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The Saddle Stitcher

I'd like to introduce you to a recent guest of the inn, Ryan Henny.

As a COVID hobby, when most of us were learning the art of bread-making, Ryan took up bag-making. In my conversations with him, I quickly learned what separates a good bag from an excellent bag: the saddle stitch.

Most sewing machines use what's called a lockstitch. The stitch is composed of two threads: one above the fabric and one below the fabric. The sewing machine then cleverly locks the two threads together.

The saddle stitch, however, is made of one thread that is manually pulled through the fabric from above and below. Machines can't do it, but most of the high-end design houses use expensive machines that make their lockstitches look like saddle stitches.

A key difference is that if a stitch tears along a saddle stitch, the adjacent stitches are not affected. A lockstitch, however, loses tension for several inches on either side of a tear, often coming unraveled in the process.

The reliability of a saddle stitch goes back to saddle making, where an unraveled stitch isn't just a nuisance, it's life or death.

Another key difference: a lockstitch takes seconds to sew. A saddle stitch takes hours.

Out of curiosity, I decided to saddle stitch the Scarborough Inn logo onto our sweet headgear. It took me almost an hour to get through this six-inch stitch.

Sne demonstrating amateurish saddle-stitching technique. Nikki demonstrating what a shameless ham she is.

Ryan is much faster. Ever the Yinzer, he time estimates his saddle stitching in terms of Steelers games (correction: Stillers games). As far as I can tell, my sweet innkeeper attaché bag took him a good half season to hand stitch.

The saddle stitcher extraordinaire and his plus one taking in our salt air on a recent trip.

In our fast culture, I found Ryan's contemplative—borderline obsessive—craftsmanship refreshing. And it speaks to the slowed down, personal, and human environment I'm trying to build at the inn.

If you're in the market for an exceptional piece of hand craftsmanship, stop chasing the labels. They're all lockstitched anyway (yes, even Prada, Kate Spade, and the one with his initials tactlessly plastered all over the plasticized canvas).

If you want handmade (not just hand assembled but machine stitched) you can shell out $35,000 for a Hermes bag or you can check out Ryan's stunning and colorful Instagram gallery of custom bags. Drop him a DM at the link below.


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