A saddle girth in need of a few stitches has led to a whole new career for Jane Stevenson.
Rather than driving to Stamford or somewhere that could work with the leather bit that secures the saddle, Jane took instruction under a master saddler to learn to do it herself.
Since then she has undertaken a few courses at the Cumbria School of Saddlery and a year ago she started Abraxa Bridles and Leatherwork.
It’s run from an old carpenter’s workshop in the yard of her home on Glenside North at Pinchbeck where she and husband Phil keep animals and grow plants on about four-and-a-half acres of land.
Jane originally trained as a cartographer but the farmer’s daughter couldn’t bear being cooped up in an office.
She grew up on her family’s dairy farm, and moving cattle about in trailers and driving a tractor was second nature.
She also grew up riding: the pet cow when she was small and her parents wouldn’t buy her a horse, but a more traditional steed from the age of 15.
Somehow she ended up being an HGV driver, an unusual occupation for a female when she started out, but more common these days, says Jane.
When she and Phil moved from Old Windsor to south Lincolnshire, Jane worked for Fowler Welch, driving full size artic lorries part time – doing 12-14 hour days.
Then in September 2010 she was diagnosed with a rare neck abscess and spent ten weeks in hospital, unable to eat or speak for eight weeks following a tracheotomy.
It took her a year to recover and it was during this time that Jane started to consider taking up something that had interested her years ago – saddlery.
Since then she has studied Bridle Work 1 and 2, a safety repairs course and, more recently, box making.
Jane can repair anything from bridles and gun bags to dog collars and boots, and can now make items too.
“Anything you can make in leather, within reason,” says Jane, who made a camera case, bag and round box during her course.
She says: “I think what gives me most satisfaction is making things from scratch, like a rifle strap, starting with a side of leather and cutting it out, stitching, and putting things like buckles on. I have made a banjo strap for someone.
“It doesn’t come cheap because it is virtually all hand stitching. I enjoy hand stitching, but it’s time-consuming.”