Saturday, February 25, 2017

Blanket Collection 6

My stable blanket collection has continued to grow 'beyond rope and fence;'  there are enough new ones, acquired over 2016, to justify two posts.  This Collection 6 will be the first of the two.  I have two huge spreadsheets on my computer devoted to blankets.  One of them tracks everything Breyer ever put out (or tries to), while the other merely tracks what my herd possesses.  That's a lot! and every matte adult who wants one now has a blanket.  This has completely changed the appearance of my shelves; for so many decades my horses were bare.  But there are still many who don't, or can't, have blankets... foals and odd sizes amoung them.

This sixth chapter will also take a look at pieces that are not exactly blankets.  In the process of collecting stable blankets I've acquired adjuncts: coolers, dress sheets, duplications, non-Breyer pieces and race tack sets are some of them.  In particular, Breyer's No. 2492, Race Tack Set, will be featured.

Let's begin where Blankets 5 left off, with my collecting in January of 2016.  I had noticed, in my haunting of eBay and MH$P, something that becomes familiar to every collector of Breyer:  Factory Variations!  Here's the 1995-through-1999 Breyer Catalog picture for No. 3952, the Plaid Dress Sheet:
from 1995 -1999 Breyer Catalog
This handsome blanket-like cover is clearly a smart red-and-black (actually darkest-blue) plaid pattern with a leather (velcro) tab fastener at the chest and a red ribbon loop under the tail.  There is a velcro belly strap, red, beneath.  I had long wanted to have one.  I also wanted to know (somewhat less enthusiastically) why so many of them were for sale.  Generally, when you see a lot of something for sale years afterward, it means that folks weren't exactly thrilled with it.
What was its texture?  How thick and/or flexible?  What did it look like underneath?
And more interestingly:  Why were there two kinds of 3952s??

In March I acquired a 3952 that matched the catalog:
I found out these Dress Sheets were of a very stiff material.  Age had not softened it, even though it was relatively thin.  The underside was dark and rough.  I like my blankets to 'hug' the horse, to wrap around him in softly-fitting folds, but this fabric was neither huggy nor loose.  One mystery solved: I could guess why they weren't kept around.

But the other mystery was the Dress Sheet I'd picked up in February:
Sold to me as Breyer No. 3952!  Seen online just as much as the other!  Carrying the exact same tag, bearing the exact same leather chest tab, same tail ribbon, belly closure, and cut in the exact same pattern!  It took some time for the difference to dawn on me, which undoubtedly was what Breyer was counting on.  This version has a thin yellow stripe in the middle of its red stripes.  The plaid is different.
Underneath this blanket is the same darkest-blue surface.  But the fabric is a little softer, smoother and more flexible than the other.  Not a whole lot... but there is a detectable difference.  This sheet is lighter and more bendy.  Five years is a fair long time for a Breyer blanket to run...  I'm guessing they simply ran out of one material and substituted another.  Less likely is the thought that Breyer detected how poorly one was selling.  This remains in the realm of speculation.
For my own records I'm calling it the Yellow Stripe version, or 3952y.

In a blanket lot deal I acquired a No. 3953, the Dark Green/Black Dress Sheet:
This is a twin to the No. 3952.  It ran the same 5 years, 1995 to 1999.  I'm happy to report this blanket is of softer and more 'huggy' material, without the stiff dark lining of the 3952 (non-yellow-stripe), and thinner.   It is self-color inside, unlined, and a fine toy value.

In 2014 Breyer had the bit between its teeth on company branded blankets, and came up with this jewel, the Dover Saddlery blanket.
I first saw this gem on a blogspot, Alyssa Monk's Bits and Spurs (thanks for sharing Alyssa!).  Naturally it wasn't in any catalog!  As I understand it, you had to buy a certain amount, say $300.00 worth, of Breyers at the Saddlery before you could get one.  I thought I'd have a long hard hunt for this little delicacy of premium swag -- the odds were against me -- but then in March 2016 I saw it go by on eBay.  A dealer had several, still in bags.  Miracle.  It is a very nice piece, based on Breyer's classic Quilted Blanket pattern, which is big enough to fit everybody.  There is only one belly strap and only one emblem, on the near hip.  The rings near the tail are, presumably, for the owner to tie their own rump strap closure to.  I confess I leave them alone on my blankets, treating them as decoration.

Green Trio:  left to right:  "Vixen" Christmas 2014; Dover Saddlery 2014; and Green WeatherBeeta, unknown but assuming 2014.
2014 was a good year for green Breyer blankets!!

In June 2016, trying (and succeeding) to get a Green WeatherBeeta for a friend, I landed a multi-blanket lot that included these:
Breyer has offered several Race Tack sets over the years, starting with The Black Stallion fever in 1982.  This red and gold one is No. 2492.  It was carried from 2004 to 2008, and this is the Breyer Catalog picture for it:
from 2004 - 2008 Breyer Catalog
Nice of them to tell you about the 'Grey horse not available!'

It's an attractive shot.  But I couldn't get the hood to fit my Lonesome Glories.
I tried and tried.  The back stuck up and the white leather (it is real leather) eye-rims blocked vision.
 It just didn't work.  Breyer tack is usually ridiculous, but this was a new low.
I needed a longer head, held more forward, with more distance between eye and ear.  After a frustrating time, I found one whereupon it fit a little better:
At least it's a race horse!!
This Race Tack Set hood fits so much better on Cigar that one can't help wondering whether it was actually designed for him.  Cigar debuted in 1998, so this idea is well within possibility.

Two more blankets for Chapter 6.  Breyer was issuing Limited Edition stable blankets as early as 1996, as we know from my Tseminole Wind blanket (see Blanket Collection 3).  Here are the 1999 BreyerFest 10th Anniversary blankets, much fancier, in two colors and (apparently) in a much larger piece count.  That year the Celebration horse was Molokai.  (According to ID Your Breyer, 4200 Molokais were released, so that is my only clue as to how many blankets.)  He was then a recently introduced mold (Big Ben 1996) and my index card box has a curious card in it recording a "Molokai Blanket" as part of my bonus for participating in the Hobby Round Tables that year!!  Unfortunately I could find no such thing!  (I may have been confusing it with the Tseminole Wind blanket.)  Today, what I was seeing on eBay and other places was this:
And this!
Halter by Jaapi
Proof, if it is needed, that the first BreyerFest was in 1990 and not 1989.  (I thought it was.  What do you get when you subtract 10 from 99?)  It nicely illustrates what my husband calls the "picket fence problem," counting zero as one.  : )

Incredibly, these two blankets seem to be the first manifestations of what would later appear as the Show Blanket Collection in 2000, 2004 and 2008 -- blankets which would set the standard of what a Breyer blanket is, in cut and pattern, up unto the present day.  Back in 1999 it was truly cutting edge, all the rage.  They have a double binding, allowing two colors, so that each blanket uses three colors in all.  The material is heavy, thick and smooth, a polyester type fabric which lends itself beautifully to the embroidery and logos.  Later, with the Show Blanket Collection, Breyer would add fancy rump darts.  These early ones had merely a self-color slanted dart.  The pattern fit many models well, although the fairly narrow neck opening would be troublesome and the long back would wrinkle up on some.  The front is entirely velcro closure - an extravagance of velcro, very easy to use - and there is a belly ribbon, non-adjustable, of velcro.

It took me some time to find these 2 blankets; they are quite rare by now, especially the blue version.  My white one arrived in Feb of 2016 and it had a large purplish stain on the back.  I spent a morning getting rid of the stain.  Rubbing alcohol and patience finally did the trick.  Bizarre as it sounds, I am convinced the stain was caused by grape candy.  : )

In future posts I hope to catch up on the Blankets, showcase other tack artists and recently acquired saddles, tell curious model horse tales and share more tackmaking.  As ever, thanks for your patience. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TSII #456: The Corona

I have been greatly inspired by NaMoPaiMo.  Yet I didn't want to paint a horse.  Instead I needed to make progress on a bogged-down saddle order.  It seemed unrealistic to finish out an entire Silver Parade Saddle in one month -- recent ones have taken me 15 months and 7 months, and this one's less than halfway at 5 months -- so I set my sights on just the Corona saddle blanket.  The blanket is a part that I normally do at the end, when I am (normally) exhausted.  Every little part counts...!  though I cringed a bit, recognizing blankets are easy and tack is not horse-painting.  That's part of the reason this post has been slow to appear.

In a burst of bravery, I invented the name LoMoTackMo:  Local Model Tackmaking Month.  In truth every month around here is Tackmaking Month.  But I so wanted to be doing SOMETHING along with all of you painters...
 Shown above is my Corona blanket project on the 8th of February.  This picture and the next 5 are of special importance to me.  Believe it or not ( -- Drum Roll - !!!!!!!!!) these are the Very First pictures I've taken with my cell phone!!!!!!!! 
It explains the lousy focus...  they had to be PhotoShopped later...
 Yea, credit NaMoPaiMo if you're going to credit anything... 
They, plus the two below, were taken at Rachel Mitchell Pierce's house, north of Tucson (Trails End Studio).  All praise to a wonderful hostess who made me feel right at home.  I have been fortunate indeed to visit model horse people in Arizona, and this year it was Rachel's turn.  This was definitely the model high point of my week in the SouthWest!
Here is Rachel:
And Chris Armstrong who managed to come out for a few hours.  Thanks, Chris.
You will spot a pile of horse blankets I was showing off (don't be surprised!!), my Copperfox Marble mare wearing a new one, and, somewhat out of focus with Rachel, a slew of CollectAs with their old 1960s foal blankets.  Yes, the CollectAs travel easy, but, en masse, they are heavier than the Breyers.
A fantastic time was had by all.

The night before the Rachel visit, I had invented a needle threader for my punch needle.  Previous to this, I accomplished every change of color while making a Corona blanket by unscrewing the plastic barrel and hand-threading the metal shank, then re-assembling the entire tool.  Crazy!!??   I have made 5 corona blankets like that!!  Anyway... swallowing hard at my stubbornness... I asked Dad for some fine wire, and with a little fiddling and some 30-gauge, I came up with this.
 My new needle-threader is 4 inches of 30-ga. galv. steel wire.  Note the tiny curve in the very tip of the hook: it makes it easier to squeeze the hook into the needle's barrel.  Slide the threader's butt end gently down the barrel, hook the thread, squeeze to insert, and pull the threader out from the handle end with pliers (with fingers bends it).  The punch needle is threaded.  After that, you have to hand-thread the tip again, for a punch needle also has a hole in its outer wall (below).  But this step is easily done with fingers.  It's even easier sitting at home under a magnifier - yes I was mad enough to try it on the airplane flight home!   It worked, but of course was frustratingly slow there.
With this almost magical equipment, I soldiered on with my Corona blanket.  I usually worked early in the morning while in Tucson.  A week isn't quite long enough to completely adapt to the two hour time zone shift.  My body was still on PA time.

This shot, taken after I got back home (Feb 10), shows the beginnings of some problems.  The fabric I'm using, two-sided fleece, is very stretchy.  As small as my hoop is (gotten at Jo Ann Fabs, the smallest hoop I've ever found), its 2  1/2 inches still provide a wide opportunity to stretch out the fleece.  That very stretching makes dense, overly-tight stitching all the more possible.  Thus my Corona tends to hump up and curl when released from tension.  My desire to double-punch, as instructed by the artist who taught me (thanks Melody!), is creating great bulk.  See the wrinkle starting at the withers?
Another problem was that I went right past the edge of my saddle's base plate (bottom skirt), breaking my own rules about test-fitting all the parts and pieces of a saddle.  (Arrow points to white loops.)
Whoops!!  Now what!!  I'd have to TAKE OUT some of the punching... I'd never done this before...  Sigh.  So much of tackmaking is undoing your own work.  I've often been glad no one could know how great a percentage of my own tack work was wasted like this.  Call it learning.  Taking out the punching turned out to be easy and fairly quick.  I cut some loops and then picked up my Needle Awl.  Between the pliers and the Awl, everything came out.
 It left a series of tiny depressions, like miniature sinkholes.  Below, I'm redrawing my outlines, breaking yet another rule of mine, one about not using pen on blankets.  I couldn't find a pencil that would work on the fleece.
Above, I am about to rework the offside corner.  It looks like the near.  This is a bit confusing, but it's because a Corona is essentially worked upside-down.
Here is our cover picture, taken a few days earlier, of the upper side.  There will be several steps still to go after the punching (looping) is all done.
 Here the corner is turned, now smaller and better fitted to the saddle.  Using Fray-Chek has caused the pen ink to bleed purple  : (  but fortunately it doesn't show on the other side.
 The desire to make the smallest tightest stripes (bands) on this blanket has taken over.  I've never made bands this tiny!!  I'm also noticing they don't quite match the near side....  sigh....  I have a name for this peculiar failing of miniaturists:  "The Enlargement of Intensity."  When I really focus on making something small, sometimes it makes it larger.
(Feb 15) Here is where my heart breaks.  I discover that I've done the near front corner too short, both in height and in distance from rear.  Arrgghh!!
Couldn't I see it wasn't fitting, wasn't symmetric??  What's with me?!!  This is beyond painful.  It's one thing to take out a few bands... but this time, I find myself having to take out 10 bands.

In the midst of my sorrows, I've invented another new trick: shaving off the fleece in just the track I will be stitching.  It makes it much easier to see the weave of the fleece, and it prevents the fleece from gumming up the stitching quite so much.  After 37 years of making tack, I can still invent new tricks!!!!
And here we will stop this post.  You'll have to take the finishing of my Corona on trust.  The loops will be cut, fleece edges folded over and sewn down (that hides the mess and protects the horse), and everything trimmed and frizzed to form the typical padded roll of the Corona parade blanket.

It appears I can make progress on other parts of the saddle this month, so thanks to Jennifer all over again. I've had a grand time sharing all this.  I hope it might be useful to future tackmakers.