Creating Beaded Horse Tack

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on Feb 2, 2013 12:46 PM

Hi everyone,

I am new to the forum, as semi-new to beading.  I work with seed beeds and do brick, peyote, and loomwork, and a little bit of embroidery.  I am looking to create my first horse tack set (western breast collar and one-ear headstall.)  However, I'm not sure what stitch would be best. 

I would consider doing a tubular peyote for the headstall as the diameter of the leather is not so large.  However, there is no way I'm doing it for the breast collar because it is a pretty solid and wide piece of leather. I'm trying to figure out how to back the beadwork, if I need to, how to, etc.  I've never done much of any real backing before.  I also am at a loss as to what backing material to use.

I need a material that is very sturdy, won't rot or tear with heavy use or by getting covered in horse sweat.  Obviously, I'd like to use leather.  However, I don't know too much about leather.  What kinds are appropriate?  I've heard buckskin will rot with horse sweat.  And is there a type of thread that is more appropriate to use to take my beadwork onto the backing?  (something again, that wont rot when exposed to the elements).

Thanks for all your feedback everyone!  I'm very excited about this project!

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D.M.Z wrote
on Feb 2, 2013 5:40 PM

Wow, by the time you are done you will be an expert in "bullet proof" beading. My humble ideas to start  you off. I'd think about using something like Ultra suede instead of leather if the leather is going to rot. Ultra suede is faux leather. I'd definitely use a doubled strand of Fireline fishing line in maybe an 8 or 10 pound weight (that will depend on the size of the holes in the beads. If you go with something like that, I'd lean toward bead embroidery as it is pretty solid compared to other bead stitches. There are several methods that would work, backstitching where you stitch down several beads at one time and then stitch back through them, and/or couching where you stitch beads down and then throw a loop over ever gap between beads. Look these up to get a clearer idea. The piece that you bead embroider will then be sewn onto the actual leather breast collar. Let us know what ends up working for you though. Inquiring minds just need to know stuff like this. Donna

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on Feb 2, 2013 6:14 PM

Thanks for your reply!  So, this ultrasuede... is this stuff really durable and handle moisture well?  I will also look into the heavy-duty Fireline.  I'm wanting to use size 11 Delicas.  Aside from embroidery, is there another stitch that you would say would be suited to this type of work? 

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D.M.Z wrote
on Feb 2, 2013 10:11 PM

I am not positive that ultra suede is what you need. It does come in different weights/thicknesses and I believe one of it's earlier uses was for clothing that looked like suede but was more manageable. I'd visit some sewing stores and ask questions of them. Maybe someone who makes western clothing could be helpful. If you are going to use delicas, you will probably have to stick to 8#. Depending on the stitch........for instance square stitch puts a lot of passes of thread through each bead (at least 4 and if you do any reinforcing 6). So you will need to judge what stitch you can use. Square is pretty sturdy, peyote has only one pass through each bead and in my (not so) humble opinion would tend to break way sooner.. Also with delicas watch that you don't use the dyed beads, as they will age faster. Stick to the tried and true basic opaque beads for best results.

I really hope someone else will jump in here and give you some additional assistance. Most of my work is loomed and mounted on backing and framed or hung up. So not the same as some too cool horse wearing it. Donna

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Posts 107
Ceffyl1 wrote
on Feb 14, 2013 11:13 AM

So, I'd suggest not going completely around the tack, and sewing the beads to only the outside of the tack. This is to prevent wear on the beads, but also for the horse's comfort. If you bead all the way around the headstall it's going to rub.

 Ideally, you'd be best to bead the piece before the tack was actually sewn together so you could put the beads directly on to the leather/nylon of the tack. Probably you have the tack altready made.

So, sewing it onto ultra suede seems like a good idea. You could use embroidery, or you could loom a piece and then stitch it on. Either way this will need to be stitched to the leather/nylon itself, or you will need to make a sleeve that will cover the piece of tack. A sleeve would have to be tacked in some way to the tack or made really snug so it doesn't turn. Lacing it would probably work, but again you'd have to make sure that there were no knots or such that might cause rubbing on the horse.

You would need a wicked sharp needle to sew it to the leather. The curved leather needles you can get at Tandy Leather are probably the best bet. Wear gloves!

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Posts 4
on Feb 14, 2013 12:27 PM

Thanks for the note! I was thinking about using Fireline (6-8 lb) and looming the pieces.  I was also planning on sewing the work to the tack (already made tack), and then covering the back with a cover. Do you think this is a good idea?

I'm not too familiar with ultrasuede.  It is waterproof and very durable?  Obviously, the material will get wet from horse sweat along with covered in dust, etc.  The backing has to be very sturdy and good.

I was considering using a pigskin or calfskin to make the sleeve or to back on.  What do you think of this? 

Thanks for the information!

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Posts 107
Ceffyl1 wrote
on Feb 14, 2013 9:10 PM

Fireline will be good, I like the 8 lb. Just don't leave it out in the sun. At least not for extended periods of time. I use it for purses when I loom them and it seems to be the best for strength, no stretch, and durability. I only worry about the sun a little, as someone pointed out that it is fishing line and by law must degrade in sunlight. Now, that said, I think it would have to be unrelenting day in and day out sunshine, so I think it'll last long enough! :)

I use Ultra suede for hair slides, and barettes, but it seems to be used for everything from shoes to industrial to marine and automotive so I'm pretty sure it's a safe bet. 
If you wanted to get really fancy, and pretty cushy for the horse,  you could make the back of the sleeve with sheepskin :).

 I don't think I've ever use pig skin, only because it's not the most easily available to me.  I think the biggest thing with leather is to make sure it's the right weight. I'm not sure that is the right word, but basically you have to make sure that you are using the right thickness. You can get several different types, like chap leather or garment leather, but if you are getting it from a good supplier they can probably help you choose the right one. I like to use leather, but it is not always as durable as a synthetic.

I've also seen tack done with the beadwork forming a kind of channel with leather edges overlapping the edge of the beadwork.... I've never done this but I'll try to find a picture later.

I hope you will post a photo of your work. I'm sure it will be great!

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Sharon Mc wrote
on Mar 12, 2013 6:36 PM

Wow cowgirl, I'm sorry I did not see this earlier as I am an experienced horsewoman and experienced in bead embroidery (though not as experienced as others, such as Donna). My suggestion would be to embroider onto "Lacys stiff stuff" and then sew your completed piece to leather or nylon tack that is already made. You could then disguise the sandwiched sides by edging with beaded stitches. I would not suggest making a halter completely of beads without the reinforcement of leather or nylon unless it is just for decor and not to be worn. I don't know about your experiences with horses, but I've had leather head stalls broken just by one of my fillys tossing her head when she was ornery.

Sharon Mc

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Posts 4
on Mar 13, 2013 5:12 PM

Thanks Sharon!  I haven't used Lacys stiff stuff yet.  Is it going to be durable enough to withstand the stress of being in the sun, dirt, and potentially getting wet from horse sweat?

I am planning on stitching straight onto the pre-made leather tack, though I'm not sure yet how I'm going to be able to stitch through that thick of leather without taking it to get pre-punched by someone with a leather sewing machine.  Would it be better to stitch all the way around the tack with the lacys (so that it would have contact directly with the horse)?

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shanks wrote
on Mar 14, 2013 12:50 AM

I have tried every search engine and reference I can and I do not find any reference that Fireline or any other line is required to degrade in sun light. I have fished for 60 years and never heard of that kind of law.  Nylon will degrade, but Fireline is not made of a nylon base. I would not worry that it will fall apart being exposed to sun light.

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SCB1 wrote
on Mar 14, 2013 8:01 AM

I agree with you shanks. I have made many things over my beading career. I  starting out using Nymo (before Fireline), than changed to Fireline. I have had the Nymo items fall apart after just a short time span, but my Fireline just keeps giving me joy. Like the Timex, it just keeps ticking. Wink

Happy Beading!!


Small-town USA. 




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Ceffyl1 wrote
on Mar 14, 2013 11:16 AM

OK, I went and did some fishing Stick out tongue  and came across some information about UV rays and Fishing line.

Apparently monofilament is the one that will break down in the sun, anything that is made by or with "dyneema" or gel-spun polyethelene is protected against UV rays so it won't deteriorate in sunlight. This includes Fireline

SmileSo, no worries any more.

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Posts 1,607
D.M.Z wrote
on Mar 14, 2013 12:57 PM

Polyethelene is rather bullet proof stuff.........years ago we had poly dishes for our big dogs, they sat outside and held their "outside water". Those dishes got carried around, chewed up and generally flogged (when empty) and years later looked much better than I'd have ever guessed. The very top surface discolored a bit from the sun, but structurally they were very sound.

Mono is what the strands of beads and crystals come on, and they break easily, and often embarrassingly drop beads all over. 

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