I love a a good tutorial, so this well-written, beautifully photographed guest post makes me ridiculously happy. Many thanks to Katherine Bone of Barefoot Appaloosa Studios for sharing her method of crop making. And if you decide that you're not up to making your own crops, never fear. Katherine sells them occasionally through her Etsy shop!
English Riding Crop Tutorial
By Katherine Bone
English Riding Crop Tutorial
By Katherine Bone
In the hands of a skillful rider, crops can be an extremely helpful training aide or offer encouragement for the lazy horse. They’re exceedingly common in the real horse world, and can be found in most any tack room, regardless of discipline.
Unsurprisingly then, the model shower’s tack room has also come to include crops as the final touch for a polished entry.
To start, you will need:
- Pipe cleaners.
- Embroidery floss in desired color.
- Scrap leather (a ⅛” piece of lace will do, or a custom width of very thin hide).
- Crimp beads in two sizes, 2mm and 6mm.
- Electrical tape in black.
- Loctite super glue with precision tip.
- Leather glue (I’m using Fiebings brand Leathercraft Cement).
- Jewelry pliers, I use needle nose, and wire cutters.
- Small pair of scissors and an X-Acto (hobby) knife.
- Lighter, small handheld with flame control.
- Optional: Fray check (I use Dritz Fraycheck, but any brand should do).
Firstly, I modify a pipe cleaner (I’m using white here, but honestly the color is not really important) so that the handle and whip section is mostly bare wire and the shaft section is trimmed down neatly to the core, leaving some “fluff.” At this point, I’ve also picked a length to cut my pipe cleaner to. (Keep in mind that generally standard riding crops are shorter than dressage whips, dressage whips are shorter than lunging whips, etc.)Now with my new wire core, I decide where I will divide the whip into sections, and start my wrapping accordingly. I split the embroidery floss in half, using three of the total six strands. The total length required to fully wrap the core is a matter of good guesswork and practice!
Smoothing the floss strands as flat as possible (I find it helpful to wet them as well), I place a dab of Loctite super glue on the wire where I want my handle section to end before laying the embroidery floss at a slight angle to the core, being sure to smoosh the thread as tight as possible to the wire core with either my fingers or the needle nose pliers.With the floss securely attached, we can start wrapping! The trick to getting the most even result from this method is to rotate the core slowly between your forefinger and thumb while wrapping, holding onto the thread with your other hand close to where you’re “spinning” it onto the wire.
Once the main body of the whip is done, I stop at the section I marked earlier for the popper, near the top of the whip, and secure the end with another dab of superglue before trimming any excess. At this point, an optional step is to use Fray check, putting a thin stripe down the length of floss and then rolling it in between your fingers to spread it evenly. This step keeps the floss strong over time, preventing it from fraying with repeated handling.Now it’s time to add the two metal crimp or tube beads. I use the longer bead, the 6mm, for the middle portion, and the shorter crimp bead, the 2mm, for the end of the handle. The shorter can be used for both parts for a different look (an example of this at the top).
To fit the longer bead over the floss, it needs to be opened using a large needle or reamer. Here I’m using a tapestry needle and a pair of pliers to do the job.I carefully fit the open bead over the end of the wrapping, near the base of the whip, and above the handle section. Using a pair of jewelry needle nose pliers, I pinch the bead back closed.
I use electrical tape on the handle section to imitate a rubber grip, although very thin leather lace could be used here as well. Before it can be used, the width of the tape should be reduced. To do this, lay a piece of electrical tape on a cutting mat, and using an X-Acto knife and ruler, cut a thin (about ¼”) strip of tape.Now, cutting the end of the electrical tape at an angle, the handle portion is ready to be wrapped. I place yet another small dab of Loctite super glue on the angled end of the tape to anchor it at the base of the first metal bead. Once the glue has firmly locked the tape in place, I begin wrapping, first downwards, towards the bottom of the whip, then upwards, back to the bead. (Earlier, I stripped the core down to fully expose bare wire, so that I could double wrap the handle without too much bulk.)
Once I’m back to the top of the handle section, I cut the tape at an angle to finish it neatly to the divider (middle) bead. The end is then glued and secured. And the handle is finished...not!
A while back, I discovered a trick to better mold the electrical tape to the twisted wire core by heating it up, melting the tape just a bit to tighten the wrap. A couple of gentle passes through the controlled flame of a handheld lighter should do the job nicely.
After that’s done, I fit the 2mm metal bead at the bottom of the whip handle and using super glue again, press it flush to the tape until it’s dry.I prepared a piece of scrap leather for the popper earlier, by skiving it paper thin and sealing the flesh side with gum tragacanth. Jennifer has a good tutorial for this, if you need help getting started. Working with the X-Acto knife, I eyeball the desired width and length relative to the whip core and cut the scrap of leather for the popper. Once I’m happy with the size, I attach the leather piece to the bare wire using fast-setting leather glue, letting it sit for a minute to dry. Next, I fold the leather over and glue it back to itself to finish the popper. By pressing down on each side of the wire front and back as the leather glue sets, I can shape the leather over the core, giving it a more realistic appearance. Taking the X-Acto knife, or a small pair of scissors—depending on how bold I’m feeling—I angle off the bottom two corners of the popper.
Finally, I like to cap the handle end bead with a small specialty nailhead. This is not strictly necessary as it just ensures that no part of the inner core is exposed.
And viola, you now have a finished riding crop! I’ve used this method to make many different styles and colors of whips (the one made for this tutorial was a havana brown crop commissioned by the lovely Gail Hildebrand) that actually look and feel like the real thing. At least, that’s the goal! It’s also important to me that my crops are a good fit for a rider doll’s hands:
With practice, crops are a fun side project while “tackling” bigger items.
Hope this helps!