Ready to learn saddle stitch

Marikina Clock Tower

Marikina Clock Tower

Not so long ago, I wrote about a project I wanted to embark upon. But who am I kidding? It happened more than two years ago as I even wrote about it after I finished with my comprehensive examinations. I worked from home today because I had a follow-up medical check-up with my doctor in Marikina. I thought that I might as well drop by the leather supplies stores again since I was already in the area.

(Sorry for the bad quality photos, as I have mistakenly left my digital camera in the apartment. I had also forgotten my HMO card and it was almost a disaster. Good thing I have my account number listed on my phone.)

Giant shoe automobile, shoe car Marikina City

That’s one big patent footwear — a shoe automobile!

After I had my chest X-ray taken, I beelined to Marikina Public Market to first eat my lunch before I look for my leathercraft tools. First impression: I MISSED THIS PLACE. This area is where I spent my high school years and I felt happy seeing throngs of students fooling around the Freedom Park. It was very much alive as ever. Some of the old stores were still there, but I noticed that there was one big elaborate structure under construction behind the flower stalls. There also lots of tiangge stalls, mostly selling leather goods, and the giant shoe automobile was placed near the entrance. Make no mistake as it is a working piece of hilarity. I had once traveled beside it on my way home from the mall and people were pointing bemusedly at it. It was very hard not to miss.

While walking, I had a realization. There I was, beneath an overcast sky looking for leathercraft materials. About a decade and a half ago, I had once contemplated that I would choose leathercraft class if I were not selected for the star section. You see, back in the day in my ol’ high school (which is currently the city’s science high school), we had six sections per year. Our sections were initially assigned through an entrance exam and I fortunately got in the first section. For the second year, we were to be ranked again to determine our section. I am not too sure on how the students from second to sixth sections were decided, but I was certain that the first 26 girls and 26 boys were already sure for the first section on their second until fourth year — classmates from second year until we graduate. I am willing to bet that I had most probably ranked as the 26th boy, as I remember my Mathematics grades were not up to par and I was always at the brink of an “axe” (i.e. palakol, that is a line of 7). We were also supposed to maintain an average grade of 85%.

Anyway, for the students from the section two to sixth, they would be reshuffled again on their third year and each section would be assigned a different ‘shop’ to do until their fourth year. While the first section was given extra coursework on Science (Environmental Science, two Physics, two Chemistry), Mathematics (Analytic Geometry, Calculus, Advanced Algebra) and research, the other sections would have (for the boys) leathercraft, 2 sections for electricity, woodworking and welding. For the girls, they had two sections for home economics, dressmaking, culinary and another one I already forgot. I can’t fully remember how this was done, but if I am not mistaken, they had drawn lots to determine what their shop would be. As our section labor our way through Math & Science, the others spent about four hours doing those subjects.

This digital clock used to be a statue of a man washing a kid's behind

This digital clock used to be a statue of a man washing a kid’s behind

Even before the end of our first year, I had already feared not being in the first section because I cannot imagine doing any of those non-Math & Science courses. But I was a worrywart by nature and I was already thinking that if I were to be kicked out of the section, I’d hopefully pick leathercraft. I did not see myself doing either electricity, woodworking nor welding. They were too masculine for me. =D So I had my eyes set on leathercraft if ever because I admired the grace, dexterity and craftmanship done by people from my city. Being in the first section did not exempt us from Home Economics classes though, and we still had stitching projects that I had sloppily executed.

The photo above with the digital clock with a shoe sculpture on top of it used to be a statue of a man washing a kid’s but after the latter took a dump. The statue is now located in front of the Marikina City Health Office. Meanwhile, the clock above was in front of Snow White. This is the place to go whenever you need anything for your usual craft needs. I needed big needles for saddle stitching and I was able to buy 4 needles at Php 8.00 each. I even got to briefly chat with the owner, and I commented that I used to frequent their store back in high school. According to him, they are already 60 years this year. Wow. Imagine how many student projects their store had already served.

Leather swatches

Leather swatches

Caveat: horrible sales personnel!

Caveat: horrible sales personnel!

For the important tools, it took me a long time to find this store in the market. I had my GPS on in my phone but I still wandered aimlessly looking for the store. I’ve spent nearly 30 minutes walking the streets and I even reached the Marikina bridge but to no avail. On my last try, I was finally able to find the store. Noticed that I’ve been trying not to disclose its name for the last four sentences? Well, it so happened that the first sales personnel was a prick. I’m not going to promote their store. Too bad because they have quite an assortment of tools and supplies, and unless I need to buy more tools, I won’t be going back there.  Being totally green, I was carefully deciding and asking because I needed to make sure I’d get the right tools and materials. He was obviously too busy attending to another customer, but managed to give the price for the heavy-duty thread I’ve been looking for. When another personnel asked for what I need, she gave another price, so I said that the other guy said a lower price. When I clarified this, this prick went sarcastic and obnoxious towards me and it irked me so much, even if I were holding my tongue so as not to retort. Needless to say, I lectured him off about sarcasm and there was no need to give me an attitude when I was just asking. Who in the right mind would say “Baka iba ang kausap mo, wala akong sinasabing ganun” (Maybe you were talking to somebody else, I did not say such thing), complete with an annoying smirk.  I was not in the right mood to receive such crassness, having walked for 30 minutes looking for their store. Good thing that the lady was way nicer and patiently answered my questions. I did my homework prior to buying, but it won’t hurt to ask for clarifications.

I got a couple of the basic tools that I needed, and I hoped to buy some leather for practice. This was the part I was not ready for, because I thought that you could buy at least three square foot of leather. Each of the leather swatches has a price behind it, and I was shocked to hear that you have to buy the whole piece. Walang tingi. The lowest price for an acceptable split leather I saw was Php 90/square foot. Then I was informed that it was around 25 square feet, and a quick calculation on my phone indicated that it was for Php 3,870. Oh dear, I was not prepared to pay for that, especially as I would be beginning to learn saddle stitching. I looked at the other stores, but I was disappointed that most of them were selling synthetic materials. All along I thought that they all have genuine leather for sale.

Synthetic leather swatches

Synthetic leather swatches

After a short deliberation, I have decided that for practice, I can just buy a secondhand leather belt from a thriftstore. I found a black leather belt for Php 30, whose stitch I can remove to practice on the holes. Mama had a laugh when she saw that I was really serious about this whole leathercraft thing, seeing that I even have a small hammer and heavy pair of scissors just for practice. There were no beeswax, though, so I’ll use cubes of paraffin wax instead. They also do not have diamond-shaped awls, but a standard round one.

The basic tools - linen thread, paraffin wax, needles, hammer, stitch marker, scissors and awl

The basic tools: thread, paraffin wax, needles, hammer, stitch marker, scissors and awl

After practicing on a belt, I will definitely be working on a whole piece of tanned leather. I need to look for a store to buy some, other than the one above. I currently have my eyes on the stores on the other side of the Marikina bridge that I’ve been seeing every weekend on my way back to Makati. Hopefully, the people there are more accommodating and personable. I can’t wait to open Al Stohlman’s books again and finally start using my tools and materials. I consider his book “The Art of Hand Sewing Leather” a bible because it was very detailed and inspiring, especially the explanation on saddle stitch. Too bad I do not have any stitching pony to use, but hopefully I could have one made to help in my stitching. My ultimate project would be to make a top handle tote, messenger and backpack in one!


I already found another store, which also sells genuine leather. Click here.



  1. Good day ^-^

    If the shop you went to is that one near the marketplace…. well don’t worry, you’re not the only one who’s got a bad impression. (I recognized it from the notions counter, the personnel and the leather swatches.) My friends and I went traversing 7 kilometers back and forth from Marcos Highway last summer to this particular shop. The store would’ve been nice, if only the personnel were equally nice and accomodating to everyone — both regular and new customers alike. It seemed to me that the staff are better-mannered with the “suki” who bought stuff in bulk from them regularly than with newcomers.

    Good thing my friends and I were a little more brazen for them, they couldn’t shoo us away until a few minutes before lunchtime. *grin*

    • Yes! The exact store! Too bad talaga kase for somebody like me who wanted to start it as a hobby (and who knows, maybe in the future something bigger), their store could have been perfect. Pero if they are gonna be snobby to new customers, they won’t be making any good impression. I wondered pa nga if it was just me, but that makes the two of us kaya sana umokay na service nila. Baka masyado lang silang high-traffic and hectic, but still no reason para medyo maging sarcastic and magaspang ang ugali. I’m not saying I am the authority about all these leather stuff, but a good service from them can mean a glowing testimonial/recommendation from people who were personally at the receiving end of their service. Sayang kase lumalalabas pala ako sa Google searches for leather in Marikina LOL

      I look forward to walking around Marikina again to look for other stores and see how they would fair. I won’t be going back to the store in the coming months because I still have adequate supply for my next projects. Hehehe ^_^

  2. I went to that shop yesterday. It’s a great place because it has all the tools you would need for leathercraft, but I have to agree that it does need a lot of improvement on the customer service part. Nataon na may kasabay ako na bumibili ng leather by bulk, and I waited about ten minutes before someone took notice of me. When I said I was just the to canvas for items, parang nawalan ng gana yung girl sa counter to talk to me. Which is really too bad because I saw a lot of tools that I wanted to get, and I could’ve referred the shop to a lot of people who needed them.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips! I probably won’t go to your level of making bags, but they’re useful for props and costumes.

    • Hi Kat! Thanks for sharing your experience. Sad to hear that my case is not really an isolated one, goes to show na they need a lot of help in the customer service department. If we are not bulk buyers or suki, we do not stand a chance. But still,you can buy tools from them and hindi naman basta basta “nauubos” ang tools unlike materials. We can look somewhere else for others.

      Basta enjoy pa din naman ang hobby na ‘to, diba? Good to hear my entry helped you. Take care! 🙂

  3. I was browsing through the net and saw this blog. I am currently canvassing for leather craft tools i need to start some leather projects i had in mind. If this is the same store i saw (which is near the marketplace too, and painted in white) but reluctant to go to, i am still wondering if it’s worth the headache and patience to go to them for canvassing of prices and eventually purchase the required items. I got a list of the tools but i am now unsure if they are the right people to buy from given the crass attitude and evident treatment of “new” customers who want to start the craft. can you specifically name a couple of establishments where you bought your tools so that i may go there instead? Reply and recommendation will be very much appreciated. Much thanks!

    • Hi Hyde! I think to save yourself from the potential headache, perhaps you could drop by this place during the off-peak hours. They unfortunately (?) have the best selection around, albeit they are truly a pain in the a**. Happy holidays!

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