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Getting Started on Leather Crafting

Posted by Terri Cocanougher on

Leather is a durable and traditional piece of material. It's waterproof, long lasting, and an integral part of human history. If you want to enjoy the craft of leather working, but aren't sure where to start, here are some steps you can take.

Firstly, you must gather all the materials to create your leather item. The four most important parts are the needle, thread, wax, and awl. You'll need at least two needles for a proper saddle thread, which we'll get to later in the article. The thread can be dependent on your stitch length; they recommend at least a few feet to work with. Wax is essential for coating the thread while sewing as well as tapering the ends for easy casting on your needles. Your awl may sound like the most pretentious of the four items, but it's probably something you already have in your house.

The needle is not any old sewing needle; it's usually called a darning needle. Depending on your work, it should generally be much larger and stronger and have a wider eye for special thread. You can find these kinds of needles online or in specialty stores.

The thread is much more flexible to find; any sturdy polyester thread is perfect for leather. However, if you choose to buy thread, it can be quite expensive. At $40 to the pound, if you can find any spare thread from packaging or hardware stores it saves you tons of money.

When searching for wax, make sure you invest. Wax is essential for lubricating the threading as well as keeping the stitching durable for years to come. Beeswax is highly recommended, but candle and paraffin wax work in a pinch.

The awl can be fashioned from any sharp object capable of making a clean cut hole through the leather you're working on. Some examples might be ice picks, forks, or even purchasing awls at shoemaker or crafting specialty stores.

As for the act of threading, most want to start with the saddle stitch. You will see this on almost every leather item somewhere. The stitch is ascetically pleasing on both sides of leather and can hold together even the thickest of leather pieces. This stitch is also one of the easiest to learn!

Leatherworking - Saddle Stitch Steps

1. Lubricate your thread with wax from tip to tip, and take a sharp edge to your ends to create a tip. Then thread each end to their own needle, and pass the needle through the body of the thread so that you create a closed loop. Both needles should have zero knots in them, yet you should have a loop enclosing the eye of the needle in the thread.

2. Take your two pieces of leather and create holes with your awl that are the same distance apart from each other as the thickness of your leather. For example, if your leather is 1/6" thick, make your spacing 6 holes per inch. 

3. Take the first needle and thread from the bottom to the top. Switch the first and second needle position as you move to each new hole. Tie off when finished with stitch.

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