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Chap Styles

Hello there! I am looking into making myself a pair of chaps. I need them for my local fair, where I compete in reining, western pleasure, horsemanship and trail. I’m not really into the suede chaps, and that is what I have now. I want these chaps to be useful, not just for show, I plan on wearing them in the winter and on trail rides. The problem is, there are a lot of styles out there. I’m wondering, do you think it would be appropriate for showing to have batwing chaps? Open in the back with a wide strap around the back of the leg. I kind of like the idea of having a bit more freedom then the shotgun chaps that zip up the back. I’m also wondering if any of you have ever had pull on, without zippers. Not sure if that is very practical, I’m just not into putting zippers on. Also, do you think adding contrasting colored leather, or rhinestones on the yoke is okay for showing? Thank you for your opinion!

I make chaps. I’d suggest checking your area rule book to see if bat wing chaps are allowed in the classes you plan to show in. Our rule book says only that chaps are “optional” and does not discuss styles. However, one might look out of place wearing bat wing chaps in a pleasure class; they would be suitable and acceptable in Ranch Horse or Reining classes.

Suede chaps are usually “rough out” chaps. The smooth leather side is against the rider. The rough out or suede chaps give one better grip in the saddle; however, they fade more in the sun. When you buy your hide, you can choose to do rough out (suede side) or smooth out. I made one pair with the belt part smooth, the rest rough --nice contrast without being too obvious.

As to pull on, if the chaps fit properly in the thigh, they would be too snug to pull on, I believe. However, bat wing chaps clip on as you mentioned, using straps. There are chaps patterns on-line --Tandy Leather has one, as does SuitAbility, and Jean Hardy --however, the BEST chaps pattern is from Pegg Johnson at http://www.showclothesunlimited.com/ --her pattern gives a truly polished, professional, result.

As to zippers, colors, and bling --be aware that sewing zippers into chaps is the easiest sewing you’ll ever do —you slap the zipper on the leather using a piece of double sided tape (Miracle Tape), then sew your straight stitch. Done. Do that three times more and you have a pair of chaps. Pegg has a “Sew Your Own Chaps” DVD that is WELL worth the money --she has many ways to make the chaps fit better and sew easier. Personally, I’d rather sew in two zippers (four seams) than struggle with six to eight clips. But up to you.

Colors --I’ve done two ways --different color leather on leather (flames up the leg of a black pair) and using Angelus leather paint –https://angelusdirect.com/collections/paint and a paint brush. Personally, I like leather applique better --but Angelus does give a nice result.

Crystals are tough to keep on leather --but fun to apply.


Thanks so much for the reply Foxglove! I really want to make batwing chaps, but I think you are probably right about looking out of place in a pleasure class.

I have decided I want to make smooth out chaps, as I like that look the best. I really like the pair below. Sorry for the small picture. I’m pretty sure these look like shotgun chaps with zippers in the back:


Thanks for pointing me toward the pattern, I was also looking at a pattern on this webpage:

Arizona Chaps

It’s the Arizona style (#34). I would not add the pocket. Do you think that would be suitable for my needs? I kind of liked the style.

I have a pair of the Showman equestrian chaps in suede that I was thinking I could probably copy from too.

Where do you buy your leather? I was looking at 4-5 oz oil tanned. Is there any way for me to figure out how much leather I will need? Thanks for your help!

I believe Tandy Leather has a pattern for chinks that look like what you plan to do. Due to the high cost of leather, I would not attempt to sew a pair without a pattern. The BEST way to buy leather is to take your cut out pattern to the leather store and lay it out on a hide or a side of a hide. I believe 15 sq feet are what you need, but because leather has no weave, like cloth, you can get by with less by piecing in things that are small. Secondly by going to the leather store, you can see and feel the leather - I think that’s hugely important. Some leather just feels wrong. However, Tandy’s website does sell “leather for chaps” --I’ve never bought because there but they’ve been around for many years and I’ve only heard good things about them: http://www.tandyleather.com/en/category/chap-leather .

About 10 years ago, I was at a garage sale (really!) and found 7 full size cowhides in various colors. They were $40 each -and I bought every one. Each made two pair of chaps. I have one hide left, a white one. After I make that hide into chaps, my chaps making days are done! I’ve also used Ultra Suede, for show chaps, but not as much fun as real leather. Over the past ten years I’ve made 21 pair of chaps. As I said, Pegg Johnson’s pattern is the best --but more because Pegg is available by email to answer any questions – I can’t stress the usefulness of her DVD enough --simple things like using tuna cans to hold your pattern (you can’t pin to leather) and making a left side and right side of your pattern so you can clearly lay out correctly without making an expensive mistake (you can’t double cut leather --each piece has to be cut out separately). The DVD shows every step from measuring to laying out, to cutting, sewing, and adding hardware.

FYI my own personal chaps are brown rough out with 12 inch fringe --heavy as all get out, but boy do they move when my horse spins --we don’t do reining anymore, but I still wear them now and then. I made a vest to match. I think I still remember how to put a pix on here . . .




If that isn’t right, I’ll try again –


I’d really recommend the patterns and videos here:

There’s more to this stuff than it appears, but the video in particular helps there.