Given that I drove the same car for over 10 years, certain parts are getting a little worn around the edges. For instance, my shift boot is a piece of vinyl. It's been coming apart at the seams and started to get annoyingly stiff up around the neck. I've started to look for replacement leather shift boots, and as expected found tons of them all over the Internet. I picked out ones that specifically claimed to fit my car, but then it occurred to me that it may not fit right. I don't use the OEM shift knob and the original boot never cinched at the neck right for my shift knob anyway. So a pre-made shift boot may fit well to not too good ugly. Given that most likely, I'll need to modify ones that are premade, why not just sew one together myself. Just need to cut and stick together 4 pieces of material. How hard could it be?
Well, that single question to myself started this whole leather thing, and I eventually ended up with a leather wrapped shift knob and steering wheel in addition to the original project, the shift boot. I have never thought about a leather steering wheel, and my plastic wheel was just fine, however most cars today at least have leather as an option for the steering wheel. So figure why the hell not.
Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures while doing the boot and shift knob, but those where easy compared to putting together the steering wheel.
Step 1: Practice, practice, practice
It is generally a good idea to practice on a couple pieces of leather scraps prior to cutting and working with the actual pieces that are to be used. If using a sewing machine, definitely test out the stitching and note how's the tension, consistency of the stitching patterns, signs of skipping, etc. I've read most household sewing machines will handle leather, but that doesn't mean that it will be trouble free and work as good as heavy industrial machines. Found out that the one we have lying around the house worked for the most part, however the leather doesn't advance well because it's soft. Taping a piece of tracing paper or wax paper on both sides took care of that issue. Using leather machine needle also turned out to be a must. Heavy duty or jeans needles didn't make even stitching on this machine.
Leather is a natural material, therefore its firmest, thickness, and tendencies to stretch varies even within the same piece of hide. Picking carefully and arranging the pieces to be cut will result with better results than trying to randomly group the pieces.
This project took a fair amount of time because of the work involve. Professional custom leather upholsters aren't cheap because of this and, the material isn't a bargain either. However, this is my absolute first time working with this material so with patience, times, good old trial and error it is possible to end up with good results.
Okay then, with that said, here we go.
Upholstery grade leather,
Leather sewing machine needle,
Hand sticking needle(s),
Nylon or polyester sewing thread,
Box cutter blades, x-acto knives, or rotary knife (highly recommended for cutting leather)
Double stick tape/contact cement,
Wax or tracing paper,
And lots of time.