Saddle-stitch Your Leatherwork to the Next Level with These 4 Prep Steps

Saddle-stitching is a time consuming process and a process that I enjoy every minute of. But because it takes so much time and effort to complete a good looking wallet, belt, handbag or any other leather good that is sewn completely by hand, it makes sense to spend some time on some preparation work.

And if you're asking yourself, “What kinda prep work?” then you definitely need to read this article.

I have broken out the preparation work into the 4 simple steps I take each time before sitting down to saddle-stitch.

Doing so will absolutely take your leatherwork to the next level.


Step 1 Create stitching guidelines on your project prior to marking your stitches.

Creating these guidelines ensures that you will create straight and evenly spaces stitches on your project. Having a physical line to follow with your stitching chisels or pricking irons will create a straight row of stitches. The more straight and evenly space your stitches are, the better end result you will have.  

Some people might skip this step and instead eyeball the stitch placement, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You can easily implement this step by using wing dividers or a drafting compass to create the guideline on your work. If you're not doing this already, the results might surprise you.  


Step 2 Create your stitching marks with stitching chisels or pricking irons.

Whether you choose to use stitching chisels or pricking irons, these are tools that will help you to produce beautiful even and slanted stitches.

Again, you can skip this step and use a nail to mark your stitches (i’ve seen that!) or some other tool that creates round holes to make your stitch holes but try using one of these tools instead if you want to elevate your work.

While using a nail or (some other non-specific tool) is a very resourceful workaround, it will work in the sense that you will be able to stitch through those holes, but if you’re interested in taking your work to the next level, I recommend using a tool that has slanted prongs as this is what will help you to create those beautiful slanted saddle-stitches that are a trademark of traditional leatherwork.


Step 3 Wax your thread.

By waxing your thread with beeswax you are creating a moisture barrier and preventing your leathergood from succumbing to damage from environmental elements or even a spilt coffee on your bag. 

Creating this moisture barrier is very important especially if you’re using linen thread because it will prevent or delay thread rot when your leather good is exposed to the elements for long periods of time.  

In my experience, waxing the thread also helps while i’m stitching because it makes the thread tacky and allows the stitches to lock into place, especially after you hammer your stitches during your finishing steps.


Step 4 Locking your thread on your needles.

Of course you have to thread your needles for saddle stitching but HOW to thread them is the question. When I sit down to stitch, I place 2 locking knots on each needle prior to saddle-stitching. And I’ve seen some people do even 3 knots!

No matter how many knots you make, it is clear that doing this is a huge time and frustration saver. By knotting your thread you ensure that it doesn’t slip off the needle during saddle-stitching. If you've ever experiences the thread slipping off the needle during saddle-stitching then you know exactly how frustrating it can be to have to stop what you’re doing and rethread your needles every few stitches.


These are the 4 steps to take before saddle-stitching if you want to saddle-stitch your leatherwork to the next level. Try them out for yourself and see if you can notice your work jumping to the next level.

Do you have any of your own prep steps? Leave them in the comments below!