Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saddles with Sophie, part one

In the last five years, I've fielded countless requests for an English saddle making tutorial.  My answer has always been a polite but firm no.  "The topic's too big for a blog post," I'd say.  "If I ever write all that down, it will be in the form of a book."  

To my friends I'd say later, "There will never be a saddle making tutorial on the Braymere blog.  Never, ever, ever!"

File that under famous last words.

Earlier this week, British tackmaker, Sophie Lightfoot of Half Moon Studios posted a wonderful series of photos on Facebook explaining how she makes English saddles.  I asked permission to republish her words and pictures , and she generously agreed.  Although not exactly identical, Sophie's method is very similar to mine.  If you follow these steps, you should be able to build a live show quality saddle!

Without any further ado, here's Sophie:

Saddles with Sophie, Part One

by Sophie Lightfoot

First off, you need a saddle pattern. This is the English hunter/jumper pattern I use for most of my tack.
Trace your pattern carefully onto the leather. Make sure it is very accurate.  Otherwise, when you cut out the pieces, they will be wonky.
The pieces are now ready for skiving and treating.
Skiving is a process that gets rid of excess bulk and thins the leather down so it sits nicely when part of a saddle.
Once the pieces are skived, I treat them with Gum Tragacanth and Edge-Kote
This seals the fuzzies and colours the edges so they are lovely and neat!
Next, I coat the leather with Super Shene leather sealant.  This locks in the colour and makes the leather shine!
I add stitch marks and slots for stirrup leathers and D rings
To make the knee rolls, I cut a piece of foam to fit the shape of the saddle flap.  This is glued onto a slightly bigger piece of leather...
and covered with skiver leather.  I pull the leather as tight as possible so it lies smoothly over the foam.
Once the knee rolls are finished, I glue them to the flaps and add stitch marks.
This picture shows the undersides of the flaps.
The next step is to add piping to the front of the flaps. In this saddle's case, there's one row of black and one row of blue. 
Here I have cut slots in the flaps for stirrup bars. I use bent wire attached to leather lace, which is pushed through the slot and secured with glue
Various saddles in progress...
Tomorrow, I'll show you how to take those pieces and turn them into saddles.
P.S. From Jennifer--If you're a Facebook member, be sure to check out Sophie's studio page: Sophie Lightfoot (Halfmoonstudios) for more pictures of her tack and finishwork.


  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. All the credit goes to Sophie. All I did was recognize a good thing and distribute it to my own audience!

  3. Very nice! I've always wondered how y'all do these. Thank you for reposting this!

  4. Now we need to know how to make an english bridle!

  5. But... I've written so many tutorials that address the major challenges of making an English bridle (preparing the leather, raised nosebands, laced reins, etc.) plus if you scroll back far enough, there's a post that shows exactly how the bridle should fit. Honestly, I think that's more than enough information to get you started!

  6. Thanks for sharing! :) How is the piping on the flaps made?

    1. I can't be certain, but I suspect the piping is skiver leather doubled over onto itself, maybe with a piece of string or wire in the fold.

    2. I put some glue on skiver then roll it once or twice, leaving about 1/2 inch of extra leather on for gluing under the saddle part. :) Sorry if that doesn't make sense. :\

  7. My technique for english saddles is nearly identical though not as finished and polished yet as the two of yours. Amazing how they are all so similar. Only one good way to complete the same project or great minds think alike??

  8. What kind of leather do you use.Is it Tooling Leather or just Craft Store leather.Or do you get it from Rio Rondo.Im getting my skiver Rio Rondo.P.S where do you get your leather lace from??

  9. How do you attach the sturrips to the stirrup bars.Sorry about all the questions.Im new to this and I live next to a hoppy lobby.So that why I'm asking all the Questions.if Jennifer doesn't answers lease anybody

  10. Sorry I mean please

  11. Here's a post that should help you with attaching the stirrup leathers. I've written tutorials that answer most of your questions. You can find them by clicking on "tack tips" under the Labels List heading on the right hand side of the screen.

  12. What kind of leather do you use

  13. Also what year did you mention the leather that u use

  14. Ahhhh! It's so sad as I just heard that Sophie left he hobby :(

  15. Great blog. I'm gonna try to make one, and, if successful, (fingers crossed), I'll put it on my blog. :-)

  16. what do you use to make stitch marks ? if its a tool where can I get it?

  17. ..ah yes...the long-awaited saddle post! Thank you! I am STILL going to keep trolling, it's like finding a fascinating story, with so many truths! I hope you have a wonderful Sunday today, Jennifer!

  18. You are a awesome artist, and selfless, for do not refuse to share your methods with some of us, beginners of apprentices.
    GOD Bless you and yours.

  19. Maynard (unwilling wrong dialing, sorry..