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The Incomparable Hand-Stitched Fine Leather Bag

If you have purchased a travel bag lately either as a replacement, an upgrade, or a starter piece, the anticipation of unwrapping your cherished possession, first to marvel and then organizing your daily essentials:  whether electronic devices, paperwork, or personal effects for effectiveness when working or traveling.

Whether done on-line or in-person if you’re inclined to higher-end brands in the carrying categories of totes, duffels, weekenders, and briefcases you have a range to choose from:  Well known North America leather brands such as Shinola and Saddleback and traditional European brands such as Smythson, Louis Vuitton, and the prestigious Goyard.  Comparatively, these designers produce exceptionally made bags and accessories. 

For elite clients, whether here in the U.S or a globally, top brands do offer customized product experiences within their collections which may mean adding precious stones, choosing an alligator leather for the exterior or even artist’s carvings or paintings to create a more unique bag

One fact you can be certain of is the majority of high-end designer brands, use sewing machines in the manufacturing of their bags.
A designer, after sketching the original model, will partner with their in-house team or manufacturer in tooling the production machines for the building of the end product ranging from cutting the leather pieces to the sewing machines which uses a “lockstitch”  method.

Lock-stitching is essentially successive stitching using two threads that are fed from below and above the leather.  Many bag designers use this common technique in mass-producing their products.   The best way to identify a lock-stitch is a continuous pull of a loose thread from an article of clothing, will result in all the stitches in that line unraveling. 

Most leather designers who use machines may also incorporate sewing details of decorative or embroidered stitching, as well as adding embellishments to distinguish their brand (Chanel’s padded cross-stitch for instance).

Top end designers will provide their very best clients,  customized buying experiences which may embody a personalized design of their choice or from a collection to be made exclusive to that client’s taste.

The art of hand saddle-stitching is what truly defines a luxury product’s superiority.    The technique of saddle-stitching originated centuries ago from leather crafters, in sewing horse saddles, built with the safety of the rider in mind.

When speaking of bespoke handcrafted leather, there are very few elite brands that sew their products only using the saddle-stitched method – Hermés considered the granddaddy of leather products in producing the utmost in quality and exclusivity by assigning one signature leather craftsperson to each bag sewn.  

Saddle-stitching involves a single thread (typically wax or silk) and two needles pulled through the same punched hole in opposite directions.     
Comparing a sewing machine to the skills of an experienced leather saddle-stitch crafter, as basic as this stitch seems, the time-consuming process is what makes this stitch superior over a machine. 

For instance, a fold-over card wallet can take mere minutes to sew on a machine, as opposed to an hour or more to hand punch the stitch holes and then the actual stitching.  Not taking into account, a fine leatherworking  Master Artisan will elevate the wallet by painting and burnishing the edges so that the wallet has a seamless finish.  In addition, unlike a machine lock-stitch, the saddle-stitch is incredibly durable.  If one thread is cut, that one stitch is only affected, so a repair can be made rather than having to re-sew the entire line of stitches.

What clues let a buying prospect tell the difference between a leather bag sewn by saddle-stitches versus a sewing machine?

·       Most upscale brands who either sell in their own retail houses or high-end department stores are more than likely machine sewn.  Even if it is advertised as handmade, it more pertains to a craftsperson using a machine with their hands, a small detail that can misleading if a consumer doesn’t understand the terminology.   

·       Master Leather craftspeople are going to be quite upfront about the production of their pieces due to their extensive time and being labor-intensive. 

·       Machine stitches are quite consistent in both look and thread tension and will be sewn primarily in a straight line.  However, a highly experienced Master  Artisan will come as close to perfection as humanly possible due to the thousands of hours of learning correct tension with different leathers. 

·       Another major clue is saddle-stitching involves angled stitching as compared to machine round stitching holes.  In an attempt to compete with Hermés, fashion brands have invested in sewing machines built to produce the same angles.   I would always refer to the first initial clue which is a very small percentage of high-end leather bags are hand-stitched. 

Hand-stitching retains a time-honored art, elevating Beau Satchelle’s craftsmanship through using premium leathers and exotic skins available.   Our clients can be satisfied to own an heirloom piece to be passed down to the next generation. 

In consulting with prospects, who have been purchasers of  carrying accessories from named brands,  instead of the continual ritual of buying a bag that predictably falls apart from wear after a relatively short time,  our bespoke leather bags address that the concern in creating an attractive,  workhorse which will exude a client’s personality and tastes.

For our current and future clients, it will always be our privilege to either create or introduce the bespoke hand-stitching process to you with our luxury leather accessories whether for work or play,  home or travel.  If you’re ready to take the journey, connect with either our CEO, April Bayles,  or Master Artisan, T. Michael by phone or email on our contact page.   -AJ

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Thank you Ann for your content insight into the art of leather saddle-stitching


Hat Tip to the following photo contributors:

Seashell in love – white embroidered leather

GREGOR – Handbags in a department store

Amna Sayeed – Sewing Machine



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