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By Margaret Freeman
Blanket repairs fall into three general categories: Large rips, small tears/holes and hardware/straps. The last two categories you should be able to deal with yourself, and how you go about making those repairs will depend on how neat you want it and how long you expect the repairs to last. Large rips have to be repaired by a sewing machine. If you have basic sewing skills (the straight stitch and ziz-zag stitch will be all you need and are easy to learn), the inclination, and access to an old-style heavy-duty machine, you can save yourself a lot of time and money doing your own repairs. Otherwise, torn blankets need outside help. If you don’t have a blanket-repair specialist nearby, there are plenty to be found online where you can ship a blanket. Either way, it’s going to take a couple weeks to get your blanket back. Your only recourse is to always have a spare blanket available. Another, probably quicker, alternative is to find a local shoe repairman to do the job. He’ll likely have two conditions, though: The blanket must be clean (see upcoming January 2012 story on blanket washing) and you’ll need to supply hardware that needs to be replaced. Small tears/holes can be fixed yourself by simply hand stitching the original material or by sewing on a patch. It’s even easier to glue the small tear shut or to glue a patch over it. It’s important to repair small tears and holes quickly, before they become big tears and require outside help. If you make repairs yourself, you likely won’t make as neat a job of it as a blanket-repair service, especially if you use glue, which will permanently stain the fabric. If the appearance of your blanket is important to you, send it to a pro. Straps/hardware are best repaired immediately, too, because hardware is always attached to a strap and if you lose one you usually lose the other. Again, you can easily stitch or glue them yourself. Making Small Repairs Hand stitching a small tear or a strap is easier than it looks because the weave on most blanket materials — shell, liner, straps — isn’t very tight, so you don’t need a very sharp needle. A needlepoint needle, for example, which has a rather blunt point, will work fine. It’s important to pick a needle that is big enough to handle easily and that has a large enough eye for heavy thread. You may already have the perfect thread in your barn — braiding thread has just the right heft. Fishing line and dental floss will also work. We stitched a chest strap onto a fly sheet in April in just a couple minutes using braiding thread, and it was holding just fine when we swapped out the fly sheet for a turnout rug in the fall. If you don’t feel comfortable stitching a tear or strap, you can glue it. You can also use adhesive tape on a hole or tear. We tried out several commercial products for this purpose (see box), with mixed success. We glued patches on tears both outside the blanket shell and between the shell and liner. We glued on hardware attached to short straps. The glue needs to set overnight before the blanket goes back on the horse. We applied adhesive tape sold specifically for horse blankets. We also tried duct tape and craft glues as a control. After our test horse gave it her best effort to dislodge the repairs, we laundered the blanket (cool water, air dry) to see if they would stand up to washing. Rambo makes a kit that includes patch material and its own brand of glue. Schneiders Saddlery sells an adhesive tape that goes right onto the tear without glue, but following up with a cool iron makes the seal tighter. The kit from Equine Blanket Repair adds a selection of hardware to the patches and tube of craft glue, a good idea since hardware is hard to find on its own. Cindy Ingraham said the kit isn’t intended for permanent fixes but rather to tide you over until you can get the blanket to a repair person. You can also try the iron-on denim patches that can be found at sewing shops and discount stores. You can even put a patch under the shell, some glue along the torn edges in the middle, and another iron-on patch on the outside. Then, if you’re feeling really inspired, you can hand stitch the edges. If any repair is going on a turnout blanket, finish off the job by spraying the patch with a waterproof spray. The ”Speedy Stitcher” hand-sewing awl can be found at tack stores, hardware stores and some specialty shops for around $18. It’s a one-piece tool with waxed cotton thread. It requires more dexterity than a simple needle and thread, but it can cover the middle ground between a hand-sewn and machine-sewn repair. Our Trial Results Some of the corners on the patches from Rambo and Equine Blanket Repair that we glued to the outside of the blanket came up a bit, although the patches otherwise stayed in place. Once the corners really gave way, however, we found we could pull the patch off. The patches we placed between the shell and the liner held solid. They looked like they may outlive the rest of the blanket. We also had mixed success with gluing straps and hardware — some held firm and some peeled loose. While we followed the instructions carefully, we began to wonder if the technique of applying the glue was more the problem than the adhesive itself, and we were never quite sure if we had too much or too little glue. If you’re going to go the glue route, it would be a good idea to test your own technique and type of glue on a separate scrap of material beforehand. Certainly it’s a messy job, and despite precautions we still got glue on our fingers, where it remained for several days. Any glue dribbled on the blanket or oozing out from under a patch will leave a permanent mark on the fabric, although that may not matter if the blanket is just going back to rolling in mud and manure. The adhesive tape from Schneiders is only 3” wide but it’s 18” long so it will handle a fairly long tear. You can cut it to any length you want. It went on easily, with no messy glue. As predicted by the instructions, we got a better seal when we finished with a cool iron — the tape that was just pressed on peeled off eventually at the same rate as the glued patches and also the duct tape. The Schneiders Saddlery tape comes in a variety of colors as does good old duct tape, if that’s a consideration. It’s important to make sure the blanket is clean in the areas where you are going to use glue or adhesive tape. If it’s inconvenient to wash the blanket, you can go over the area with alcohol wipes, which will also dry quickly. Supply Kit Blanket hardware is not readily available at most tack shops, so here’s the most valuable advice we can give you about doing self repairs — if you have a worn-out blanket that you’re going to throw away, cut off all the hardware, including the attached straps. Then, cut out patches of the blanket material. Wash the straps and patches and store them for future use, when repairing another blanket. Besides the saved hardware and patches, stash some heavy-duty thread, a couple of needles, alcohol wipes, adhesive tape (Schneiders or duct) and strong craft glue (not glue-gun glue). Include a pair of sharp pointed scissors or know where you can get your hands on a pair easily. You can also include an extra set of elastic leg straps and an elastic surcingle to stabilize a blanket without stitching or gluing. If you don’t want to make your own kit, you can start with the Equine Bla nket Repair kit, since it has some hardware in it, and add anything else you think you might need, using our suggestions. Another source of blanket-repair kits is a camping store, because tents often need repairs with patches and glue. Make sure you get a tent-repair kit with the same material as your blankets, since tent kits will come separately for nylon, canvas or mesh. Bottom Line Even though we had mixed success with the glue and adhesive tape, we feel it’s a worthwhile experiment for you to try yourself. Before gluing, however, we’d try the adhesive tape from Schneiders because it’s quicker, cleaner and less expensive. Fixes using tape or glue may not be permanent, but they’ll likely carry you through a month or two. Hand-stitched repairs, or reinforcing the glued and taped repairs with stitching, will hold even better.