Friday, April 29, 2016

Back in the Saddle, Again.

Ahhh, springtime. When a young girl's fancy turns to thoughts of --saddles?

Yep. At least, if that girl is me. I've spent the last two months working my tushy off, and the only way I managed to get through it without losing my happy smile is I promised myself a really nice treat at the end of it all. I had a certain dollar amount in mind, and then a generous tip became involved, so I kinda splurged a little and got myself a sweet vintage Bona Allen saddle that was at the secondhand tack shop. I dickered them down on the price. You know how you look at a price and then counter with something super low, knowing they won't take it and then you can always go up a little? Well, they took it, right off! Guess this old-fashioned rig had been hanging around for a while and the seller was happy to have an offer.

I can't quite decode the serial number, but this saddle was made somewhere between 1963 and 1974. I'm leaning more towards '74 because the style is very like my '79 Circle Y. Saddlemaking goes through trends just like any other fashion, and like bell bottom jeans, this one just has that 70's vibe.

It's in very nice shape, so all it really needs is a good clean and condition (done!) and some detail work. Like that silver spiral lacing along the edges -- that's damaged in some spots, so I've ordered new and will replace it where needed. You can't see it well in the picture, but the lacing goes all down the back edge of the fenders (the leg parts between seat and stirrup). I've never seen a saddle with that before. That's where it's in the worst condition, so once that's fixed, it'll look proper dazzling!

Someone had put on a nylon seatbelt-like material latigo and off-billet. (The things that hold the cinch in place to keep the saddle on the horse when riding.) I see a lot of folks using these, and they're perfectly safe, I'm sure, but I personally don't care for the look. I had a leather latigo on hand, and making an off-billet was easy: just two layers of leather stitched together with a few holes punched in. The stitching takes a while because I do it by hand. It's not difficult, but it's tedious. I watched tv. This took up the season opener of Game of Thrones and all of Jurassic World.

I didn't want to have to switch over all my accessories every time I need to change saddles, so I needed a breastcollar to go with this saddle as well. I had an old tatty fleece-lined one that I got in a box of stuff at a yard sale. It was so nasty; the fleece was hard and full of dirt, and nothing I did seemed to help. Just picking it up made a dry dirty dustcloud puff up. *cough cough* I cut the stitches and tore off the fleece. 

I thought replacing it with new stuff, but fleece absorbs a lot of sweat, and takes a while to dry. Once wet, it keeps moisture on the leather, so even washing is a problem -- especially in a humid place like the Pacific Northwest where tackroom dampness is a constant battle. But I couldn't leave it with the rough side exposed, or it would chafe the horse. A smooth leather lining was the answer. After cleaning and conditioning, I laid it out and used it as a pattern to cut new lining pieces. More stitching for me! 

Once I get this all sewed on and dyed to match, I'll remake the center medallion and it'll be ready to ride. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Not-So-Creepy Baby.

There's a saying, "Never apologize for your art." And I think I'm going to lead with that because from the reactions I've gotten so far, my latest project is a little controversial. A lot of people find these dolls creepy.

I'm not sorry I made it. Not one bit. It turned out beautifully, and it's a gift for a good friend who will enjoy it; anyone else's opinion does not matter. She told me a while back that she wanted a reborn baby doll -- one of those ones that artists make look like a real baby. I've been keeping an eye out for one at my usual sources with little success (at least, not at an affordable price) and suddenly it hit me: I have skills. Maybe I could make one myself. I mean, it's worth a try. I can do things. I looked up some how-to videos on YouTube and got a little creeped out but not dissuaded. I decided to give it a shot. 

So without further ado, let's meet the primary materials: 

Okay, this is a vinyl baby doll made by Berjusa. I got it from an online auction at a very nice price because -- well, look at it. That baby has seen some serious playtime. It was soiled, the stitching had several mends, and it was stuffed with chunks of foam that made me wonder what they'd been soaking up over the years. My first order of business was to detach the limbs and head, empty the stuffing into the trash, and carefully take apart the pieces of the body so I could use them as a pattern to make a new one. 

Top: icky unwashed baby arm. Bottom: baby arm freshly scrubbed with baking soda and peppermint soap. What a difference! 

After scrubbing, the baby's skin tone was a little orange-y. I needed to neutralize some of that orange to give it a more natural appearance. I read a lot of online tips about painting the insides of the limbs with lavender paint, but what I ended up doing -- and what worked really well! -- was using blue tinted hair dye. I started out putting just a tiny bit in lots of water and pouring it into the parts, but I soon realized a faster, better way was to just dunk the parts right in. count to five, rinse, and bam -- no more orange. 

The kitchen table gets lots of natural light. Perfect place to work - and Dave was gone to Emerald City Comic Con, so I didn't have any interruptions like horrified screaming.

Here's the clean, neutralized head. I'm glad that the eyes are shut, because painting something that watches me would be a bit unsettling.

I used acrylic paints, sponges, and a big fluffy brush to put some more lifelike color on the vinyl parts. I could go into details, but a girl's gotta have some secrets and if you just google "diy reborn doll" you'll see all the same videos I did and know what to do. 

And here's the head after painting to a more natural-looking (hopefully) mottled flesh appearance. I think I did a pretty good job. If it weren't for that plastic stick coming out of the neck, I'd think this was a picture of a real baby.

Okay, that binky? Magnets. Super-strong magnets. You cut off the rubber sucky part of the binky and glue one magnet there, and then you put some glue on another magnet and drop it in the baby's head. Hold the binky where you want it, and the magnet in the head will attach itself to the proper place inside. Then just let it sit for a day so the glue can cure, and you have a cute accessory. If I'd have been thinking fast, I'd have put a magnet in the baby's hand, too, so it would look like it was sucking its fist. 

But it was too late for fist-magnets, because the arms and legs were full of pale tan aquarium gravel. 

I just used a kitchen funnel to dump it in there, and then glued circles of cardboard over the openings. That duct tape you see is just holding the cardboard in place til the glue dries. Gives the pieces a nice realistic weight and solidity. 

These arms and legs had been sewn to the cloth body. Usually there is a thin ridge for zipties, but not for this doll. I had to sew them to the new body. 

For the body I cut pieces from a pale tan oxford cloth shirt. Strong and lightweight, just perfect. I stitched the arms and legs using the same stitching holes, adding a touch of glue to the inside hems for extra strength. 

I used a bag of marbles to add weight to the baby's body. To keep the marbles quiet, I stitched long tubes of fleece fabric. I'd drop in a marble, tie it with a piece of thread, drop in another marble, tie it off, and so on. I ended up with a long, intestinal-looking rope that was soft and heavy and didn't rattle or clink one bit. Perfect! I coiled it inside the baby's body and then padded around it with polyfill stuffing. A sock full of gravel and more polyfill cushioning went into the head, giving the baby a total weight of about six pounds. 

A trip to the thrift shop later, I had a gender-neutral sleeper suit, a cute ducky hat, and a blanket. I puffed a tiny amount of baby powder onto the body to give the doll just the right scent, dressed it all up, and it's all ready to go to my friend for her birthday. 


I hope she likes it. It was something different and interesting to make, and I have to admit that buying baby stuff was fun. Everything was so cute and tiny! And not a bit creepy.