• Jess

Hand stitching leather

Most people are surprised when I tell them that I do not own a sewing machine. Particularly when they watch me sewing at top speed and see quite how… well, slow, the process is.

Time consuming it may be, but there are real benefits to hand sewing leather goods. I love the fact that I am using tools and techniques that have been used for hundreds of years, borne from necessity and function. My mum was a saddler and I have ‘borrowed’ most tools and equipment from her, so many of my tools are at least 40 years old and still going strong.

While it is a pleasure to be able to work in a time-honoured method, more importantly, this way of working ensures greater strength and durability than machine sewing. The thread used is thicker, often made from linen, and waxed to protect the stitches. Due to the way in which the stitches link together during hand sewing, if one thread snaps or wears away, the others will hold firm – no unravelling of stitches on your handbag (and rather vital if it’s on your saddle!)

Saddle stitch is achieved using a piece of thread with a needle at each end. The leather is held together with stitching clams and each hole is individually pierced using a sharp diamond shaped awl. Each needle passes through the hole in opposite directions, forming a running stitch reaching the length of the project. Good saddle stitching produces beautiful evenly spaced stitches, set on a slight angle. Different effects can be made using carefully selected sizes of stitch, thread types, needle size and hole placement.

This slow, methodical way of working is, for me, calming – giving me time to think, check the leather repeatedly and plan. It fascinates onlookers and can be a little hypnotic!

The overall result is a unique, beautiful and long lasting effect. Slower, demanding more patience, but worth it in the end!