Horse Hair Hitching & Braiding

Working with horsehair is a very time-consuming art/craft form. It requires patience and attention to detail from beginning to completion.

First, the hair is cleaned by handwashing, then left to dry. Once dry, the horsehair "pulls" are made. Pulls are individual hairs twisted together to create a string. Each pull can be made using up to 6-12 hairs - depending on the thickness of individual hairs. Also, as the hair is thicker at the root end than at the ground end, to get a pull of equal circumference, the hairs must be laid to opposite ends. Meaning that if a pull contains 8 hairs, 4 hairs from the root end and 4 hairs from the ground end are knotted together, then twisted - this ensures that the circumference of the pull will be equal - not thinner at one end than the other. This attention to detail affects the quality of the work - especially on a hitched piece.

White pulls can then be dyed different colors. This is done using a protein dye in a hot mixture. Once dyed, the pulls are then put into a vinegar and water solution to set the dye and prevent bleeding.

The herringbone braid is the most used type of braid, but various styles of round braiding are also used to create a variety of items. To create braided pieces with width - eg: hatbands, belts - individual pieces of herringbone braid are sewn together by hand, using fine fishing line. Finishing knots are often made to cover splices and complete items. A Ring knot is a sliding knot used on items so they can be adjusted. Both Finishing and Ring knots are made using a core, then the core is covered with half-hitching - a series of interlocking stitches. For some items eg: belts, the raw ends of braiding are finished with leather.

Hitching is more intricate and even more time-consuming than braiding. Thus, hitched items are more expensive. Hitching is a counting system, so patterns are first worked out on graph paper, with background and borders also figured in. Hitching is done by making a series of half-hitches over a string on a core. Depending on the piece, the core remains, or the hitching is taken off the core and placed in a press to be flattened. Hitched pieces can be personalized with names, initials, dates and brands.

High quality work in a horsehair piece is reflected in attention to the details. A smooth surface is essential to quality - no stray hair sticking up. However, with wear and tear, it is possible that a hair/s may pop up on the piece. In the event that this should happen, using nail clippers, carefully snip the hair off as close to the surface as possible. This will maintain the smooth surface and will not harm/weaken the piece.

Colors available

Natural Colors: Black, Brown, White and Mixed(greyish).
Please note that there are alot of members of the Brown family and color can range from dark to light and mixed. True white hair is very rare - the hair is usually more of a cream color.

Dyed Colors: Red, Royal Blue, Light Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Pink, Purple, Plum, Burgundy and Turquoise.
The dyed colors are popular for coordinating clothing and tack for horse shows and rodeos.