Stitching leather; It is the age old debate as to which type of stitching is better; machine stitching or stitching by hand.  There are definitely pros and cons to each style.  The most common style of hand stitching is called a saddle stitch. That is the style of hand stitching we will compare.  The dog leash pictured above was machine stitched with a Cobra Class 4 leather sewing machine purchased through Springfield Leather Company.  These are work horse machines that can sew through more than an inch of leather.

Machine stitching – Pros and Cons

The advantage of machine stitching is the speed at which one can sew.  What could take 30-60 minutes of hand sewing can be done in as few as 10 minutes with a machine.  All of the stitches are consistently spaced and have a nice, clean look.  One does not have to fight getting the needle pushed through the leather; the sewing machine does it for you.

Another advantage to a sewing machine is that one doesn’t have to pre-punch all the stitching holes first.  The machine does it for you.

There are a few disadvantages to sewing with a machine.  Depending on the type of machine you buy, these can be expensive.  There are “Chinese shoe patcher” machines that can be purchased for just over $100. Or one could spend upwards of $6000 or more on a high end leather sewing machine.

Another drawback to a sewing machine is the learning curve.  If one has never worked with a sewing machine, it can daunting trying to learn about tensioners, needle types, how to position the product being sewn, speed of the machine, etc.

If a thread breaks on the finished product which was sewn by a machine, the whole project could become unthreaded.  The stitch is made using two pieces of thread that are intertwined as it it stitched.  The machine creates a loop with the top thread and pulls the bottom thread from the bobbin to create the stitch.

  • Quick and efficient
  • No pre-punching holes
  • Could be an expensive purchase
  • Learning curve
  • Possible unraveling 
Machine Sewn Custom Leather Gun Belt
Saddle Stitch – Pros and Cons

Saddle stitch is a very popular method of hand stitching leather.  Some of the advantages of saddle stitching is the cost for equipment.  One can purchase stitching irons, needles, and thread for under $50, less if one buys inexpensive irons. 

“Hand stitched” can also be used when marketing your products.  There are certain clientele that look for that extra little detail when making their purchases.

Hand stitching definitely takes longer than using a sewing machine. For instance on a normal length belt, one would probably have to hit a stitching iron 50 or more times with a mallet to make the stitch holes for the perimeter of the belt.  Then would need to spend nearly an hour or so stitching it up.  This can be accomplished in less than 5 minutes on a machine.

Another advantage to the saddle stitch is that each stitch is knotted.  If one stitch should break, it will not unravel the entire project.  If the project uses thicker leather, it can be difficult to push the needle all the way through the leather without the aid of pliers to pull the needle through.

  • Cost of entry
  • Possible marketing advantage
  • Easy to learn
  • Better stitch tie
  • Time consuming
  • May be harder when sewing thick pieces.
Hand stitched using Saddle Stitch technique