Things you’ll need:

Basic:

To start out, you’ll need your leather pieces (whatever project you’re working on or maybe just some scrap to practice on), a Stitching WheelStitching GrooverSewing Awl, 2 Needles, Waxed Thread and any kind of scissors.

Even more basic:

If you’re only sewing one project and you don’t want to buy too many tools, you could start out with only a Sewing Awl, 2 Needles, Waxed Thread and scissors. To get even stitches, you would have to make sure that you mark each stitch by hand (using a ruler or something similar). It’s very important to have even stitching with a constant distance to the edge as well as constant stitch length.

Step 1: Glueing leather pieces

Glueing the pieces in place helps with your sewing because you won’t have to worry about the leather not lining up. Use any leather glue you can find.

Step 2: Stitching Groove (optional)

If you have a stitching groover, use it to create the groove along which you’ll sew. If you don’t have one, you could mark a line with a ruler and any tool you can find that can leave a slight mark on the leather. You will need a guide to sew along if you want it to look even!

Step 3: Mark Stitch Spacing (optional)

If you have a stitching wheel, mark the spacing like you can see it in the photo. Without one, you could use the awl to lightly mark the leather at even distances. Again, this is important preparation to get an even and professional look.

Step 4: Prepare Thread & Needles

Prepare your 1 thread with 2 needles (one on each end). Check out this tutorial for more details.

Step 5: Pierce the leather with the awl

Note: I’m using a stitching pony in the photos. You won’t need one to start with or if you only do a few projects but it helps to hold your leather in place while sewing.

The leather is very thick and you’ll have to pierce the holes using an awl. When doing so, make sure you always hold it straight and don’t pierce the leather at an angle. You can use your left hand to support the leather on the other side if it moves too much.

Step 6: Pull first needle through

Pull the needle through the hole until you are at the centre of the thread (each side should have the same amount of thread).

Note: I’m going to refer to the needle in your right hand as needle 2 and the one in your left hand as needle 1.

Step 7: At the second hole

Pierce another hole next to the previous one with your awl and push the left needle (needle 1) through while holding the needle 2 behind it.

Once you pulled needle 1 through the hole, twist your right hand (holding both needles) towards you and push needle 2 through the same hole as the thread. Be careful not to pierce the thread!

Here’s another view:

Make sure to always pierce the needle next to the thread (closer towards you) to make the stitches more even.

The rotation creates a knot that can now be pulled through the leather:

Step 8: pull the thread tight & repeat previous step (Step 7) for each stitch

Step 9: At the end of the stitch

When you’re finished, make sure to backstitch 2 holes into the direction where you started to secure the thread. You can use your awl to enlarge the existing holes.

 

Step 10: Finishing

Cut the threads close to the leather.

If you’re using polyester thread or unwaxed thread that might start fraying, you can burn the ends of the thread to melt them. That will keep them from fraying. Be careful not to mark or burn the leather!

Finished!

If you have a stitching wheel, you can run over the stitch again to even them out even more. It helps to give your project a better look and feel! Here’s a closeup of a piece of hand sewn leather scrap:

 

25 Responses to “How to hand sew thick leather”

  1. Boot Repair Under Duress

    […] on Glue shows step by step how to do a hand sewn lock stitch. Theirs is on thick heavy leather but the same stitch can be used to hand sew thin garment […]

    Reply
  2. Vakuoli

    Thank you for the tutorial! Much appreciated.

    Reply
  3. Tina

    Great tutorial! You did a great job showing the steps. Very informative!

    Reply
  4. PATTY

    CAN I USE WAXED DENTAL FLOSS????????

    Reply
    • Attila

      Hmm, I have not tried that but it should work!? Interesting thought!

      BTW, you can also use normal polyester thread (unwaxed)

      Reply
  5. beth

    Wonderful tutorial with great photos!
    I’m trying to find information on how to stitch two pieces together that would lay flat side by side rather than one top of the another, any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Attila

      Hi Beth, there are different ways to do that. For example you could go with an X pattern. Hopefully that makes sense… It’s a bit hard to explain without photos. I’ll add that to a future post.

      Reply
    • Howard Sampson

      Hi Beth,
      I made a hat 20 years ago with a stitch that shows only on one side. The other side has an almost invisible joint where the two pieces butt together, just as you describe. I don’t remember how I did it and it seems an impossible stitch as I look at it now. I’ll email you pictures of both sides, if you like; maybe you can figure it out and tell ME.
      How

      Reply
  6. Dawn Kerber

    What is the vice or tool holding the leather? Please show a picture of it.

    Reply
    • Attila

      Hi Dawn, that’s a stitching pony or stitching horse. They come in different sizes (small ones you can have on a table or up to large ones with a chair/bench attached). You can find them at any leathercraft store or at places like weaver… Or you can make your own

      Reply
  7. Marius

    Hi Attila,

    Excellent Tutorial thank you very much! This really helped me get into it! How do you get your stitching to line up perfectly on both sides? Meaning, my stitching lines up perfectly on the side that i push the awl through but then on the other side it’s less in line? Do you press the awl through from both sides or what? Thanks so much.

    Marius

    Reply
    • Attila

      Hi Marius, that’s great to hear!
      Re: lining up both sides: Depending on the pieces that I want to sew, I might for example pre-punch the holes on both sides (you can use a stitching punch or chisel for that) or when I push the awl through from one side, I’m watching the other side and make sure that it comes through where the stitch is marked. This obviously only works if you run the stitching wheel on both sides and make sure that you have the same number of stitches on both sides, too.

      Hope that helps
      Attila

      Reply
  8. lasers & leather - envelope wallet | | where tech & DIY intersect

    […] For tips on how to sew your leather, check out this awesome tutorial by High on Glue. […]

    Reply
  9. Shine

    Do you have any suggestions for binding two edges when putting heavy leather around an object. Like leather around a 1/2 ” dowl

    Reply
  10. Shine

    Hi Marius!!! Thanks for the great lesson. I would also like to know how to sew a flat seam for thick leather. Also, do you have a formula for measuring the length of cord used?

    Reply
  11. Kirsten

    Hi, Thanks for the lesson! Quick question – when you put needle 2 through, then right next to it punch needle 1 through. Does needle 2 go through the needle 1 hole? Silly question but want to be clear.

    Thanks!!!!
    K

    Reply
  12. Steve

    Hi,
    I am stitching three pcs of thick leather for a knife sheath using chisel punch but the back side never comes out even. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Attila

      Hey Steve, there are a couple of ways to make sure both sides are clean. The easiest is probably using something like a drill press and pre-drill the holes (and then run over it again with the stitching wheel to clean it up).
      You could also try to pre-punch the holes on each layer separately. Aligning the layers might end up being tricky though…
      If you’re using an awl, you could try and closely look at the back side to make sure you exit the leather in the right position (with pre-marked stitching hole positions).

      Those are the main things I’d try first. If it’s really thick, your best bet is probably the drill press.

      Reply
  13. Dave Fustin

    Very good instruction thank you.

    Reply
  14. Ivy

    Your tutorial is very detailed. I love it. Thank you for the instructions and the images. They help a lot in learning how to make leather crafts.

    Reply
  15. Mike

    Great tutorial! Is that a diamond or round awl being used?

    Reply

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