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We started as a home-based business making moccasins in 1986. It was a humble beginning sewing the moccasins by hand as well as attaching the fur. Our sales were made all at Alberta Farmers’ Markets in Camrose, Wetaskiwin, Millet, and the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market in Edmonton (which we did for 27 years). In 1987, when all our fingers were sore from hand sewing, we purchased our first industrial table top sewing machine. Although we were still cutting everything out by hand, the sewing machine made assembly much faster and gave it a more professional look.
Somewhere in there, we bought our first Singer fur sewing machine for an Edmonton furrier; one that had originally been purchased and used on the Woodwards Fur Floor, sewing fur coats, etc. That machine alone has lots of history! With the aid of this fur machine, we were able to sew rabbit on moccasins and mitts. This segued into sewing raccoon, coyote, beaver, skunk and bear fur hats and gauntlet mitts and selling them in Edmonton stores and in the Northern Stores which were part of the Northwest Company, which was previously the Hudson Bay Company.
The Northwest Company closed down in the early 1990s so good quality fur wasn’t as available to us, plus the cost had doubled as the fur was now being tanned and sold by Pacific Rim companies, so we wound down that part of the business. During this time, we both held down jobs in order to help grow our business. In 1997, Miriam quit her part-time job, left home and took a saddle making course from an Alberta saddlemaker. There she learned more about leather, types of leather, how to cut, work with and finish it. It was then we started James Built Saddlery, Tack, Harness and Giftware.
The sky was the limit from here on and, although we enjoyed many years of designing and sewing moccasins, mitts, purses, and wallets, new breath was breathed into making saddles, tack, saddlebags, reins, halters, chaps, gloves, belts. We ride and use what we make in order to check fit, durability, quality, design – and for our own pleasure. We continue to make our own patterns, mark, and cut by hand, hand rub, check for leather imperfections and sew with an industrial sewing machine. In 2004, we opened our first physical store in Tofield, Alberta. Here we continue to grow our product line – for all type and sizes of horses and the people who work with those horses.
We are continually reinventing ourselves, due to the economy, what people want and how their purchasing changes. To this end, we have slaved and perspired over the development of our website to jump into online sales. We hope you will enjoy your journey through our site, and purchase that headstall or reins that you need to wander down that trail, round up those cows or compete at that show.
Miriam and Randy James