How to keep your feet warm

This is actually a question I recieve quite often! How do I keep my feet warm when I’m out and about in the snow, and several degrees below freezing point? How do I keep warm when I’m “stuck” on horseback for hours in icy wind and temperatures? Well… here’s my tips for you all!

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I very rarely get cold feet. Literally, and figuratively speaking, haha. So how do I do it? What sorts of frozen landscape, insider information do I have? Nothing awfully intersting, but a tiny undertanding of physics will help you tremendously. Which I always find a little funny, becasue I have surprised several physicists with my step-by-step tutorial on how to keep your feet warm.

The first thing you have to remember, is that water and moisture freezes. “Well, duh, yes!” you might say, put on warm socks and shoes, get in the car and proceed to blast warm air down on your footsies. Whops!

What do we do when we get super warm? We sweat! What is sweat? (The answer is moisture, but I’m sure you noticed where I was going with my rhetorical questions.)

The second thing you have to remember, is how we are supposed to get warm. Yes, yes, wool socks and winter shoes – but what is this magical thing that makes your feet stay the correct temperature? Is it the wool? Is it the shoe? What are your feet supposed to warm up, in order to maintain warmth?

The air. It’s the air inside your shoe, that warms up and keeps you warm. So what happens when we buy shoes the correct size and fill them up with warm socks? There’s no room for air!

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So, after that long and tiresome chapter, I actually do have a list for you.

  1. Buy winter shoes one or two sizes too big. More room for that zupah important air!
  2. Don’t fill your shoe with fabric. One thin pair of wool socks, and one pair of slightly thicker wool socks, should be more than enough.
  3. Wool. Yes, wool. And if you are allergic to wool, choose a thin pair of 100% cotton to keep close to your skin, and then a fat nice pair of wool socks outside of that.
  4. Natural fibres insulate. Plastic and rubber does not. If it’s cold, choose winter shoes with as little rubber and plastic on it as possible (well, a rubber sole is needed, but not an entire coating of rubber around your foot). Natural fibres also provide better “breathing” abilities.
  5. Purchase a nice, insulating wool sole to stop the cold temperatures from travelling from the ground and into your shoe.
  6. Bring extra socks. We all break a sweat at times. Shit happens! If you feel your feet getting icky, change into a dry pair of socks immediately to stop the moisture in your shoe from getting cold.
  7. And if you forgot extra socks, open up your shoe. Out with the icky air, in with new dry air! If you’re wearing those thick, insulated outerwear pants, pull them up so you get proper fresh air down into your shoes. Yeah, you’ll look silly for five minutes, but it does help!
  8. Do something about your stirrups. Metal against shoe is one certain way to transfer the cold air into your foot. You can buy little stirrup hoodies you can attach to them, to make sure your feet are protected by the wind. Plastic stirrups, stirrups with rubber coating, no stirrups etc. Better than metal stirrups!
  9. Have extra shoes. Don’t sit with your -20 degree (celsius, -4 F) capable shoes in your comfy 20 degree (celsius, 60 F) car. If you’ll be walking around a lot in the stable, put on a pair of thinner shoes. Do. Not. Sweat! Treat your feet like your upper body, when you feel too warm, take layers off.
  10. Getting cold on a long hack? Jump off and walk alongside your horse! Great bonding opportunities, and it gets the circulation going.

I have to let you know that the shoes pictured aboove here was sponsored and gifted to me by UnderNull, but they are incredibly warm, and makes for such a good example of what I mean. They are made of wool felt, and are leather covered at the bottom. Super warm, resilient to mud and dirt, and comfortable to use when I’m i.e. working in the stable.

The shoes pictured there are the Femund 922 shoe, and it’s probably the warmest winter shoe I’ve owned. And I’ve been through “them all”, haha! I also have the Nesnalobben boot, a traditional Norwegian wool felt boot. It’s my dream winter shoe! You might remember I edited them onto Lillen’s feet x)

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Did you learn something new? Or do you have any other tricks that keep you warm on your footsies, no matter what? Share in the comments to help freezing riders out!

Emma

A beginners guide to leather crafting, pt 3

Okay! The newbie is here to instruct other newbies – no offence to us all, but I guess the reason you’re here is to either learn something new or to judge my newbie skills, so I figured we’d just get it sorted right away! This post is number three, you can read part one and two by clicking the links. If you asked me a question and I didn’t answer it now; I already have earlier! Or someone did too, and it is worded a little bit different.

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Most of the questions I recieved I have already answered, but I’ll do a quick summary here for the most popular questions, and add which part you can find a better answer on! 🙂 Skip to the next paragraph if you want to read new questions and new answers.

Where do I buy leather and tools? I buy it from Skinnlåven, a rather local, norwegian store. I do not buy big supplies form abroad. I can promise you theres a niche store (or several) in your native country you can buy from! I recommend a little FBI-ing and a little kung-google-fu, and I’m sure you’ll find a good store. Better answer in part 1.

What tools to I REALLY need to get started? Sadly, as leather isn’t mendable without tools, you kinda need them all. This is why I recommend everyone to take a beginners course (like a two day noobie course, you’d be surprised they exist!) if you’re curious, as what tools you really really need depends on what you want to make. With a little experience, you are capable of choosing for yourself what you can postpone purchasing. Better answer in part 1.

What will it cost me to get started? I like comparing this to when you start any other expensive hobby. You’ll need a lot of basic equipment and it’ll be quite the cost to get started. I wrote more about this in part 2.

What project is recommended as a fist-project for someone who has never done this before? Belts! And dog collars. One-buckle projects. Bridles are a bit fidgety. However, if you want to practice your sewing, a double stitched halter is one hell of a way to become an expert sewer in one project. Some swearing guaranteed, haha! Answered in part 1.

Now on to the questions I haven’t answered before!

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  • Do you need special needles and thread?

Yes! Your leather supplier will be able to guide you into the needles you’ll need. A short explaination is that leather crafting needles are usually blunt, because you’ve already punctured a hole in the leather before sewing it. The thread we use is waxed and sticky, and there’s plenty of brands to choose from. The ideal is the “tiger thread”, but it also cost half my salary. Currently, on my budget, I’ve chosen a rather cheap synthetic thread, and it’s more than good enough for my use! Some will frown over that statement; but remember, the most important factor is that you are satisfied with your quality, and that you craft things that doesn’t break. I’d rather spend my money on decent leather.

  • Tips for lefties?

Most leather crafting equipment are not designed for the right handed, but are the unisex answer to left/right-handedness. Being ambidextrous myself (I’m not right nor left handed, I use both), I don’t have an issue with any of my tools, but there’s one or two tools I can think of that are either left or right handed. Luckily for all lefties, left hand versions of those tools aren’t hard to find, so I think the only tip you need is “tell your supplier” and you’ll be on the right (or left?) track immediately.

  • Can you make horse tack from vegan “leather”?

It’s perfectly possible to create horse tack with biothane and similar vegan products. Myself, I’m not very fond of the finish, and you have less shaping options (as biothane comes in set widths, and my leather comes in one huge piece). But if you’re vegan and/or want to experiment with vegan options, I’d say go for it! You might need other tools than what we use for leather crafting though. Please just remember that these vegan options are plastic. Not that leather is super enviromentally friendly – but plastic isn’t either.

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  • How do you punch holes in the leather? How do you water proof the leather? How do you make the edges so smooth? How do you evenly shave the leather thinner?

I did get a lot of “how do” questions, and firugred I’d smush them down into one answer. All of these questions will be answered when you start learning, but the answer is sharp knives, sharp awls, a piece of bone/wood/plastic + friction (for the edges). If you’re an equestrian you already know how to waterproof it; bring out your tack cleaning soap and fats and get to it! 🙂

  • When making a bridle, which part of it do you recommend starting with?

This is very personal! And not in the private kind of personal, but it’s very personal what you prefer. I start with the cheekpieces and the crownpiece, and then it’s a little bit up to what style of bridle I’m going for.

  • What leather is best to work with, where can it be found, how do I make sure the quality is good enough and is there a more reasonable priced leather suitable for newbies on a budget? Does price really affect the quality?

Different parts of the cow has a different quality, will have a different price, and be suited for different projects. Think meat! Some parts are just tastier and yummier, and some parts work best as slow cooked soup ingredients. Your leather supplier should be able to guide you to find the best newbie on budget alternative they have. I usually purchase the front part of the cow, it’s not the absolute best quality leather, but my supplier often have some really nice pieces in, so I’m able to compromise.

  • Can anyone do it? Are there any free resources you an learn from?

Lots of free resources! YouTube is filled with tutorials, and you’ll find detailed instructions, craft-alongs and tips and tricks for making almost anything. Bags, wallets, belts, bridles – you name it, they have it!

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  • Is it easy to make your own reins?

Yes – if you have thick enough leather. My 3-3,5mm leather is too light weight to be suited as reins, unless I do something to add weight to them, and I am not going to invest in thick enough leather. I find it much easier to just purchase the length I need 🙂

  • What do you use to apply dye to the leather?

A dot of sheep pelt is actually incredibly handy to use when dying. For intricate colour details, you can use a brush, or special sponges or fluffy brushes. Your leather supplier will have many options, and if you let them know what your project is, they’ll most likely be happy to help you find the best alternaitve for you!

  • Is there any step that is easy to forget, but is important?

I’d like to say no, as you have to do step one in order to be able to do step two. But the biggest mistake I have ever done, and somehow manage to still do every once in a while, is to put the buckle on the wrong way and spend an hour sewing. Gosh. And then you have to cut everything apart, get the buckle the right way around and then re-sew everything 😛 Important step: Double check that your buckle is on the right way hahaha

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  • How do you not get your hands sore?

I do get my hands sore! But slow and steady wins the race. Don’t sew more than you are comfortable doing, your fingers will soon grow extra skin to better handle the hard work. Be more careful about your tendons – if they’re sore, take it calm. You don’t want long term sore tendons, they’ll screw you over in your day-to-day life too, haha.

  • Biggest NO NO?

Don’t sew across the leather, only along the length of it. Especially important if you are working on a project you need to NOT fall apart, like horse tack and equipment for big dogs. I like to say “think toilet paper”. All those tiny dots going across? Perfect for ripping apart. Yes, sewing makes the leather stick together, but you are also creating a lot of holes. Those holes will rip.

  • Can you do leather crafting with one hand?

I think this will be quite a challenge sadly; and I don’t imagine myself being able to do anything I am doing, with one hand less. Then again; I have never had to try. Depending a little on how you, if you at all, can use your paralyzed hand/arm (to support, or lean against the project) you might be able to look into working with thinner leather for non-heavy duty work, but the thick leather I work with is incredibly hard strength wise.

  • How do you avoid making the wrong measurements?

You don’t. You’ll mess up, and you’ll take things apart, or you’ll just measure better the next time 🙂

Okay! That was 14 more questions answered for you all! I see that the returning answer is “ask your supplier” and “practice your best kung google-fu”, but you’d be surprised how happy people are in terms of sharing their knowledge.

Emma

A beginners guide to leather crafting pt. 2

If you read part 1, you know what we’re doing! I’m back, you’re back, let’s do this! You can read part 1 here – if you sent me a question and I didn’t answer it, it’s because I already have written about it!

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  • How do you make padding to go underneath the noseband and over the neck?

For padding, you need another kind of leather. This is funny, because in Norwegian there are two different kinds of word for this: “lær” and “skinn”. “Lær” is that thick piece of leather we make equipment of. “Skinn” is the thin, floppy leather we make jackets and furniture of. You will need a sturdy piece of that floppy leather. There are many different kinds of floppy leather, I think I have goat for mine. Anyhow, go to your supplier and ask about recommendations for your use. Floppy leather can be dyed with the same products as normal leather, or can be bought pre-coloured.

To make padding, you must find something soft to use as a padding. I have previously used a piece of felted wool (actually sometimes only this, for certain neck pieces), but you can use neoprene straps and pretty much anything squishy here. You need some clamps to keep everything in place – so you wrap your squishy in the floppy, clamp it to the not-floppy, and stitch away!

10/10 for explanation. I know. “Floppy leather” was too good not to use. I’m sure there’s a more proper word for it in your own language.

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  • Where can I find hardware for dog collars/harnesses?

My leather supplier have this in their store – smaller buckles, D-rings, chains to make half-chokers etc. If your supplier doesn’t have this in stock, chances are they can order for you.

  • How do you attach ornaments?

It depends on the ornament. A lot of decorative ornaments are actually made for tack, and usually come with a logical way of attaching it. Some goes in with a screw, some you need to hammer in place etc. If you have something that isn’t made for tack, like perhaps a piece of jewellery, you just need to be creative and stitch it on somehow. Bear in mind that ornaments not made for tack, might break very easily.

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  • Exactly how expensive is it?

I get that it’s a lot of curiosity about the exact costs, so I went to my local suppliers page and pretended to order all the tools I use on a regular basis. Ordering online from other online stores is also a possibility, but importing these kinds of things to Norway can get pretty pricey too. It totalled to about $500 – at least when I chose basic beginner tools. You can get knifes that alone cost $500, which is why it’s hard to state exactly how much you will need to pay. I have bought most of it with a discount – and some things you can probably get secondhand.

That sum is not included dyes, thread, leather or hardware. The pieces of leather I buy are usually about $200-$300 a piece (lasts for 5-10 products, depending if they are Lillen-sized or normal horse sized). You can buy cheap thread, which is more than good enough for beginners – for $15. 100g of thread might even out-last your piece of leather. Good quality thread can cost 10 times more.

Dyes vary in price, all depending on what brand (cheap brands usually do just as well as expensive ones) and how much you want. Hardware can be anything from $1-$2 pr buckle/ring, to $15-$20, here it really depends on material, size and quality. For horse tack, accept that buying good quality is a must. It sucks to spend hundreds on leather and hours to craft, just to have the buckle break because you tried to cut down on costs – it’ll take a lot of time to un-do and re-do all your stitches to change that damn buckle.

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  • What’s your nr. 1 favorite tool?

I have a pair of pliers that makes it a bliss to prepare the holes for stitching. Instead of poking every hole with an awl or a hammer it with a “fork”, I just zap down the edge of the leather and every single hole gets perfect. It makes for a very pretty seam! This only works on the edges of the leather, though, so having tools and knowledge to use the awl is essential, because if you are sowing further in on the piece of leather, that pair of pliers ain’t gonna manage. The pliers are probably my most expensive tool, but worth its weight in gold (kinda).

  • What is the trickiest thing to make, in your opinion?

This son of a fuck:

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In English they are called “loops”, in Norwegian smygestol. A smygestol directly translates to “crawling chair”, so there’s your fun fact of the day! Most easily avoided by always making sure to use “double” buckles, so you can tuck the leather strap back into the buckle, instead of having to make any loops. Fuck loops.

  • How do you get the dimensions right on each little piece so that the finished tack is the right size?

If you’re crafting for your own horses, just measure the tack you already have. Remember to measure all the parts in-between the buckles, because if I tell you that Brego is 110cm in-between the corner of his mouths (over the neck), you would have no idea where to put the side pieces or where to end the neck piece. I do have this standardized form I can use if anyone wants to order i.e. a bridle size pony – I don’t know where it’s from and the measurements are just basic, but it’s nice to have.

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  • Once you have all the tools, will it be cheaper to make a piece of tack yourself, than to just buy it from a random store?

No. No, it won’t be. Especially not if you use high quality leather for your own tack, and buy tack from rather cheap stores.

The more modern design you want, the harder it is to make, and the more techniques you will need to learn.

  • “Things I wish I knew before I started working on leather”

Well, that’s quite the question! I didn’t know a whole lot before I got into it, and my introduction to the craft was through a beginners course – so I basically learned “everything” through a professional – and that was a very nice experience.

However, one thing that’s worth mentioning – you need all. the. tools. to be able to work with leather. Leather isn’t easy to shape without tools and (a little bit) of brute force, and unless you have all. the. tools. it isn’t going to be easy to find motivation to work.

Another thing I forgot when I got into this, is that it’s a hard craft. You need a sturdy son of a bitch work bench/ table.

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  • What kind of glue do you use to stick leather to leather/fabric?

I don’t use any glue, actually. I do rarely find the need for things to stick together like that, but I might use some clamps if I’m working to pad something, i.e., to keep the pieces from flopping around all over the place.

  • How do you know if your finished product is strong enough? And how do you know if the leather you work with is strong enough?

Well, you can always try to hang the halter on something sturdy and put your entire body weight into it. In general, if you use the correct thickness of leather, the right hardware and stitch it the right way (never “across” the length), you’ll be pretty safe. At least 3 (or 3,5) mm thickness for single layer, anything less and you’ll have to double stitch. If you’re afraid it’s going to break, you can always reinforce all corners with nylon.

The more high-risk animal you are making tack for, the safer you need your tack. A stallion halter is super heavy-duty. Draft halters are heavy-duty. Not all tack needs or should be heavy-duty.

When you’re at the store to buy leather and hardware, tell the staff what you’re going to use it for and they’ll help you find the correct stuff. So far I haven’t had any of my own tack break on me, but a lot of store bough tack have, the main difference in quality has this far been the buckles, actually. I have rarely experienced leather to break, it’s “always” poor quality buckles or seam sown on machine.

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  • Does it damage your hands/fingers?

It’s going to hurt in the beginning, because it is indeed pretty hard on your hands. However, the more you do it (as long as you don’t over-do it, and take breaks when you need to), the stronger your muscles and tendons will get, and the thicker the skin on your thumbs will get.

That being said, not everyone has a body to handle everything. So far, I haven’t had a lot of issues, and as long as you have enough tools, you won’t hurt yourself all that much. Unless you drop a scalpel and catch it on the sharp end. Been there, done that. It hurts.

  • Where do you buy your supplies?

The heavier the supply, the more local you want it. An entire piece of leather is actually pretty heavy, and shipping costs would be insane if you were to buy from another end of your country, or even from another country. I buy my leather and most of my tools from Skinnlåven, a fairly local store for me.

Buckles, ornaments and other stuff that Skinnlåven doesn’t have, I order online from all over the world. Just google around and you’ll find stuff 🙂

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I hope I was able to answer your questions! And again, if you did send me a Q and you didn’t find you A, it’s because I most likely already answered it in round one! Link here! Beware, it’s a rant and a half in there as well 😛

If more questions come pouring in, I will of course do a part 3. Please remember I am still a newbie in this – I am still learning by doing at the moment.

Emma

 

 

Klesarven photo shoot

Reklame/in collaboration with Klesarven!

Okay, I’ve grown more and more accepting of standing in front of the camera alongside of Lillen and our other horses, which is funny because that confidence has grown probably because of Instagram. But being in front of the camera WITHOUT a horse? That was a new experience.

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Klesarven is a Norwegian company, selling historically inspired clothing. Most of the clothes are inspired from the Viking Age, but they also have other pieces inspired by other time periods, and they are perhaps most famous for their amazeballs riding skirt.

However, no riding skirts were on the schedule for today, only linen dresses, apron/harness dresses, hoods and bling!

I’ve previously “only” tried out their riding pieces, both the skirt and the riding dress, so being able to wear their other dresses was a really nice experience. I have to say; the red and black combination really intruiges me. I know it isn’t historically accurate, but screw that! Although… My entire life I’ve fallen back to the red and black combination, perhaps I should just push myself outta that comfort zone and try something else… Hmmm…

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Silver or brass? 😉

Products:
Lagertha linen dress (the blue, white and black dress)
Anna harnes/apron dress (red)
Skjoldehamn viking hood
Brooches, bling, belts and bags

Emma

A beginners guide to leather crafting

Hand crafting is popular again! And leather crafting is something that’s really fashionable at the moment, and seeing as I post a lot about my leather nooby journey on my Instagram Stories, I do receive a lot of questions. So I figured I’d answer some FAQs – I will not be making any tutorials, but perhaps you will find what you are looking for here.

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One of my first “creations”; a sidepull the size of an elephant.

  • Why did you get interested in this?

Because I have one small draft, and one very large draft, and I was in a situation where finding halters and bridles weren’t the easiest thing.  Specialized draft stores are making absolutely great tack – don’t get me wrong – but coming from the “warmblood world” where you have about 2000 bridle designs easily available… I just wanted to be able to have more than one bridle hanging in my tack room. Also I romanticize keeping old traditional hand crafts alive.

  • How do you recommend to get started AKA Where the HELL do I begin?

My best recommendation is to find a rather local beginners course. There is so much you will need to learn about leather, tools and techniques, and although it might be a little pricey to attend a course, the investment will pay off almost immediately. Trial-by-error is expensive! I attended a two-day course for newbies, where we made two belts (one braided, one tooled) and two smalller “purse”thingies (teaches you how to create patterns). All attendants got basic skills in tooling, coloring, making patterns, cutting the leather, stitching, attaching buckles and buttons, in addition to what types of leather to use when etc.

I was lucky enough to find that my local leather supplier arranges courses like this. Google is your friend! I am certain there is a national leather crafting group for your country on Facebook, if not, I’m sure there are international ones. Find the one most relevant to you, and ask for recommendations. It might not be a course in your area, but perhaps there is a person who is willing to take you underneath the wing and show you some stuff.

If you do not find a leather course, or want to start ahead of your course, have a look at YouTube tutorials. Tandy Leather and Weaver Leathercraft have some pretty newbie-friendly videos that will get you on the right track pretty quickly.

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Lillen’s  leather halter, and the first belt I ever made!

  • Is it hard to learn?

I don’t think so. At least it isn’t hard to learn the basics. However, it’s incredibly hard to become good at it, and as with every hand craft – it depends on the person.

  • Are the supplies expensive?

Yes. Very expensive. If you think you’ll be saving money on creating your own equipment, I am very sorry. What exact amounts you’ll have to pay for leather and hardware will depend greatly on what kind of country you live in – but I think I spent about $100 on materials for Lillen’s halter, perhaps $80 for Brego’s. Then add thread, and that one needle I broke and had to replace. That’s not counting the investment of the tools – I think all my tools are three times the cost of that halter, and bear in mind that I have cheap tools! The tool situation is why I recommend you to take a course; there was no way I could afford all the tools I needed when I first invested, and having worked with a larger selection of tools already, I knew what I needed right away for what I intended to make, and what I could buy later.

This is also why buying custom tack is expensive. Supplies are not cheap, and any decent human being understands that the person making tack should get some payment for the job as well.

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Double stitched (you can see all the stitching) 2,5mm leather

  • From what store do you buy supplies?

I usually buy from Skinnlåven, a fairly local supplier. Leather suppliers will have everything you need; all kinds of leather, basic hardware and tools, and I always travel to the store to buy. The staff is well-educated on leather, and if you are stuck on a project or have any silly questions, they are glad to help out. A quick search on Google will probably provide you with a leather supplier in your country, hopefully a little selection and hopefully somewhat local. I like buying local, even if it is a tad more expensive.

  • What tools do you need?

A lot. Leather is not controllable without tools and brute force! It is going to take me hours to write about the tools, what they do etc., but thankfully – YouTube is our friend. Here’s a video about how to get started, hosted by probably the most enthusiastic and American host they could have chosen.

  •  What leather do you use?

Depends on what I am making. Most important thing is that it needs to be “vegetable tanned”, if it is supposed to be in direct contact with skin (aka all equipment for animals and humans). This is because chrome tanned leather can cause pretty strong allergic reactions. It’s fun to work in different animal leathers, but cow is best for tack.

The different parts of a cow have different qualities to them. I tend to buy the front half of the cow – this piece isn’t the absolute highest quality, but if you’re a bit picky with which piece you choose, it’ll be more than good enough. The front part is often more reasonably priced. Identifying good quality VS bad will take a little time to learn, but a good piece of leather is undamaged and has a fairly even thickness all the way through. Beware that it is normal that dying can dry out the leather a little.

I prefer 3-3,5mm thickness for single leather – which I use for belts, bridles that aren’t double stitched etc. Anything less than 2,5-3mm will usually have to be double stitched (sandwiched) to be strong enough for horse equipment, but I like how it looks on halters and draft/harness bridles. Pre-colored leather is harder to tool.

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Single leather, 3mm.

  • How do you come up with your designs?

I usually don’t put much effort into designing, I just get a flash of inspiration and jump into creating. I always know what I want to make (halter, double bridle, bitless), and as I am a pretty minimalistic person, there isn’t much planning going on. I only have to figure out where I want the buckles, and off I go! I don’t look at pictures of others tack before or as I am designing my own.

Why? Becasue one thing that is very important to me – NEVER COPY DESIGNS.

Yes, in Caps Lock. Why? Because copycats are horrible persons. If you see a design you want – buy it. It’s about supporting the artist! If the piece you wanted is already someone elses, and the original artist only make unique pieces, ask them to create something unique for you. Admire, inspire, but stealing designs makes you an absolute piece of shit (sorry, not sorry!). It is disrespecting to someone elses hours and hours of hard work and dedication.

Now, we all have to be a little realistic about what is copying, and what isn’t. Artists have to be able to compare their own works to others, and say “same style, different design”, yet you as a crafter have to be able to look at others tack and say “cool design, how can I get inspired by this?” Wanting a fantasy bridle is totally fair! In the same way that wanting a hunter-styled double bridle, or a cavesson, or a fancy halter is totally fair. There are only a few ways to make a hunter-styled bridle, however, and if anyone were to copy Brego’s, I’d hardly notice. Or care. If you were copying someone’s fantasy bridle, trust that they will notice what you are up to. With fantasy, you have FANTASY, and you can use your own for that.

Don’t sit down and trace other people’s shapes or patterns, and we most certainly do not go off to buy the exact same ornaments, leather dyes and buckles in order to properly “steal the look”. If you want to be creative, be creative! Don’t feed off of other’s skills, creativity and designs. Copying other people is not a compliment, it is exploitation.

(Rant over, I promise!)

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  • How do you find your own style?

By being creative! In the same way that you might admire intricate realistic oil paintings, but in no way would be able/interested in learning to paint intricate realistic oil paintings yourself. Myself I absolutely love how fantasy bridles look, and I would LOVE to own custom fantasy tack! Would I sit down to make it myself? Nah.

Firstly because I really enjoy making simple stuff, secondly because planning isn’t my thing (as I said, I just get a flash of inspiration and immediately sit down to craft, not to design), and thirdly because me being able to craft in leather, does not rule out my ability to admire others for THEIR work, and pay THEM. Being able to knit doesn’t exclude you from buying knitted clothes that are either way too intricate for you to knit yourself, or clothes you just can’t be bothered “wasting” your time knitting 🙂

  • How do you not murder your fingers?

I don’t. Pro tip: When it starts to get painful, take a break. Not taking that break will force you do take a much larger break later on. Leather crafting requires a pretty strong grip, and it will take time for your muscles and tendons to get strong enough. In these times of Christmas present craftings, I am stitching the skin off of my right thumb. Also that thumb is twice the size of my other thumb. I’ll just pretend I haven’t noticed yet.

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  • Where did you find patterns/templates so you can make different kinds of equipment?

I have no pattern. If I’m i.e. making a sidepull, I’ll just spend a minute looking at a standard sidepull to memorize what parts I need for it, and then I’ll just craft it. Fitting it to the horse is done by measurements – a smart thing is to measure your already existing tack. If you don’t have existing tack, measure the horse and write it down. For halters you want a slightly looser fit around the nose, than with the noseband on a bridle, so remember to add a little extra space.

  • How long time does it take you to craft a halter, or a bridle?

It took me three evenings to double stitch Brego’s halter. I think I spent the same amount of time on Lillen’s. The first hater I made took me several weeks, and I think Brego’s bridle also took a few weeks, just because my motivation was a little on and off. I work fast, I am sloppy, and when crafting for myself I often skip a lot of the steps that make perfection. I just want it to work, be sturdy enough to survive, and to look cool from a normal distance. My patience is pretty bad, you see, so I don’t spend a lot of time on details.

  • What is the easiest thing to start with?

I’d say belts! A little bit of stitching, only one buckle, room enough for tooling and bling etc. Dog collars are also pretty simple. If you want to start straight at horse equipment, I’d say a halter. It’s a lot of different parts, and A LOT of stitching (you will hate yourself for starting it, mid-way), but nothing is better at practicing your stitches than ten thousand of them crammed into one piece of tack. Also simple bridles is pretty straight forward, but usually with smaller buckles and that is a bit tricky.

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Most of my buckles are very plain, and I usually only use simple leather straps.

  • Where do you find all those fancy buckles and ornaments?

Occupational secret 😉 Search around for stuff YOU would like to put on YOUR equipment. Don’t look at others’ equipment and search around for the exact same stuff. Your local leather supplier will also be able to provide quite a lot, and if they don’t have fancy enough stuff for you, look around for other artists who craft hardware, or perhaps look into the jewellery crafting world.

That being said, the selection of buckles out there is pretty tiny. I have rather accidentally stumbled upon pretty much all the fancy buckles I think the most “famous” leather crafters use. I am not afraid to buy the same buckles to craft my own equipment – because I think we “all” know that there isn’t much to choose from. It is how you use the buckles that make your designs wildly different from others.

Ornaments are kinda another story. There are SO MANY THINGS you can attach to a bridle, that I think you are able to be more creative than “oh, I’ve seen this piece work on that kind of tack before, I want that too!”. Remember what I said earlier; if you fancy an artists work, buy from the artist – don’t learn a craft just to copy. I promise it will cost you less (in both money and frustration) to pay an artist directly. Also it is human decensy.

  • Do you take orders, and do you sell equipment?

No. At least not anytime soon. If I make something that doesn’t fit our drafts that well, I might sell it. But as I have written earlier, I work sloppily in my own eyes, and I take a tad too many shortcuts (shortcuts that makes it less perfect, that is, never less safe). I never do this when I create for others, because I don’t want people to find any mistakes at the pieces I sell. That mental difference to me is quite large, and it leads to me not having any motivation to craft for others, because it is too tedious for my brain. I might make something as a gift, with no time limit, but that’s about it.

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So there you go – a lot of FAQs and answers about leather crafting. What I think is most important for me to highlight:

  1. Ask for help to get started. Pay for that help.
  2. USE YOUR OWN BRAIN, never steal someone elses design.
  3. Be prepared to invest, tools are expencive and neccessary.
  4. Yes your hands will hurt. Also your back. And uhm, that knife that cuts through leather as a hot knife through butter? Yes that cuts skin too.
  5. Have fun with it – find your own style and create because it’s fun! Because it really is!

Emma

 

Brego’s new halter

Handmade… By me! Brego’s previous handmade leather halter (not made by me) got pretty ruined that one time he tried to eat it for lunch. He’s been using a rope halter since then, as his head is so large I cannot buy anything from the store, but a few weeks ago I got super mad at the rope halter, and made this one in three evenings.

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I still consider myself a noob at leatherwork, but I have realized I keep comparing myself to all these amazing artists that have a completely different style than I do. I absolutely love the look of the fantasy tack people make, and would want it for myself. But I think I am starting to realize that even though I love the look of it, I have to look at different styles of leather craft as I do with every other kind of art too.

I would love to own a realistic oil painting. I hate to paint realism. I would love to own some beautiful fantasty tack. But I think I won’t be making it, and I think I perhaps should stop comparing my stuff to others stuff, especially when they make completely different stuff than I do.

I am a person that beat myself down over these kinds of things, so I think it is important for me to put it out there. I struggle to be happy with things I make, and the biggest compliment I’ve managed to give myself is when I forget about the fact that I’ve made something. Because it means the quality and function of the piece of tack is so “normal” that it works just like everything else bought from a store. I think I have to get better at complimating myself.

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I’ve used this halter for a week or two now, and I think I like it. It surely fits Brego very well, and it looks very good on him. So Merry Christmas, little pony, your gift came early!

Emma

How to love a horse

How much do you love your horse? Unconditionally, obviously. But what do you do to show your horse you love him? What specific things will tell your horse about your undying devotion to his well-being? 

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Everyone will answer this question differently.

And after having a look at all 3 of our horses, I realized something.

I would answer this question differently based on which horse I were to talk about.

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I would never show Diego the same love I show Lillen. I would never show Lillen or Diego the same love I show Brego. Lillen’s way of showing – and receiving – love, is not the same as Diego’s or Brego’s.

And it occurred to me that these differences make up so much of their personality type. It also demands a lot from me as a person; I cannot push “my” love onto them all. I have to adjust to them, and show them the love they want me to share.

Lillen is in my mind a very hands-on horse. He wants pets, scratches, he wants to be stroked, touched; he wants to feel us being there. He enjoys a good hug. He likes to give kisses, he likes to touch us back – to feel us with his oversized upper lip, to run his whiskers along the different textures of our clothing.

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Diego enjoys all the same things as Lillen – but with him, I have felt that even though he enjoys it, it is not the love he wants, or need. Diego loves to look into our eyes. He will go out of his way to catch us in a corner of his box, only to lower his head, put his eyes a few centimeters away from ours… And look at us. And we will look back. God forbid we tried to say anything, or do anything but to look back.

Diego can stay like this for minutes. He will not be satisfied until we’ve dropped all of our “should be doing this” and “don’t have time for that”, and taken our time to look back at him. If you are of the spiritual type, you will read a lot into this. I take it for the thing it is. Diego wants to spend time with us. With us. Not with us as we do something else, he just simply receives love best when it’s just him, and his human.

And then there’s Brego.

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Brego has been one hell of a hard horse to figure out of. He wants none of that touchy-cuddly nonsense, and what on earth are we doing when we LOOK at him the same way we look at Diego? NOTHING. We are doing NOTHING, says Brego.

I’ve tried, and I’ve really tried to find a sweet spot. Find some place he enjoyed getting scratches, or hugs, or kisses, or simple strokes or pats. But Brego wants none of that, and if you try… Oh lord, he will make you hurt. Not because he attacks you, but he doesn’t want any of that romance thing you’ve got going on, it annoys him and he wants you gone. And he is not the best at communicating this, so I think by now he’s nearly broken my nose twice, and almost slammed my front teeth through my lip a couple of times. Because I have been so caught up in this web of “I have to show him my love”, that I haven’t even noticed how he doesn’t care for that.

I think Brego would be very happy with a sturdy smack on the neck once a week. That’s all the physical contact he needs. So how do I show Brego love?

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Look at that moody face! 

Lately I’ve shown Brego love by hacking him out. Just me and him, out discovering the forest. Long reins, going at a pace he enjoys, allowing him to stop and observe nature when there is something he wants to have a look at. Allowing him to take me with him, to go on an adventure together.

The feeling I get from him when I hack him out like that, is the same feel-good feeling of love Diego sends when we look deep into his eyes, or what Lillen sends when we play around with kisses and giggles. Love, in Brego’s mind, is a lot more practical than what both Lillen and Diego thinks. Brego sees our hacks as the prime time of his day, it’s our quality time together. He needs to do things, to send and receive love. He needs a job to do, he needs us to do that job together. He is a very communicative horse, but the “slow dance” of pets, kisses, hugs and looking into his soul, is nothing he finds interest in.

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You never see this happy-face this happy, unless he is doing something.

So, how do you love your horse?

Do you love him the way he wants to be loved? Or do you love him the way you want to?

Emma