Monday, 31 October 2016

From horse's tail to bracelet

NEW on the Blog

Dear readers. When this blog first began with this post way back in 2012, I had no idea how popular it would be. People have asked for video demonstrations to help them with their projects. This is especially useful for beginners and so you will see, this post has a video to show just one way to get your sample of tail hair from a horse.

I hope you enjoy the videos as they are published. Lots more to come.

Best wishes, Lou

The horsehair must be cleaned, bagged and named. But before that, you must of course get the hair from the horse! Before you cut the hair you  need to know how long the lengths of hair should be, how much to should get and where to take it from.

Tips to cut the right amount of hair for a bracelet

  1. First, give the tail a good brush so that it isn't tangled. If it is smooth and knot free you can easily find the length you need and only cut just enough.
  2. Next start at the bottom of the tail and hold on to a lock of hair that leads to an area close to the horse's hind end where cutting the hair would not be visible. Doing it this way makes it easier to identify the longest strands of hair. You will need a generous 60cm plus to make a bracelet.
  3. The lock of hair will contain close to 200 individual hairs. Many of these will not be good enough to use so before you cut (as close to the end as possible) be choosy and see where the best hairs are. This is more important if you are wanting to have a bracelet made from a coloured horse and need to have enough of each colour.
  4. The cut horsehair should then have a rubber band placed around the cut end. It is then put in a plastic bag and kept dry.

Here is a video showing where I take samples from.

Here is some cut but unwashed hair

Preparing the horsehair

Now the hair needs to be washed.  I do this with shampoo, ensuring the hair stays together in a lock,  making it easier when it comes to sorting out individual hairs to use in the bracelet.

If the hair is very dirty or very dry, I use some conditioner. It might even need two or three washes to get it ready to use. It then gets left to air dry.

Sorting the horsehair

Just before the hair is completely dry it gets sorted. How the hair is grouped depends upon the size of the bracelet and any pattern to be used. Sorting still takes me up to two hours. The fastest I have managed this is one hour but the process is actually quite relaxing. It is important to get the very best strands for the bracelet and not opt for ones that may break or kink in a way that later spoils the bracelet. The strands must be a similar length and each group of hair (usually up to sixteen) also needs to be of a consistent length.

At the moment I don't have a wooden marudai to use to make the bracelet. So I use a glass jar with a suitable weight in the middle to help maintain tension as the horsehair is braided.

Foam kumihimo discs are ideal for working with horsehair because they grip the strands nicely while you work. For information on what equipment you need to get started, check out this post starter tools

Here is a video I have made showing how to sort hair and set it up on the kumihimo disk.

Preparing to braid

The Kumihimo braiding method is discussed in other posts. There is a wealth of information on kumihimo on the internet. If you look at my post  using beads in horsehair bracelet you will see a short video of how a simple kumihimo pattern works. What is key though, when working with horsehair is to allow enough length at start and finish to properly finish each end and avoid the work coming undone.

Maintaining a steady, firm tension is really important.

I have found it more challenging to work with different colours and patterns. I have recently worked on four patterned bracelets for the first time.

There is excitement when you see the emerging pattern. At the same time I feel a sense of anticipation and slight unease. It  is only when the bracelet is almost complete that I start to relax. Braided horsehair can be undone and re-braided if you make a mistake or decide to change your design, but you may need to wash and prepare the hair again in order to allow the hair to regain its natural shape. So far I have been fortunate and not had to start from scratch.

The finished bracelet

This one is a 'diamond' pattern.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Making a 12 Strand Rounded Flat Horse Hair Braid

Find other pattern posts here

How to Make a 12 Strand Rounded Flat Kumihimo Braid

This pattern is simple to follow and the braid has pretty, rounded edges. The strands in this example contain about 16 tail hairs each.

The instructions for this braid are similar to the 8 strand braid we recently discussed.

To make the braid you will need enough strands of horse tail hair, at least 60 cm in length. Another way to work out the length is for the hair to be three times the length you want your bracelet to be. 

How many horse hairs you use will depend on how wide you want the final piece to be. To get an idea refer to blog post What Size Bracelet to Make

If you are a new reader of this blog please check out posts showing you what basic equipment you may need and how to start and finish a braid. There are posts on most aspects of making horse hair jewellery so don't forget to use the search button also to find specific information you need.

Starting positions of the 12 strands

Here you have four strands set up at the top or, north side of the disc and four on the south side. 

Two strands to the west and east of the disc.

Now, starting right to left (or left to right if you prefer), move the bottom strand at position 1 to 14 and then move 14 to position 1. Moving north to south and south to north.

Do this with each set of vertical strands in turn, always in the same order until all have changed places.

The final move is to move the horizontal strands from east to west and west to east. 7 goes to 25 and 25 moves to position 7

The moves are repeated until you reach the length you want your braid to be.

The braid in the photo has been finished using sterling silver crimp ends. I do like to use these. They have a classic look and are unlikely to cause skin irritation. They hold the braid firmly in place too.

The hoof print is also made from sterling silver and adds extra interest to the piece. This particular embellishment was made from silver clay then left to dry thoroughly before firing and polishing

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sorting Horse Tail Hair and Setting on the Kumihimo Disk

Sorting hair for braiding

There are many ways to sort the hair out. Once you have an idea of what you want to make, you can decide how much hair you need and what length. Hair for spiral braids will need to be longer than for flat braids, simply because more braiding and work goes into a spiral braid and more hair is used.

Sorting the hair need not be messy. Provided you get everything around you that you need, it will not take you long to have the hair in place on your disk, ready to be braided.

In this video, you can see how I sort and set the hair and fix the end to keep it secure. This version contains no narration so you don't need sound to watch it.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Cutting a Sample of Tail Hair

Way back in 2012 I spoke about how to get your sample of hair from the horse. The most important thing about getting a sample is safety. If you are used to handling horses the process of cutting some hair should be straight forward. If you are going to braid some hair for someone else, you can aske them to get the hair for you.

Here is a video I have made with some help from Hope Pastures rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming centre and in particular Henry the horse, showing how to select a sample of hair and cut it, so that it barely shows afterwards.

This is the first of a series of videos that I hope you will find useful.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Reader Showcase Featuring Mary from The Netherlands

Welcome to the first of a series where the beautiful creations of blog readers is featured!
If you have thought about making a bracelet from horse tail hair but have not yet attempted something, perhaps this series will inspire you to have a go.
Read on to learn about Mary's experience of braiding so far.

Hitched Bridle
My name is Mary, from The Netherlands, and I started making horse hair bracelets a couple of months ago, October 2015. I'm working with horse hair almost 15 years though, hitching, making bridles. 

When my 25yr old horse passed away in July 2015 I started thinking that I would love to make a bracelet myself of some tail
hair I have kept from him. But first I needed to practice.

Leather Bracelet with Horse Tail Hair
With the help of a friend that does excellent leather work, the first bracelet was with leather (including horse hair that I use for hitching). I was pleased with the result but, I decided that I wanted to make bracelets only from horse hair too. So, I just started...  
The hardest thing was getting findings (end caps, clasps, etc) that I like. There is a lot on Etsy but I was little afraid to order from there and I just wanted to have a few items to start with.

I made two bracelets (again from hair in stock) for myself to try out. I posted them on FB. Then I got questions from friends and people at our stable if I could make one for them with their horse’s hair. Now it was time to get more stuff: other end caps, charms, etc. I've had a lot of help from other enthusiasts that are on the FB page of The Horsehair Bracelet Project. They gave me help and a lot of ideas. I would never have dared to start making a bracelet for someone else without them!
Horse Hair Bracelet

There is still a lot of progress to be made, but that will come, in time. I love making the bracelets and make people happy, so I've found a new hobby. Still need to make one for myself from my horse his hair though, but for the next week I'm little too busy with other ones

Readers will all agree that Mary has produced some beautiful items here. Bracelets that hold memories of treasured equine partners. Mary's desire to create her own bracelet was driven by the loss of her horse Jengo. Below is a moving tribute to Jengo with some photos of him in his prime.

I was asked by Louise to also write something about my best friend and biggest love…. my horse Jengo, who passed away on July 2nd, 2015 at the age of 25, after being together for 18 years, 2 months and 4 days…..

It's very difficult to put something on paper in short, as I could write a book about him, and about us….. What we did and the bond we had. Besides that, it's emotionally very hard. I think about him every hour of every day. Thinking about him brings me to tears immediately, as it is now, at this moment again. Some horses are just 'once in a lifetime' friends.

Therefore I decided to translate my farewell letter to him, as it's the best way to let everyone know how much I miss him….

Some explanation:

Boy is my other horse, Julienne is my disabled sister, Kim is my friend and stable-mate, Levi is her horse and Jengo's 'being nuts together' meadow mate.

Mischa is my dog who always went riding with us and loved to sit on the saddle in front of me. She became 17,5 years old

Goodbye darling….

After the most fantastic period of 18 years, 2 months and 4 days together, I had to say goodbye to you today. You were 25 years old….

We would have loved to spend so much more time together, with Boy, with Kim and her horse Levi, but it was not meant to be. Julienne is heart-broken and misses you terribly.

You were 'her' horse, the only one she trusted and you have never ever done something wrong when she was riding you, whilst you showed me every corner of the riding arena and the forest, in full speed.

It will never be like it was…. It hurts so, so much…..

You where my teacher, my pride, my rock and the rock of so many other, young horses you took in tow. You were a hard worker, a fighter, a horse with brains and a build-in compass.

You confronted me as no-one else could and outsmarted me so many times. I had to earn your respect instead of the other way around, we were two peas in a pod, knowing each other as no-one else did. One look in each others eye was enough.

A once in a lifetime horse, so extraordinary, so special.

After your serious injury in December 2012, you fought and came back. With all the possibilities we got from the stable owners and with so much help and patience from Kim. You loved training English again with her to get your strength back, enjoyed it to the max. You and me made as many rides outside as possible. Going out together with Kim & Levi, the both of you as nuts as can be. Oh gosh, how much fun we had….we enjoyed it and had so many laughs. How crazier the better and preferably going as fast as you could.

You also enjoyed playing with Boy and riding outside. You took him to tow as from day 1 when Boy came in 2008. The leader and the follower, it was so clear. You gave him confidence as a young horse and led him through life.

By sweetheart… time has come, you are so tired, your leg being not well again.

You always wanted to work so hard, wanted to do all you could for me, wanted to deserve your food otherwise you were not satisfied and felt useless.

You fought and came back from your first injury, but now it's enough, I can see it in your eyes.

Please go look for Mischa and give her a big hug. Go run into the forest together, like the three of us did for so many years

Soon we'll be together again, you'll come home…..


Jengo, thank you for everything!!!

I'll never ever forget my little guy!!

Your lady…..