Keepers are not my favorite thing to make. They are small and fiddly and have to fit just right. If they're too big, they look sloppy. Too small? Then they're impossible to use. Still, they are an integral part of most strap goods, and any tackmaker worth her salt should know how to consistently produce well fitting, in scale keepers. I'm sure there are lots of ways to achieve that goal, but this is the method I use.
As per usual, the first step is to prepare a long section of lace. For this particular project both my straps and keepers are going to be made of 1/16" lace. If I was going to put 1/16" keepers onto a wider strap, I would have to prepare two sections of lace--one in each width.Once the lace is ready, it's time to start cutting the keepers. They should be approximately three times the width of the strap. It's a bit hard to see in the pictures, but I've also skived the cut ends of the keeper to almost paper thinness.
Double the strap lace over onto itself and wrap one end of the keeper around both pieces.
Dab a little bit of glue on the other end of the keeper...
and fold it around the straps. As precisely as possible, place the glued end directly over its nonglued counterpart and hold in place until the glue sets.
If you aren't careful with the gluing, you can end up with crooked keepers. These look sloppy and don't function particularly well since one end of the keeper is smaller than the other.
I usually make keepers in batches. This hunter bridle needs six identical 1/16" keepers--two for each cheekpiece plus two more for the caveson's cheekpiece. It will also need to keepers for the caveson's noseband and the throatlatch, but those will be made separately since they are not the same size.Once I've finished making my keepers, I gently slide them together to check that they are all the same size and shape.
Assuming they pass inspection, it's time to move onto the final phase of keeper construction. For this you will need a bottle of gum tragacanth.
Apply a generous amount of gum tragacanth to the straps...
and slide the row of keepers back and forth over the gum tragacanth. This accomplishes two things. It slicks the insides of the keepers and also stiffens them into a nice open shape. Both these things will make the keepers easy to use.
I should also mention that it's not unusual to break one or more keepers during this process. That can be frustrating, but try to view it as a positive. It's always better to fix the weak ones before they're actually part of a bridle!
Questions, comments, random keeper observations... Please post them in the comments section!