How to hand sew thick leather

How to hand sew thick leather

Prerequisite:

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 Wheel, Stitching Groover, Sewing Awl, 2 Needles, Waxed Thread and any kind of scissors.
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.

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.


Let’s get started:


38 thoughts on “How to hand sew thick leather

  1. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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

    1. 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

  2. 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

    1. 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

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

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. 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?

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. how, I am wondering how to get such a clamp setup to hold the leather piece vertically as you have shown in the photos. Also, Hobby Lobby has waxed cotton thread. Is that suitable if I am trying to make just a laptop sleeve?

    1. You can look around for a stitching pony or stitching horse (or plans to make one yourself). There are a few variations available depending on the size you might need.

      Waxed cotton thread sounds good for a laptop sleeve. I’m not familiar with what Hobby Lobby has (since I’m in Australia) but if it’s waxed thread for hand-sewing, it’s probably good for the job

  9. Hi Attila, what are you thoughts on awls that have thread built-in? I’ve used one, but without the groover or wheel so the stiches aren’t as clean. It seems to make the same stitch but I’m not sure if getting the stitches straight is enough for a more professional-look. Is having separate thread and awl better?

    1. Hi Alvin, I used one of them once for about 5 minutes and didn’t like it at all. Pretty much a waste of money for this type of work. I think it’s best to learn how to sew using 2 needles and an awl (or stitching chisel). Much cleaner and more durable result.

  10. Instead of a groover and stitching wheel…I use old forks I bought at a flea market. I lay the fork with one tine on the leather and the tine next to it along the edge of the leather, and drag it around to create a clean line. Then I bring the fork up and press it along the line I created to make indents showing where I need to pierce.

  11. Great site! Is there any way to estimate the length of thread needed for a given number of stitches, at a particular pitch? Many thanks.

    1. Thanks Ken! Generally I use around 4 times the length of the area to be sewn and it works out fine for most sizes of stitches and material thicknesses.

  12. Thanks for this and other great tutorials. I’ve just recently started to work with leather and noticed that you use the kind of leather I can’t find in stores. What they sell is a textured dyed leather, not this smooth light-brown one. Is it simply not yet dyed leather?
    And if I may ask, can you tell if there is a difference in how hard you pull the threads. It seems that during my last stiching I pulled it too hard and the edges became somewhat distorted.
    Thank you very much!

    1. The main leather here is vegetable tanned full grain leather. It’s used for things like saddles and similar sturdy things and is much stiffer than upholstery or garment leather. You should be able to find it in a leathercraft store or maybe even direct from a tannery in your area.

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