Friday, 16 May 2014

Braiding Shorter Lengths of Horsehair

Making a smaller kumihimo disc

In my last post I spoke about trying to work with some horsehair which had been kept in a bag for years. It needed a lot of nursing back to a condition where it could be used for braiding. Eventually it was ready.

If you have braided using kumihimo or if you have looked at some of the photos on this blog, you will know that there is a length of hair that cannot be braided, due to the size of the kumihimo loom and the strands needing to be held in place. What's the solution? Make a smaller loom.

I have a couple of very well used kumihimo looms or discs. So I took one of them and started to work on making it a much smaller disc.

After finding something of a similar size to the disc I wanted to make I marked the area then cut the shape out of the old disc.

Notches were cut to hold the hair in place.

The  new, smaller disc is about 9 cm or 3.5 inches in diameter. Ideal for braiding short lengths of horsehair where every millimeter counts. 

Not only was the hair short, it needed to be handled carefully due to age and condition. The braid on the loom is a 16 warp (with 5 hairs per warp) braid. The plan is to produce several short braids to bring together in a necklace. This is going to be quite a challenge and is a step beyond anything I have done so far. But the braid and the small loom are working well. 

Using a smaller disc is of course quite tricky. You need to concentrate and work the moves in short bursts to avoid making a mistake. 

In this last photo you can compare the original size disc with the newer, small one. The braid too is much shorter than you would want to make ordinarily, but if short is all you have, this is one option you can use.

In future blog posts there will be more ideas for using short bits of precious horsehair, so you can keep happy memories close by in the form of something of quality you can make and wear.

To read part two of this item click here Part 2

Monday, 12 May 2014

Necklace Design for Horsehair Saved for Twenty Three Years

Lucky Discovery

While sorting through boxes of items I came across an assortment of things which belonged to a horse I had many years ago. I'd  had him since he was a foal. He taught me a lot about what matters to horses. The need to feel safe, to have a strong trusting bond, to know where they fit into their group,be it with their human owner or the herd and the importance of social interaction and rituals, which are renewed daily such as greeting one another and mutual grooming. 

There was a bag, and in it I found a length of tail hair. The hair was cut as winter arrived, to avoid the tail trailing in the muddy field. That must have been about 23 years ago when I worked in London and my horse was kept just outside in Burnham, Buckinghamshire. 

I would not have known then that I'd one day start braiding horsehair and turn it into bracelets and necklaces. When I saw the tail hair I wanted to thank my 20 something self for saving the hair back then. Now I hope to use some of it in a necklace.

The hair was very dirty, dry and brittle. It had to be handled gently to avoid it snapping. I used mild baby shampoo to start with, holding it with one hand to keep the hairs in order and washing with the other hand. After at least ten washes and rinses the hair was conditioned but was still very dry. 

The horsehair was left in a bowl of water and a generous splash of bath oil for two days, to help soften the hair.

Then it was washed and conditioned for a final time then air dried.

I have been working on a design using silver wire and I am hoping to get three or four short kumihimo braids from the hair which will be connected to make the necklace. It remains to be seen how the hair will cope with braiding. You will be able to see the project unfold here over the next few days.

If you have lengths of horsehair saved in a box somewhere, you might find you can use it to make something you can wear. Over the next few weeks I will post about working with shorter lengths of hair and discussing some creative solutions for even the shortest lengths.