Hand Stitching Basics
Before the Industrial Revolution and before sewing machines, all leather goods were handsewn by artisans. For the early pioneers, a well-made pair of leather boots meant the difference between surviving a blizzard or dying of hyphothermia. The hand sewing technique those artisans used is called saddle stitching.
What is Saddle Stitching
Saddle stitching is sewing by hand with needles and thread in a way that creates two rows of stitching in one single row of holes.
Saddle stitching is done with only a few feet of thread at a time and must be made by hand. To create each stitch, the entire thread serpentines two times through the layers of leather.
For the machine-sewn, lock stitch, 2 separate spools of thread are used. A sewing machine passes a small loop of thread through the top of the leather which interlocks with the thread from the bottom of the leather.
Although using sewing machines is much faster and cheaper, a major stress point is created where the top thread interlocks with the bottom thread. This is where a machine-sewn wallet always breaks first. Those 2 small threads are constantly trying to cut one another—the same way fishing line cuts into your hand when you hold a fish by the line.
The handsewn saddle stitch creates leather goods that last much longer. In addition to using thicker thread with hand stitching, each stitch is made up of two strong, independent, stitches. Unlike the lock stitch which will completely unravel, if a thread does break, the saddle stitch will still hold together.
You know how a loose thread on a t-shirt unravels if you pull on it? That’s because it was sewn with a machine using a lock stitch.