Monday, April 28, 2014

Mission Accomplished!

All three of our Skito pads currently in action (ignoring the two retired ones) are looking a little long in the tooth - worn around the edges and on their second or third set of internal foam shims. I don't know when we acquired the Dryback Skito pad, but that became the firm favorite and as a result the underside "fluff" isn't anymore:

Poor Roo suffered the effects of this and finished up NV Derby much balder in the corresponding location than he had been before the ride (probably just as well we had to cancel 20 Mule Team 100 or he would have been down to skin):

Time to do something.

  • Inspect prices of replacement Skito Dryback... $295. Urk. Not going to happen right now.
  • Consider the barely-used, misshapen Coolback pad. Hmm, still misshapen and weird.
  • Inspect the other two Skitos... not really going to help, they are hardly what you'd consider "fluffy" on the underside either.

So I took another look at that Coolback. I owned one years ago that stood me in good stead for several years until I switched to a different saddle footprint. After moving away from short-at-the-sides and long-along-the-spine Bob Marshall treeless saddles, the elderly Coolback no longer fit my new saddle. So I bought a new Coolback to fit my new Sensation saddle. Spiffy and plush it was when it arrived. And then the center seam tore within a few uses. :(

I complained bitterly to Long Riders Gear who, bless them, had me send it back and sent me a replacement. The replacement looked fine when it arrived but within one washing there was something a bit funky about it. Within two washes it was so misshapen that it no longer sat under the saddle properly - to get the two sides to meet meant that the spine seam was totally crooked. It was all off-kilter and I stopped using it in disgust, too demoralised to complain a second time (more fool me).

But there it sat, all plush and unloved.


I looked at the underside of the Skito and a plan began to form. What if I took the two pads apart – in their current state, neither was useable – and spliced them together? Shouldn't be too hard, eh?

I started by ripping the Coolback apart. That took me all of about 15 minutes - just ran the seam ripper around the edge and voila - two pad's worth of fluffy undersides! How much do they charge for these things?!? Can you say "Rip off?".

And then I took a closer look at the inside of what I had. No wonder the pad was so misshapen - it was cut totally on the bias - that's to say that the direction of the fabric was diagonal to the direction of the pad, which meant that as it stretched, it would do so in bizarre directions. No kidding.

The pink line shows the centerline of the Coolback pad.
The grimy underside of the Skito shows the direction the fabric is supposed to go.

The Skito took a lot longer to take apart. A LOT longer. These things are *Fabricated*. For one thing, it had three seams along the back, gros-grain ribbon to reinforce certain seams (had to be removed without damage since I was going to reuse it), as well as a piece of trim that went all the way around the edge, which covered yet another seam where they'd serged the front and back together, and then the velcro billet straps were also sewn all the way through. A week later, I was still picking seams and liberally covered in horse hair.

Finally, I got it apart:

Taking a deep breath, and measuring twice to make sure I wasn't about to cut it out backwards (have done this twice before cutting out tights legs - you can only see if you really stare at them), I used the Skito underside as a pattern to cut out the new pad bottom (on the squiff, to follow the fabric direction).

(I was hoping to get two pad's worth out of this Coolback so I could perform the same surgery on my second-baldest pad, but alas, to get the fabric to be straight, I had to cut in such a way that there wasn't really enough leftover afterwards... unless I decide to patch the Skito. Have to take a look at what I've got and see if it can be done without leaving a nasty ridgey-seam that, given Roo's delicateness, would wear a hole in the his back in one ride).

My first problem was discovering that even my work-horse Juki sewing machine wasn't competent enough to sew through two layers of plush sheep fleece, so I had to sew the spine seam by hand. I hate hand-sewing anything. <sigh>

The next part was sewing the gros-grain ribbon along the spine to cover the edges of the two over-folded sides. I persuaded the sewing machine to cooperate provided I sewed each stitch by hand-cranking the wheel and moving the fabric along by hand, while wiggling the needle back into correct position - quicker than hand-sewing, but only marginally.

Around this time I realised with great cheer what the problem was. Most recently I'd been using the sewing machine for free-motion quilting (sliding the quilt around under the sewing machine to make swirly patterns) and, as such, the feed dogs (the teethy part that sticks up to grab the fabric and pull it along) were dropped down out of sight. No wonder it wouldn't feed the fabric properly. By the turn of a knob I was back in business. Yay.

After that, it was still a struggle to get the sewing machine to gobble along the seams, but at least it considered it instead of sulking.

Because sewing machines are temperamental by nature, it still ate a lot of stitching on the underside (the part you can't see, so don't know it's happening until the machine seizes up solid with a rather nasty noise), requiring patient thread-yanking from the entrails of the sewing machine with needle-nosed pliers and a headlight, more seam ripping, picking out pieces of thread from places they didn't belong, but I got it to sew the next few seams fairly quickly.

The pad has a peaked wither area (the front of the pad) so that required some fiddling to match and make sure I didn't mess up. And some giant safety pins came in handy to hold the pieces together. The Coolback fabric was stretchier than it's predecessor, so I still ended up trimming an inch or so off in places as stretched as we went along.

By 1 a.m.on Saturday night, I was on the edge trim - minimum problem there, if you discount having to sew it twice because I can't hold it in place and "sew nice" at the same time.

Around 1:30 a.m. I was sewing the velcro-along the foam-insert-pocket opening.

Around 1:45 a.m. I was unpicking that velcro after realising I'd just sewn two strips of loop-velcro against each other, instead of a strip of hook-velcro.

And by 2:30 a.m. I was resewing the velcro-billet straps back in place.

And then it was done. Woot!

It's not perfect, but given what I was working with, I'm pretty proud of myself for getting it done. The mistakes made won't impact the wearing and Roo shall have a plush fluffy pad to wear for NASTR 75 in four weeks' time:

Yay me.

1 comment:

  1. Feedly on my phone ate my nice long comment so attempting to recreate it here.....

    It looks GREAT. In fact, I'm wondering whether I can do something similar and combine an old woolback with my equipedic.......

    can't believe they sewed the pad crooked/cut on the wrong line. Wow.

    mmm...I don't seem to remember anything else that I wrote the first time :(