Working With Horsehair

Here are explanations for the most common methods of working horsehair.

.: Tail Extensions :.
Used to add length fullness or replacement hair to tails. Can be used knotted, waxed, glued or braided.

.: Braiding :.
To prepare for braiding, several individual hairs are twisted together into a pull or string. Working with 8-12 strings, the braider moves the outside hairs in an established pattern, under and over the inside strands to create a design. Each of these sets of strings forms square braids or strands that, when completed, can be sewn together to create the finished product. Our hatbands are referred to as 3, 5, or 7 strand. That is the number of square braid lengths combined for the desired width.

.: Hitching :.
As with braiding, a string of horsehair is twisted to begin work. Possibly the most time consuming of horsehair arts, hitching is a series of small knots done around a core string over a dowel or inner support. By incorporating colors into the work a hitcher can create patterns like diamonds or spirals. Many times, the support is removed and the work is flattened in a press.

.: Weaving :.
Also called finger weaving or flat braid, a series of strings are used forming a warp. When the outside strings are brought under and over they form the woof of the weave. Using the same principles as loom work, finger weaving tends to be flat and not tightly formed like the square braid. In this type of work the entire width is woven as one piece. Though used with horsehair, this type of braiding is more often seen in leather for belts and hatbands.

.: Twisting :.
Mainly used for making ropes to begin twisting, loose hair is spun into a strand, much like wool. These strands are then twisted back upon themselves to form ropes. When the rope is completed the short ends of the twisted hair stick up and feel prickly. Spiral and checked patterns are often seen in this type of work. Horsehair ropes are described by the finished diameter and the number of strands.

.: Hair Work :.
A popular art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, elaborate jewelry was often created from the hair of a loved one. Braiding tables along with tapestry style bobbins and counterweights are carefully moved to create intricate braids, often over slender wire forms. Hair work patterns use openwork, shape, and texture as design elements to create watch chains, necklaces, bracelets, pins, and a variety of charms.