Whats in the top picture? This is the action of the same gun on the home page, an 1892 Winchester, in the same condition that the gun was given to me.
Sewing leather with two needles
My goal is to present enough basic information, to teach the novice how to get started stitching leather, with two needles,
and length of the proper thread. Its been done this way for as long as man has been making things of leather, and it still
works, and is in many cases, much much more durable, than any machine lock stitch.
I try to approach things from the idea of " It is not what you have, it is what you do with what you have." Except for
perhaps the needles, and perhaps the stitching thread, all other tools needed are likely in your home already. I even
recommend re stitching an existing damaged sheath, or pouch, to get your feet wet so to speak.
That is what I have done here. This pouch, while quality leather, the belt loop had come loose from the back. The only
way to repair the loop, was to pull out all the existing stitching, and re-stitch the loop, and then re stitch the side. One can
often find sheaths that need repair. To re store one, is a great way to learn the basics of stitching, as well as giving
I hope the pictures, along with the few paragraphs, will show enough to offer the confidence to try one of your own.
You will not likely have the proper size, or type of thread laying around. On the other hand, you might. If you happen to
have a spool of standard three cord nylon, or polyester utility cord, used for tying packages, you are all set. Simply un ravel
one strand from a length about 5 or 6 feet, that is about the max length that can be used with much success of keeping it
untangled. Natural linen thread was used in the old days. Due to the fact few folks quilt, and make rugs, etc, its not found
very many places at present. Kite string, while perhaps looking like a good bet, is cotton, and not strong enough for this
You local hardware store has many acceptable products if you just use your imagination. If you have a local boot maker, or show
repairman, maybe a box of donuts, could be traded for some of the cord he uses to repair shoes? This type of thread, is
sold normally, in 1 lb spools, and costs about 40 bucks a lb, so I am trying to show some substitutes. Do not be afraid to think out side the box, no one is having a test on your work at this time. Just do not get tunnel vision, thinking every item has to be exactly correct.
Never forget, "its not what you have, its what you do with what you have"
You need two needles, and these are not typical sewing needles with a sharp point. Some might call them "darning"
needles, while a saddle maker is going to call them something else, they are pretty much the same thing, the "eye" might
be an egg shape from the saddle guy, and might be a long oval, in a darning type needle. If you happen to find someone
who knows the sizes, a 0, or 00, is the size that works good for general work, 000, is the largest, while 1, 2, etc, get smaller.
Makes sense? Me neither.
THREADING THE NEEDLES
Traditionally, beeswax is used to "lube" the thread. It is also used to apply to the ends, to allow them to be scrapped to
somewhat of a point, to thread through the needle eye. Take one end, lay it on a cutting board, take a dull knife, and
scrape the ends a few times to reduce the size of the thread a bit. Then, rub the end through the beeswax , several times,
and this will force the ends together, to form somewhat of a point, to allow threading of the needle.
Candle wax, or paraffin, is a good substitute, if you cant find beeswax. rub what ever you use, the whole length of the thread, till it feels
slick, or you can tell, the wax has been worked into the body of the thread. Waxing, is a very important step, if you want
success, with the thread lasting long enough to complete the job
Prepping the the thread for the needle
With using beeswax, or parrafin, rub the length of the thread between wax and forefinger. Really rub it well into the thread. Finally, polish and remove the excess by stripping it through some scrap cloth, which still leaves the thread totally "waxed"
In example A, it shows bare thread. B shows the end scrapped and thinned using a dull edge of a knife, you want to remove the excess material. C shows the end and thread waxed and tapered as per above description.
In the picture too the right, the thread has been passed through the eye, and the NEEDLE then passed through the body of the thread, then forming the loop shown. Use plenty of wax on this portion to assist in securing the needle in place while sewing.
Generally a thread length of a couple of feet is long enough to do most small projects.
You of course have to make some holes. Shown is a classic saddlers awl, it has an elongated diamond shape, and the resulting holes, which are spaced in an exaggerated manner, normal hole spacing is equal to the total thickness of leather, not a written in stone rule, but one to consider. You might be sewing heavy leather, but any hole spacing less than 5 per inch starts looking a little dorky. A typical spacing for most sheath work would be 6 or 7 to an inch.
Some guys of course choose to use a drill press and drill their holes, while sheaths have little strength and flexing issues, drilling the hole is technically a bad suggestion, as the hole then can not "close back' around the thread body. Drilling is not something a professional saddle maker would do. But again, a knife sheath is not a saddle nor pair of boots that get twisted and tweaked to add very much stress on the stitch.
Hole spacing is laid out using dividers, a kitchen fork, etc, get creative if you dont have an awl laying around. Most folks have an old ice pick that could be converted as an example.
Remember in the above picture of the awl and holes, it has been enlarged to show detail, in real life, these holes are spaced perhaps 1/8 maximum.
In the left picture, the needle has been inserted up from the bottom, into the first hole. The pencil lines simply show the hole location for purposes of the picture. In the right hand picture, the SAME needle from the left picture has then been inserted into the next hole from the top to bottom.
In the next picture, the lower needle/thread has been inserted up from the bottom ALONGSIDE the thread now filling the hole. Take care to insert the needle ALONGSIDE the thread, do not PIERCE it!
The loop of course is temporary, the stitch has yet to be pulled snugly, as seen in the next picture, with the top needle then being inserted into the next hole awaiting, to repeat till finished.