Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winter warmth.

It's getting colder outside these days. This morning it was 34 Fahrenheit which is pretty darn brisk, and feels even colder because it's so damp here in the Pacific Northwest. Imp is wearing two blankets these days, one for warmth and one for water-resistance (although after 12 hours out in a steady drizzle, nothing really keeps the wet out.) and his formerly sleek coat is getting thick and soft. 

I'm thinking a lot about ways of keeping warm at the barn; I won't give up my weekly riding lessons just because it's getting colder! On the other hand, if I'm shivering and miserable, it will be hard to focus on instructions and that makes for a confused, unhappy horse. So what can I do to keep us both warm and comfortable?

First I made a quarter sheet for Imp, That's a blanket that extends all the way back to his tail, to keep his haunches warm. I used an old wool cloak I had appliqued a border onto and then decided wasn't really in period with my usual look, so it'd been hanging out in the closet. The cloth is a very heavy weight about a quarter inch thick. 

Imp helpfully swings his haunch away just as I snap the pic. But you get the idea.

I tried to think of a way that I could wear the cloak around my waist or something, so it would drape over Imp's rump and also keep my legs warm, but everything I imagined ended up getting tangled or slipping sideways or interfering with movement. Then I had a thought -- chaps! Well, actually, short chaps called "chinks". They only come to the knee and are usually made of leather. I've been secretly wanting a pair for ages because I think they look neat, but they are rather the mark of a working cowboy and I felt like if I just wore them for looks, I'd be teased a bit. If I made some for myself from the leftover cloak pieces, they'd provide extra warmth just where I needed it, and they'd be attractive and useful. 

In my leather stash, I pulled out a pair of tiny stirrup fenders I'd picked up for five bucks. They formed the top of my chinks and their straps made the belt part. I dyed them dark brown to match the rest of my gear and added some silver conchos just to be extra pretty. 

I still need to finish up some rivets and stitching before they'll be ready to ride in, but I'm already imagining Imp and I trotting through a field of falling snow looking very sharp.

And then today at lunchtime, I whipped up a quick bit-warmer for Imp. It's widely advised that when it is cold, you should warm your horse's bit in your hands before putting it in his mouth. This sounds perfectly nice, but then my hands will be all cold from holding the metal! So I made a little pouch. I can put one of those hand-warmer packets in it (I usually keep some in my pockets when it's freezing out.) and wrap it around the bit while I put on Imp's saddle, and when I'm ready to put the bridle on, the bit will be all warmed up. I can take the wrap off and put it back in my pocket. No frosty fingers! 

I'm always happy to find a use for wool scraps. Some hook-and-eye closures keep it snug around the bit while I saddle up.  And the B monogram looks very sharp in red! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

More leatherwork

I told you I had made a breast collar for my friend Emily. I put the top coat of leather dye on it this morning and gave it a final polish, and now it's ready to go. And I took a picture for y'all. I'll get another of it on her horse some time soon, I hope. But for now you can take a look at my work.

I didn't have to buy a thing to make this; I used hardware from my stash, made the straps by re-purposing some heavy reins, and cut my own straps. Putting on buckles is pretty easy, and to think; I was worried it would be a hassle!

I find a great deal of satisfaction in cutting and stitching my own strap keepers -- those little leather circles that you tuck the end of a strap into so it doesn't flap.  Details are what take us into the realm of art, my friends.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Secretly busy!

I know it's been a long time, y'all. I've been busy with my day job and also, my hubby has been out of town since last Thursday. He's gone to the cigar convention he attends every year with his buddy, and I just love the timing of it because it gives me time to work on his birthday present without worrying about him walking in on me.

Yes, I've been enjoying five glorious days of "me time", doing whatever I feel like and hogging the whole bed to myself. I always start out saying I'm going to spend all my time at the barn with my horse, and I do, a bit, but then I find other projects to work on, too.

You'll have to wait until the end of the month to see what I've made for Dave.  But I finished up a dark brown wool Bocksten tunic for myself or to lend to a friend. I'm still deciding on if I want to put embroidery on the neckline or not. I can always do it at another time. The fabric is very soft and fine. I might end up wearing this around the house!

Then I cleaned up and repaired a saddle for my riding instructor. Her youngest student is eight years old, and a tiny little thing, so the saddle she uses is also small. The first time I saw it, I squealed with delight -- it looks like she stole it off the mechanical pony in front of the drugstore! The seat is about ten inches from horn to cantle and it looks like a toy, although it is a proper piece of equipment. I polished it up and put a few stitches in a tiny tear in one fender, then brushed up and vacuumed the fleece to get it nice and clean. For size comparison, here is Ivan playing cowboy.

For two nights I worked on Dave's present. More on that later, of course.

And then last night I got out my box of leather whatnots to see what I had that could be re-purposed into a breast collar for my friend Emily. Nothing fancy, she said, and I aim to please. A heavy pair of harness leather reins seemed just the thing, and my tin of hardwares offered up a few rings and buckles to answer my needs. It's so nice not to have to run to the store! It's just three simple straps, so it doesn't look like much by itself. I'll see if I can get a snap of it on her horse later.

And now it's time for me to get back to work. I really wish I could show you Dave's present. It's kind of a departure for me, something I haven't tried before, and I'm quite pleased with the results. More on that later!