Part 4: Custom Fabric Aspirations: “Creating the Design”

The Brief: Create a Neckband & Bridle for a Hobby Horse that uses Pastel Pink & Blue.

As Pastel Pink and Blue were chosen as the ‘Theme’ colours for my youngest Grand Daughters 1st Birthday party I selected two cotton (Poplin) fabrics for the Bridle and Neckband that fitted the description given to me by my eldest daughter. I also selected a bright pink bias binding that went with the chosen fabrics in case I decided to add any piped accents. I took photos of two different proposed ‘horse’ fabrics plus a choice of 2 different wool/yarn combinations that could be teamed with them. I sent the photos to my daughter who chose the lighter fabric & the curly wool/yarn as her preferred option.

Dark Brown for a Liver Chestnut Hobby HorseDark brown with a darkish wool/yarn




Mid Brown with a Lightish wool/yarn Mid Brown with a darkish wool/yarn




All the time I was thinking that I would use these fabrics as a last option if I was unable to have any fabric printed or in the event that the fabric arrived in the mail too late for me to be able to sew it. At this stage I was still unsure as to whether I would be making the trip to the party (my daughter lives more than 8 hours drive away from me).

As I had already selected at least one drawing from the previously mentioned book Carousel Animal Carving I had a good idea of what I wanted to create. As usual I had bigger plans than the time was going to allow. Originally I had in mind to create at least 4 different Neckbands and 4 different Bridles. This of course would depend on how much I could fit onto a metre by 140 cm (printable area) of fabric.

A page from the book “Carousel Animal Carving” by Bud Ellis & Rhonda Hoeckley

A page from the book “Carousel Animal Carving” by Bud Ellis & Rhonda Hoeckley

There were 2 other potential designs plus a plain version of a Neckband that I also had in mind. They are also from the Carousel Animal Carving book.

Illions Style Jumper

Illions Style Jumper


Illions Style Stander

Illions Style Stander


I decided to start with the Bridle so using the Length Guides form the “Wish for a Pony” Sewing Pattern PDF I tried to figure out how I could make a Bridle that did not require a ring where the straps meet on each side of the horses head (in the approximate location of the horses ‘temple’). I had in mind to have an imitation ‘button’ made of fabric in that position instead. This would require some adjustments of the strap lengths. To minimize the number of seams I decided to fold each strap lengthwise thus making turning easier.

Using Adobe Illustrator CS5 I started making the adjustments all the time being aware that my mathematical skills may let me down as far as calculating the required lengths. The “Wish for a Pony” Length Guides were set up for Herringbone Tape. The original design called for the Herringbone Tape to be cut to length and the ends overcast to prevent fraying. They then would be either; passed through a round or D ring then folded & stitched down. For the new design I had in mind I needed to remove the excess length and add seam allowances of the required amount on the appropriate sides of my drawn shapes. I could see potential confusion hovering on the horizon!

Once I had some shapes drawn out I printed the Bridle pieces to check them for fit. I cut out a practice bridle using Calico/Muslin. As it turned out some of my guessed lengths were wrong but the Joiner that I had created to dictate the angles that the straps would attach worked quite well. I adjusted the lengths or at least I thought I did…

My test run of a Calico/Muslin Bridle with 2 versions of a Cheek Strap, one with positions for fake buttons marked with pins.

Trial Calico/Muslin Bridle (2 different Cheek Straps). Note: positions for fake buttons marked with pins.

Again using Ai I drew out a Prototype Neckband and hurriedly tested it for size too. It was about 1 cm (or so I thought) too long to go around the Horses Neck in the position that I had intended. Mental note to fix this. I printed out a page that showed half the Neckband so I could draw and measure on the paper and do calculations on a calculator to work out how many divisions I needed and how big or wide the various parts of the design needed to be. As you might notice I was still hoping to have more than one design worked out!

Divisions drawn on a Print out of (half) a Neckband. Several ideas are superimposed over the other.

Divisions drawn on a Print out of (half) a Neckband. Several ideas are superimposed over the other.

Everything was done in such a rush….. “why?” you may ask. Well the answer is simple….it was because the Easter long weekend had arrived quicker than I had hoped and I needed to have my fabric pieces as close as possible to correct as I could. A trip away was planed at a friend’s property about 2 hours drive (by farm truck) from where we lived. It was Easter Draught horse weekend (19th & 20th April) at Barry’s Place and I planned to go with my husband and his horse Reuben rather than stay at home. It was only going to be for 2 days/one night and we were going to camp out on a fold out mattress in the trailer covered by a gazebo with tarp privacy walls. Anyone who knows me would say that I am not the camping type…but I had ulterior motives in the sense that I wanted good photos of horses for reference purposes.

The plan was to take and use my laptop to design as many Neckbands as I could. I organised to recharge my batteries in Barry’s workshop during meal breaks. The first afternoon the plan worked quite well as it was overcast and the glare on the screen wasn’t too bad where I had set up under the awning of Barry’s truck. Plus I had the use of the table there also.

Camping Time: The truck & Trailer with a Gazebo and Tarp privacy walls!

Camping Time = Our accommodation: The Truck & Trailer with a Gazebo and Tarp privacy walls!


Our Bed in the Trailer

Camping Time: Our bed in the Trailer! Messy I know but no point “re-making” as it was to be packed away in a couple of hours! Reuben’s harness on the ground protected from the frost that was outside. Brrr! But cozy under 2 Doonas! Plus surprisingly very comfortable & we both slept well!

The next day it wasn’t as easy as there was much more glare. I concocted a new plan and commandeered the use of a small round table that I could pull into the door way of the Amenities block (should have taken a pic of my set up but forgot so the pic is of the building taken on a previous occasion where we only stayed the day and didn’t take the horse). Even with the table pulled right in so that it blocked the woman’s (and later in the day as the sun moved around) the men’s toilet access it was a struggle to escape the glare. But I am so glad that I persisted and was quite happy with my progress on the one & only design (the original one that I had chosen) the end of the 2 day event.

The Squatters Relief Amenities Block at Barry's. The Image is from the ADH Newsletter from a couple of years earlier.

Squatters Relief Amenities Block at Barry’s. Photo from the ADH Newsletter taken a couple of years ago.

The day after we got home (21st April) I set to work adding colours, creating ‘fake’ stitches using the ‘dashed line’ function and making pretend Gold, Silver, Bronze and Brass buttons in 2 sizes. I suspect that there may have been a different way that I could have made the fake stitching but as I am still learning Ai it was the best I could come up with in an ‘under pressure’ due to lack of time scenario. I did a test print of the colours on paper and was quite happy with the design. Realising I was running out of time and would have to restrict myself to only one Neckband design I decided to try out as many other colour combinations as possible. I have never felt that I was intuitively ‘good’ with colour combinations so I decided on the ‘safe’ and ‘obvious’ combinations of Purple & Yellow; Red & Green and Blue & Orange to accompany my colour “Brief” of Pink & Blue.

A test run of the Neckband design on Paper

A test run of the Neckband design on Paper

But as usual I got overly ambitious. Maybe I could do a Multicoloured one too and test out a few more juxtapositions!!! So I set to work on a Multicoloured design. I liked it a lot. Then I needed to finalise the Bridle pieces and as there wasn’t even time to recreate the Cheek Strap of the Bridle Neckband combination (the line drawing from the book) that I had chosen so I resigned myself to the idea that I would just do a simple Bridle and have strategically placed fake buttons as decoration on it. In Australia the 25th April is ANZAC day (which was a Friday) so I expected that there wouldn’t be anyone working at Frankie and Swiss on that day so I had the entire weekend to finish the design.

When that was all finally ready and time was almost gone…seeing as I wanted to upload the file to Spoonflower the following Monday (28th) I started to transfer the finished Pattern pieces to the ‘Fabric Sized’ file. “Oh no” I had forgotten that only 4 Bridle/Neckband combinations would fit easily across the fabric! Drat now I have to choose which one to leave off!!! I was really keen to include the Multicoloured one as it would provide lots of useful colour combination information so I decided to drop the Purple & Yellow one as I hoped to have another opportunity to have fabric printed, this time through along with another bold plan (hint it has something to do with fabric for a horse’s head shhh can’t say more at this stage as it is just a wish and a hope). There seemed to be a bit of space left between the pieces so I decided to put together my own series of fabric colour ‘chips’ (squares of colours) using some of the browns and the relevant code numbers as printed on the Spoonflower Colour Map. This way I could see the onscreen colour plus the printed colour as done through Frankie and Swiss as well as compare it to the Spoonflower Colour Map. I chose the colours I might like to use for a Bay, Chestnut, Brown & Black horse including some greys and pinks for muzzles, eye & tongue colours.

Now came the next part of the process uploading a file and hoping that I would have enough time for the printed fabric to get to me so that I could sew it together in time for the Birthday. I reasoned that even if it came the day before I might potentially travel I could sew it at my daughters place as she has a sewing machine!

But that isn’t the end of the story yet as I was soon to have a couple of major ‘slip ups’!!!

Coming up next…

Part 5: Custom Fabric Aspirations: “Slip on a Banana Peel Oopsy”


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