Most of us do not want to waste expensive
hides and because of that some are afraid to start the cutting
process, keeping hides for months or even years before doing
so. My goal in this article is to give you techniques that will
help you feel more secure about using your materials and that
will help avoid costly waste.
For 17 years I braided tack full-time.
I began while raising our 4 young children. During those formative
years, I was taking my braiding everywhere with me I braided
while riding in the truck even when watching my boys play Little
League baseball. I braided so many bosals that I found
it easy to braid on a noseband and watch baseball. Those were
the days that taught me to be careful and conservative. This
discussion covers some of the most useful strategies I found
to efficiently and judiciously use materials.
Average sized bosals are easiest because
I can simply stick to a predetermined number of strings and lengths,
while smaller bosals take less string both on the nose
button and especially on the heel knot. Usually I do not
worry about string numbers or their lengths.
Spanish Ring Knots found on reins and headstalls
are the best examples of the efficient use of materials. I can
cut enough string at a length long enough to braid 2 buttons
at a time. Using one string to braid both buttons saves approximately
3 inches for each pair. There are times when I measure
the total length of string and it is a little short, I can then
braid 3 Spanish Ring Knots with the one string because of the
amount of string saved by braiding one button after the other.
I really do not like to cut extra later. It is too easy
for it not be an exact match.
As I have written in my books, with any
new or long project, when a series of buttons is called for and
I have any doubt about the length of a particular button, I cut
the first string of that button a little long, braid it, then
before tightening, measure the excess length at the end of the
unfinished button (more than needed to braid comfortably).
Then I can determine how long that buttons string need
to be and cut a multiples of it at one time. I like to
do this then tie the bundle together when they are leather or
gather them together in a plastic bag, when they are rawhide.
I may do this with all the button strings in the series I have
I have braided buttons on so many headstalls
that Eric has made, either for bits or bosals, that I know those
string measurements by memory. My list is below. Please remember,
if you plan to use my measurement list, that a small difference
in strap depth can make a sizable difference in string length,
as can the unique style with which each of us braids. So,
if you use my string sizing, do not cut all the string beforehand
without test braiding a sample button first.
1/2 diameter doubled & sewn leather:
5 for solid 6 bight Turks head with gaucho interweave.
for foundation string on long pineapple button.
5 for foundation of 6 bight Turks head.
5 for herringbone interweave of the 6 bight Turks
8 for 2 Spanish Ring Knots.
5/8" diameter doubled & sewn leather:
for solid 6 bight Turk's head with gaucho interweave.
for foundation string on long pineapple button.
for foundation of 6 bight Turk's head.
for herringbone interweave of the 6 bight Turk's head.
10" for 2 Spanish Ring Knots.
*These are only examples. Remember the variations in strapwork
depth, how experienced each of us is and our individual braiding
style make a difference. We all have to gain experience and experiment
On the subject of cutting up roo hides, after learning the more
traditional method, I learned to cut the hide in the way I illustrate
in The Art of Braiding
The Basics - Second Revised Ed. After cutting my wider
strips, I found I could make better use of the hide by pre-stretching
each strip before cutting my small strings.
Whenever strings are cut for projects, often there is excess.
This surplus has value for smaller items as well. A hint for
keeping those assorted strings readily available is to place
them into individually labeled plastic bags. Depending on the
string, the label may denote a certain roo color with the date
it was cut (which would mean it was all in the same dye lot).
Hide colors vary from dye lot to dye lot. There have been
times when I need to go back to these same dye lots to match
another tack item for the same customer. Sometimes I mark
them as good for key fobs which means the strings I put in the
bag are miscellaneously sized with colors that might work on
a key fob or other small project.
That brings up another subject that I am not always up to date
on. The more organized you can be when storing your extra
string and strips - whether in plastic bags, tied together or
laid neatly in a drawer or whatever method you choose, the more
use you will obtain from your hides. The main concern is
to keep them out of direct sunlight and to make sure they do
not become overly dry. This is of more concern if you live
in a hot dry climate.
The more experience a braider acquires the more efficient he
or she will become at gaining the most value from the materials.