Light Weight Leather

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 fitted with a leather needle will handle clothing weight leather. Always use a long stitch to avoid weakening the seam.

Heavy Weight Leathers

When sewing heavy leathers by hand a 'saddle stitch' is often used. This method makes a 'lock stitch' which is far superior in strength and durability to the sewing machine 'chain stitch'.

Needles are not strong enough to pierce thick hide so the first thing to do is to make the holes.

This is either done with a “pricking iron” or a hand awl. The pricking iron 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 inc.

If your piece of work has seams which are all straight lines then a pricking iron is a quick option to mark and make the stitch holes. If your piece has curved edges then working freehand with an overstitch wheel and an awl to make the holes will be easier.

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 may not be quite as neat but is just as strong - plus freehand work with an awl is much easier if your piece has any curved seams.

A length of linen thread is now cut that is around three times the length of the seam to be sewn. Then a saddler’s blunt needle is threaded onto each end of the thread. A saddler’s awl with a diamond blade can be used to open up the holes cut by the pricking iron prior to stitching.

Saddle stitching

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 by a 3 or 4 stitches to finish.

A basic kit for saddle stitching would be:,br>
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)
an overstitch wheel (6 stitches to the inch is a good all rounder) (T47).