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Working the hair in Hairwork

Hello community!
I am looking to do some Victorian-inspired hairwork pieces - specifically braiding and knotting locks of hair that will be set under glass cabochons. Does anyone have any tips on how to handle the hair? Is there a kind of wax that would help me keep the braiding neat? Maybe a taxidermist would have some tips??
Thanks so much,
Tessa

My Grandmother did this kind of work. She used a new heavy spring wooden clothes pin. The new ones were not loosened up from use. She splayed the hair out a bit. Hope this helps.

Aggie

Thanks Aggie!
Any idea if your grandmother used glue of some sort? And if so, what kind? I’ve got the beginnings of something as you can see but I’m unsure how to “set” the pattern in place, if you know what I mean.

I think maybe you need to use much longer pieces of hair, along with weights and a braiding table? I gather the process is a bit like kumihimo braiding. Here’s a link to an ebook from Project Gutenberg.org called Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work by Mark Campbell. Lots of braiding patterns, and a section called “Directions for New Beginners” starts on page 122:
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38658/38658-h/38658-h.htm

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I understand what you mean. I never saw that part of her projects. But turning to woodworking they have superglue that vary in length of time to set. The thicker one gives you a few minutes to place your pieces. If there is a wood supply place like Rocklers, or Woodcraft near you, go talk to them. The advantage of a slower set superglue is you could use cheap sewing pins to place the glue where you want it in tiny amounts. If you cant find the old clothes pins, check out a big sewing store for small fabric clips. They will hold better that the hair clips in your photo.

Aggie

So this is purely from my experience braiding my own fine, slippery, uncooperative hair still attached to my head, but… could you work with it damp? Maybe spray with a fine mist bottle, then obviously let dry completely before final mounting.
As for any adhesives, I’d probably try to stick with acid-free archival quality types. You can find these in scrapbook supply departments of craft stores.

Amazing resource, @JuliaLowther. Thank you so much for sharing it :slight_smile:

Thank you so much, everyone, for the ideas. I’m going to hunt down some small fabric clips and acid-free glue.
And if anyone has any additional thoughts on how this delightful Victorian weirdness came to be, please do share!

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There is a “reversible” archival glue used in bookbinding and book repair. I can imagine this could be helpful, but of course I know nothing about doing hairwork. I always hate it when people make suggestions that are just guesses, but here I am doing it… https://www.talasonline.com/Jade-R?quantity=1

I took Karen Bachmann’s hair work class a couple of years ago in Brooklyn and she had a lot of tips for maneuvering the hair into place. She has been doing some online versions this year, there was actually one that started yesterday! https://www.morbidanatomy.org/classes/victorian-hairwork-mourning-memory-object-and-craft-with-master-jeweler-educator-and-art-historian-karen-bachmann-1

May be worth keeping an eye out for the next session if you want to learn some basic techniques and also have someone to ask questions.

best,
Jenny