Posts Tagged ‘western’

This saddle is being a pain in every way possible but for some reason I haven’t given up on it yet. I’ve had to leave it alone for a few days at a time, and am also at the point where I’d love to start working on other things I’ve been daydreaming about. It’s so close to being done… and still so far.

I knew the lower skirt was going to have to be remade completely. Did I even pay attention to my reference when I first created the pattern? Or actually plan out where all the silver would go? NOPE. Because what I had was WAY off. Way, way, way off.

Sooo I fixed the shape of the skirt, extending it, mostly. (now I’m worried it’s too long but too late for that now!) Then I fired up Photoshop, dusted off my drawing tablet and re-drew all of the tooling flowers and swirly things.

Here is the finished piece, after tooling and adding extra details, and finally, some silver!

This is my favorite part… details!

And the underside:

I was really excited after finishing this piece. I fit all the leather pieces together to get an idea of how it would look, only to find out that the seat piece wasn’t fitting right. Sooo I had to alter the pattern a second time, transferred it to leather, tooled it, etc and…

It was close, but still off. I could have made it work, but I knew it would bug me forever. The only thing that didn’t make me sick about having to tool this piece a third time was that I was never really happy with the second piece’s tooling. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

I got the new pattern for it made, as well as for the upper skirt:

The paper pieces fit ok:

Third time’s a charm, right? This time the seat fits much better. I prefer the tooling of the first but oh well. Tooling is tricky. I’m trying to figure out the right balance of leather dampness, deepness of the cuts and how much pressure to use. It still manages to disappear after sealing ughhhh.

The more I look at saddles the more details I find. This adds more work of course but it’s worth it, I think. I totally forgot about the lacing in the lower skirt, and was tempted to just leave it off. But it started nagging at me. Punching those holes was SCARY after all the work I had put into the skirt. (my first reject seat was a nice test piece) In a brief moment of insanity I considered using leather lace instead of embroidery thread. Maybe another time.

Also look, the upper skirt is done! This piece was the most well-behaved of the lot!

After getting through all that, I noticed ANOTHER Problem. The cantle on this tree is very low, and finally seeing that was really discouraging.

Luckily it turned out to be an easy fix, with a skived piece of tooling leather glued to the front:

And a piece of skiver glued to the back to cover it up. I had another moment where I thought about tooling that piece but shut it down very quickly. NOPE!

SO. After putting 6+ hours into it today (everything hurts help) here’s how it’s looking right now:

I felt it was safe to start pinning together. I’ve only got one side done because I’m at the “over it” point for the day, but but but! It’s looking ok maybe? I’m trying very hard not to point out all the issues I have with it. ^_^

I can say that I’m really happy with the scalloped leather bits under the conchos. I’ll share a post on how I made those here soon.

There’s still a lot left to do but the end is in sight!

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This saddle has been teaching me so much. I wasn’t too excited about working on the stirrups, so I made sure to begin working on those next. In the end, I really loved how they turned out, and am so glad I didn’t cut corners and make them simple like my previous ones.

These were assembled using a method shared by Niki Hertzog on the Braymere blog. Thank you Niki!

The next step to tackle was attaching them to the fenders. I was very tempted to just glue them in place and call it done. But part of me wanted to figure out how to make them adjustable, so I did a little searching on the internet.

This particular video helped things click in my brain:

Reading tutorials with or without pictures helps, but video helps so much more. I’ve noticed that a lot of horse tack retailers and brands now have YouTube channels to show off/sell/show how to use their products, which I’ve found to be really helpful with creating this stuff in miniature.

So here are my mini adjustable stirrups!

A lot of western saddles use a blevins buckle on stirrups. I know someone in the hobby made these once but it was so long ago that I can’t remember who! I wasn’t brave enough to figure that out so I opted for a simple dee ring buckle instead.

Though I hope I’ll never have to take them off, it’s nice knowing that I can without having to rip glued pieces apart. This is especially helpful when the first thing you do is put the stirrups on backwards. *cough*

It might have been more practical to have the buckles on the outside, but I also like the idea of the buckle tongue not touching the horse, and having the excess leather tucked in the stirrup. Will this come back and bite me later? Maybe!

Also, there’s a weird slot in one of my fenders. I was going to have the straps that hold everything together threaded through the leather to keep it in place, but it wasn’t working and I didn’t want to risk wrecking the fender. So that’s why that stupid little hole is there, haha. (at least it’s mostly hidden)

Here’s another look:

The top of the fender is attached the the lace with both glue and thread. This is a stress point so fingers crossed it will hold up ok! But even if it does break in the future, the lace can be replaced without too much pain.

This tree (from The World of Model Horse Collecting on eBay) has slots in it for the stirrups.

They’re even, YAYYY!

(I’m also so tempted to tear the leather off that tree and start over….)

Here are a couple more pieces I’ve been working on. On earlier saddles I’ve made, I’ve put the two seat pieces (seat jockey?) right on top of the suede seat piece. All of my saddle references have the seat piece on top of the jockey though, and I’m not sure why I never noticed it before? Anyway it’s a chance to try something new, and if it doesn’t work I can chop it up.

It’s slowly coming together! I’ll admit that I’ve been nervous posting anything about this saddle, but I’ve decided to do it anyway and be as open about my process as possible. I hope that maybe someone out there will find it helpful!

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I’m really good at starting projects and abandoning them. 99% of the time it’s because I run into a Problem that I don’t know how to tackle, or there is something that needs to be corrected, but correcting it would require a lot of work. (or a complete do-over, which is very unappealing when you’ve already invested so much time into the piece)

This is exactly what happened with the western show saddle I started four years ago.

In this case, the Problem was how to cover the tree. For whatever reason I never really tried to work it out, put it aside, and got distracted with other things.

Last weekend I came across all the pieces while cleaning, and was going to just throw them out. But nooo, I decided that it needed to be revived.

Maybe a change of pace is what I’ve been needing to get out of this creative slump? Unfortunately time was not kind and the leather had darkened with age. The more I looked at it the more I realized that yes, this really does need to thrown away.

I hate starting things over but in this case I think it’s for the best. It makes me a bit sad to think of all the work I put into it going to waste, but then again, so much time has passed that it doesn’t really matter much anymore. One good thing was that I had created digital copies of the pattern and tooling pattern, which already cut out a lot of work.

So, version 2 has been started, beginning with correcting my lopsided re-sculpted saddle tree. Since the tree was the Problem originally I figured I would start with covering that first.

It’s um… kind of weird.

But it’s a start, even with it’s weirdness. And it’s created more Problems. My pattern is way off. I’m having to readjust everything, which in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t discover when I first started working on this four years ago.

One thing I haven’t had to re-work much are the fenders, so here they are right now. I haven’t done any tooling in four years so I can’t say that I’ve improved there. I also don’t understand why my first attempt at it had to be such a complicated pattern but whatever.
These were created a day apart and there’s a lot of difference between the two. (or is that just me?) I think that has to do with the tools I’m learning to use and just practice/trying to figure it out.

I can say that I really like the stitched detail. For those wondering, it’s paint. I don’t think it’s possible to actually stitch something that tiny, and I’m not eager to try it out.

So yes… this is where I’m at with the saddle right now. I’m taking it slow and not pressuring myself to make it perfect. It’s not going to be perfect and maybe not even “good” but that’s ok. I haven’t made enough saddles to consider myself “good” at making them, and who knows if I’ll ever get to that point.

I do want to mention that on Mares in Black‘s most recent podcast, I was really inspired by what I believe Kylee Parks said about customizing: to just go for it and figure it out. I don’t customize but it still struck a chord with me. Saddles intimidate me because I don’t know how to figure them out, but the only way I will is if I just go for it and keep practicing. So uh, thanks for that.

Hopefully I won’t have to re-start this one in 2023…

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