Leg Chaps: The concept of the original chaps was invented by the Spanish….to protect the horse riders legs from the prickles of the Cactus plants. They called them ‘Chaparehos’ translated meaning….. “legs of iron’ , Texans & then American Cowboys created different versions for different environments. Below are 19th Century Spanish chaps: leather & silk……stunning work!!!
As I am connecting with Mother Earth for the wearer of this piece, I’m thinking bare foot summer weight chaps. I love bare foot sandals……..you can dress up your feet& still enjoy the walk.
The use of introduced & destructive feral animal pelts has been on my mind for close to 20yrs. Back then it was difficult to connect with hunters or eradication programs & poisons were used were the animal left to die in the environment. How awful & what a waste! plus YUK, poisons are destructive on many long lasting levels….. So, things have moved on, poisons are less used & rabbits are eaten more now & sold at butchers.
Cane toads are lethal & they are spreading across Australia FAST, they need to be eradicated off this continent. these are the two skins used here in these chaps.
This is my first time tanning Rabbit pelts……done heaps of research…….nothing like an experiment while under pressure for a competition. If it fails…all the fur will fall off the skin: called slipping.
Honouring these animals is important to me, I know they have had a great wild life roaming our bush, the kill was quick, the meat is sold to eat & I am putting their skins to good use & being grateful for their beauty, softness & warmth. Preserving the Australian flora & fauna at the same time.
I cleanse the space with home grown White Sage, it cleanses spiritually & disinfected the air. The Spirits of these feral animals will live on……..Circle of life. Inviting the Elements for East, North, West & South……….to guide me as I go.
Washing the green skins of any dirt & blood before the tanning solution. The fur is lovely, these pelts are Summer time, thinner skin & finer fur.
Tanning solution recipe..…I found this off a “Homesteader” website, it’s natural….lots of them are not. One thing I don’t want is toxic substances like petrol or kerosene. This recipe uses salts….pickling the skins to preserve them.
48 hrs later the dermis will be peeled off…….
48hrs past & the dermis (under skin) has to be removed..….wow….tough hard work once I’d done a few I could see the leather part of the skin. This is what has to be exposed to the pickling solution to then preserve the skins.
Once all 10 x 1/2 pelts where stripped they went back into the solution for a whole week. Always making sure that they stayed submerged & tired 3 times a day.
Testing the skins……. after testing 3 times…. I added some more salts. That did the trick. ready to rinse, fluff up the fur, & peg up to dry.
Breaking the skins….for as long as man has been wearing animal skins & furs it has needed to be softened, worked & oiled to be comfortable & flexible to wear.
As the skin is drying it shrinks & hardens, so when the skin is still slightly damp….I stretch it out, pulling in all directions….. it turns white & soft. A mineral oil is then rubbed into the skin, the fur is brushed & fluffed, ready to cut & sew.
A simple pattern of Centre front & side panels is made to get the contour over the top of the foot & calf sizing…….Using the shape of the Cane Toad pelts to patch work together, using the patterns to create the leg shape. Every piece of Cane Toad pelt is used, I make frills & patches. The legs are fab, I stuff them with scraps of 2nd hand T-shirts so they stand out & up.
Patches are sewn over the ends of the Toad legs, elastic inserted into silk ribbon for the straps, under arch & toe loop. The toad on the foot will represent the hopping madness of this invasive toxic creature in our fragile environment.
If you would like to see a 2014, ‘7.30 Report’ Australian documentary, go here……Cane toads destruction