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Types of Leather Stitches – Variations and When to Use Them

When creating more unique leather items, I follow video tutorials to help guide me through the process. One thing that always stands out is how crafters use different stitching techniques to achieve various construction methods. Lately, I have been introducing variations into my leather projects, adding creativity to my work. 

Types of leather stitches are the various ways you can bind leather pieces together with thread. Many styles exist, including single stitch, saddle stitch, cross stitch, baseball stitch, and box stitch. Each variation has its use and looks, allowing for different construction methods when sewing leather.

Leather can be sewn together uniquely using different stitching methods. Let’s look at the most common types of stitching and how they can benefit leather projects.

What Are Leather Stitches?

Leather stitches are the ways leather can be held together using thread. The method used when sewing leather produces a different look and can hold the material together differently. Standard stitching, including the single and saddle stitch, is the most common. 

It holds leather on top of each other in layers. Cross stitch, as well as baseball stitch, hold leather together that is side by side. This can help when wrapping items in leather. Box stitching lets leather be sewn together at 90°, allowing for sharp corners to be made when sewing leather together. 

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • History of Types of Leather Stitches
  • Common Types of Leather Stitches Overview Table
  • Types of Leather Stitches
  • Functional Types of Leather Stitches
  • Decorative Types of Leather Stitches
  • Durable Types of Leather Stitches
  • Types of Leather Stitches for Beginners
  • Types of Leather Stitches for Sewing Machines
  • Best Thread for Types of Leather Stitches
  • My Personal Research Into Types of Leather Stitches
  • Helpful Types of Leather Stitches Insights
  • Key Takeaways
Leather Sewing Supplies - Sewing Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Sewing Supplies

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

There is a lot of debate on which stitching method produces the strongest stitch. While changing the stitching method can help keep a stitch locked in, it does prevent the thread from breaking. All stitching methods have similar durability, with the main difference being how exposed they are to friction or wear. Increasing the thread size is the only way to achieve a stronger stitch. 

Doing so will increase the thread’s tensile strength, making it more durable. The popular saddle stitching method is not more durable than an interlocking thread method. The difference is rather repairability. 

Some stitching methods lock the thread in place so it will stay in place without coming undone if it breaks. Other methods do not have this and simply unwind. While this is a great help, the thread itself does not become stronger when using specific techniques. 

History of Leather Stitches

The history of sewing leather starts in the Stone Age. At this time, animal bones were used as needles, pushing through rough animal hides in a crude single-stitch method. Hand sewing quickly evolved through time. Ancient Egyptians were known for embroidery and creating popular stitching methods used today. 

However, innovation only began in the Middle Ages as seamstress became a high-value career. At this time, sewing needles were becoming standardized, and new stitching methods for construction were being used, including the double stitch, cross stitch, and baseball stitch. Today, these methods have been replaced with sewing machines, but those who choose to hand will benefit from centuries of techniques.

Types of Leather Stitches Overview Table

CharacteristicDetails
Single Stitch A single stitch uses one needle that moves front to back. This stitch is not very durable due to the gaps left between stitches. 
Saddle Stitch Saddle stitching uses two needles with a single thread to pass through the leather twice. This method is popular in leathercraft for its repairability due to the thread interlocking.
Box Stitch Box stitching passes through the leather at an angle while maintaining a straight look when sewn. It uses the saddle stitching method, with 45-degree holes to make corners.
Cross Stitch Cross stitching allows for leather to be sewn side by side. By using two needles and a single thread, this technique creates a cross over the top of the leather, pulling the pieces toward one another.
Baseball Stitch The baseball stitch is very similar to the cross stitch, using two needles and a single piece of thread. The baseball stitch, however, passes underneath the leather, creating the “v” shape with every stitch.
Types of Leather Stitches Characteristics

Common Types of Leather Stitches

Single Stitch

A single stitch is not very common in leathercraft. Using only a single needle, the thread is locked onto the leather by a knot. The thread then loops through the front and back in a leapfrog motion, creating gaps in the stitches. The single stitching method is unsightly and is outclassed in every way by the saddle stitch. 

Saddle Stitch

The saddle stitch is considered the standard sewing method for leathercrafters worldwide. This method uses two needles on a single piece of thread. During the sewing process, the needles will overlap, ensuring no gaps between stitches. 

This interlocking method helps secure the thread, making it easier to repair if a break occurs. Saddle stitching can look completely straight or have angled stitches. 

Stitching Leather With Two Needles - Sewing Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Stitching Leather With Two Needles

Cross Stitch

The cross stitch is one method for sewing leather pieces side by side. Holes are created parallel in both leather pieces, and two needles with a single thread connect them. One needle goes through the first hole on one piece, while the second goes through the first hole on the other piece of leather. 

They cross over each other on the backside, coming out in front of the opposite holes they entered. This process is completed until the stitch is finished. The resulting look will be parallel stitches on the front and repeating crosses on the back. This process can be reversed to have the crossing showing on the front of the leather. 

Box Stitch

Box stitching is often considered a gauge of a crafter’s ability. It requires precise awl work instead of pre-punched holes. The goal of the stitch is to connect two pieces of leather at a 90° angle, creating a corner where neither piece of leather is bent. 

This requires pushing an awl diagonally through the pieces of leather. The stitching method used with the holes is still a saddle stitch, but it may benefit from using curved needles to pass through the awl holes better. 

Baseball Stitch

Baseball stitching uses two needles and a single piece of thread connecting leather through parallel holes. This stitching method is similar to a cross stitch, with the main difference being that the baseball stitch only goes under the leather, never across. 

This helps pull the leather downward and together. When tightened, a baseball is best used for wrapping items. Since the stitch always goes under the leather, the leather is pulled tightly against the wrapped object. 

Leather Baseball Stitching - Leather Cross Stitch - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Baseball Stitching

Functional Types of Leather Stitches

The function of a leather stitch depends on the desired result. Single stitch and saddle stitch are functional ways to sew multiple leather pieces on top of one another. Similarly, cross stitch and baseball stitching attach leather side by side, with baseball stitching having the additional goal of pressing the leather against an object. 

Box stitching can be designed to be more functional in areas requiring sharp corners. If the stitching method achieves the goals, it can be considered functional regardless of its appearance.  

K. Phebe Aaron and B. Chandrasekaran, from the Central Leather Research Institute, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, in New Delhi, India, researched the impact different stitching methods can have on stitch strength, showing how some methods may be more functional by providing more tensile strength than others. 

Decorative Types of Leather Stitches

On the other hand, in stitching, many decorative elements are constantly being added to improve the final look of the stitch. Saddle stitching can be as straightforward as a row of thread; however, most crafters will try to achieve a diagonal stitch. 

While the slant does not affect the stitch’s function, crafters make different hole shapes and practice techniques to achieve a consistent slant. This is also true for methods like cross-stitch. 

While often the front side of the leather will have parallel sewing marks, they can be reversed to show the crosses on the front. All stitching methods can be changed in subtle ways to add decorative elements without changing the function of the stitch itself. 

Durable Types of Leather Stitches

Durable leather stitches will use two needles without exposed thread areas. This is typically saddle stitching, box stitching, and baseball stitching. All three of these methods use two needles for a single thread, helping lock the thread in place by intertwining while also limiting the amount of thread on the surface. 

The cross method, for example, will have long rows of exposed thread that is more likely to experience wear due to friction. However, the most important part when creating a durable stitching line is to use durable, thick thread. Thicker thread helps with tensile strength and has additional material to hold on to when friction occurs. 

Types of Leather Stitches for Beginners

While the single stitch method is the simplest for stitching, I suggest that new leather crafters learn the saddle stitch instead. At a basic level, the saddle stitch can be simple and similar to the single stitch method. By replacing the knot with a second needle, a saddle stitch will fill in the gaps that would otherwise be created with a single stitching method. 

Saddle stitching only requires the needles to follow each hole, causing them to intertwine as they pass each other. This will be enough to create a stitch that will last for decades and can be used on most leather projects. In addition, once new crafters improve, they can modify their saddle stitch to create a refined look, making the saddle stitch the perfect method for prolonged use at any level. 

Leather stitches are the ways leather can be held together using thread. The method used when stitching produces a different look and can also hold leather together in different ways.

Tips for Choosing Types of Leather Stitches

When choosing a stitching method for any project, it is important to determine the goal of the stitch. A single stitch or saddle stitch will be best if the leather is layered on top of one another. However, cross stitching or a baseball stitch is preferred if the leather needs to be sewn side by side. 

The second thing to consider is how durable the stitch needs to be. A single stitch might be simpler than a saddle stitch, but the gaps can cause durability issues. Similarly, a cross stitch might see more wear due to friction than other types. Ideally, a stitch that accomplishes these two goals will be the best choice for the project at hand. 

In this detailed video by Ethan Carter Designs, Carter shows off three types of leather stitching, explains their techniques, and shows how to use them in various projects.

Types of Leather Stitches for Sewing Machines

Sewing machines work much differently than the hand sewing methods used in leathercraft. The sewing machine pushes through the leather and creates a loop with the thread. A bottom thread is fed through the loop and tightened as the needle is pulled up. This is called a lockstitch. 

Although a sewing machine is much faster than hand sewing, the lockstitch created by machines is less durable. With a saddle stitch, the thread intertwines as it passes through the holes. On the other hand, the lock stitch holds the thread into place with a loop. 

If the stitching breaks on this type of sewing, nothing can stop the thread from completely unwinding. On the other hand, saddle stitching will lock the broken section in place, allowing for a spot repair rather than a full re-sew.

Best Thread for Types of Leather Stitches

While no thread is necessarily considered the best thread in leather craft, there are popular options to consider. Polyester and linen thread are the two most used types. Polyester benefits from added tensile strength and can be burned to lock the end of a thread. On the other hand, linen creates a more natural final look but must be glued or tied. 

Both leather threads will come in waxed or unwaxed variants. A waxed thread will be slightly more durable but can be stiffer to work with if there is too much wax, plugging up the holes in the leather. Unwaxed keeps the natural characteristics of the thread but may unwind on multi-piece threads. Lastly, thread size is important to consider when deciding what thread to use. A thicker thread will be stronger but may be more difficult to sew or be unsightly. 

My Personal Research Into Types of Leather Stitches

Having tried many different methods of stitching for leather projects, I’ve learned when to utilize each stitch. I would like to share some pros and cons of stitching popular methods.

Saddle Stitch  

There is no better standard stitching method than the saddle stitch. The single stitch method might be okay for fabrics, but it is completely outclassed on leather. The saddle stitch is perfect for most sewing tasks, attaching pieces of leather with a single row of holes punched through and creating a durable seam wherever it is used. 

It is versatile and may be improved to change its appearance or simplified for easier sewing. The saddle stitch will be used in almost all leather projects and can also be used for decoration, similar to leather embroidery. Its shortcomings are the difficulty it takes to master a perfect slant on both sides and the tangling that occurs when using long strands.

Cross Stitch

The cross stitch is an exciting way to attach two pieces of leather side by side. It can help create leather items that would otherwise be thick with overlapping layers. The cross stitch also provides visual flair, and it can be sewn in two ways to create two different looks. 

This stitching method is great for wrapping items or creating a continuous sleeve, as seen on items such as belt loops or mug wraps. However, the cross stitch has some flaws. The sewing method requires both pieces to be aligned perfectly with pre-punched holes. Leather can easily become misaligned when attempting to sew pieces together, so each stitch must be adjusted to provide the best look. 

In addition, this stitching method can have a small gap where the pieces are pressed together. Since the pieces are not overlapped, small items may fall through, although unlikely. In my experience, coins can eventually push through this gap. 

Box Stitch

Boxing stitching is a unique sewing method with a specific application to connect leather at a perfect right angle for items such as leather boxes. The main appeal of a box stitch is its ability to provide a clean, sharp silhouette. Box stitching is seen as a refined skill and can help make a more luxurious final product. 

Since box stitching still uses a saddle stitch, the sewing process is familiar. However, applying the stitching method can be tricky. The leather will need to be thick, around 6oz at the minimum. An awl blade must be used to pierce diagonal holes, which is both slow and requires accuracy. 

It is very easy to blindly misjudge where the awl is, running the stitch line. When sewing, tension can easily cause the box stitch to become deformed. Overall, the box stitch is an advanced sewing technique used at the highest level of leather working. 

Baseball Stitch

A less popular stitch used in leather craft is the baseball stitch. As the name suggests, it is the “v” thread pattern found on baseballs. This method is similar to the cross stitch with one main difference. Instead of the thread going over the top of the leather, it passes under. The baseball stitch is the perfect method for wrapping items in leather. 

Tension can be pulled tight to ensure the leather sits firmly on the item. This method is also a nice decorative touch to add to leather projects. The cons of the baseball stitch are similar to those of the cross stitch. Leather pieces must be aligned perfectly and constantly monitored to ensure the final results are consistent. Baseball stitching may also have issues with durability. The thread is exposed, allowing wear to affect the thread quicker than other stitching methods.

Conclusion

Every stitching method has its use in leather craft, and picking the right one can benefit a project. While the saddle stitch is the most popular, other methods may be better suited for more complex projects. Each method has strengths and weaknesses, with no “right” way to stitch together leather.

Sewing Leather - Sewing Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Leather

Helpful Types of Leather Stitches Insights

What type of stitch is used for leather?

The saddle stitch is the most commonly seen stitch used in leathercraft. It is used to permanently bond pieces of leather layered on one another. However, leather is not limited to this stitching, and box stitching, cross stitching, and baseball stitching all have their uses in leathercraft. Each method opens up design possibilities by changing how leather can be sewn.

What is the best way to stitch leather?

The best way to stitch leather depends on the stitch’s function. A saddle stitch is a great way to sew layered leather, but it can not be applied for pieces side by side. Other stitches, such as a baseball stitch or a cross stitch, can be used in these cases. With each stitch having its own applications, the key to the long-lasting stitch is using the right stitch at the right time.

How do you lock stitch leather?

The lock stitch method is limited to sewing machines. It works by pushing a threaded needle through the leather and having excess thread create a look. The thread on the back side of the leather will pass through the loop and be pulled into the hole when the needle is pulled out. The key to a lock stitch is to have enough tension to keep the threads tight inside the hole made.

Key Takeaways

  1. Each stitching method has its application where it works best.
  2. Saddle stitching is the best choice for beginners learning to hand-sew leather, as it is used by all levels of crafters.
  3. The type of thread used, along with the thickness, is the most important factor in determining a stitch’s durability. 

In Closing

Hand-stitching leather is an appealing leather working technique for those looking to get into the craft. Being able to create different projects without the need for machines helps keep the hobby accessible. Learning new hand-sewing techniques can change how leather can be designed and add additional design elements to a project.