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In this instructable I'll cover the different ways you can prep your stitching line and punch holes in leather to sew it. I was completely befuddled by this process when I first starting leatherworking, but after a few months of trial and error I feel much more confident in picking and choosing which process will work best. :)

I had a very hard time using an awl at first and I know I'm not alone there! So I spent a good amount of time researching and experimenting how to make sewing leather easier, which led me to finding new tools and techniques.

I've included several steps to teach you how to groove stitching lines into leather, use a stitching spacer, sharpen and wield an awl, use a punch for clean holes and even how to use diamond chisels.

Check out my other leather ibles for more leatherworking basics:

Step 1: Supplies You'll Need

Prepping your leather for sewing can take several different routes depending on the finish you want.

Here I'll be assuming that you've cut your pieces and glued them together so you're ready to sew. :D (Not sure about how to glue leather? Check out my instructable.)

Below is the full list of items (+ links to Tandy, where I bought them) I used in the making of this instructable so you can pick and choose which tools will work best for you:

<p>Any tips on keeping the diamond chisels at a vertical 90 degree angle? When i use mine the sew line snakes around on the back of the peice of leather. It makes it really difficult to sew things together sometimes and if two pieces are already glued together, then i have a clean side and an ugly wobbly side.</p>
<p>Here's another alternative. Years ago, I made several sheaths for some hand-made knives. Using heavy stock, and including a welt for the knife edge to ride on, meant the full depth of the sewing hole was about 1/4&quot;. After carefully marking the hole locations with a set of drafting dividers, I drilled each with a tiny twist drill in a drill press. It goes quickly, and unlike the awl or punch that just pushes material aside, it removes the material. I found that by just using a good strong thread (I used Dacron bowstring material) and pulling hard, the stitches lay neatly down into the leather without the need for the grooving. Just another technique to consider for heavy-duty work.</p>
a rotary punch also removes material, also standard punches do a good job, with just move the material with a chisel just take an edger, (fine) and just run it up the hole line carefully and Lockett split its done, also I bet a safety skiver would work but be careful to not remove any regular material. I know that some leathercrafters like to skive down the stitching area when using thick leather and if you do that, make you holes first then skive, glue and stitch, when glueing use a modeler point or an awl to Line up you holes after the glue has been applied, it works great. Drilling the holes will work if you have a drill press but not every body has one, I don't and I used to be a machinist, I have several thousands of dollars wrapped up in my Leathercraft, I love Tax return time and I just spent over $900.00 this time around, and I just opened my business for custom leather goods.
<p>I've had decent results using a cordless hand-held. What I've done is use a 1.5 mm bit in the drill driver, clamp the leather to a small board (I think they were actually supposed to be tops for stair railing uprights or fence-posts) witha small clamp, to keep it from moving, then simply drill through the two layers. The clamps I use are fairly tiny (clamp pads are roughly 5mm x 15 mm, max clamp opening is probably in the region of 200 mm)</p><p>Depending on exactly what you're needing stitch-holes for, I suspect gluing MAY make things easier, but I've had decent results simply by clamping.</p>
<p>I have drilled leather using a rotary tool, like a Dremel. That way I can work on odd shapes, like shoes, and drill them at any angle perpendicular to the face of the work. Plus small diameter bits work best at higher speeds.</p>
<p>The drill press with a fine bit is the way to go if you have thicker leather. Takes all of the &quot;work&quot; out of making holes. Waxing your Dacron would have helped with stitching too.</p>
<p>Love it !!!</p>
<p>Thank you very very helpful</p>
<p>I love this! Beautiful explanation and photos! So happy to see you doing leatherwork also. </p>
Why do you need to let the stitching groove dry before punching with a diamond chisel?
<p>When it's too damp the leather will tear instead of cutting cleanly - the holes look much much nicer when the leather is drier. </p>
<p>Good 'ible, though you've not covered using a curved awl for butt stitching. Best to do that dry I've found as you can apply just that little too much pressure and rip through! I like your awl handles - I can't get that sort of quality easily round here, but then again my current handles are just 90p jobs.</p>
try the web, Tandy has great products, and there are many other tool makers out there, check Amazon and Ebay as well!
<p>That is actually something I haven't tried yet! So far all the things I've been doing have been pretty simple with lots of flat seams. I've been hesitant to give it a go since I know how tricky it is. :P</p>
<p>Wow how I appreciate this guide , I am browsing the web to soak up all the trixs and knowledge people do have up their sleeve - I appreciate this!</p>
Tandy has free videos, mostly done by George Hurst who is a Stohlman award winner, he really knows his stuff!
<p>Yay! I hope it'll come in handy later :D</p>
<p>Thanks for all of these really useful leather tutorials. I have enjoyed them all. I am curious, in step 5 you mention dampening your stitching grooves and also refer to the way you glue two pieces of leather together before stitching. It looks like you use a standard water based cement, have you ever noticed the water causing any loss of adhesion?</p>
<p>I haven't! I don't wet the leather all the way through, and I always sew it right after so I have not had any issues yet. :)</p><p>But I have a feeling if you wet it too much and then didn't sew it together right away it might not hold as well!</p>
it seems as though almost every process of Leathercraft needs to have the leather damp except when using Dyes.
<p>Yeah, there are some situations (hat making in particular) where it would nice to be able to glue two layers together and then still be able to wet-form them so that's kind of the issue I'm looking at. I was wondering if your process would shed any light on that for me but it sounds like it's definitely different. I'll just have to try it out on scrap leather or something.</p>
Thank you very very much. I am just waiting for my tool to arrive in the mail and I am having midnight panic attacks about weather or not I will be capable of doing leather work. Any advice about finding confidence?? Thank you.
i have been leather rafting for 38 years, started in high school, leather raft is fairly easy to start out and as you continue you will get better, I suggest you start out with the leather rounds and follow the step by step beginning leathercraft guides, I recommend the book Leathercraft that you can find at any Tandy or online, also Tandy has free videos available on there website.
<p>Ha, I felt the same way at first too! I can't promise it'll be easy at first, but if you stick with it you'll get it down in no time. You can do it!! :D</p><p>I did a lot of practicing on leather scraps - making the holes, grooving, sew pieces together. Once you have those basics down it makes everything else seem possible, honestly! </p>
Thank you very much for your encouragement. Please make more videos!
<p>RE: Awl sharpening.</p><p>As with sharpening a knife, push the edge you want sharpened &quot;into&quot; or toward the stone, at a constant angle, as though you were peeling the stone like a potato; pick it up, do it again. The back and forth business in the video just grinds off the metal uselessly, wastefully.</p><p>Keep track of and maintain the original diamond shape of the awl, perhaps three strokes the first edge, turn the awl, three strokes the next, repeat till sharp. </p>
Actually it is better to stop it on leather rather than a stone because you won't need to sharpen with a stone, just use a strip of leather or by the kit from Tandy, then use one of the polishing compounds on the leather and draw backwards, it's a cinch to do as long as you maintain the angle, and best of all it will take off next to nothing and look sweet, I have been using the white fine polishing compound for years on my metal tools such as edgers, swivel knives and such, I just bought one of each of the new polishing compounds, my white one came with my stroping kit and I believe it also comes in the ultimate leather raft kit as well.
<p>Clear instructions, great pictures, liked! </p><p>Too bad I only have a few living cows in the backyard...</p>
<p>Ha! Thanks! :D</p>
<p>Thank You~</p>
Thank you !! I love you ;)
<p>If you just use the awl to make the holes, try cutting off the tip so it is like a chisel. Means you still get the desired hole but do not have to push the awl so far through the leather. Works really well</p>
<p>very nice instructions. I can really see that grooving is essential to straight lines... have to get a groover now!</p>
<p>very well done, your corners look great.</p>
<p>Thank you! :D</p>
<p>That is exactly what i was looking for, thanks! I would appreciate another instructable where you sum up some leather sewing techniques :)</p>
<p>It's going to be coming soon! We're filming the making of a wallet today, so I hope to have how to sew leather and how to make a wallet up sometime in the next week. :)</p>
<p>Would an Automatic center punch work? It would reduce the need for a hammer/mallet...</p><p>http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=automatic+center+punches</p>

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Bio: part of the Instructables Design Studio by day, stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working on! ^_^
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