I do like a good workshop that gives me the opportunity to try a new craft, I’ve never worked with leather, so when a workshop by Diamond Awl was announced at my Skipton Stitchers meeting, I was interested to try it. Jason Young-Stocks and his wife Louise have a leather workshop in Saddleworth on the very southerly edge of Yorkshire, they teach people how to make a range of leather goods from purses to handbags using traditional methods. One of our members had already attended one of his two or three day courses and made a beautiful handbag.
At our meeting we were making a coin purse. Jason had previously cut out the basic leather shape with the needle holes already made, this is the thick and firm weight of leather, not the pliable leather you can stitch on a domestic sewing machine. There was a choice of colours but as purple wasn’t there I kept it simple and chose a brown leather.
Jason was a great tutor, explaining and demonstrating each process in turn. Our first task was to gently sand the edges with a nail file, removing any residue from the cutting process. We then used a very sharp tool a bit like a chisel to bevel the edges, we had some scrap leather to practise on, getting used to the angle needed to bevel the edge. Here’s a photo of my friend cutting her bevel…
We could then colour the raw edge with a special pen a bit like a wide felt tip, the colours were pretty subtle, especially if the leather was dark like mine. The raw edges were then polished with a Japanese traditional product whose name I did write down but now can’t find! It does make a gorgeous finish to the purse.
Now came the tricky part, learning saddle stitch. I must admit when Jason first showed us I thought I’d never get the hang of it as there are about six stages to each stitch! We started with a long length of thread which was quite thick and very strong, we threaded a needle at each end and put our purse in the wooden clamp.
Having practised in small groups we could then stitch our purse together. Once I got the hang of the different steps of the stitch I did get into quite a rhythm, the saddle stitch needed quite a lot of tension to pull the stitches tight and three weeks later I still have the scar from a blister on the crease of my little finger where I held the thread!
Having stitched across the opening edge we then had to stitch the sides together, which was pretty fiddly at first as we tried to line the holes up. Our purses were complete, we also then had the option of embossing our name or initals on the purse. I decided to put my initials and found it’s definitely harder than it looks, mine is distinctly wobbly, though that probably suits me really 🙂
It was a great workshop, everyone went home very satisfied with their lovely coin purse. Jason was a great teacher, very patient, we also discovered that we attended the same three schools just four years apart, so we had a great chat reminiscing about all the different teachers we could remember.
If you are within striking distance of Saddleworth and interested in learning a new skill, I would certainly recommend a Diamond Awl workshop.