Craftsman keeping western traditions alive with each stitch |

Craftsman keeping western traditions alive with each stitch

Steamboat’s Matt Tredway picked up leather-working after his early years on ranches

Leather craftsman Matt Tredway works in his shop stamping a pair of leather chaps with a maul and a stamp.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Matt Tredway was at peace in a small workshop in the basement of his Steamboat Springs home, where the light poured through a small window and spilled onto a pair of leather chaps he was crafting by hand.

“I think I started because I didn’t have enough money to buy all the stuff I wanted, or I had to learn to repair the stuff I had,” said Tredway, who spent his youth following in the steps left by his father’s and grandfather’s cowboy boots.

“I just started with a little stitcher that I used to fix things, and a rivet set,” Tredway continued. “I made some chaps, and then I made some for friends, and gosh, honestly by the time I moved (to Steamboat Springs) I was making a ton of stuff.”

Tredway has had his items in several stores, including the Brighton Feed and Saddlery and even at Soda Creek Western Mercantile, which was downtown where Natural Grocers is located before closing in 2006.

He would work all day and in the evening when he had free time, filling special orders and repairing saddles for ranchers in the area.

Nowadays, Tredway, who taught math and science at Steamboat Springs Middle School for 23 years before retiring in 2010, has gone back to his “hobby” of working with leather — that is when he isn’t following his other passions of climbing frozen waterfalls in Colorado, attempting to summit peaks in another part of the world or traveling.

Each leather working tool, including stamps, punches and awls, has its place on craftsman Matt Tredway’s workbench. Tredway crafts new items including saddles and chaps, and he also repairs items that are brought to him.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Tredway was born in Gunnison, where he lived in town, but also enjoyed the ranching lifestyle and riding on the back of a horse.

He went to school at Western State University, became an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, and founded Everything Outdoor Steamboat, a program designed to give students a chance to experience rock and ice climbing, backpacking and winter mountaineering.

“I was kind of a hybrid-town kid that worked on those ranches,” Tredway said as he stamped a pair of chaps in the small workshop.

“I think in summer of my freshman year of high school, I worked for this guy on a ranch. I lived in a bunkhouse about this big, and just stayed out with that family … I worked all summer long until school started in the fall.”

After he graduated, Tredway worked as a permit rider where a group of ranchers would pool their cattle and graze them on forest service land. Tredway would ride for those ranchers.

Matt Tredway hit a stamp with a maul while crafting a pair of leather chaps.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today.

One of the ranches he worked was 63,000 acres, and he learned the tricks of the ranching trade there, as he rode the same path as his father and grandfather, who worked on the historic Goodnight Ranch in the Texas panhandle.

“It really was very, very natural,” Tredway said of working on the ranch. “My dad and my grandfather lived that lifestyle.”

When people walk through the doorway of Tredway’s Steamboat Springs home, that western tradition is clear to see in the collections of vintage spurs and other items Tredway has picked up over the years.

Just outside his shop, a replica of his grandfather’s saddle is on display, along with his family’s brand and bridles passed down through the generations.

The tools of the trade are neatly organized on Matt Tredway’s work bench.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Matt Tredway uses a stamp to make patterns on a pair of chaps. The craftsman learned much about the ranching lifestyle from his father and grandfather and from his time working on a ranch himself.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Just a few steps away sits the shop where Tredway carries on traditions that date back to the early pioneers, and he is surrounded by tools that take him back to a time when cowboys rode the range and the craftsmen who make their saddles, saddle bags and chaps stamped their reputation into the creations they crafted.

Leather craftsman Matt Tredway uses an Adler stitching machine to make a custom pair of chaps for a customer.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
A sampling of Matt Tredway's work hangs on hooks inside his Steamboat Springs workshop.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Matt Tredway collects spurs, bridles, shotguns and rifles along with unique machinery that reflected life in the Old West. This Hawkeye rope-making machine can be used to turn horsehair into rope.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Matt Tredway holds his family's branding iron while standing next to a replica of his grandfather's saddle.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Matt Tredway not only crafts leather, he is a collector of Western memorabilia, including a collection of crafted spurs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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