How to hand stitch leather
By hand not by machine. This is the focus for my work.
I wanted to give some information on how to hand stitch leather, so that you can see the whole process. This will give you an insight into the time it takes to create a product. I believe that you should buy well and buy once, therefore taking away the necessity to over buy and so reduce waste. When you hand stitch a leather item you are ensuring strong stitching and a long life for the product. The edges of the product are burnished to give extra protection to the stitches.
The best way to perfect your hand stitching is to practise. Also invest in a set of stitching clams, this will hold the leather firmly while you stitch.
Before you start stitching it is important to prepare the piece of leather. For this you will need some hand tools. These are wing dividers, stitch markers, a rawhide mallet, an awl, beeswax thread and harness needles.
Preparing to stitch
First take your wing dividers and run them along the edge of the leather where you would like to stitch. This gives you a clear straight line in which to mark the stitches.
Next take your stitch markers and place them along the stitch line. Using a rawhide mallet strike the handle of the stitch markers to make an impression in the leather. Using the last hole of the stitch mark as a guide move the marker along until you have marked out all the stitches.
Now you are ready to stitch!
Place the leather in the jaws of the clam, this will hold it firmly so that you can use both hands.
Prepare your thread. Your length of thread needs to be four times the length of the piece you want to stitch. Take a block of beeswax and run it along the thread until it is well coated, then thread a harness needle onto each end.
Take your awl and pierce the hole furthest away from you. Push a needle through the hole and centre the thread by bringing both needles up in front of you until they are an equal height. Pierce the next hole moving towards you. Push the needle in with your left hand first but don’t pull the thread all the way through, then push the right hand needle through the bottom part of the hole. Check your thread to ensure you haven’t pierced the thread when passing through the hole. Hold the thread near to the leather and pull firmly.
Repeat the process until you reach the end of the row.
When you reach the end back stitch two stitches to ensure a strong finish. Make sure that both needles are on the back side of your work and cut off the thread.
Why not use a machine?
From the outside you will probably think why not use a machine? its much quicker and therefore more efficient. I choose to hand stitch for several reasons: in todays market of mass produced products it is less likely to find something that is genuinely handmade. I believe that you should buy a product that is made to last, a thing of beauty, an item to be treasured. As consumers we need to move away from fast fashion and support our local shops and makers. That way we can really know and appreciate where the item has come from.
Hand stitching an item makes it really strong and long lasting, by stitching this way I can ensure a quality item. The same can not be said of machine stitching. When hand stitching you are using one length of thread at a time, creating a running stitch. Therefore should the thread break in any way it will not unravel ensuing that your leather item will last a long time.