Saddle Stitching vs. Machine Stitching

Leone Leather Saddle Stitching vs. Machine Stitching saddle stitching

If you know Leone Leather, you will know that all of our accessories are elegantly hand stitched. We have mastered the art of stitching by hand, which produces an undeniably superior stitch in its strength and aesthetic characteristics. In this article, we'll dive into hand stitching vs. machine stitching.

To kick things off, let's throw an important stat at you. 99.9% of all leather accessories in the market are stitched with a sewing machine. While they may be marketed as "hand made," what that means is there are hands that are pushing the leather through the sewing machine. Even luxury brands, excluding the likes of companies like Hermes, will use sewing machines as they are significantly quicker and more cost-effective.

Before we dive into individual comparison points of the two forms of stitching, let's talk about the mechanics of saddle stitching versus machine stitching. What is the difference? 

What is saddle stitching? 

In saddle stitching, the stiches are done by hand using two needles and a single thread. The craftsman completes stitches through opposite sides of the leather, forming two independent stitches to hold the thread together. This creates an incredibly strong stitch which is difficult to unravel.  Here's a video to showcase the dedicated process of saddle stitching.

What is machine stitching?

Machine stitching, on the other hand, creates what is known as a lock-stitch. Unlike saddle stitching, which uses two needles and one thread, lock stitches uses a single needle, a shuttle hook, and two threads; the threads interlock inside the leather to hold it together. To better illustrate the point please see this video.

Now, on the surface, it doesn't sound like one is better than the other. But for our craftsmen, we insist on saddle stitching because we know it produces the best quality products for our customers, and one of those qualities is durability.

Saddle stitching provides durability machine stitching can't achieve.

So why does saddle stitching provide much more durability? It is because the core mechanics of saddle stitching creates two alternating stitches through the same puncture. This way, the two independent and alternating stitching becomes a backup for each other. In a saddle-stitched product, even if one side of the thread breaks down, the other side will stay intact. The remaining parts will also likely hold out much longer for the broken thread because of the alternating nature.

In a machine-stitched product, if a thread snaps, the lock stitch would start breaking down. Because the two threads rely on each other in a lock stitch, both threads will begin to unravel at the snapping point. The adjacent stitching will shortly start to loosen, and it will only be a matter of time until everything comes apart, rendering the product unfunctional.

    (Source: Rivet & Chain)

Saddle stitching is a process that exchanges time for superior quality and durability
. Specifically, saddle stitching provides a lot more strength that holds the leather together, which is impossible for a machine. After all, saddles are meant to carry heavy belongings through harsh environments over thousands of miles. 

Yet despite saddle stitching's superior durability, machine stitched products flood the market as most businesses prefer it over saddle stitching for a straightforward reason – Speed.

Most businesses machine stitch because it's faster.

Saddle stitching, on the other hand, is slow. From a business perspective, machine stitching is much more commonly practiced because businesses want to maximize profit through fast production speed. Without compromising significantly in appearance and quality, machine stitching is exponentially faster compared to saddle stitching. That is why most leather crafting businesses today choose to machine stitch their products.

For an experienced craftsman, hand stitching averages at about 2 inches of stitching per minute. On the other hand, machine-stitching can finish an entire product's stitching in minutes if done right. To put that into perspective? Hand stitching takes roughly ten times the amount of time to craft compared to machine stitching

So why do we still stitch our products by hand? Because we don't want to sacrifice our quality for speed. Our craftsmen stand behind our products, and by saddle stitching them, we can make sure our products have the durability and quality we want our customers to have. Most importantly, saddle stitching produces products that are appealing to the eyes.

Hand stitching gives the product a unique and beautiful aesthetic.

Aside from the durability, saddle stitching a product gives the products an aesthetic that just can't be done by a machine.

That is not to say that the aesthetic produced by machine stitching is not appealing. Some people probably prefer it for uniformity across the entire product. However, the pattern quickly becomes predictable, as the machine performs the same stitching over thousands of products, giving them the feeling of being mass-produced

This repetition will never be the case for a hand-stitched product simply because humans are not capable of performing the exact same function over and over again down to the microscopic level. And that is for the good of the products!

Saddle stitching is micro-adjusted throughout the stitching process, varying ever so slightly with every stitch

A well-experienced artisan would know the leather properties and gain feedback tension on the thread from each stitching. With this information, each stitch is curated with care to produce the superb end product you see.

The slight "imperfections" in hand-stitched products truly make every one of them different from each other. You will never find two hand-stitched products that look identical.

Saddle stitching is a highly time-consuming and labour-intensive process. And with each product, there is a craftsman – and artisan in leather crafting – that wholeheartedly committed to perfecting it just for you.

When you hold onto the product, you can feel a person and a story behind the item and its organic details. It was not a piece that was made quickly or cheaply, just so that a business somewhere can make more money. It is made with patience and care, one stitch at a time, for someone who understands and appreciates the finer details.

It's not profitable, but it's better.

Stitching with a machine is a lot quicker, a lot cheaper, and marginally easier. It's the go-to for most leather crafting businesses out there to get 80% of the job and quality done in a short time. But that's not what Leone Leather is about.

We don't cut corners to make something that is just satisfactory, and we believe the quality speaks for itself. Our craftsmen use what we believe is the best leather, adhere to every standard of a high-end leather product, and stand by every piece of the products that leave our workshop. And to do that, we take the challenging route to create the best work we can make every time.


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