As the title states, this is a generalized guide. It is based on traditional best practices for handwork. Some of the sizes here may be difficult to find sources for. Thread comes from worldwide sources and varies in size. Different awl widths are notoriously difficult to find. Style variation will have a big effect on some of these sizing choices. At the time of this writing large stitches with wide flat braided threads are in vogue. This guide is still useful. If you proceed by choosing your stitches per inch length first, rather than the leather thickness.
I prepared a preview of several pages from within my book “Drawing Floral Patterns for Leather Tooling.” Please leave a comment, or email if you have questions. The book can be purchased at my store on this site. Be sure to register so you can be notified of future posts. Thanks for checking in, and please enjoy!
Swivel Knife 101
Why Take Less Time When You Can Take More
Why indeed? This is a constant question that, I know, I face constantly when at work in my shop. I'm trying to balance efficiency with vision. It's easy to see where more could be done, so how do I decide when enough is enough? This is a subject that I would like to engage in depth here. For today however, I need to get back into the shop and continue work on an important deadline...
That's the dilemma. Though I tend to come down these days more and more on the side of taking more time, the result of which is that I always have less time to do everything. Glib I know, but that's all I have time for because I want to share this little video about a tool that I started making and using a few years ago. The tool is not a common one, though it certainly is becoming more common all the time. It is the Back Beveler. The picture here shows the depth and sculptural effect that it has on the work, and this short video shows how I use it.
Please enjoy this clip, and please leave questions or comments.
Back Beveling with Gordon Andrus
Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the simple elegance of hand stitched leather work. Mastery with needle and thread is the most fundamental skill in the leather arts. Stitching leather pieces together is a truly ancient skill, which in times past became an art form. The refinement of this form reached a remarkable level among 19th century shoe and boot makers known as Cordwainers, and references can be found for exhibition work being stitched at 64 to the inch.
"St. Crispin IX, 1873 p.181: case of prize-work for Lobb, including jockey with 60 - 1" (this may be Devlin's.)
1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhn: Gray Bros., Syracuse, NY exhibited 'welts' made by Sandy McCarthy, including 1 pr with 64 stitches to 1" round the forepart.
Wore 2 pr spectacles to do them." From the Crispin Colloquy. An internet discussion forum for traditional bespoke shoemaking and allied trades.
Shoemakers use a boar bristle like a needle making what is called a "waxed end" to attach it to the thread. The maker James Devlin wrote that when he did this kind of work he used one of his daughter’s hairs as a bristle, fine silk for thread, and that the awl blade that he used could pierce his thumb without pain and without bleeding.
If I hadn't seen so many references to this kind of work, I wouldn't believe it. At that it is still very hard to comprehend. I find that study of the work done by past masters is always a very good source of humility.
I want to take this opportunity to share a handout that I use in my hand stitching classes. I'm currently working on an online course for hand stitching. This step by step reference will be included as part of that course, along with instruction in making butt seams and the box stitch. Courses will include video lessons, slide show presentations and downloadable content. Please register an account here so I can notify you of upcoming coursework and check this blog for more free content that you can use and share with friends.
Below is a brief gallery of hand stitching samples. Thanks for looking in, and I hope you have an enjoyable visit.
What I've put together in this book is a good description of how patterns get put together. I have students come to study with me that don't think they can draw. They leave though, with a better understanding of the layers in a pattern, and the skeleton in the pattern that lets it flow, or keeps it from flowing. They then feel confident in starting to alter the pre-drawn patterns that they use to make them better. Eventually, they start drawing some of their own. The book teaches how to layout floral patterns, and then the important part, how to use elements and principles of design to be able to evaluate the drawings that a person makes, and then more successfully critique and edit them.
This book is truly a work dedicated to building your abilities and your passion for your work. Dig in and really apply yourself and you will be more excited each day.