I sew my cantle bindings with the saddle in my lap.


The dealer had a saddle for sale that may have been 80 years old. It was a cowboy rig, plain, unmarked, and well worn. The one thing I remember most about this nondescript saddle was the stitching. It was sewn with linen thread at ten stitches per inch including the bead type cantle binding. I’d seen this before on old saddles, but this time it seemed more meaningful…it caught my attention in a new way. The great care the long gone (and anonymous!) craftsman showed me was impressive. He no doubt understood that the high stitch count did not necessarily make a more durable saddle. 

So why did he go to the extra effort?

The only answer I can think of is that it showed a higher level of craftsmanship and refinement. The shop this saddle came out of was competing for a market share in a context where fine stitching was what the best shops did. 

As time passed by, industry standards would change and the cowboy’s appetite for fine stitching would wane. In my view though, fine sewing is till a mark of fine craftsmanship. Sure, it takes more time to sew a horn or binding at eight stitches per inch rather than five. In fact it takes me more than twice as long to sew a cantle binding at eight instead of five (like I used to do). 

Call me a throwback, a dinosaur, a purist, an addict (all of which I will answer to :)), but I just love the look of fine stitching, and I would like to share that with the kind folks who wait patiently for me to finish the work.