How does an automatic sewing awl work?

Written by melissa mccormick
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How does an automatic sewing awl work?
A sewing awl is a hand-held leather stitcher. (cross stitch embroidery image by vnlit from

An automatic sewing awl or stitching awl is a hand-held tool used to stitch heavy-duty materials such as leather or canvas. The sewing awl can handle materials that you should avoid using on a traditional sewing machine.

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A sewing awl features a small handle for control and a metal shaft with interchangeable needles. Each needle features an eye at the tip to pull thread through -- usually a waxed thread. Once the thread is in place, and the sewing awl is placed on the material, the tool automatically creates a lock stitch and the user begins to guide the hand held tool in the same fashion as if using a sewing machine.


Because sewing awls are made for stitching thick materials such as leather and canvas, the tool is popular for mending items such as shoes, bags, jackets and other heavy-duty products. The sewing awl is also often used by shoemakers and is even sometimes used in the print industry to bind books.


Be sure you have the appropriate needles and thread on hand for the material you will be stitching. For heavy canvas or shoes stick with a regular needle and 0.8 millimetre waxed thread. For light canvas, bags and jackets use a fine needle with 0.5 millimetre waxed thread. For materials such as thin leather use a very fine needle with polyester thread.

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