We should all invest in good things that are made to last. There’s something special about having a history with an item that you’ve admired, acquired and used for some time – whether it’s a favourite handbag or, in this case, a beautiful dog collar and lead. “Some people will say they are expensive,” says Herefordshire-based saddler Emma Baker-Jones of the collars and leads that she has made exclusively for Tales of Teddy, “But they will last twenty years if you look after them.”
There are a range of details that set these dog goods apart: from the unique Tales of Teddy hand-cast brass buckles with their distinctive stainless steel prong, to the traditional stamps that we’ve had made to brand the leather – even the five holes punched on each collar that give a bit of extra wiggle room, specifically designed with longevity in mind. Underscoring that, is a guarantee of quality that comes with collaborating with this traditional saddler.
First of all the raw materials. Emma is positively evangelical about the superior bridle leather she uses from J&E Sedgwick & Co. “You start off with a big, flat hide from the tannery,” says Emma. “It’s beautifully finished, dyed and dressed. It’s a lovely thing to look at, just like that.”
Then there is the level of labour-intensive skill that goes into each and every item. From measuring, marking-up, hole-punching, slot-cutting, hand-shaping, to the detail involved in bevelling, staining, burnishing and waterproofing each raw edge (all of which could be done by a machine, but Emma would not warrant such short-cuts: “I have a traditional, hands-on approach – no rivets, no glue, no machines,” she says. “It makes the results better, more precise and more long-lasting.”)
Meticulous hand-stitching (there are 7 stitches to the inch on our leather dog goods) distinguishes her work. It’s made using a complicated technique involving Saddler’s Clams – a tool to clamp leather and leave hands free to stitch –, a length of thread with a needle on each end, and a sewing technique that, all in all, takes far longer than a machine would but, again, gives a better, stronger result.
In this throwaway age, it’s good to know that the Tales of Teddy Better Dog Collar and Lead is made with integrity and built to last. All you need to do is look after the leather. Emma is strict about maintenance of bridle leather, “You must feed it like you would your skin, with a moisturizer,” she says. For ‘moisturiser’, read leather cream or leather oil – and be sure to apply it from the get go.
Do this and you can look forward to a long future with your handcrafted collar or lead. I can attest to the fact that stiff, new bridle leather ages beautifully and will soften down and turn velvety smooth with wear if you treat it with respect. And why wouldn’t you? The individual attention that every Tales of Teddy collar and lead receives, “Gives each a life of its own,” says Emma. “Each one is as good as it can be.”