The Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl… My Favorite Tool

sewing awlThe Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl is my new favorite tool.  I have been using one for quite some time, and have decided to share some interesting things about this useful tool.

The speedy stitcher sewing awl is an American invention that dates back to the beginning of the 1900's.  The sewing awl was invented by Francis Steward, who won the patent for it in 1909. He introduced the speedy stitcher to the world and it has been in circulation ever since.  It is still used today and remains a family-owned business based in the state of New York.

The sewing awl is used with: sails, canvas, outdoor furniture, sewing bags, thick leather, and shoes.  If that is not reason enough to own one, I can tell you it gives you the fulfillment of hand-sewing along with the convenience of an efficient tool.


As it turns out my sewing awl is made by Tandy Leather, another American company based in Texas that has been in business since 1919.  Today it is no longer a family business, but a corporation managing 100 stores spread throughout the UK, Spain, and Australia.

The speedy stitcher sewing awl answers my need to work with my hands and allows me to explore different kinds of material for special projects.  Plus it fits well in a suitcase, making sewing a traveling hobby as well.

Do you remember the bucket bag or the small backpack?  Both projects have given my machine a run for their money.  In the small backpack project, I could not add a handle to the bag, the sewing machine was not strong enough, but using the sewing awl I could punch right through the tough layers.

The same bag, I just varied the sizes.

I really do recommend the speedy stitcher, it is both fulfilling and convenient.  Not only do I get the satisfaction of handcrafting, but I am able to do things that I couldn't with only the use of a normal machine.  Plus it's great for traveling, making sure that I can stay creative on-the-go.

Funny how that is, a small gadget that I actually found in an outdoor market for just two dollars, and all the happiness that has brought me.

If you'd like to try your own Speedy Stitcher, here's a good place to get one:

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123 Responses to The Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl… My Favorite Tool

  1. Mickey Louth says:

    Having trouble with the page loading, but was wondering if you have a video of how to use thread etc. I have one too, but don’t know how to set it up

  2. Maggie says:

    I have been trying to watch your video on this page but I’m having no luck at all. First I got an ad for the Mini Cooper, then immediately another one, then an ad about conservation in Warm Springs, about 10 sec of the video & it went to another ad & I clicked out. I was really looking forward to the video but since I’m not getting to see it, it is too frustrating to try. I love your emails & the info you give. Thanks so much.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Maggy, it is not a video but just a gif, about 10 secs only. I will make a video showing you how to use the tool in the future.

  3. Mery says:

    Buy extra waxed string because once you have it around you (and DH & everyone else) will find a myriad of uses. We used it for kite string (& much more) because it doesn’t easily break.

  4. Karen Blackburn says:

    Is this similar to the tool used for sari work done on fabrics, I have been looking for one for ages as I really like the finished articles, would be useful for stitching up the handles on bags as well. Sari work is all chain stitch and the tool looks similar, can this be used on ordinary cotton poplin, and do you know if I can get it in Ireland (Dublin, not Belfast).

  5. Vesna says:

    You have a great gadget, I like it, but I can not find it in Serbia ☹

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      You might have to order it from the UK or Spain. Tandy Leather has a store in both places.

  6. M Klassen says:

    Hi Mayra
    I love rwading your posts. I’m out in South Africa can’t always get hold of all the gadgets and new to sewing but find your info so helpful. You inspire me

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I am hoping you can get it, have you tried getting it from Australia? I know many online shops deliver to your country.

  7. Dawsie says:

    My Mom had one of these in her workshop years ago I still have to go through everything but have not had the heart to do so yet too many memories tucked up in each of those boxes and I’m not ready to handle all the memories yet.

    But I have decided to buy one so I can make the perfect handbag the way I want it to be and not what your limited to with shop baught bags. I already knew how to use it as Mom taught me when I was little lol we used it to mend the tents for camping lol just never thought of using it with other things Dh’o moment lol

    Even though my machine can handle the number of layers of leather and fabric I am not able to move that much through the machine with my arthritic hands lol Mom made sure I bought a machine that can handle leather as well as the lightest of silks lol she was a smart lady that’s for sure but now I have her 3 sewing machines and 2 surgers lol as well as my 2 sewing machine and 1 surgery lol. Talk about needing a special workshop lol just as well Dad built me one which we are using to store everything at the moment he’s like me can not coupe yet with the memories. As they say it all takes time and time I have in spades 🙂 one day maybe once we have finished building the rest of the workshop walls and cabinets lol
    Thanks for the interesting article I like the idea of using my punch needle for making all the darts in the fabrics never even thought of that lol

    Thanks again can not wait to cut up some fabric to make something just to mark out all the darts and points lol

  8. Sue says:

    For the Canadian who wanted to know where to buy this tool, it is sold at PrincessAuto item number 8068660 for $9.99 ( plus shipping if you can’t find it in the Surplus section of the store). I bought one a few years ago to fix a farrier’s apron but couldn’t figure out the written instructions so I look forward to watching the video once you post it. Thanks

  9. Tryllyam says:

    I’ve been wondering what/how it is used. I’ve had one for years, but had no clue how it worked. (No instructions left in the box when it made it’s way to me.) I just knew it was some kind of awl-like tool. Thanks so much for writing about your’s! Now I want to go find mine…

  10. Pat LeCates says:

    Years ago I bought a cross between this Sewing Awl and a Russian Punch Needle. Its instructions were to use a chain stitch and it went quite fast. Great for emergency sewing needs while away from home.

  11. Kimberly says:

    Where in your post is this video everyone is talking about? I see a .gif, but no video. The .gif is more demonstrative than instructional, and there’s no way I could use it to actually sew something with the stitcher. Am I missing something? You always post such interesting things, Mayra, and this tool seems so useful I’d love to be able to get one and try it out on leather! Thanks for the introduction to this tool!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      HI Kimberly, you are correct I posted a gif, I am making a handbag in leather and will share that using the speedy stitcher.

  12. Lois Sweeney says:

    We used it to make tailor tacks in our sewing class, once we could not get the “Magic Stitcher anymore.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, I can see how it would be easy to make tailor tacks with it…:) very interesting use of the tool.

  13. Brenda Lindsey says:

    My father taught me how to use one on leather and camping gear. It never occurred to me to use it in other applications. Thank you for opening my eyes. I now have a new use for this heirloom.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Your Speedy Stitcher is even more precious. You are a very lucky lady to have one passed from one generation to the next.

  14. Diane Lloyd says:

    I have a lawn swing that is mesh (?) canvas sewn onto a metal pipe frame. The seams are coming apart and I’ve been stymied as to how I could repair them. Thank you for showing us this tool! I’ve seen them before, as my grandmother had one, but I didn’t realize what it was for. Now I know how she hand-sewed a new canvas top for my dad’s first car…a 1931 Model A Ford purchased when he was a teen in the mid-40’s. I always thought she was magical and could make ANYTHING. She made practically all of my clothes, right down to the red wool coat with white fur collar and matching muff for a Christmas I will never forget when I was 8. Sorry for the long post but that dang awl has brought back a flood of amazing memories. Thanks again!!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Not at all Diane, this is my favorite part!!! I loooove this stories and the memories you have. So it is I who should thank you.

  15. Priscilla M. Laybolt says:

    so very interesting, thank you for sharing such a unique piece of sewing history and value to use,

  16. Lucy McRae says:

    I’ve had a Speedy Stitcher for decades, my Mom had one as well. I used mine mostly for repairing my tent trailer and at one point I had to replace all the mosquito netting, a massive job….thank goodness I had a friend who helped and stood on the other side….

  17. Mary Ann says:

    What a handy-dandy portable sewing machine! Thank you for letting us know about this useful tool. I once had a favorite purse that needed mending in the leather area and took it to a shoe repair shop. What a mess he made of my favorite lighthouse purse. If I had known about this tool, I could have fixed it myself and would have saved myself money and annoyance at the unacceptable job he did. I could have purchased the awl for the same price and had a very inexpensive sewing machine tool to boot. I am looking forward to your next lesson on how to use this wonderful and amazing tool.

    I just love your website.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and appreciate the work I put on this site. You made my day 🙂

  18. Heather says:

    How do you avoid piercing your hand on accident? Could you wear a thimble?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      No, I wouldn’t because I think it would blunt the needle tip. I am just careful when I stick the needle in.

  19. Ana Gray says:

    where can you buy it?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Links are at the end of the article, please check 🙂

    • Karen A O'Dea says:

      I found a Ship to Shore brand Quick Stitch Sewing Awl at Harbor Freight. They have nationwide stores and a web site. Only $5.99.
      (I have no connection with this vendor)

  20. Janice says:

    I used one a couple of years ago at a friends’ farm. Once you learned how to use it & got the stitches even, it was so easy. My first thing I made was a large oil cloth for their cattle. The cloth just wore out now. It’s an amazing tool. I work with a lot of leather, canvas & heavy materials. I have seen a couple of different ones (the handle was different in size & thickness, the clerk didn’t know) in your opinion what is the best one to buy? The one my friend has is very old & not willing to part with it. So I have to use it when I
    go out to visit. Would love to have my own. I live in Canada. Thanks

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I would suggest buying from Tandy Leather since they have a store in Canada and can deliver. Also, they sell leather and all the thread you need for the different color of leather. Happy sewing, I would love to see a picture of one of your projects.

    • Johanna Husslage says:

      In Canada they are sold by the Lee Valley store. An American company but nevertheless a beautiful “hardware” store

  21. Lesley Brough says:

    Regretably no places to purchase are shown. Is it because I am in the UK?

  22. LisaET says:

    My husband has a different model. He just showed me his. The spool goes in the handle and comes out the side. Also from the Stewart Co.
    Can’t wait to try it out.

  23. Gladys says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us Mayra and for showing us how it is used as well! I had been battling using to plain needles in my projects… this looks perfect! Love your projects!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Gladys, I am just starting to use the needles, I found them hard at the beginning but I learned a trick in Italy that has helped me a lot. I will share that in the future stay tuned.

  24. Myra says:

    What weight of thread do you use with the awl?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Myra, I use Leather Sewing Stitching Flat Waxed Thread String Cord (150D 0.8mm 250M, Black)

  25. Enid Rudyk says:

    I have a vintage one that came with a group purchase on eBay, now I know what it is for I will be giving it a try! Thank you.

  26. Maria says:

    The kit from Stewart company includes coarse, waxed “thread”, along with extra needles.
    Is it possible to use buttonhole twist thread on the bobbin instead? Is it possible to hand wind the thread onto the bobbin, or how is it wound? Thank you.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Maria, I will make a video to answer all these questions, to complex to explain without a proper way to show you.

  27. JoAnne Brown says:

    Could it sew through leather?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, it does, I have loaded a few projects I have already done with leather. See the pictures above.

  28. Ted says:

    I love my sewing awl! Several years ago I used mine to make an entire leather renaissance costume for a fair that I was on cast for. It allowed me to walk in parade and sew at the same time.

  29. Michele Cais says:

    Omg’sh I’ve actually had this tool for more than ten years and never used it. I couldn’t figure out how the stitches would stay in. Now I know ;-). Thank you for solving this mystery.

  30. Cindy says:

    Now I’ll have to figure out where I put mine. DH came home one day w/some a sewing box and gadgets he’d picked up for me at an estate tag sale. This was such an unusual ‘gadget’ yet I didn’t know what it was called, nor what to do w/it, but had to hang onto it for its uniqueness, if nothing else. Thank you for your explanation and demonstration!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Good thing you kept it, it is such a useful tool when you don’t have an industrial sewing machine.

  31. rehbeckchen says:

    OMG, I have one of these – and never knew how to use it. Thank you for the explanation and video!
    I started sewing years after my grandma passed away, but I started sewing with her machine and utensils. I always wondered how the awl was put to work. :

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      So happy the article has helped you, now just to find some leather and sew something amazing.

  32. Deborah Stair says:

    I was very interested to see your article about the Speedy Stitcher, but could not find the link to buy one. i’m sure I am overlooking it. Can you help me?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Deborah, at the bottom of the article there are some links to the places where you can buy them. Enjoy it, it is really a lovely handy tool.

  33. Glenda says:

    I have an awl but never knew what it was for or how to use it. Thank you for the post . Now I’m sure it will get a good workout.

  34. juls says:

    never heard of this tool going to buy one sounds handy

  35. Barb Chase says:

    Gail said it best! “This is exactly what ‘ve needed without knowing it!” Thank you for keeping up with the latest and best and sharing it all with us!

  36. Gail Laub says:

    This is exactly what ‘ve needed without knowing it!

  37. Grace T says:

    OMG!!! This an amazing gadget, I never knew about. Thank you so much for showing us a demonstration.

    I made a cloth handbag several years ago and I did it all on my machine, but had to hand-turn it through the handles, and the stitching was sort of uneven in parts. That was the end of making purses and bags.

    I will definitely give this a try. Thank you so much. I love your website.

  38. Dianne Wolfsohn says:

    I have never heard of this. Thank you so much for sharing, this is one tool every sewer should have in their home. Thanks for showing it with a video.

  39. Leanne Long says:

    My father used one of these on the farm. He could stitch really fast! I still have one for occasional heavy duty stitching.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, some people do stitch with it very fast, I had to speed the video I don’t bored you but I love this little gadget.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, I hope one day I can stitch fast, for now, I have to concentrate on making the stitches even.

  40. Bonnie Richardson says:

    I’ve heard about these before but never seen one in action. Thanks for the video. I’ll have to give this a try.

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