Illustration of saddle stitch tools

How to Saddle Stitch

Written by: SQUUSHED



Time to read 4 min

Beginners guide on how to join leather using a saddle stitch.

Level 1 guide. For more information on the levels, see here.

What is Saddle Stitching?

Saddle stitching is a precise hand-stitching method that employs two needles, each threaded from opposite ends of a single piece of thread. Both needles traverse the same hole from opposing sides, creating a robust, symmetrical stitch. Unlike many machine stitches, where a single broken stitch can lead to the unravelling of subsequent stitches, a saddle-stitched item retains its integrity even if multiple stitches are compromised.


  • Leather (a scrap of veg tan will do to practice on).

  • Waxed thread.

diagram of stitched leather


* is optional

  • Leather stitching needles x2

  • Wing dividers

  • Diamond chisel (at least 2 prongs, but 4 or 6 is preferable)

  • Maul

  • Stamping board (i.e. something that you can punch onto without damaging your surface, often an acrylic sheet)

  • Scissors

  • Lighter

  • *Stitching pony

  • *Groover

  • *Diamond awl

Tips and Tricks

  • A stitching pony can be handy to hold your leather still while you stitch, but it is by no means a must.

  • While stitching, always make your stitches in the same order and way. This will make them more consistent. For instance, if the stitch is started with the top needle, continue to use the top needle for the start of each stitch.

  • If you don’t have a diamond chisel, you can use a diamond awl, but ensuring the holes are evenly spaced is more challenging.

  • If you need your stitches to cover a set area, start at the edges and work towards the middle. If you’re lucky, your holes will line up when you reach the middle. If you’re not lucky, don’t despair. Keep punching until you can only fit one more hole. Instead of placing that hole where the chisel says, you should place it in the middle of the gap. You’ll have two stitches that are slightly longer than the rest, but as it’s in the middle, it won’t be as noticeable.

  • Try not to split the thread as you stitch, as this will make it more difficult to tighten the stitches.

  • To ensure that the first hole is always at the same distance from the edge, hang the first prong of the diamond chisel over the edge of the leather. The second prong will make the first hole.

  • Use the last hole in the group as the first hole in the next group. This will ensure consistent spacing of the holes.


Punching the Holes

  1. Using either the wing dividers or the groover, mark a line for where the stitches will go (Fig. 1).

  2. Put the stamping board under the leather and, using the diamond chisel and the maul, punch holes through the leather along that line. 

    • Hang the first prong of the chisel over the edge of the leather (Fig. 2) so that the first hole is a consistent distance from the edge.

    • Use the last hole of the previous group for the first prong of the next group (Fig. 3). This ensures the distance between the holes remains consistent.

diagram of a winged dividers marking a stitching line on a piece of leather
Fig. 1
punching the first set of holes
Fig. 2
punching subsequent sets of holes
Fig. 3

Threading the Needles

  1. Pass the thread through the eye of the needle (Fig. 4). Do not roll the thread between your fingers, but squeeze it if you need to make it thinner. The wax makes the fibres of the thread stick together.

needle threaded
Fig. 4
  1. Turn the needle's point towards the short end of the thread and split the thread fibres with the needle (Fig. 5).

splitting the thread fibres
Fig. 5
  1. Push the needle through the gap you’ve created and pull the thread tight (Fig. 6).
tighten the thread on the needle
Fig. 6
  1. Repeat the process so that there’s a needle on either end of the thread (Fig. 7).

the needle is on both ends of the thread
Fig. 7


  1. Pass the needles through the first and second holes from the same side and pull tight (Fig. 8 and Fig. 9). 

    • It doesn’t matter if you start from the front or the back. Either works.

    • Make sure the needles have in or around the same lengths of thread. You don’t want one long and one short.

starting stiching
Fig. 8
pulling thread tight
Fig. 9
  1. Take the needle that came through the first hole and pass it through the second hole (Fig. 10). Make sure not to split the fibres of the thread already in that hole.

  2. Take a needle in each hand and tug gently to tighten the stitch.

  3. Take a needle and pass it through the next hole (Fig. 11).

completing the first stitch
Fig. 10
completing the first half of the second stitch
Fig. 11

⚠ Each time you have a needle on either side of the leather, as in Fig. 10, pull gently on both needles at the same time (one in each hand) to tighten the stitches.

⚠ It doesn’t matter if you pass the top or bottom needles through the next hole, but whichever side you pick, always pick the needle from that side. This keeps the stitches consistent.

  1. Take the other needle and pass it through the same hole (Fig. 12). Again, make sure not to split the fibres of the thread.

  2. Continue stitching in the same manner down the length of the piece.

completing the second stitch
Fig. 12
stitching cross section
Fig. 13

⚠ The thread should weave in and out neatly and consistently. Fig. 13 is a cross-section of the leather as if the leather has been cut along the stitch line, and we’re looking down at the cut edge.


  1. When you reach the end, reverse direction and return one or two holes to lock the stitches.

  2. Trim the thread close to the leather with scissors (Fig. 14). Leave about 5mm or so of thread.

  3. Melt the remaining thread with a lighter to secure it in place (Fig. 15).

  4. (Fig. 16) Done! Admire your handiwork.

cutting the thread
Fig. 14
burning the thread ends with a lighter
Fig. 15
finished stitched leather
Fig. 16

Now What?

Once you have developed a command of saddle stitching, it may be worthwhile to delve into the realm of leather working patterns. Our eReader cover is an excellent example of an intricate and rewarding project that can be accomplished using these techniques.

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