When it comes to quality leather goods, hand stitching is hard to beat.
As a beginner it can seem intimidating but it’s actually a lot easier than you may think. There are several hand sewing techniques but probably the most common form is called “Saddle Stitch”.
There are several great videos out there that demonstrates step-by-step on how to hand stitch your leather projects. I won’t even attempt to produce my own “How to Video” but instead I will embed the videos here so you can all benefit from the hard work these instructors have put into their videos.
What You Need
There are a few common tools that you will need to hand stitch leather. These tools will make your life much easier and most are fairly inexpensive.
Hole Punch Chisel
When stitching leather pieces together, you want to ensure even holes to sew your wax coated thread through. The easiest way is using a chisel.
These chisel sets typically included several chisels with different amount of holes. For example, this chisel set comes with 6, 4, 2, and 1 hole punches. This becomes extremely useful when you need to end your stitch with a specific amount of holes.
Simply mark out a straight line of where you want to stitch and make the first punch. Next place the same punch on the last hole made (to ensure even spacing) and make your next punch.
Once your holes are punched out, you can start using the hand stitching techniques shown below.
Leather Stitching Needles
These aren’t your typical needles found in your grandma’s sewing kit.
These stitching needles are designed specifically for sewing leather. You probably already notice that leather stitching needles are much larger and usually will come with a blunt tip.
Since you normally would pre-punch your holes, you do not need a sharp needle tip. Instead, you are looking for a strong and durable needle that can use wax coated thread.
There are times where you might even need pliers to pull the needle through your thread holes. This is the case when you backstitch (which you should do) and the threads become a really tight fit.
Wax Coated Thread
Using wax coated thread is always a good idea when hand stitching leather. There are a few different materials that you can use. Some that are offered are nylon, polyester, linen, and cotton. I would avoid using cotton thread as it can rot and will break.
Having your thread wax coated will allow the thread to slide through the holes much easier and will provide some water proofing of the threads as well.
When choosing your thread you will want to find a material that is strong and can pass through the needle with ease. As mentioned earlier, cotton thread can rot and should be avoided. Linen thread is nice but tends to be larger which you may or may not want.
I typically will use nylon or polyester as this is widely available and is very strong and durable.
Using a Stitching Pony
A stitching pony is one of those things that is not necessary but can make your life a lot easier if you have one. If you plan to do multiple hand stitching project, I would highly recommend picking one up or even making one yourself.
The stitching pony basically clamps your leather pieces together and will hold your project in place while you hand stitch.
Sometimes you will have to put a lot of force in either pushing or pulling your needle so having your leather clamped down will make stitching way more controllable.
Saddle Stitch Tutorial
This is probably the most detailed video about saddle stitching out there.
Nigel teaches you how to saddle stitch both right and left handed as well as shows you proper technique from front and back.
The up close shots and great editing make this my number on choice when teaching others how to saddle stitch.
Improving Your Saddle Stitch
So you just learned the basic techniques of how to saddle stitch from Nigel’s video, but things just aren’t looking as nice as you want them to.
Maybe one side of your stitching looks great but the other side looks very crooked and jagged. Well this is actually a very common issue that those new to hand stitching often face.
In this video, Ian gives you quick tips and tricks on how you can improve your saddle stitch technique.
Other Hand Stitch Techniques
Saddle stitching is currently the most common method for hand stitching.
It looks great and provides a very strong and durable stitch, but saddle stitching is not the ONLY method for hand stitching.
There are several other methods that you can practice. Some methods use a single needle while others use the double needle technique.
Take a look at this video for other hand stitching methods. This video is provided by Tandy Leather and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.