Choosing the Leather for Your Straps

Choosing good quality leather is one of the most important preparations for your eventual flying. It is the duty of the rider to make sure that the leather being used is in good shape, and it can be the difference between life and death. Bad leather may snap or stretch mid flight and leave you or your passenger a gooey puddle on the bowl floor that some other weyrling will have to clean up. Don't be a gooey puddle; be careful picking your leather.

Strips of leather are provided by the weyrherders and the herdercraft. They come in long thin pieces. Each piece should be 6 to 9 ft. Each time a piece has to be sewn together it weakens the overall integrity of the straps. Any more than that and it can be too hard to fit the dragon properly, which can lead to hide damage (which is dangerous for a dragon going between - and uncomfortable all the time).

During lessons both good quality and bad quality leather will be provided. Over the course of a few days you'll learn to tell the difference with increasingly hard examples until the weyrlingmasters are sure you can pick out every imperfection. Quality leather is vital, and while some knock-off stuff from that sleazy booth in the bazaar may look as good on the outside, looking good isn't enough when it comes to making the leathers you strap yourself to a dragon with.

Important things to look for:

  1. Water Damage - Exposure to water for too long without proper drying can cause the leather to "rot." This can be determined by examining for discoloration, thinning of the leather, and/or smell. If the strip of leather has even one of these symptoms than move on.
  2. Bad Tanning - Tanning is an important process in drying leather so that it is supple but also strong. Done incorrectly, it can cause the leather to crack and tear. Neither is something you want while you are on the back of your dragon. So, in order to ensure your leather as been well tanned, make sure there is no fraying or inflexibility. Also check for cracking and rough patches.
  3. General Wear and Tear - Used stuff might be okay to make your personal riding leathers, or a nice bag for a Gather, but you want brand new leather - or as close to as you can get - for this job. Look for holes (which weaken the straps), discoloration, and stiffness and tearing.

Dyeing the Leather

Dyeing the leather is completely optional. Some riders choose do it to add a personal touch to their flying. But it takes a lot of time, and unless you are going to start on your leathers really early the weyrlingmasters will probably make you wait. Also, keep in mind you'll go through more than one set of leathers as your dragon grows, so it may be worth putting off. Still there will be buckets in the barracks for you as you start to make your first set. Rinse the buckets out, make sure they are clean so the dye doesn't mix, pour in dye and hot water until you have the right concentration for the color you want (remember only basic colors are available for dyeing, fancy colors are expensive and won't be provided by a staff which knows you'll be making another set soon). Add the leathers and dye them until they are few shades darker than you want them to end up. Rinse your leathers, and make sure you don't dry them out too quickly or two slowly, or you'll end up with cracked leather and have to start all over.

Riding Leather Design

Riding leathers are designed to maximize stability of the rider, while restricting the natural movement of the dragon as little as possible.

Adult Riding Leathers

The major structure of riding leathers is the part that hold the rider into place, generally between the fourth and fifth neck ridge - just as the neck of the dragon is hitting the main part of the body. Two pieces of leather go around the neck; a space is left between, where the rider sits and the two pieces come together at the bottom of the neck and are held together with a leather neck plate. The one in front is called the forestrap and the one in back the aftstrap. The rider is held into place by a seat belt of sorts, which connects to those two strips, and most riders (a requirement as weyrlings) include a thigh strap.

There is also a thicker chest strap, which (surprisingly) goes around the narrowest front part of the dragon's chest and works as an anchor to the two straps in front of it, holding the rider in place. Two thinner straps (on either side of the dragon) run lengthwise, from the aftstrap to the chest strap - one higher than the wing, and one lower. Make sure to position them so they don't interfere with wing movement.

There is one strap that anchors the forestrap in place called the foreridge strap, and it wraps around the ridge in front of the rider.

Passenger and cargo belts are separate pieces attached to the straps by separate belts which have metal loops. This means that when they aren't hauling around other people or things, there aren't loose pieces smacking around on the back of the dragon.

Weyrling Straps:

The major difference is the complexity. The farther you go in weyrlinghood, the more complicated the straps get. This first set will only have the major structure at the neckridges, which is good because within the month your dragon will have outgrown them anyway.

Another major difference is that weyrling straps have a second set of buckles attached. The first set of buckles is used to tighten and loosen straps while taking them on or off or strapping yourself in. The second set - only there during weyrlinghood - allows straps to be let out for growing dragons, and you'll only have to make straps every month or so instead of every week.

The set of straps made during the first week of senior weyrlinghood (considered your first set of adult straps) will be the first where you have all the straps, and a separate belt for passengers - just in time to be used as a taxi service for important people going on short trips. Try not to let any holders fall off your dragon.

Construction

Strap construction is pretty easy. Leather straps are folded over (so they have twice the strength) and sewn together down the length. The trick is to make each stitch equal distance apart. The stitches can't be too close or the holes will weaken the integrity of the straps, or too far apart so the leather has open gaps while flying. And different strips are sewn together lengthwise. Stitches are made with a leather punch called an awl and a leather needle (which is like a regular sewing needle but bigger, and stronger - be careful; you don't want to prick yourselves with this kind).

It is a good time to get to know your fellow weyrlings and start to understand their strengths and weaknesses (if you are good at that sort of thing). Some may have been expert seamstresses during Candidacy, but don't have the strength to sew with leather. Some may have the strength but not the finesse needed. Help each other out. It is good bonding.

Approval

Until you have graduated, you need to get approval for every set of leathers you make. The weyrlingmaster or his assistants will check to make sure everything has been constructed properly and out of good material - it is their job to ensure everyone survives weyrlinghood in one piece. (OOCly this does not have to be RPed out, but provides good opportunity, and remember to check OOCly with staff if you want to have your leathers give out at some point in time because it would mean you skipped this vital step and it will mean ICCs for you and your dragon. Still it can be good fun, so don't let that discourage you. Just make sure you check first).