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How to Hand Stitch Leather and Canvas

Updated April 17, 2017

Hand stitching leather and canvas uses similar techniques. Heavy duty sewing machines are often used to sew canvas, but it can be sewn with the same stitches used in leather work. Holes need to be punched in very thick materials before a needle can be passed through any tough fabric. Space your stitches to match the texture and function of your heavy fabric creation.

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  1. Measure a piece of linen thread that is an arm's length.

  2. Pass the thread across beeswax several times to wax it.

  3. Bring 5 inches of thread through a needle's eye and twist it around the primary strand.

  4. Form a locking backstitch to begin a seam. This stitch starts an inch from the edge of the seam. Skipping a few hole in leather work will place your needle in the correct position for this initial stitch. Make a few stitches in the opposite direction of your planned stitching path.

  5. Stitch forward in your desired direction, through the same holes you just sewn. This will lock the stitches. Do this whenever you run out of thread.

  6. Use a chisel punch or hand awl to punch holes in heavy leather before stitching. A triangular needle, called a glover's needle, is used with soft leather. You do not need to make holes in soft leather prior to stitching.

  7. Assure correct alignment of leather pieces by gluing them together before stitching. Use a leather glue such as leather weld. Heavy leather sheaths benefit from this gluing.

  8. Punch consistent holes, so your seams stay flat and pucker free.

  9. Thread a needle and pass it up through the fabric from the back to the front.

  10. Guide the needle down through the material in the next hole or make equidistant spaces between your canvas stitching. The running stitch appears to be a dashed line of stitches.

  11. Reverse stitching at the end of a seam and stitch backward making a continuous line:

  12. Do this with seams that will be stressed.

  13. Thread two needles onto a strand of waxed linen thread. Leave the needles at each end of the strand with a few inches of the thread.

  14. Bring one needle through the first stitch to the middle of the strand. This will be the first aligned hole for heavy leather pieces.

  15. Pass a needle through the next stitch and bring the other needle up through the same hole, from the opposite side of the material.

  16. Pull both needles until the stitch is tight.

  17. Apply equal tension to make these stitches to the end of the seam line.

  18. Work with your fabric perpendicular to the floor and between your knees, for greatest ease in sewing the saddle stitch.

  19. Thread one needle with a double strand of waxed linen.

  20. Bring the needle through the first stitch or hole, depending on your fabric.

  21. Push the needle through the next stitch from the same side as the first stitch. Place these stitches close together. This will create a circular stitch that whips around the edge of the seam.

  22. Pull each whip stitch taut.

  23. Tip

    A thimble or a pad of leather placed in the palm protects the hand and fingers, while stitching heavy fabrics.

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Things You'll Need

  • Linen thread
  • Beeswax
  • Chisel punch
  • Hand awl
  • Glover's needle
  • Leather weld glue

About the Author

Patti Perry is currently attending West Virginia University and expanding her knowledge base. She has worked as a freelance visual artist for 30 years, with specialties in watercolor and scherenschnitte. Originality of creation is her motivation and she continues to pursue this avenue in her writing. Perry is currently contributing articles to eHow.

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