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leather shapes leather shapes



Hand-crafted, and decorative leatherwork. How is it done?

Should you have perhaps read some of my other pages you've probably got an inkling already of what is involved. On the other hand if you've never seen a piece of hand-tooled, hand-crafted leatherwork, you could be in for a surprise. Tooling leather is not like garment leather. This is because it is split from the whole hide so that it can be cut into, and shaped, by the appropriate hand-tools. Its extra thickness ensures it is longer lasting and durable than the thin, machine-sewn leathers used to make modern, chain-store or holiday-abroad-souvenir bought wallets and purses etc. Most of these purchases are articles made from what is in many respects "man-made leather".  Manufacturers use leather fibres compacted under high pressure with adhesives to make sheets of "leather", rather in the manner of the timber industry making particle boards.


Having an article made for you by a leather craftsman is an entirely different experience. Tooling leather, of some thickness, say ¹/8", would be used as the outer part of an article like a purse or a wallet, and would have a thinner leather for the inside parts. Though even these thinner leathers are more substantial and durable than the average shop-bought items in their entirety.

Any article, like a wallet, that has multiple parts, needs to be stitched together, and it's done using one or more of three methods. The thinner inner pieces are sewn either by hand, which is my preference, or with a household sewing machine, though a different type of needle is required, and is only possible with the thinnest of leathers. Next would be the saddle stitch. For this a waxed thread is used, with two needles and an awl, alternating through the seam to be stitched. This ensures a strong, tight stitch, between two or more pieces of leather, irrespective of the thickness of the leather.

diagram showing thread formation using single hand sewing

diagram showing thread formation using double hand sewing

Thread formation using single hand sewing

Thread formation using double hand sewing

illustration of hand-stitching

illustration of machine stitching


           Machine stitching

Sewing, in general, can be accomplished with either one needle, and is known as single hand sewing, or two needles, which not unsurprisingly, is called double hand sewing, and I've endeavoured with the diagrams above to illustrate the difference. The benefit of hand-stitching can clearly be seen in the diagrams above. When the machine stitched thread is broken, the stitch will undo itself for several stitches. The thread on both sides will be loosened. When the hand-stitched thread is broken, the stitch loosens on one side only with the other thread still firmly holding the leather together.

Hand stitching and saddle stitching


How to thread and use the sewing awl
Unscrew the top of the awl handle to find needles, nut and wrench/screwdriver. With the screwdriver end of the wrench, unscrew the bolt holding the thread spool. Remove the spool from the awl and run the end of the thread through the chuck opening. Replace the spool on the awl. Put a needle in the chuck with the needle groove on the same side that the thread comes off the reel. With the wrench, tighten the chuck with nut holding needle. Thread the needle, being sure it follows the groove on needle.

1. Put the thread through the needle and extend its length to about ½" inch past the needle point. Hold forefinger loosely on the reel so it is still able to turn.

2. Insert threaded needle through the leather.

3. On opposite side of leather, grasp the end of the thread and pull out to a length of about 18", or twice the distance of the seam you wish to sew.

4. With loose end of thread in one hand, grasp the awl firmly with the other. (Hold the reel with your forefinger to prevent it turning.) Withdraw the awl from leather so that there is 1½" of thread between leather and the point of needle. In this position, release the reel and begin the second stitch by inserting the needle at the proper distance through the leather for the length of the stitch desired. Now slowly withdraw the needle part way out, holding reel with finger so it will not turn. This will form a loop on the opposite side of the groove in the needle.

5. Insert the loose end of the thread through the loop, holding the reel firmly so that it will not turn. Pull the awl and thread with equal force in opposite directions to form the stitch. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the entire length of the seam.

6. To end the seam, insert the awl needle through the leather and pull the thread approximately 3". Cut the thread a ½" from the needle and pull it from the leather. Tie the remaining two threads together in a knot.


How to thread and use the Speedy Stitcher

To set up
* Unscrew the chuck lock to find the needles.
* Pull the end of the thread from bobbin through the hole in the handle.
* Loop the thread around the tension post as shown.


* Continue thread along handle groove and through ferrule hole as shown.
* Place needle in threaded post making sure that grooves in needle and threaded post are in alignment with each other.
* Pass thread through the eye of the needle, then through chuck lock as shown.
* Screw chuck lock onto threaded post and tighten securely.

To stitch
* Push needle through material and draw out enough thread to do the length of work involved, plus about 3" more.
* Draw thread through material so that the full length of thread is pulled through the hole in which the needle rests.
* Hold thread in position and pull needle back through the material and start it through a second hole.

* Push needle as far as it will go, then draw back enough so that the thread forms a loop as shown.
* Pass all of the thread through the loop.
* While holding the thread taut in one hand, draw the needle out with the other hand. This forms a lock-stitch in the material.
* Draw equally hard on the awl and the loose end of the thread.

How to use the Speedy Stitcher

* Before taking another stitch, release more thread between the needle and the material to allow you to move the awl back and start the next hole.
* Continue the same procedure until finished.
* After you have finished your stitching, use the following procedure to tie off the thread. On your last stitch, instead of passing thread through the loop, grasp the loop and pull out about
   3" of thread. Cut the thread, then pull awl and needle out of the material. Now you have both ends of the thread on the same side of the material for tying off. Use a square knot.


The Single-loop Stitch

The single-loop stitch is mainly for use on lightweight leathers or single thickness projects where only a small amount of  ³/32" lace going through ³/32" slits is required to cover the edge. The amount of lace required for single-loop lacing is 6½ times the length of your project. So, if, for example the part to be laced comes to 18" then it will need 9' 9" of lace.

Starting with Fig 1 begin at the top pushing your lace through the front side and leaving a tail piece some ¾" long. As illustrated in Fig 2 fold the end up and loop the lace around continuing to hold until the first stitch has been tightened. Figure 3 shows the lace going through the second slit and at the same time you must ensure the smooth side of it is facing you. Pull up snugly.

Following on from the preceding figure in Fig 4 thread the needle and lace under the lace as shown keeping it flesh side up without twisting. Tighten slightly as before. The first two stitches as seen in Fig 5 should not be too tight as they will need to be adjusted in the latter part of the proceedings. Carry on lacing like this until reaching a corner slit. Observe now in Fig 6 that having continued lacing as before you now need to lace through the three corner slits twice each as indicated. Meanwhile as in Fig 7 you must go under each loop on the corner. Carry on lacing to the beginning.

In Fig 8 you'll see the lace has gone through the last slit and under the last loop. Now you must the stylus end of a modelling tool under the end of the lace. Figure 9 shows how the end of the lace has been pulled out of the loop. Keep the loose loop. Next in Fig 10 put the stylus between the leathers hooking over the end of the lace as depicted. In Fig 11 we carefully pull up the stylus and slowly pull the end of the lace out of its slit and up between the leathers.

Observe in Fig 12 how to push the needle, very carefully, down through the loop. Continue through the slit as shown in Fig 13 and bring it up between the leathers without twisting. Next, in Fig 14, the stitches have to be adjusted by working and pushing the stitches together using your fingers. In Fig 15 the stitches are shown as having been pulled up snugly and adjusted so that they give an overall appearance of evenness.

The illustration in Fig 16 is of the ends being neatly trimmed off from the flesh side. The lacing can now be gently tapped flat using a wooden mallet or similar device. Further to the previous Figs 17 to 19 illustrate the procedures followed when not lacing all the way round a project, starting for example with Fig 9 of the Whipstitch on page 39 (Here) then coming under the first stitch as shown here. Whe it comes to the ending go through the last slit,  under the loop, then hrough the last slit in the front only emerging between the leather and back a few stitches. Finally (Fig 19) for single-loop lacing on a single thickness of leather, make sure you capture the beginning tail of the lace under the first few stitches on the back, ending by running the needle back under the last few stitches on the back of the leather.

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leather shapes leather shapes