On The Art of Hand Stitching

by Joseph Marcellino

As I was growing up in Brooklyn, my grandfather always told me “nothing good in life comes easy.” And boy, was he right. I guess it is within the struggle, be it of living or creating that adds the true value to an object or a life. I take those words to heart because my grandfather was a good hard working man coming to America as a bright-eyed immigrant with huge dreams. The greatness of America is best seen through the eyes of an immigrant coming to our great country and witnessing what honest hard work can produce.


What does this have to do with hand stitching?



The hand stitching of leather is an ancient method, also called saddle stitching. When the machine came along it not only made the mass production of leather bags easy, it also took the inherent craftsmanship / artistic nature out of designing and building. Certain styles of leather bags and briefcases in particular, just can not be made with a machine. Hand stitching, as any painter, sculptor, or real artist that build with their hands, know, is a painstaking process that is very delicate and detailed. The hard part that makes the good things in life stand out. There are many briefcases like mine that are produced by machine and are fine, I guess, it depends how you define “fine.” I think the devil is in the details and when you know what to look for you see things very different.

The answer to Why I Hand Stitch is because it allows me to build an artistic masterpiece that only hard work and dedication can produce.


Marcellino Hand Stitching

I make a distinction between my hand stitching and others because this is a high level skill like painting. One of the main reason the sewing machine dominates the production of leather briefcases and all garment manufacturing is that almost any factory worker can easily be taught to use the machine. Stitching by hand and making it look pleasing is an art-form, especially with one of the most complicated leather items to produce – a briefcase. A leather saddle is a close second.


This is a lost art-form with no advanced classes taught in American fashion schools anymore. The few craftsman that attempt to hand stitch might not have the master level needed to produce a strong lasting stitch. It might look good on the outside but hidden between the stitching layers might have future issues.

With each hand stitch, leather sewing needles enter the hole and it is at this point where skill is needed not to puncture the thread, something a machine does NOT do and why it is better in this regards. Look at it this way, unskilled hand stitching is worse to the bond than unskilled machine stitching.

Hand stitching is stitched “in the air,” meaning I am not pushing a needle and thread against a metal plate. The sewing takes place literally in my hands allowing me to get shapes and corners out of a briefcase a machine can not do. Hand stitching also tends to have slightly bigger holes because they are punched by hand and sewn with hand needles. The hand is limited to how small it can get, especially with thick bridle saddlery leather.

An Important Aspect Of Hand Stitching Is how clean the stitch is on BOTH sides.


As Far As Strength

A hand saddle stitch, the stitch that holds horse tack together for a 2000 pound animal, is a stronger bond than a small sewing machine stitch.