Last week, I did a post on how I dressed up some rather plain saddle pads. Since then, I haven't had much time to sew, but I finally got a few hours this morning to finish up the pad I made from scratch.
The finished product.
There are a couple of sites out there on how to make pads, but most of them are baby pads that use thin store-bought quilting as the backing. That's great if you want to make cute baby pads - it's pretty quick and easy. However, I was looking for something more sturdy, and fancier. Plus - not gonna lie - I have boxes and boxes of fabric that either need to be sewn up or given away. Might as well sew it up!
For my backing, I decided to use some felted wool I had leftover from a cloak-making project years ago. If you use a wool half-pad, you know how cool wool keeps the horse's back - much more so than most of the foam-filled saddle pads that are on the market today. The felted wool I have is quite thick, but I opted to do two layers of it for additional stability. For the facing layer, I used some very nice brocade I had laying around.
To start, I laid out a dressage pad I like onto my wool, and cut out 4 of those. Next, I laid the wool on the brocade and cut out 2 of those. Be careful to make sure you've got the pattern going the right way if you're using a pattered fabric, and make sure you do a left and a right piece.
Be sure to cut your top fabric a little larger than the bottom - everything will shrink up a bit when you quilt it together, so having extra is a good thing.
One you've got everything cut out, you're going to lay all three layers of one side together, brocade on top. Then, using pins every 3-4 inches, pin all three layers together. Use lots of pins! When you're finished, you should be able to pick up the entire stack of three layers and have them all move together.
For this next step, you need chalk and a ruler. This is a dressmaker's ruler, 2 inches wide. It's a convenient width to make your quilting.
With the chalk, mark diagonal lines every 2 inches all the way across the brocade.
Next, sew over all the lines, removing your pins as you go. When you're finished going one direction, do the same thing the other direction.
Here's what it looks like after you've quilted it together. Starting to look good!
After you've quilted both halves of your pad, trim off any excess fabric around the edges.
Next, put the brocade sides together. Using a wide zig-zag stitch, sew along the top of the pad, as close to the edge as you can get.
Here's what it will look like when you're done. This doesn't have to be perfect, as we're going to reinforce and cover this seam in the next few steps.
Cut a strip of your backing fabric about 2 inches wide and the length of the spine of your pad. Lay the strip on the right side of the seam you just sewed, then use a straight stitch to sew it down about 1/2 inch from the edge of the seam. Bonus if you get dog hair on your fabric.
After you've sewn down the first side, fold the loose edge of the fabric under about 1/2 inch...
Then fold it over the seam you just sewed. See how we covered that seam up?
Pin that sucker down...
And top-stitch it.
Here's what it will look like after you're done.
We did the bottom side first for a good reason... see how ugly the top seam looks, with the stitching on either side? We're going to cover this up in exactly the same way.
Cut a 2.5 inch wide strip of brocade the length of your pad, then sew it about 3/4 of an inch inside your seam.
Fold the loose edge over, then pin in place.
Here's what it looks like after you've topstitched it down.
And here's the back. Now all the ugly seams won't show on the top of our pad!
We're almost done! We just need to put on a binding, some trim, and the billet straps.
You can purchase bias tape from the fabric store to use as your binding. However, it only comes in cotton fabric, and the number of colors are limited. I also find it to be kinda pricey, lol, so I make my own. It's really, REALLY important to use bias-cut binding instead of ribbon or straight-cut binding. Here's why:
Fabric is woven in two directions - the warp and the woof. If you pull your fabric in either of those directions, it doesn't stretch. However, if you pull it across the diagonal (the bias), it stretches quite a bit! You can see that here with the the fabric I used - the diagonal ripples in the fabric show the bias. The stretch in bias tape allows you to go around the curves of the pad without wrinkling the binding.
I used this super-handy-dandy bias tape maker - and my trusty iron - to make my own bias tape in a matching color (again, extra fabric laying around).
When you're sewing your bias tape down, sew it to the bottom of your pad first.
Fold it over and around to the top of the pad, then pin it in place. You can see how easily it's curving around the pad, and there are no wrinkles.
All pinned down and just about to sew...
And volia! Looking good.
The second-to-last step... sewing down the trim. The trim is actually the only thing I had to buy at the fabric store, lol! I used silver metallic thread to match, and just zigzagged over it.
And last but not least, billet straps! Be sure to burn the ends of the webbing (to prevent fraying) before you sew it on.
Here's the finished product. I think it looks super classy, and the wool backing gives it a good weight and nice structure. I want to give it a test ride, but I'm also thinking I might save it as a show pad!