Leather lacing is a great way to join pieces of leather together for a project. I’ll share what I’ve learned best about how to lace leather.
Leather lacing is done primarily in a few basic steps. These include making holes, threading the needle, feeding the lace (which varies based on stitch type), tying off the end, then finishing the lace with hammering and/or conditioner. This can be a great way to attach leather pieces together.
So let’s get started and learn a little bit about leather lacing, the tools needed, and how to lace leather.
Lacing leather is very similar to hand-sewing. The main differences are that we’ll make the holes ourselves rather than using the needle, and will use leather lace which is typically heavier than thread. Let’s take a look at lacing leather, step–by–step.
Leather lacing is essentially a way to hand sew very thick leather. Since leather comes in a variety thicknesses and material types, sometimes projects require a leather that is too thick for leather sewing machines, or too heavy to pierce with a standard leather needle. In these cases, the weather can be joined by lacing.
If one is already familiar with hand sewing, this is very similar. Mainly, it just involves making the holes first (rather than piercing with the needle), and using leather lace, which is heavier then typical sewing thread.
The common types of leather goods that are laced generally include thicker leather goods such as holsters, sheaths, moccasins, bags, and saddlery.
First, need to make the holes in the leather that the lacing will go through. For this, will generally use a leather chisel. The leather chisel is a pronged tool with sharp cutting tips. This allows us to line it over the leather, Strike it with a hammer, and produce equally spaced and shaped holes in the material. This is where the lease will feedthrough.
Generally, consider the thickness of the lease that will be used, and find a chisel that is an appropriate size. It’s usually best to match these up, so that the finished product looks good. If the holes are too small, the lace might stretch them. If they are too large, the lace will move around, and the stitches be loose. A successful lacing stitch will sit well and be strong.
When you have the proper chisel, simply work it down the edge of the weather making a line of holes that will be used for lacing.
We’ll now want to measure and cut our lace. In general, The amount of lease needed is typically 1.5 – 2 times the straight length of the edge of the leather being laced. For example, if we have a 12-inch edge of leather that we are lacing, Will need approximately 18 to 24 inches of lace. It is often better to have a little extra than not enough.
Once you have measured and cut the lace (often from a larger roll), we are ready to lace the needle.
Next we’ll lace the leather lacing needle. These needles are a little different than standard sewing needles. Leather lacing needles typically have an end with two metal pieces very close together. The strength of the steel keeps them close together, which helps hold the lace in place.
To thread the needle, open it with a fingernail or thin screwdriver, pushing it in between the metal ends. With a little space between them, slide the leather lace in between, and let the metal ends Close down on top of it. For an extra–secure grip, the metal ends cane crimped down with pliers. This will help ensure the lace stays attached to the needle during lacing.
We’re now ready to feed the lace through the holes. Feed the needle through the first hole, Which is typically at a corner or end of the edge, then through a small slit (made in the lace with a sharp knife) to lock it in place. Then, with the initial stick secured, proceed to the next holes. The way you approach the stench will very much depend on the type of stitch that you are using. For example, there is the buckstitch, the double-loop stitch, the running stitch, and the whip stitch. We will explore these in more detail below.
Continue lacing along the entire edge of the leather to be joined. This may be a single straight edge, or could work around the corners and 3 to 4 sides of a leather item. When you have laced the entire piece, we will then finish the end.
This is a critical step to ensure a tight lacing job. Once the final lacing stitch has been made, loop the lace back in-between a few existing stitches, and tie it off. Ideally, this sits in between other stitches and is barely visible. Yet, it provides a very secure end to the stitch that should last and perform well during everyday use.
With the last stitch tied-off, one might choose to finish the lacing. This can be done for both aesthetic and functional purposes. For example, finishing might include hammering over the lace. This helps to flatten the lace material. From a visual perspective, the flat lace may look more finished and more appealing. From a functional perspective, this helps the lace sit lower and prevent it from being caught and pulled as easily during day-to-day use.
Additionally, since the lace will be on or near the edges of a leather item, conditioner can be applied to help make it more supple, softer, more comfortable to touch, and somewhat more flexible so it is less affected from abrasions, wear, and day-to-day use.
To lace leather, there are only a few leather lacing tools that are necessary. Let’s take a look at each, below.
The chisel is a type of leather tool that has a series of teeth with sharp points. These are typically laid towards the edge of leather, and struck with a hammer, resulting in those sharp points making holes in the leather material.
Chisels have teeth of various shapes and distances, thus offering a variety of choice based on the project you are working on. This is one of the leather lacing tools that gives you options that impact the look/feel of the finished piece. Here is a demonstration of one in use:
The leather lacing needle is a unique tool in that it has a pointed metal end and the other end is essentially a metal clip that is used to hold the leather lace. These come in different sizes, And make lacing leather exceedingly easy.
In terms of leather lacing supplies, lacing does not require that much. In general, one only needs lace. Let’s explore that below.
When lacing leather, it is important to choose a lace that works well with the project. Leather lace is available in a wide variety of sizes and materials. For example, lace is available in buckskin, suede, nubuck, cow leather, pig leather, and virtually any type of leather unavailable.
Additionally, leather lace comes in many widths and thicknesses. The one chosen will depend upon aesthetic preference in the projects functional needs. It is great there is so much choice, you know which type of works best for your project, there should be one available that will work great.
When we are lacing leather, it is key to decide early on what type of states we will use. Each stitch can look a little different, while also adding different performing characteristics to the final piece. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of leather lacing stitches.
You might be curious how to buckstitch, it’s relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Generally, this stage is started towards the middle of the edge being stitched. The leather lace is worked outward and results in a somewhat diamond-shaped pattern to stitching. Here is a helpful video demonstrating the buckstitch.
The cross stitch runs over the outer edge and that makes a “V” pattern in the lacing all the way down the stitch.
The double loop stitch is made by creating another loop of lace in the middle of an existing stitch. On the edge of a leather item, this creates a visually noticeable, and rounded, edge formed by the lace. This can help protect the leather edge as well as provide an aesthetically pleasing element to the finish good.
Curious how do you end a double loop lace? It’s likely easier than you think. To do this, simply push the needle through the middle of the existing stitches, pull it through a few of those stitches, and outward. Using a knife or sharp scissors, as closely as possible to the other stitches, and it should rest securely in place.
The running stitch is a very basic, straight stitch. However, it is also very functional. It does not cross over the end of the leather, and instead runs parallel to it. When determining the length of lace needed for a straight stitch, it is approximately 1.5 times the measured distance on the edge. For example, a 12 inch edge would require approximately 18 inches of lace to stitch. Here is a great video demonstrating how to make a running stitch in leather.
The whip stitch is a another basic, and very common stitch used in leather lacing. It runs over the edge of the leather in a diagonal way. This creates a strong stitch that also helps protect the leather’s edge. Below is a helpful video showing how to make a whip stitch in leather.
Leather lacing provides an excellent way to join leather without glues and adhesives.