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How to Sew Leather (and Other Tough Materials)

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Michael Magnus.

It may seem like sewing is an exclusively feminine pursuit (outside the tailoring profession), but dating back to the Paleolithic age, rudimentary sewing techniques were a vital necessity for staying alive. Sewing isn’t just about making decorative doilies, but also knowing how to quickly stitch something together for survival with minimal gear and maximum strength. 

You’ve probably noticed that when you tear a seam on your clothing, it’s easy to accidentally end up tearing out at least 5 or 6 stitches. This is because sewing machines utilize a sewing method called the “lock stitch,” which creates a chain reaction when a stitch fails. If you want something that’ll stand firmer against failure, you’ll want to use a different method: the saddle stitch. This sewing methodology used by saddle makers for generations is more durable because where one stitch is broken, only one stitch is broken.

The saddle stitch is ruggedly functional because you can create it using a variety of improvised tools, and it can be used to patch/attach/close a variety of thick materials; whether repairing a tear in a tent, fixing a hole in a sleeping bag, or making a sheath for a hatchet, knowing how to saddle stitch is a skill that comes in handy.

For this tutorial, we’ll be demonstrating this hand sewing technique on one of the toughest materials you can work with: leather.

Let’s get sewing like a man.

Tools Needed

  • 2 sewing needles
  • Thread, preferably waxed (if not pre-waxed, you can wax it yourself with beeswax, a candle, etc.)
  • Ice pick, sewing awl, or hammer/nails
  • Binder clips, small clamps, or something of the sort
  • Fork
  • Pen (optional)

To illustrate this stitching method, we’ll be using two pieces of vegetable tan leather. This material may be thicker than a lot of the other materials you may work with; however, if you can replicate this method with resilient leather, chances are it will work elsewhere. This is can be handy for being able to repair canvas or cloth; the same basic concepts and techniques apply.

Step 1: Preparing the Leather

Often one of the most challenging parts of hand sewing leather is keeping the two pieces from slipping so that the stitching stays straight. You can accomplish this without binding; however, you’ll get cleaner results with a little assistance. I’m going to use binder clips here, but you could use an adhesive or even nails. This binding is particularly helpful if you are repairing something like a tent or a sail, where the repair has to be made where it stands.

Starting with the rough sides together and the smooth sides out, align the outside edges and use the binder clips to hold them together. This will help ensure that the holes for the stitching align and keep everything straight.

Step 2: Set the Spacing

What we want to do is give ourselves somewhat even spacing to work from. A fork will generally do the trick for this. It may not be perfectly straight, but it gets the job done. The aim is to create a guide by making impressions on the leather of what the spacing needs to be and where the holes will go. To do this, you’ll want to overlap the last impression (making only 3 new marks each time) to ensure even spacing. 

If you are using this method on canvas or other material, you can use the same technique with a fork, but mark the spacing with a pen or whatever you may have available.

Step 3: Creating Holes

A sewing awl is ideal to puncture holes, but again, you may be limited on available tools. If you have access to something like an ice pick or a sturdy shank, that would work. With the right tool, it actually cuts the leather for sewing, whereas an ice pick or a shank will tear a hole. Ultimately, having a sewing awl on hand might create a longer-lasting repair, but you have to work from whatever you have available.

There is another option too: hammer and nails. By finding a log or piece of wood, you can secure the two ends of your materials together by hammering a nail to hold it in place. From there, you can replicate the fork method for marking stitch lines and then hammer a nail to create the holes for stitching.

Knives typically don’t work very well for this step. You ideally need a relatively round hole and the puncture from a knife is elongated. If it’s all you have, you may be able to complete this step by creating knife punctures perpendicular to the edge of the material to make sure that you can maintain the spacing. This leaves more room for the stitch to tear out, but, again, use what you have on hand.

Now to actually make the holes: Utilizing the pattern made with the fork, pierce all the way through the leather. Depending on how thick the leather is and how sharp your piercing utensil is, you may need to puncture from each side. If so, push far enough through that you can start to see where the hole would come through and then turn the leather around to finish creating the hole from the other side.

Step 4: Sewing

Now that we have our holes in each piece of leather, we are going to prepare the thread. For this saddle stitch method, you’ll want to measure and cut at least 3.5 times the distance of the length that you plan on sewing.

Optional: If your thread is not waxed, you might consider waxing the thread at this time with beeswax or candle wax. To do so, hold the thread between your thumb and the wax and pull it a few times. The friction from the pressure will help the thread take the wax, which will help prolong the life of the thread and help prevent the stitch from loosening.

You’ll want to start with a needle on each end of the thread, and the first thing you’ll do is push this first needle through the first hole. After you’ve pulled a threaded needle through the first hole, even out the amount of thread on each side of the material so that each needle is roughly equal distance from the piece of leather.

The thread should go through relatively easily, but depending on the size of the needle versus the size of the hole, you may consider using some pliers to help pull the needle through. If you do use pliers, make sure that you are pulling the needle straight, because pulling through at an angle is likely to break your needle.

Once you’ve set up, you’re going to start sewing figure eights back and forth through the holes. You’ll start by taking the first needle through the second hole, going through both pieces of leather, and then taking the second threaded needle to go through that same hole in the opposite direction. In theory, the holes should be relatively lined up on each piece of leather; however, you may sometimes need to adjust slightly to find the right angle to go through both holes.

Note: If one needle passes through the thread of the previous pass, you may encounter some problems pulling the stitching tight. To avoid this, after the first needle has passed through, pull the thread to one side to create a clear passage for the second needle.

You will continue to do this all the way down your guide holes, pulling the thread firmly to tighten the stitch with each pass through. For the last holes, we will sew through them twice to “lock” the stitch (more on that in just a bit), so this is a good time to evaluate if you think the needle will pass through easily a second time. If you’ve had no trouble up until this point, you may be fine. However if you have experienced some struggle getting the needle through, you’ll probably want to widen the last few holes with your awl or icepick to make sure that they pass more easily.

To complete the stitch, go through the final holes in the same figure 8 pattern that you have been using. Once you get to the end, you will double back through at least two sets of holes with this same method. Again, you may find it little more difficult to get it through since these are already relatively small holes and we will have filled them with twice as much thread.

Once you have stitched back twice, pull the thread tight and trim the thread.

Congratulations, you’ve completed the saddle stitch. It’s not always pretty, but it’s very durable and functional. This information will come in handy when you inevitably need to stitch something when camping, sailing, or surviving the zombie apocalypse. 

Watch the Video


Michael Magnus is a digital advertising lecturer, consultant, and freelancer based in North Texas. When not teaching or with his family, Magnus promotes the art of leatherworking as a recreational leathercraft historian and content creator with the Elktracks Studio Foundation.

The post How to Sew Leather (and Other Tough Materials) appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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2 days ago
To protect the stitches even more, lightly score the leather in a line connecting the dots. This allows the stitches to lie below the surface of the leather and protects them from abrasions.
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Want to Make Linux Mint Look Like a Mac? This Theme Can Help

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cinnamon mac themeWe’ve established how easy it is to make Ubuntu look like a Mac but theming Linux Mint, the popular Ubuntu-based offshoot, is a little trickier. But no more. It’s now possible to make Linux Mint look like a Mac too, and it’s all thanks to a customised version of the uncannily accurate macOS Mojave GTK theme we highlighted here, just a few […]

This post, Want to Make Linux Mint Look Like a Mac? This Theme Can Help, was written by Joey Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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2 days ago
The big flexibility of Linux over other desktop OSes, you have the ability to make it look the way you want it to. Not that I'd ever want to make anything look like a mac.
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Musk Man Origin Story

1 Comment and 3 Shares

Follow @lamebook on instagram for more content!

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5 days ago
Hear, hear!
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Lobster math: Jordan Peterson fans calculate optimal age for men to marry to obtain highest quality females


I have completed my calculations. Let us commence the mating process

By David Futrelle

There comes a time in every Jordan Peterson fanboy’s life when he starts to think about settling down with a high quality female for mating purposes.

And so one such fan recently turned to the Jordan Peterson subreddit to ask his fellow lobsters (yes, they call themselves that) to ask for some help with his mating math. At what age, he asked, should a  man who is “progressing up the hierarchy ” allow himself “to be peeled off by a female” seeking marriage?

jtillery32 laid out his dilemma, noting first that

JP has often said women mate across and up [the] competence hierarchy. … Which is patently true. The problem that leaves me (and I’m sure a bunch of other lobsters vying for position) with is wondering when the appropriate time to allow yourself to be peeled off by a female.

Get out your calculators and lobster bibs, people, because things are going to get messy!

Essentially the question is this: if a man is progressing up the hierarchy (status, financial, getting into shape, etc), would it be in his and his future wife’s best interest to wait on settling down until he believed he was at his peak?

Because god forbid you marry some HB 7 you merely love and want to spend the rest of your life with when, if you had waited a few more years, you could have had yourself an 8 or 9 who was more interested in your money than your personality?

A good example of this problem is a 21 year old man who is handsome, articulate, athletic, in college, maybe works as a bartender and probably has pick of the women that attend the school or in some proximity, maybe from ages 18-25 VS the same man, 9 years later who is now in better shape, more handsome, more confident, more wise, financially “minted”, and has a much larger pool to choose from, maybe 21-35 year old women who are of higher quality (that sounds like a cut of beef) by nature of hypergamy.

Sounds a bit like that famous (if recently somewhat tarnished) “marshmallow test” where you offer a kid either one marshmallow right away or two if they’re willing to wait ten minutes. But with hot ladies instead of marshmallows. A whole pool of high quality hot lady marshmallows.

It would seem that if that 21 year old man was to marry someone at that age it would have been a grave mistake as he would have been able to have a higher quality partner had he waited 9 years.

Seriously, why settle for a One Marshmallow Stacey if you could wait a little and snag yourself a Two Marshmallow Stacey?

I would love an actual wise answer here and not some “well when you know she’s the right one when you just know” BS.

Fuck love, we’re all about Marshmallow Stacey Maximization here.

That sounds callous, but the reality is that you really can fall in love with many people and some people do multiple times in their lives, and could probably have successful marriages with more than “the one”.

Obviously this dude who rates women like cuts of beef has a great understanding of what makes for a successful marriage.

When should a man who is trying and succeeding to better himself in every way let himself be peeled off into marriage? And does preemptive peeling lead to resentment?


You see this a lot in professional athletes, and people who are aggressively climbing the hierarchy. The superstar dated and married the best girl (smartest, funniest, prettiest) at the high school, but now he’s the quarterback of an nfl team and has his pick of the best girls in the world. It’s a common theme among meteoric rises in men and I haven’t seen a good answer for it. Be loyal to the person who loved you before the status or keep aiming up to someone better?

And plenty of these “superstars” do in fact stay loyal to what you would see as sub-optimal partners. Because, you know, love?

I hate to tell you this, dude, but if this is really the way you think about relationships, you are NOT the great catch you think you are. You’ll make yourself miserable no matter who you marry — if you can find anyone gullible enough to marry you in the first place.

And the chances are good that nine years from now you won’t actually be “in better shape, more handsome, more confident, more wise” with “a much larger pool to choose from,” You will probably be earning more money. But you’ll also be nine years more bitter and resentful, and that’s not an attractive look for any man.

Don’t get married now. But don’t get married nine years from now either — at least not until you clear your head of this utterly toxic way of thinking.

Unfortunately, this being the Jordan Peterson subreddit, none of the commenters offered him the blunt advice he so desperately needs — though a few did warn him that by waiting too long for the “perfect woman” he might end up old and resentful and alone. (Might? Almost certainly will.)

He also got this less-than-optimal advice, from someone calling himself liberal_hr.

I agree that you should wait until your reach your maximum potential peak and then start looking for potential females.

There is just too much of a risk of you falling head over heels for a female and settling for less than you deserve.

Given that he literally deserves no one, I find this a little hard to believe.

And then there was NoelTrotsky, whose advice was somehow even worse:

It would be interesting to apply economic game theory to this problem. I’d bet that a young man’s best move would be to marry an older rich woman while young , take the help up the ladder, have kids, then leave at about 35 and marry young for a second round. Why not increase your odds with several marriages of significant lengths?

So, in other words he should act like a male version of every “Red Pill” dude’s caricature of a calculating, mercenary hypergamous woman who would drop any man she was with if in a second if she had a chance to “branch swing” to a higher-status man?

It’s almost as if the Red Pill notion of female hypergamy is less a reflection of how women actually behave in the real world than a projection of every Red Pill dude’s not-so-secret desire to trade up to a Victoria’s Secret model.

Jordan Peterson really brings out the worst in people, huh?

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5 days ago
Wow. That hurts. I just can't understand...
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At NATO, abrasive Trump lashes Germany for being Russian 'captive'

U.S. President Donald Trump accused Germany of being a "captive" of Russia on Wednesday as Western leaders gathered in Brussels for a NATO summit where Trump wants Europeans to pay up more for their own defense.
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7 days ago
Trump, the Russia puppet, said what?
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Client: Hey, we looked up the name we were going to use and a lot of other tech companies already...

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Client: Hey, we looked up the name we were going to use and a lot of other tech companies already have that name. Just use this fake name in all the presentation materials until we decide on our new actual name.

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. 

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8 days ago
Not so much, when a company I worked for was trying to change names we had NewCo as a placeholder for a while. It didn't go out on anything official, but it was sort of our name internally for a few months. Unless you're rendering things for print with the fake name in it, it's pretty easy to do a find/replace.
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