The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Victorian hair jewelry

This antique hairwork watch chain is from the Morning Glory Antiques website and it is the kind of simple item that my hairwork braid might become when it is finished. There is also a series of ads for commercially available hair jewelry, from a jewelry-making company, that Morning Glory Antiques has scanned and published on their website. It is really interesting to see all the different styles of bracelets, earrings, brooches, necklaces, watch chains, rings, cuff links and stick pins that could be made from or decorated with hairwork. I encourage everyone to look them up and see for yourself!

The hair extensions that I bought produce a braid that is about 5 inches long, not quite enough to go around my wrist; however, this watch chain is probably made of two hairwork braids or twisted cords, joined by the gold cylinder that is visible in the center. If I can find a similar fitting, I could probably make a similar hairwork watch chain! I found the toggle-type clasp easily enough at the craft store, so it will just be a matter of getting the hair to lie smoothly in the braid, and attaching it securely to the clasp, and I will have a nice chain for a vintage style pocket watch! In making my braid, I used both gel and hairspray on the unbraided length of hair to try and make it lie smoothly and keep the shorter hairs from sticking out from the braid. It sort of worked, but there are still little ends that won't stay in place and I still have to find out some way to fix them. I have seen hair art instructions in Victorian magazines, that call for boiling the finished hairwork in a solution of something, so I'll have to research it and see if I can re-create that. I also found some nice vintage-style lockets by Blue Moon Beads, that I will try to fill with a hairwork coil or something decorative and small.

Apart from the different varieties of braiding hair, there were the knotting and weaving techniques used to make lanyards, embroidery floss "friendship bracelets," and Japanese Himo (I think that's what it's called) braiding. All of these can be used with embroidery floss, ribbons, satin cord, or even strips of suede, to make interesting ties, necklaces, etc. The Japanese technique is especially interesting to me because it involves a simplified version of a Victorian hairwork table; instead of a large piece of specialized furniture, the Japanese braiding technique uses a flat circle or hexagon of plastic or cardboard, with numbered slits cut around the edges and a medium-sized hole cut in the center. It looks like you could even follow some of the instructions for Victorian table-work hair art, since the hairwork table seems to have only been a similar wooden circle with hole in the middle, attached to a floor stand. Something to think about.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)