Thinner leathers can be sewn by hand by using Glover’s needles. These needles are triangular in cross section and their points are ground to a cutting edge. Domestic sewing machines will sew clothing weight leather. It is preferable to use a leather point needle and a wheel foot is helpful if available. Spraying with a silicone polish or talcum powder can reduce drag on the foot. Always use a long stitch to avoid weakening the seam. A polyester dressmaking thread such as Drima or Gutermans is adequate for this purpose.
Heavy Weight Leathers
Sewing heavy leathers by hand is frequently called saddle stitching and produces a superior stitch to machine stitching. Needles are not strong enough to pierce thick hide so the first thing to do is to make the holes. This is done with a “pricking iron”. This tool looks like a heavy-duty fork where the prongs are set at a slant and are filed to a cutting edge. They are described by the width of the fork and the number of teeth to the inch. Eg. 1” 6 to the 1”
The two leathers to be sewn are glued together and laid flat on an anvil covered with a protective layer of plastic cutting board. The pricking iron is driven with a hammer through the leathers until it just appears on the other side. This process is repeated until the full length of the seam is pierced.
It is possible to manage without a pricking iron by marking the intervals of the stitch holes with an overstitch wheel and piercing the leather with a saddlers awl. This is not as neat a job but is just as strong.
A length of linen thread is now cut that is a bit longer than twice the length of the seam to be sewn. A saddler’s blunt needle is threaded onto each end of the thread. A saddler’s awl with a diamond blade is selected and this will be used to open up the holes cut by the pricking iron.
The piece of work is now placed in a wooden clamp known as a saddlers clam. The saddler sits on a high stool with the clams held between the legs. One needle and the awl are held in the right hand and the other needle is held in the left hand. The first hole is pierced with the awl and one of the needles is pushed through up to half the length of the thread. The second hole is now pierced and the left hand needle pushed through. The thread is pulled down to the end of the slot cut by the pricking iron. The needle in the right hand is now pushed through above the first thread and both threads are pulled tight. This process is continued to the end of the seam and then backstitched a few stitches to finish.
A basic kit would be an awl blade 2” (T11), a sewing awl handle (T10), a packet of needles no 2 or 3 (T26), a reel of 18/3 linen thread (TR14), a block of beeswax (C10). To this could be added an overstitch wheel 6 to 1”(T47) and then a pricking iron 1” 6 to 1” (T134).