Winter Project: Finding the Speedy Stitcher

speedy stitcher leather awl

Handy sewing kit tough enough for boots.

Today it’s in the 20’s with a light snow falling, a few inches on the ground and a few more coming. That’s a good day for those projects you keep meaning to do, as long as you don’t have to be anyplace and fortunately I don’t. I’ve been intending to make a new sheath for my Buck 110 Folding Hunter knife, which is five inches of steel, rosewood and brass and just a little too much to be laying loose in my pocket. Case sells it with a belt pouch but the pouch was built a little light and the strap wore through after I carried it for a few months. I’ve been meaning to make a better sheath for years and today seemed like a good day for it. (Photos of the finished product at the bottom of this post — yay! I finished something!)

I dug a piece of scrap leather out, matched it up to the knife, and then tried to find my Speedy Stitcher. That’s what’s holding me up. I remember where I last saw it but that was in my old workshop before I moved. After a half hour of searching through tool boxes didn’t turn it up I ordered a new one through Amazon. That’s how good the Speedy Stitcher is — if you can’t find it you buy another.

Lots of people carry sewing kits, and actually a needle and thread is usually included with emergency kits and first aid packages. That’s fine for light jobs but if your boots start coming apart or you’ve torn a big gash in your pack you do need something a little stronger than a sewing needle. You might get the needle through the material, but the thread it hauls isn’t strong enough to fix anything for long. What you need for leather is a punch and an awl and some really stout cordage. If you try punching through with the blade of a pocket knife you’ll do more damage than good, and then there’s the problem of getting the cord through the hole.

The Speedy Stitcher weighs 3 ounces and it’s a real problem solver, able to stitch heavy cloth, canvas, sailcloth and leather. All tools store in the hollow wooden handle and there’s enough strong waxed thread on the bobbin to do plenty of repairs. The handle gives you an easy way to push one of the several sizes of needle through the work without pushing the eye of the needle through your hand, and the stitching method is so simple anyone can do it. It’s a simple “Push, pull, thread; pull out and repeat.” The first few stitches are the toughest, partly because you’re learning the technique and partly because the needle hasn’t been waxed yet. The waxed thread supplied with the tool used to be thick linen, but now it’s polyester. You’ll have a tough time finding it in most stores but you can order plenty from the manufacturer, or you can save the little bobbin and rewind it with the strongest waxed dental floss you can find. I didn’t come up with that, Aleut and Eskimo people figured out what dental floss was for before learning to read English. Best thing in the world for stitching thick hides and fixing your mukluks.

A vise makes the work easier and neater but you can get by without one if it’s an emergency. Many times when a boot sole comes loose you can use the Speedy Stitcher to repair it using the same holes as the original stitching, and most field repairs are like that — putting things back the way they were instead of starting from scratch.

Probably I’ll find mine just before or just after the new one arrives, tucked into a drawer somewhere I can’t possibly miss it. In that case I’ll have two — one for the workshop and one for the pack. Come to think of it, I haven’t looked there yet.

Visit the Speedy Stitcher homepage for links to the instruction manual and a video demonstration.

Loop stitching was the toughest -- three layers of thick leather required a drill to lead the way.

I managed to get this knife sheath finished in one afternoon, even though I was a little rusty with the Stitcher. I’m used to a few little tricks that help avoid the bench vise, but if you use a vise the stitches are easier to keep straight and even. Plus, you don’t run the risk of shoving the Speedy Stitcher’s needle through your hand, something I always do try to avoid. It’s a big needle.

Got a little offline once or twice but in all it went very well.

So even though it’s possible to do this with a pair of pliers wrapped with three rubber bands as a hand vise, I recommend you follow the company’s procedures and not mine. Keep the plier trick in mind, because on the trail you’re not likely to be carrying a bench vise. Lots of people do carry multi-tools.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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