Sunday, June 12, 2016

Evolution of the Saddle Pad

There was a time when I literally made saddle pads out of paper towels.

This one is actually just cut from an old sock- classy!

As in, rip off a paper towel, cut into rectangular shape, slap it under a saddle and call it a day. Honestly, I don't even think they looked too bad. I mean, they could never get wet or be handled more than maybe twice, but they looked okay. It took me a good two years of experimenting to move on to another thin, textured fabric: aida cloth.

Intended for use in embroidery and cross stitching projects, aida cloth is a somewhat stiff, uniform weave fabric in a grid perfect for 1:32 scale quilting. Most of my 2014 saddles came with simple aida pads, which even at the time felt lazy, but pads were very much an afterthought for me and they got the job done. 

The open weave makes the fabric pretty transparent on its own, somewhat detracting from the quilted illusion. It eventually started to bug me that my pads were simply shapes cut from fancy fabric, and I stepped it up with cotton linings and hand-embroidered borders:

While this was definitely an improvement and looked much more intentional and loved than the previous version, the embroidery (while cute) seemed out of scale.

I've recently been bugged by how the stiffness of the aida makes the pad sit straight across from the withers to hips instead of conforming to the slope of the back. This is much less noticeable under a saddle than with the surcingle set above, but it does make the saddle sit a bit higher off the horse.

Today I should've been working on a five-point breastplate for my current eventing set, but instead I spent a good few hours playing around and making the next iteration of saddle pad:

One that's actually shaped like a saddle pad! I finally have a two-part pattern that allows for a much closer fit along the top line- that and a super neat new method of doing the trim (you can hardly tell in the pics, but there's a fine black border around the outer edges) make me a very happy tack maker. 

I would love to add the straps for the girth to be threaded through as well as a grab strap on the withers, but I'm stuck on finding a fabric/ribbon to mimic that nylon texture in this scale! Those are the kinds of details that make me happy but realistically hardly even show up after the set is all tacked up, so they're not a priority, but it would be adorable.

One of my past drawing teachers used to constantly tell us to give as much "love" to the background of our drawings as we did the foreground, pointing out many a piece with beautifully executed subjects and lazily scribbled shadows in the back. I feel like pads are easy to see as the "background" of the saddle, the less important piece, but when they're given a bit of love and attention, they can really bring that next level of sharpness to a set. 

(Writing this post was definitely not just further procrastination on that breastplate.)

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