Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tack Tips--Pattern making

I spent most of yesterday working on my NAN auction saddle, and this is what I have to show for my efforts:That may not look like much, but the paper pattern stage is actually one of the most important--and difficult--parts of creating a new type of saddle. By the time I've finished the pattern, I not only know what the pieces are going to look like, but I've also figured out exactly how I'm going to put them together. The actual construction is often easy by comparison. I was recently asked how I go about creating a pattern, and I thought maybe it might be interesting to give you a glimpse into that process here. Remember this is just the way I do things. I'm sure there are as many ways to do this as there are tackmakers! The first thing I do is create a two dimensional version of my model by tracing around it onto a piece of paper. I then draw the saddle I want to make directly onto that tracing. This accomplishes a couple things. Drawing the saddle is a great warm-up for making the saddle. I have to pay attention to the proportions and shapes just like I will later on. It also gives me a starting point for creating the actual pattern pieces.
The saddle flaps are the biggest piece so I usually start with them. I copy the bottom part of the flap directly from my drawing, add a bit in the middle to accommodate the seat area, and then cut the whole thing out and place it on the model.
From here on in, it's just a lot of trial and error. Since I didn't like the angle of the flaps when they were placed on the model, I cut them in half and reattached the pieces so they would hang straighter. I keep making adjustments until the piece looks right.
The next step is to move on to a related piece. I have decided this saddle will look just like a normal English saddle on the underside, so that means it will have a second, slightly smaller flap and panels. To make sure the pieces will fit together well, I temporarily attach them with glue stick . The glue stick makes a nice temporary bond, but it's still easy to pull things apart
so that you can make adjustments.In this picture you can see that I removed the panel and am now going to trim it along the pencil lines.
When I'm finally satisfied with the pattern, I trace each piece onto cardstock and cover one side with packing tape. This results in a nice sturdy pattern that holds up well over repeat uses. I used to put tape on both sides, but I've found that I like being able to write notes to myself directly on the pieces as I assemble the saddle. The skirt piece below comes from my pony dressage pattern. I don't make that type of saddle very often, but the next time I do I will know exactly what pieces need fixing before I start!
Hopefully this will give you some insight into how you can make your own patterns. Pattern making is not an easy skill, but it's well worth the effort. I find there is nothing more rewarding to me as a tackmaker than making something that is entirely of my own design.


  1. I was just thinking about making and keeping patterns to reuse later. I literally make all of my costumes and saddles to fit the model it is ordered for, so I just kind of assemble as I go. It's very much like interior decorating, actually. A lot of adjusting here, taking out there, and holding up swatches of floss and fabric for color harmony :) But I have been thinking lately that it's high time I just buckle down, save myself some time and create nice, reuseable pattern pieces for my tack.

    GREAT article, Jennifer! You should submit this to JAH or the Model Horse Hobby Magazine. If you ever consider video tutorials, let me know! I am thinking about doing some for making tassels and cowrie shells myself.

  2. Stablemates can be so hard to fit that I usually assemble as I go as well. However, I think making and keeping patterns is a great idea and I'm trying to really get into it! This article was immensely helpful, and you could probably write a book with all of your tack tips in it!

    I second video tutorials, by ANYONE! That would be amazing.

  3. Jennifer
    This is what I do also. My work table looks a lot like your first picture, paper patterns and saddle trees and a few pieces of leather cut to size.
    I'm making a Portuguese type saddle that I haven't made before, so have to figure it out. I've not done an English saddle and this one has lots of features of one. I've been scouring your blog here and my SBY book and another pattern that I have for tips. LOL> is hard!!! Western is so much easier!
    Thanks for posting this article!

  4. You guys are so funny! I have just barely figured out my digital camera. I think I am a *long* way from video anything!

    About patterns--they are quite time consuming on the front end, but save SO much time in the long run. Even if you don't want to duplicate past work, it's easier to make something new when you don't have to start from scratch everytime. I have a plastic bin that's filled to the brim with patterns for nearly everything I've made (bridles and other strap goods excluded) over the last five years. That's on the short list of things I'd grab if I ever had to evacuate in a hurry!

  5. Hi, I'm new to the whole tack pattern proccess, so I have been on the internet searching and searching for tips and your tack is AMAZING! Thanks for these helpful tips!

  6. thank you so so much for this article it has help me out heaps!!!

  7. Always glad to help! I do think this is one of the essential skills for a top flight tackmaker.

  8. I've watched videos on how to make saddles for breyers but they never say how to make the patterns for the saddles and this makes it way easier!

  9. Can you make these patterns for printing! That would be cool !!!😃😁😊😉