Carry-All Bag, Emma Fold Over Bag and the Cross-Body Bag.  The strap can be either a 1.5” finished strap or a 1” strap.

This Paradiso #3 pleather strap kit can be used for the following Paradiso Designs patterns:  The Tiny Bag, and the Everyday Bag, OR for whatever you would like.  Many are using it on other handbag patterns!  Or for doll shoes and clothing too!!
Having a bit more of the P/V will allow you to test sew the P/V, and to make sure you have the correct machine foot, and sewing needle.  Having the correct tools will allow you to get the result you desire!  I am proudly a BERNINA USA Artisan, so I will be showing the BERNINA USA 780 Machine in this tutorial.
Pleather  Tip 2, Having the Right Tools to sew P/V: Having a new sharp needle is like having the right knife in the kitchen.  Keep a few more needles on hand for replacements.
I love using these 100 needles from BERNINA USA...if I can find 110's I like to use those too.  The 100's are great to use on a general basis when sewing pleather.
The best needles if using Schmetz are:
Topstitch 100-110 (have a big eye)
Leather 100-110
Denim/Canvas 100-110
Universal 100-110

It can be hard to find the 100 or the 110 size of needles, so I use a variety of the above types.  They all work great.  They help to stitch through the P/V easily…kinda like butter!
I have used many kinds of thread to sew on P/V.  I like cotton, poly/cotton, & cotton/silk.  I especially like the way that Isacord and YLI sew on P/V. 
Pleather Tip 3: Because P/V is thicker, it is best to lengthen the stitch.  Start anywhere between 3.0-4.5 to try and see what will work for you and your machine.  The strap will look more professional with a longer stitch.  Always do sample sewing to get your tension right. 

Pleather Tip 4:  I have found that I sometimes need to tighten my tension a bit to get the stitching right on both sides of the strap. 
Pleather Tip 5: Color plays a role in the way a strap will look.  A bright contrasting color will pop, while a very lightly contrasting color will be less noticeable.  I would have some kind of contrast, as sewing black on black can be difficult.

*Machine Feet
I have had the opportunity to try many different feet when sewing P/V.  These are the ones that have worked for me.
Different machines with other feet may yield different results.
            Teflon: A coated foot that should glide over the P/V, suede, & laminated vinyl.
            Roller:  a foot that really will push through the thickness of P/V.  This is always my last alternative foot, and generally will work when everything else fails.  On a side note….the Roller Foot for Pfaff has a metal grid that tends to grab too much on P/V, so I cannot recommend that foot, but Pfaff has a great Teflon Foot, and a number of their machines have Dual Feed.
             Dual Feed:  Is a great option available on The Bernina 700 and up machine series.  Dual feed is what a walking foot does also, feeding the top and bottom layers of material equally.
Here is a photo gallery of what some of the feet look like!


BERNINA Feet: 1D is a Dual Feed or is equal to a Walking Foot, #52 is a Teflon, while # 51 is a Roller Foot

BERNINA #52 with the green material is good for gliding over patent leather type of pleathers!

BERNINA #55 is the leather roller foot.  I love using this for edge stitching, but it also has awesome grabbing abilities for those not as easy to sew pleathers....and of course real leather too!!

Machine feet for other machines:
This is the Teflon Ultra Glide Foot for Babylock, Janome, Brother, and White machines .

These are the (L-R) Roller, Teflon Zipper & Teflon feet for Viking Machines

Pleather SEwing Tip 6: If you are sewing on what is considered a patent leather like P/V, and nothing else is working, try a piece of Scotch tape, as Teflon does not always work.  Trim off all excess tape not touching the foot, so your needle does not get gummy.  This option sometimes works well when the Teflon or glide foot will not work.

To Cut the Straps:
I get the best accurate results cutting P/V use a rotary cutter and a clear ruler on a rotary cutter mat.  It is impossible to get a straight cut with a scissor.
The formula for cutting a strap, if a 1” strap is desired, then the formula is: 1” X 3= 3” for a strap width strip. A 1.5” strap needs to start out as 4.5”, 2” strap starts a 6”, and so on.
I cut the strips off of the width length of P/V yardage.  Generally the width measures 54- 58” wide, which is long enough to sew a strap for a cross-body bag, and tabs too.  OR 2 (around 27” long each) straps for a tote, or whatever your straps needs may be!

Using my Paradiso Pleather Kit #3, I have unrolled it.  This is 3" wide, and perfect for making a 1" strap.

When cutting P/V, it is necessary to start with a straight cut across the entire width.  I use 2 or 3 rulers lined up end to end to mark this straight line, and then cut off the uneven edge to have a clean start to measure and cut the strap evenly.
Once the P/V has been cut it needs to have a fold line marked.  And this is easy, if the strap is to be 1” finished, then a line will be marked 1” from the left side of the length of the strap.  A 1” strap will be marked 1”, and so on.  I like to make 1"up to 2.5" straps starting with 3"-7.5" width
 Pleather Tip 7: How to mark different kinds of Pleather/Vinyl
Woven Back P/V:  Use a marker that is only the same color as the P/V, as the marker will bleed through the P/V eventually.  Or an ink pen works really well!
Felted or Pile Back P/V:  Use a roller chalk marker…Clover has a good one!

Fold to Start:

AS seen in the photo above using my 1D BERNINA foot, with dual feed,  fold the right side to the fold line to prepare for the first row of stitching.  Getta Grip clips are used here to hold the fold. Pinning the fold will leave visible pin holes.
1st Row: This is the position to sew the first row of stitches on the fold, using the corner of the foot to eye your sewing position to stitch with a 1/8” seam allowance. *****VERY IMPORTANT...all stitching must be done with the strap to be sewn on both feed-dogs, and not just on one side of the feed dog.  please look at these pictures closely and you will see the strap is on both feed dogs and covered also by the entire foot of the machine.
As seen in the photo above, you can see where this first row of stitching will be, with the strap flush with the edge of the feed dog.  This enables the machine to sew the pleather evenly with an equal distribution over the entire piece of pleather being sewn!
Pleather Tip 8: After the first row of stitching is completed, clip your threads at the bottom of the strap, but do not clip the threads at the top where you are starting to stitch.  .  Leaving your threads long at the top so you know which end to start stitching each new row of stitching.  
Always sew from top to bottom when sewing your straps to minimize the pleather from

I switched to the BERNINA #52 Teflon foot because it did sew better on this pleather!
2nd Row & 3rd Row  (if desired):
Going back to the top of the strap piece to start the next row.  Keep in mind that the second row of stitching must be 1/8" away from the first line of stitching so that the edge of the p/v is caught perfectly in the stitching as follows.   The strap is still flush with the feed-dog for even sewing.

Stitch the Other Side of the Strap:  Now mimic the stitching on the other side of the strap!!
Symmetry is important to the look of the strap.  Once all the stitches are sewn on the first side,
Flip the strap over to echo sew the same amount of rows of stitching on the opposite side of the strap.  Remember to sew the rows on the opposite side in the same manner sewing only from the top of the strap.

This is the last row of stitching on the strap.
Please email me at if you have any questions.  I want you to have success in your sewing!!  Thanks for reading!

FINISHED STRAP!!!!  Please have fun with this!!!!!

TUNE IN TOMORROW for.............
The Gospel of Pleather,  Day Two:  How to Trim a Bag Top Edge with Pleather!!
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Unknown said…
Trying this tomorrow...your tutorials are so great, especially for those of us that are visual learners. Now I know what I've been doing wrong. Thank you!

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