How To Use A Sewing Awl- Beginner 101 And Expert Tips

Ever had frustrations with stitching thick fabric or leather? Then this post on how to use a sewing awl is for you. Sit back and enjoy this few moments of enlightenment (lol).

Some of the ancient war, farming as well as house implements we are familiar with include the spear, machete or knife and hoes. We see most of these implements more in the movies than in real life. The use of some of these implements has changed just as their designs have equally been remodeled to meet contemporary fashion.

how to use a sewing awl
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The awl however, is an implement that has endured over the years albeit with significant technological improvements. Its shape and function has remained significantly the same and it remains unmistakable. Additionally, the material with which it is made has also evolved over the years from animal bones to modern day metals.

In case you’ve not had any kind of tool or device that could help you stitch your bag strap, belt and other leather/thick materials, the awl is handy. It is possible you’ve always found yourself trying to fix these items with make shift devices.  Sometimes you are even tempted to use kitchen utensils such as knife and fork to fix these things!

 You truly know they don’t work out most times because you end up doing a shabby job of it. This is in addition to the risk of sustaining injury in trying to use these sharp objects for what they are not meant for.

 The sewing awl affords you the efficiency, perfection and ease you so much deserve in effecting such repairs. The awl therefor is the best option for stitching your leather materials in the absence of a professional leather sewing machine.

In this article we intend to x-ray how to use the sewing awl in details so you can acquire as much information as possible on the subject. We hope you will benefit immensely from the information in this post.

What is a Sewing Awl?

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A sewing awl is a tool used for making holes in thick materials such as leather to enable stitching. It is also useful for joining thick materials simultaneously by stitching.

This sewing awl is made up of three main parts, a smoothly shaped handle, a thick sizable diameter needle and a spool furnished with a deep thread placed between them.

The replaceable needles of the sewing awl are straight with curved blades. The dense, long thread that is treated with wax moves from the spool to make hard lockstitches after making holes in the leather. This thread is commonly made of dense-duty polyester.

The handle of the awl is made from a genuine redwood or black, ebony walnut or mahogany and comes in different shapes. Its design depends on the application as well as the artist’s preferences. It is perfectly smooth, natural, polished and not treated by chemical solution.

The blade of the sewing awl usually comes with a strong, rust-resistant stainless metal. It comes in different shapes which include oval, flat or hexagon and diamond. Your choice of the shape of awl you intend to use will depend on the type of hole and stitch you are to make on the leather.  A holding device is placed between the blade and the handle which is to be unscrewed to change the awl’s handle. An inbuilt spanner is also added to the awl’s kit.

This multi-purpose and professionally graded tool is to a great extent used by leather making professionals, handcraft shoemakers, cobblers and repairers. It is also used by scrapbookers and bookmakers. Even though the awl has a heavy-duty like look, it works like a hand sewing machine that is usually light and compact.  It has all the basic components of a sewing machine.

Parts of the Sewing Awl

The simplest way to describe a stitching awl is that it is like a knife but with a sharp pointed tip and a tiny opening through which thread is passed. It is not unlikely to find such a knife in your kitchen or within the vicinity. That is how the ordinary conventional awl looks like.

The awl referred to as the “Speedy Stitcher” awl model, is very much similar to the version in use in most developed parts of the world. These more modern varieties come with a heavy threaded bobbin with a tension location that ensures there is pressure on your thread in the process of stitching. The awl equally has a needle that has a long narrow furrow through which the thread will descend into a compressed opening.

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Another feature of this modern awl is the threaded post which bears the needle in a fastener or strand-like holding device. The wooden handle of the awl with its opening is meant to facilitate the passage of the thread to terminate towards the cap of the bobbin. This awl is a significant improvement from the traditional awl that looked more like a knife with a small hole.

The Contemporary Sewing Awl

The modern sewing awl used for stitching or making small holes for brads and small screws are usually crafted with a vertical, pointed and narrow shape. It has multiple uses including making marks on materials, making and widening the hole of wood or leather materials for insertion of screws, nails, fasteners etc.

It is also useful for making deep incisions and indentations in materials of different textures. With pressure on the material from the blade of the awl, indented punches can be made on leather or light wood materials. Such indentions can easily be punctured into holes for stitching or insertion of nails and screws.

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How To Thread A Sewing Awl

To thread a sewing awl, the first thing to do is to remove the screw that holds the spool of the thread, remove the spool and then run the tip of your thread through the opening on the awl.

The next step is to replace the spool of the thread and put the needle in the cylinder like part of the awl with the long, narrow furrow. The needle is put on the particular side from where the thread is leaving the reel of the awl.

After this has been done, tighten the long cylindrical part of the awl with a compressed twist while still holding the needle. It is important that you ensure that the thread follows the long narrow furrow in the course of threading the needle. The tool used to tighten your awl as well as the needles can be stored inside the handle of the awl. 

If you own a sewing machine, you might also want to check out our article on how to thread a sewing machine.

Set Up Your Stitch

To set up what you want to sew with the awl, the bobbin has to be firmly placed in the awl’s handle with the needle positioned in its place. The thread in the bobbins is now pulled out from the opening in the awl and wound in a circular shape round the awl’s tension post location.  It is then pierced through a vent and an opening in the awl’s handle all through the post that is threaded.

The thread continues the journey to the thread post through a small concavity which is carved into the frame of the awl. The thread is finally inserted through the needle with the aid of a channel already designed for the passage of the thread.

 It is important to ensure that the holding device fastening the thread to the needle is well placed in the small concave opening. This is to avoid the thread from being stifled thereby preventing it from being easily released. As soon as the thread lock is properly secured, there should be no difficulty in pulling out the thread string from the needle.

Start Stitching

In beginning the stitching process with the awl, the first step is to thrust the awl into the location you want to start your stitching. You will need to pull out thread sufficient to stitch what you intend stitching with some extra. The whole length of the thread pulled out will be passed through the eye of the needle.

 The next step is to take hold of the thread firmly and steadily, pulling the awl with the needle from the hole. In doing this the thread is left behind. Your next assignment is to pierce the awl through your material thereby creating another hole. You’ll now pull back the thread till the thread forms a circle like a loop on your awl. 

You will need to line up the whole stretch of the second thread across the loop you will be making. When you pull out the awl from a particular hole you will thereafter pull the end of the two threads with proportional tension. The pulling of the two threads at different sides of your material will give you your initial stitch.

You will make subsequent stitches by continuing the process. You will however need to be releasing the thread coming from the bobbin of your awl as required while stitching.

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Finish The Stitch

The finishing of your stitch with an awl is very important and critical to your sewing and one of the ways of doing this is by tying a knot. This is done by pushing the awl as when you are doing your normal stitching. You will have to pull out a reasonable length of the stitching thread through your needle and severe the loop thread made by the awl. Tie the loop thread you have already cut to the end that is already loose and give it a square knotting.

The other way to end the final stitching is to loop it. To achieve this you do the normal stitching after which you do a backward stitch.  You continue by inserting the needle through the pen-ultimate stitch with the loop and repeat the procedure with the preceding loop till you are satisfied that the stitching is firm. Remove the awl as you tighten the thread as in normal stitching and then trim off the end of your work.

How to Use an Awl to Sew Leather

By the design of the sewing awl it is capable of stitching together both thick authentic leather as well as other heavy materials. These materials include canvas as well as duck clothing materials.

After the initial process of threading the awl which we have explained before now, your awl is now ready for stitching.  It is important you make use of pliers in firmly placing the blade of the awl which houses the needle at its tip. This is because you would require some pressure to pierce the sharp tip of the awl in the process of stitching.

Therefore, in sewing your thick leather using the awl, you need to pierce the needle of the awl at the desired spot in the leather. The next step is to draw the thread from the place that has been pierced and push the awl’s blade through to the next opening you have made. The blade of the awl is then pulled backward to make a lockstitch. You will continue with the process by making a lot of stitches forward and finally backward to make the stitching at the completion of your sewing secure. Once the stitching is rounded off, the reaming thread should be neatly cut off.

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Benefits of Using a Sewing Awl

The awl sewing kit is a device with great sewing diversity. It is basic and absolutely necessary for the leather sewing business as well as repairs by professionals. It is also worth having at home for people who would want to do some repairs by themselves.

The sewing awl is ideal for such heavy and thick materials like animal hide and other types of leather materials. It is also used in stitching duck cloth and canvas materials. The sewing awl is a portable and convenient tool which does not have a steep learning curve.

This device enables you sew what looks like the lockstitch made by the sewing machine. Unlike the sewing machine however, the awl stitches by piercing the material making a ridge or hill and valley pattern. This sewing method is referred to as saddling.

The sewing awl is an important tool which assists craftsmen skilled in leather works in stitching. With the awl you can quickly sew strong stitches on the two sides of your leather material easily.

There are other devices like the chisel, overstitch wheel and rotary puncher which are helpful when you want to punch your leather material. There is however, usually the added burden of looking for ordinary big needles for dong the stitching separately.

 The awl on the other hand, enables you make your holes and stitches at the same time and with the same device.  As soon as you are through with doing the markings and measurements on your material, stitching won’t take time.  The sewing awl is therefore a desirable tool for every home as it is both portable and affordable.

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Conclusion

The sewing awl is a portable and simple device that does real fabulous job where stitching leather materials or other tough materials is concerned. Replacing the needle of the awl is easy just as it is to change the spool of the thread. It is an important implement in the kit of every professional leather artisan.

The sewing awl would be great as part of   our “survival kit” and should be readily available in every home. The need for this device at home may sink in better if you consider how much you spend on stitching or repairing leather items.  It can also be useful for other purposes outside leather work such as fixing tent, mending your jeans and making items with hide and skin.

The sewing awl is worth far more than its price considering its usefulness both to the professional and at home. Venturing into leather stitching with the sewing awl can be another source of income for you! This is more so with the craze and attraction that comes with handmade products including leatherworks.

This portable hand stitcher affords you the opportunity of stitching anything you want anytime, anywhere. With the information we have shared we don’t envisage you having difficulty choosing a sewing awl that will meet your needs.

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