Frequently I'm finding that my harness needles are too difficult to pull through by hand, and I have to resort to pliers, which means putting down the awl. Slows down the process a bit.

What I'm using:

  • 4-5 oz veg-tan
  • Size 4 harness needles (originally I was using size 0, which was even more difficult to pull through)
  • Size 1 Barry King Awl Blade (2.6mm width)
  • Waxed nylon thread (Tandy 1227-02, not sure what thickness)

I suspect that my thread is too thick, or that the wax is making my needles too sticky, but I'm not really sure.

What could be the causes of this / what can I try?

  • 1
    How are you attaching the thread to the needle? If you're tying it, then the knot will be difficult to pull through - you can just pull a length (say 4"/10cm) through and that will hold fairly well without adding all that additional bulk to the end of the needle.
    – walrus
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 8:53
  • I've been using the art of hand sewing leather method -- thread the needle and then pole the needle through the thread, and then pull down to form a partial knot Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 9:05
  • 1
    Try cleaning your needle, (wax will make it sticky.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 18:50
  • 1
    @walrus The following things seemed to make it easier: 1. The thread - I bought a different thread that seemed less 'sticky' than the tandy thread, and found stitching easier 2. Using dyes - After dying a piece, I found the leather was easier to stitch. Maybe the dye made the leather more rigid 3. Switching from size 4 to size 2 needles - I think the increase in size helps keep the hole open better. Using some combination of these seems to help, but I'm not entirely sure why. Commented May 4, 2018 at 1:19
  • 1
    @NicholasSizer matching the needle to the thread to the material sewed makes a huge difference across all materials. If you found the answer yourself, congrats! you should answer your question and approve it.
    – rebusB
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 19:32

2 Answers 2


Oils in the leather can turn rancid with time, thus becoming a plastic, sticky goo that will transfer to the needle as you stitch. With new leather this is not going to be the problem .. but, just saying.

Try treating the needle and first few centimetres of the thread with teflon spray, WD-40, or neatsfoot oil .. whichever you prefer. You can also rub a bit of Ivory Soap onto the first 10 cm of the thread near the needle to have a slipperier wax on the thread.


What about a bit of lanolin on the thread to lubricate it enough to pull through ? You can find lanolin in the baby section, near where the bottles would be, of most large chain stores. Breastfeeding mothers use it as protection from overworked, dried skin on their nipples.

I don't know how this would affect your leather, but being as how it's a natural product, I don't see where it would leave any type of greasy spot like Vaseline or leave some type of stain .. it's also very thick ,not like petroleum jelly..and a little of that stuff goes s long way, as I mentioned before, it's very thick.

Also, (and I know this is a bit outside the box) but know how slippery silicone based personal lubricant is? Not water based, but silicone ,maybe partially coat the thread starting at the very bottom of the needle in some of that? It could help it slide right on through!

So, if either of these is a really bad idea please be easy on me ;),because I'm not very experienced in leatherwork but my dad did a lot of leatherwork when I was a young girl. I've witnessed him using a few "outside the box" techniques while working on a project. So I'm not entirely sure if or how it may help or harm, those more experienced in this may know, but that's just what came to mind while reading your question.

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