Torn canvas is no fun for the sailor, but there is something uniquely satisfying about making repairs or hand-stitching new creations using needle and thread. Whether you want to whip the ends on your jib sheets, sew-in new tell-tales, or stitch an eye in rope that doesn’t like splices, basic marlinspike skills are essential for an offshore sailor.
Prior to this report on stitching tools, we’ve explored a number of hand sewing projects that can help simplify the sailing life. Here are just a few:
“Stitching vs. Splicing,” PS October 2014
“Is Hand-stitched Nylon Webbing Strong Enough?” PS April 2015
“Sewn Splices Two Year Followup,” PS June 2016
“The DIY Sail Repair Kit,” PS November 2017
“How to Stitch a Yarn Telltale to Your Sail,” PS May 2018
Making Sail Repairs Last, PS November 2018
“When Splicing Isn’t an Option,” PS April 2019
“Testing the DIY Dog Bone Shackle,” PS October 2021
2. Needle eye dimensions can vary widely. The stitching palm needle (bottom) is smaller than the Awl-for-All needle, but its eye is actually bigger.
3. The stitching awl needle wider to allow for the thread groove and the occasional misaligned push, resulting in a bigger hole and torn fibers in the cloth.
4. The locking stitch of a stitching awl does not truly lock. It resists pulling out slightly better than single pass hand stitching, but not enough for you to go running out to buy a stitching awl. For real security, use a saddle stitch.
5. The needle and palm holes are smaller, tight and there is less damage to the sail fibers than with the stitching awl.
6. The light leaking through holes created by the stitching awl clearly show how the stitching awl does more harm to the material than hand stitching using a sailor’s palm and a correctly sized needle and thread. For hand-sewn sail repairs,#8 metric twine with a matching needle are commonly used. For hand-sewn whipping or stitching ropes or webbing, #12 metric twin is common.