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Canvas gear for the farm

Floreen Smith’s sewing machines are humming steadily as she and her husband Paul are busily preparing for a craft show. The retired farm couple fabricates canvas gear for horse lovers or anyone interested in sturdy, well-made farm- or shop-related items.

“My products don’t break, you can’t eat them, and they take a long time to wear out,” says Smith.

Smith’s interest in sewing began as a young girl on the farm near Langham, Saskatchewan where she grew up. At the age of seven she made her first item — a cloth pencil holder complete with drawstring closure — and sewing became a lifelong interest.

After she married, Smith sewed for their young children until they grew older and no longer wanted to wear homemade clothing, only making the occasional pair of jeans for herself after that.

Wanting to earn some pocket money on the farm, Smith started making driver’s jackets (Australian stockmens’ coats) and selling them at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. They sold well, and her husband encouraged her to expand her line of home-sewn merchandise, so she included a number of farm-related canvas products such as tool bags, wrench wraps, bridle bags, cattlemen’s tagging pouches, various grooming-type aprons, calving aprons, and farriers’ bib aprons with suede knee patches to hold the horses’ legs.

Smith enjoys the creativity in doing custom work and one-off specialty items such as saddle water-bottle carriers that hook onto the saddle; pommel bags which are small saddle bags that go over the horn of a western saddle; and cattle bags, oval-shaped pouches that can be attached to the back of a saddle. These canvas bags are waterproof and ideal for trail rides in wet weather.

“Somebody from the farmers’ market called me the ‘Bag Lady’ because I made bags for everything,” Smith laughs. “Another one was a bridle bag — a long, narrow bag with a handle on top, a zipper down the middle, and Velcro straps. You hang your bridle complete with bit and reins inside, close it up and it’s clean, protected and out of sight.”

An item she designed is her famous berry-bucket holder. It’s a small bag with sturdy, adjustable shoulder straps. An ice-cream pail fits inside the bag. She’s sold thousands of these over the years. Today, custom orders for new items such as gun cases, rod and reel cases, backpacks for dogs and belly protectors for retriever hunting dogs come in regularly.

“Many times my ideas are customer driven. For instance, someone suggested that I should make lined bridle bags for people with expensive show bridles, so I made three and they all sold at Sundog Craft Fair in Saskatoon this year,” she said.

While Floreen enjoys the challenge of creating one-off items, her husband prefers production work. She also has a friend who comes in occasionally to help. “She’ll hammer out little children’s aprons by the dozen,” she says.

Smith has four heavy-duty industrial sewing machines and one industrial serger. All of them can sew leather, as she gets the occasional order for leather products such as fringed leather jackets.

After about five years at the farmers’ market, Smith decided to market only at craft shows, and for many years she and her husband attended about 14 shows a year across Western Canada. Today they do only about eight shows annually.

Smith says they will continue to produce items as long as they are able. “It keeps us both active, physically and mentally. If you have to think about what you’re doing, your brain is ticking along,” she says.

For more information or to order a catalogue, email Floreen or Paul Smith at [email protected] or phone (306) 283-4637. †

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