11 Oct 2015

Sewing leather using the saddle stitch

Sewing is a big part of this project so I will show you how I do the basic saddle stitch. This stitching is as much a design element on the bag as anything else. Taking your time making sure that you are performing the exact same motion over and over again ensures a consistent stitch. There are many different preference regarding the appearance of the final stitch where non is more correct than the other. I prefer a slanted stitch without the use of a stitching groove.

You have already seen how I scribe a line with the wing divider and mark the holes with the pricking iron so I'll skip that part.

I prefer to pierce the holes with the awl before sewing. I found that this way I get a straight line of holes on the back side as oppose to making one hole at a time. If I make the holes while the piece is in the stitching clamp I hold a cork on the back side to prevent the leather from distorting. An alternative is to have the piece laying on the table with a large piece of cork or underneath.

One of the keys to nice even stitching is to make each hole at a 45ยบ angle. This off course only makes sense if you use a diamond shaped awl. To help insure a constant angle I have made a small dot with a marker on my awl shaft. When piercing this dot has to point upwards. Some people use a round awl or a dremel with a small drill bit to make the holes. I have never tried it but I know I will not be able to archive the look I want using these methods.

Go through the pictures for descriptions of each step or simply watch the video. The gunk you see on the awl when I pierce the leather is small pieces of contact cement. That happens when the cement becomes to thick. There are two solutions to this problem. Buy new contact cement or put thinner in it. I chose the first.

Lay the thread along the edge that you wish to stitch. In this case it is all the way around. Multiply this length by 4 and a little extra to get the final length of the thread.
 With a knife thin out the ends.
 Apply beeswax to the entire length of the thread by dragging it across while holding it down with the thumb.
 Thread the needle and poke through the thread 2 times.
 Then pull it down.
 Hold the cork on the back side.
This cork has been used alot so the center is gone. This actually makes it better as the awl dont have any extra resistance.
 Pierce the leather with the awl. Make sure that the dot on the awl haft is pointing straight up.
Extrude the awl. I like to use my index finger to hold against the leather when extruding.
 You see that the awl blade is at 45° angle to the black dot.
 After inserting the thread in the first hole hold the needles together.
 Pull the needles upwards so that the tread is centred.
 Insert the needle from the left hand side first.
 Place the right hand needle underneath.
 Hold tight.
 And pull the needle through.
 Put your pinky finger on top of the thread and pull slightly down.
 While you pull down the thread insert the needle on top of the thread.
 Push the needle thorugh.
 Cast the thread over the needle.
 Pull the needle through.
 Pull the thread and when it is almost all the way through pull the left hand side upwards and away and the right hand side down and towards yourself.
 Pull the stitch tight.


  1. Thank you so much for showing this details. the most videos I found on Youtube peeople have the fingers in front av camera while they stitchin :) not good! here I can see cleary how you do. thank you

  2. I don´t know what is happening :( in the beginning it looked so good but then started to look flat, the angle disapperead. Im using pricking iron 9 and lin Cable 632. Do you have some idea what is wrong to help me? Thank you a lot !!

    1. Well if they were good before then I guess that something has changed. Is the leather you are sewing now thinner than before? When sewing thin leather it is hard to get a slanted stitch on both sides.

      Here you can see how the back side looks

    2. I have the same problem of getting flat line at the back. The front shows good zig-zag pattern. I looked into VDOs of stitching teaching available on earth, but not successful. I copied all technics and make researches, but have no idea. But his remarks on using thin leather made lots of senses because I mainly use thin leather. Thanks a lot to help solve my long unsolved problem.

  3. And could you post a picture how it looks on the back side? :)

  4. It looks reaaly nice. I practced all weekend...and it´s much better now :) Thank you to post this so clear. I noticed that with thiner leather its harder to get good results... Your work is Beautiful btw. I want to make card sleves and wallets...but I have a long way to go (learn) Thank you one more time :)

  5. Hi Andersen, your stitching method is the nicest I've found. I'm struggling to get even holes on the backside going through with the diamond awl, especially going through 4 bits of 1.5mm leather... I guess it's probably lack of technique at this stage?

    1. Thank you!
      When going through thick leather it is very difficult to get the backside straight.

      You are right that it's mainly a question of technique. What helped me the most is making all the holes before sewing. Making one hole at a time requires much more skill.

      If you see in the video "making holes" you see that my hand does not very much. I keep the elbow locked and the movement comes mainly from the shoulder. This helps to ensure that the holes are straight.

      Sometimes it is easier to make the holes with the piece laying on the table with a thick piece of cork underneath.