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Sewing your own Equestrian Wear & Horse Show Clothing

This article is not written to teach you how to sew these articles, only to open your eyes to the possibilities available along with some resources if you’d like to try this avenue. I will add a few tips and suggestions that I discovered but I’m try not to clutter this article too much with them.

I’ve sewn since I was seven years old. My mother showed me how to use her sewing machine, cut out patterns and to get the most out of the material that I had. I learned to make anything if I had a pattern for it. As a young adult I started making my own show outfits, but had a hard time finding suitable materials and patterns. 

Since I had such a hard time, I thought I would share with you what I’ve learned over the years. If you sew or know someone who does you can save a lot of money by making your own horse show clothing. You can make your own slinkies, vests, horsemanship shirts, showmanship jackets & pants, saddle seat suits, hunt seat jackets & breeches, and even some of your horse’s barn clothing.

Years ago I searched McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick pattern books for jackets and vests that would be suitable for western classes. I found several that worked well, but weren’t very form fitting. My problem is twofold: I am well endowed so store bought clothing to fit me is difficult to find and I love to wear different outfits all the time. 

I learned to ‘modify’ the patterns to fit me and started making jackets & vests from many different kinds of materials. The patterns that I’ve found now are much more form fitting and require less tweaking. But also nowadays suppliers realize the need for the plus sizes and more ready-mades are available on the market. 

These were pre-slinky days (don’t like telling my age here, but I’ve been showing & sewing 40+ years), but I was gaining experience working with two-way stretch materials because I made most of my youngest daughter’s ice skating dresses. Sewing Lycra with a regular sewing machine using a stretch stitch was very difficult indeed as well as time consuming. 

One year, I decided to buy my mother a serger for a Christmas present. Her eyesight was beginning to fail and she wasn’t willing to learn something new, so I ended up with a serger. After only one use, I could not fathom how I’d ever been able to sew anything without one. They are great for stretchy material, but just as necessary to finish seams on any material for a very professional look. So, that is my first recommendation – if you are planning on sewing any kind of stretchy material then you need a serger. 

I use my serger now more than my regular sewing machine. I started off sewing seams with my regular machine and then serging the edges. NOW, I just serge the seams – takes much less time and the seams hold better. You just have to be more certain of your stitches because you cut away fabric if you have the knife engaged on the serger. I also started off using the invisible thread on my serger – it was easier than changing thread colors each time that I changed material. Now, I change threads because I’ve found that the invisible nylon thread doesn’t hold as well as the cotton serger threads. Not to mention, the nylon threads can sometimes be felt when next to the skin.

Patterns... After hunting for decades for good patterns that reflect the show clothing of the current ‘era’, I’ve found two reliable sources. You can call or write for a paper catalog or view them online. 
Both pattern makers supply multi-size patterns and the patterns range from $8-$30. [MAKE sure that you trace your pattern onto another pattern source and SAVE your original pattern. I will include a link to one source of pattern tracing paper. http://www.nancysnotions.com/product/pattern+tracing+paper.do 


P.O. Box 3244
Chico, CA 95927-3244

Jean Hardy Patterns 
2151 La Cuesta Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Not enough can be said for a proper fitting pattern. I have had a horsemanship shirt made by a New York designer & pattern maker and while the price was very high, it is the best fitting item I have ever put on my body. 

Materials & weights ... Next a good weight & proper type material for the item being made is extremely important. If you are making a slinky, I would advise using a material that has a good amount of two way stretch to it (one way stretch will work – if you make certain that all your pattern pieces are cut out with the stretch going in the correct direction). 

Rule of thumb for a slinky material choice – 4” of material should stretch to 8”. The weight of the material is important as well. You can usually get this type of material in light, medium, and heavy weights. I find that some body builds just don’t look good in the lightest of these weights unless the cut doesn’t cling too tightly. 

If you are in a store, you can drape the material over your arm or shoulder and get a feel for it. If you aren’t in a store, you can usually purchase samples of material before you purchase a large yardage quantity. Many online stores offer sample cards displaying their color & weight choices for a minimal charge. 
Funny, I find that I actually spend more money on the slinky material than I do the vest or jacket material.

I find a great deal of my material online now (I will include some links at the bottom of this article for you to visit. The links in this newsletter may become old – so the site may no longer be available when you read this article). I’ve experimented with a great deal of fabrics over the years starting with medium weight upholstery material for jackets and vest. This weight and look was/is excellent for these items. You’ll find many usable pieces in the remnants section of a fabric store.

Before the internet (remember my age here), I would go to fabric stores in every city I visited and buy material I thought that I might one day be able to use. I bought colors that I knew I’d never use for me, but since I occasionally make a vest for someone else, that didn’t matter. What did matter was that I built up several hundred dollars in unused material in my ‘material closet’, even while purchasing ‘bargain priced’ material. I used to find a lot of ‘sparkly’ materials at Christmas time. I remember buying a piece of tissue lame (gold) that I made into a Western Pleasure jacket. This stuff really ravels (pre-serger days) so I used almost an entire bottle of Fray-Check while making it. I had the jacket pattern. The cost of the material was around $5 (on sale, just after Christmas). I covered my buttons with this material for a total finished look. I got many compliments on this jacket, a win photo wearing this jacket, and the jacket is still in my show closet. I had one woman ride up to me and said, “Please don’t tell my husband that you make your show jackets. He’s having a fit about the price I paid for mine and he commented to me on how nice yours was.”

I have just ventured into Pleather (faux leather) material [I decided it was cheaper than lambskin & pigskin leather to start with]. I hunted thru all the fabric stores in my area and could never find anything except the vinyls used for making tablecloths. So, I tried that ~ miserable failure – too thick and the seams too bulky. I searched online for what seems like months before I finally found the sources that I currently use. My first order consisted of purchasing 3 pieces of Pleather, a hunter green textured, a sand colored ostrich print, and a gold metallic (a yd each ~ total cost with s&h was about $35). I took one of my vest patterns and cut it up a bit to make a vest with a yoke and cut out my first vest. While working with the appliqués and sewing the pieces together, I came across a discovery. The easiest material that I worked with was between 5.5 oz to 10 oz. The material on the light side of this range curls a lot and sewing small appliqués becomes difficult. The 7-10 oz range made good appliqués for me ~ maybe I’ll learn some better techniques as I do a little more of this. [remember; I don’t sew professionally, only for myself and a few friends].

Appliqués... I hunted all around to find some appliqué patterns to use for designs, when I happened on some excellent patterns that I had bought to help me in my graphic web designs. I took these graphics into my graphics program and started cutting them up; resizing them, and printing them out to use as patterns. I will be uploading some of these to my free graphics section for your use. This will mostly be done over a winter when I’m not spending every waking minute outside or on my paying job. I will also upload a photo of my first finished vest to the appliqué page and the online page of this article. I made a lot of mistakes (to my critical eye) but I learned a lot as well. I wore this vest at an open show where a photographer took a lot of photos during the classes. I was able to see how the vest looked from others prospective. It turned out very nicely to be my first with Pleather and my first with appliqués.

Dress form – buy or make your own... I decided that it would be beneficial to buy a dress form to help me with my pattern resizing and to view my creations as I worked on them, so I bought a dress form. I had a 50% off any item coupon from one of the local fabric stores and I ending up getting a new one cheaper than I could have found one used. I would like to have a form for my grandchildren but don’t want to pay the money to buy one and I haven’t been able to find a used one that I could use. BUT I have discovered several ways to make one (another use for duct tape). This is the best link that I’ve found since it contains 3 or 4 methods to make a dress form for your exact fit. http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00002.asp 

I hope that I’ve opened a new avenue for you in this article.

Links I’ve found for Lycra, Spandex, Pleather, Sensuede, Ultra Suede, Faux Leather, Lambskin, Pigskin, Leather, Rhinestone Zippers, Beads, Crystals, Western show clothing patterns, English show clothing patterns, Saddle Seat show clothing patterns, pattern paper. 

[There are many materials available for your uses that make up beautifully - these are just an online sampling.]




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