How to do Basic Handsew Saddles Stitches on Leather
An introduction on How to do Basic Handsew Saddle Stitches on Leather.
Hi guys, Rob here…
After speaking with a lot of knife makers over the last few years most of which told me when it comes to putting holes in leather for stitching they use a drill!!
Coming from a leather work and saddle making back ground this is like swearing at me so I wanted to explain the correct way to saddle stitch and why drilling is not the best option.
But of course, you don’t have to take my advice 😉
It may seem easier to drill but it will result in a few things happening none of which are great.
Firstly, by drilling you are removing material from the leather and as a result making it weaker.
Second by having round holes your stitches won’t lay correctly if the holes are on the larger size they will end up laying like bricks.
And third if the holes are smaller your stitches will lay end to end in a straight line but usually what will happen if the drill bit is that thin it will flex and the stitches on the back side of your work will be a mess.
And never use a single needle to go in and out to the end and then back, this looks terrible and is very noticeable to any experienced leather worker.
Correct saddle stitching is very neat, tight, strong and looks good!
By using the correct tolls saddle stitch is not that hard and there are a number of books and videos on the subject. Please find a list of all tools and materials used on the bottom of the page.
I start by having my work lying flat on my bench and marking my stich line either with a Stitch Groover or a pair of wing dividers. Make sure to mark both sides of your work (Front and Back) The Stitch Groover will remove a small channel in the leather and allow the stitches to be countersunk into your work. This is useful if the finished piece will be subject to a lot of ware. The wing dividers will mark a line on your work this will help to align your stitch holes.
Next, I will use glue or double-sided tape to join all of the layers of my piece together.
Then with either a stitching chisel or pricking iron proceed to make your stitch holes by taping the chisel through your leather making sure you stay on the line and keeping the chisel upright.
Depending on the number of layers in your job the chisel may not protrude all the way through (don’t worry about that at this stage) once you have made all of your holes and are ready to start stitching place your work into a stitching pony or saddlers clamp.
Measure out the amount of thread you will need (a good rule of thumb is 6 x the length you want to stitch. Place one needle on each end of the thread and tie it on. There are several ways to do this but this is the method I use as it places the knot further down the thread and away from the eye of your needle.
By using a diamond shaped blade of a sewing AWL that’s the same size as your chisel you will be able to complete any of the holes all the way through your job. The Awl will follow the hole made by the chisel but be carful to make sure you come out on the line you made earlier that way you will ensure a neat stitch line on the back of your work.
- Place your Awl through the first hole (staying on the line at the back)
- As you pull the Awl out follow it with your first needle.
- Pull the needle through and find the centre of your thread.
- Place your Awl through the second hole, follow it out with the opposite needle
- Pull the needle through past the knot, holding the tread to the back of the hole place your second needle through in the opposite direction.
- Before you pull the second needle though completely take one wrap around this needle with the thread from your first needle, this will create a knot and as you pull on both needles this knot will cinch down into the centre of your work. If you continue to do this on every stitch it will lock your stitches and prevent them coming undone if a stitch wares through over time and breaks.
- Continue to the end of what you want to stitch.
- Once at the end you will need to back stitch through the same holes at least three stitches, pull them down snug and cut off nice and close. (you can put a spot of glue on the cut end of the thread to prevent that last stitch from coming undone over time.
- Then finish off by either running an overstitch wheel with the same stitch spacing over your stitching and this will help even out your stitches or place an offcut of leather over your stitches and lightly tap with a hammer, this with flatten out your stitch line.
Good luck and the more you practice the quicker you’ll get !!!
See on the samples below how clean the stitching is on the front and back.
Cheers, Rob Moreton
Leatherwork Tools and Materials used:
- Poly Mallet
- Leatherwork Needle
- Japanese Hand Sewing Set
- Stitching Awl
- Wing Divider
- Stitching Chisel 4 Prong
- Stitchin Chisel 2 Prong
- Optional Dye