Somerset’s custom-made cover

2 May

Three things I love : sewing, sidesaddles and history. How excited was I when I saw that the Historical Sew Fortnightly had a challenge that I could do something for?

The theme was Flora and Fauna, which I have loosely interpreted as being appropriate for a horsey-print canvas sidesaddle cover for Somerset. Because she was looking rather sad, dusty and messy in the corner of my room.

So, to find a pattern.
Hmm.
There are none.

So I browsed the interwebs, and had very helpful people like Leila Marvin, Sarah Parry and Suzy VanderPeer  send me photos and info about genuine, turn of the century covers.

Basically, in the days before elastic, covers were made-to-measure for each saddle.

A very nice, fitted vintage sidesaddle cover.

A very nice, fitted vintage sidesaddle cover.

Erk. Look at all those tricky angles! The cover was slashed under the leaping head so you could get it on and off the heads. Many were piped around all the edges, and had split pigskin keepers, reinforcing and/or accents.

I’d never drafted something myself before, and to be honest, a sidesaddle cover was a hard thing to start with. But that’s never stopped me before….

I pinned paper over the saddle, using photos to guide how it was pieced together

I pinned paper over the saddle, using photos to guide how it was pieced together

Unfortunately I didn't have butchers paper to hand. I did have tissue paper, which was a PAIN to work with around a very playful kitty

Unfortunately I didn’t have butchers paper to hand. I did have tissue paper, which was a PAIN to work with around a very playful kitty

Luckily Nibbles can be distracted with her new favourite thing - the washing basket!

Luckily Nibbles can be distracted with her new favourite thing – the washing basket!

This gave me a whole bunch of pattern pieces. The rectangular piece is upside down, I had to recut it

This gave me a whole bunch of pattern pieces. The rectangular piece is upside down, I had to recut it

Nibbles decided the fabric needed to be killed. She is  the left upper lump, and whenever I tried shifting the fabric she'd go crazy

Nibbles decided the fabric needed to be killed. She is the left upper lump, and whenever I tried shifting the fabric she’d go crazy

Pinned the fabric back to the saddle

Pinned the fabric back to the saddle

I had to adjust it quite a bit. Turns out tissue paper falls differently from canvas

I had to adjust it quite a bit. Turns out tissue paper falls differently from canvas

I fussed a lot with the pins, then realised I had to make all these outside-facing seams become inside-facing. I pricked my fingers HEAPS

I fussed a lot with the pins, then realised I had to make all these outside-facing seams become inside-facing. I pricked my fingers HEAPS

Then I started sewing. So far all was going well, but for some reason (it seemed logical at the time) I put the heads pieces together first, then tried attaching all the bigger pieces to that. It didn’t work. Everything pulled out of shape and it was awful.
I guess it was like trying to make a sleeve, then sew the rest of the dress around it.

I ended up unpicking almost everything, attaching the sides to the seat, then last of all the heads. It worked better.

It makes Somerset look so much tidier

It makes Somerset look so much tidier

I used two ribbons i cut off a shirt - you know those annoying 'hanger' straps sewn to the shoulders that always peep out of your neckline? I found a use for them!

I used two ribbons i cut off a shirt – you know those annoying ‘hanger’ straps sewn to the shoulders that always peep out of your neckline? I found a use for them!

I did some shaping to this side but it's hard to spot

I did some shaping to this side but it’s hard to spot

The fit of the heads isn't perfect, but I'm still pleased with my effort

The fit of the heads isn’t perfect, but I’m still pleased with my effort

I'm really pleased!!!!!

I’m really pleased!!!!!

Obviously it isn’t finished. That’s because Somerset isn’t finished. When she has flaps, flocked panels and girthing her underside will be a completely different shape to what it is now. So I can’t exactly ‘fit’ the cover to something that has yet to exist.

I’ve left heaps of extra material on the edges, and have about 2m of the canvas left. So when Somerset is finished (sometime in the never-never) I can finish the cover to match her.

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One Response to “Somerset’s custom-made cover”

  1. Theresa May 5, 2013 at 6:19 AM #

    Well done, girlie! Very cute fabric.

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