Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cowgirl Jewelry

Ive had an itch lately to make a horsehair bracelet. I surfed the internet of people who professionally made them, but after looking into it, I decided I didnt like their custom price. Sure there were those already made available, for but an additional price I could send in my own horse's hair to be made. That intrigued me, but again not the price point.

Instead, I started researching how I could make one myself. I had already saved the hunk of mane I cut for the bridle path, but I was reading that tail hair works better. Makes sense, its longer, coarser and would probably hold a braid well. It killed me to cut my horse's tail, so I waited until it needed a bang trim anyways, then selected one small dread that was longer than the rest, and trimmed it from the inner center, so the blunt end was not visible. I was also carful to cut it just like I do for mane trimmings, and that is at an angle so it appears much more natural.

With the horsehair now collected, I needed to decide a plan of action on how to make it. It was recommended to use end cap clasps to secure the hair inside with. I decided I didnt want to purchase anything online because it was not only hard for me to gauge what the sizing was like, but I also didnt want to spend shipping costs on a two dollar item.

I went to one of the local craft stores, sure that their jewelry section would have just what I was looking for. It didnt, no end cap clasps. Phooey, that meant I would have to purchase the clasp itself, plus some beaded "cones", then affix the two together. That also meant I would need some jewelry wire. Of course you cant just buy the foot of wire that you need, I had to buy 30 yards of it. After a lot of thinking, standing, and looking in the jewelry aisle (I swear I was there about thirty minutes), I decided on my end clasps and beads. I also had determined I wanted a glue gun for assistance in holding the hair into the cone bead, plus I had a generous 50% off coupon and had been wanting a glue gun anyways.

I arrived home ready to get to work. Boyfriend was already there, and watched as I fiddled with the hair and beads, trying to get an idea of what exactly I was going to do, but also being very careful with the hair to keep it in a workable clump.

About an hour and a half later, a semi-presentable horsehair bracelet was born.

Here were the steps I took to complete this project:

1. Gather necessary items. This includes the horsehair of course, along with end clasps (I opted for the toggle claps because I find them easier to put on one handed), beads, (or if youre lucky and can find end cap clasps go with those), thin wire (I used 26 gauge), tweezers, glue gun, and glue sticks.

2. Brush or wash the hair. I personally only finger brushed what I used, fearful that washing would result in a lot of lost hair.

3. Determine what type of braid you want to use. Originally, I wanted to use the round braid, but had a hard time of it once I tried, so instead opted for the regular three strand braid. At first, I tried to affix the hair into the cone bead and attach the end clasp, then run some wire through it all. Boyfriend watched and snickered, so I asked what course of action he might suggest. His suggestion was to braid the hair first, then attach the clasps and beads at the end. So thats what I ended up doing. With the top of the hair still in the rubber band, I started my braid, then when I felt I was about halfway the length of the bracelet, ran the cone beads in for some decoration.

Photo is out of sequence, but since all of this work required the use of all my hansd and fingers, I didnt have any real opportunities to take additional photos.
I attached the cone beads by simply running the hair through it (wrapped it in wire so the upward direction of the bead on the hair wouldt create flyaway hairs), then applying some hot glue to hold the bead in place.

4. The second half of the bracelet was the hardest because I needed to add more horsehair (mane) for even thickness. As I was now running towards the end of the tail hair it was getting thinner. I decided the new hair would attach the best in the bead cone where the end clasp goes because the larger circumference of the bead would be exposed, not the smaller end. This meant that I had to braid upwards instead of downwards, and I was also going against the grain of the hair. But I managed to make it work and secured the end off with another rubber band.

5. At this stage, I had two braids and the cone beads affixed in the center. Now I needed to secure the cone beads that would place as my end caps, and tie in my end clasps. I wrapped wire around the end of the hair (taken the rubber band off now after wire was tied around) then ran the cone bead down the wire, then followed that with whichever end clasp. After the end clasp was beaded on, I ran the wire back into the cone bead, then quickly applied some hot glue and jammed the horsehair braid into the cone bead. I waited about fifteen seconds holding the hair and bead in place, and it dired quickly and securely.

This left a fair amount of wire exposed between the cone bead and the end clasp. Trying to be quick with the hot glue, I wasnt able to pull the wire tight to bring the clasp and bead tightly together. Using my tweezers, I was able to push the wire strings closely together, and feed it slightly into the cone bead. With a little bit left, I simply twisted the end clasp a few times with tightened it down closer to the cone bead.

6. Repeat step 5 for the second end.

7. With the beads and hair now secured and in place, I needed to address all the extra hair sticking out.

What, the extra hair wouldnt be ver complimenting? I didnt think so either.

I glued down a little bit to make sure that where I brought in more hair wouldt work its way back out of the braid. Then carefully cut all the flyaway ends. I then sprayed some hair spray over the whole thing and tried to pat down some of the remaining few flyaways.

Voila! Certainly not perfect by any means, and I really dont think I can get rid off all of the flyaway hair. But not bad for my first horsehair jewelry attempt I think.

Now, some tips...
  • I think I should have worked with the hair slightly wet, or at least with some sort of conditioner or shampoo washed in it. The product and damp hair would have most likely helped keep the flyaway ends inside the braid better, and probably would have made everything much more handleable.
  • End cap clasps would have made my life a lot easier, but the wire and hot glue gun helped make it work with what I had.
  • A thicker chunk of tail hair would have been easier to work with as well. I incorportated the mane hair because of its contrasting color, but also to add necessary thickness. I believe a lot of stray hairs would have been eliminated had I not needed to add more hair while braiding.
But I definitely had fun with this project after figuring out a course of action. Unfortunetely, I went to put it on this morning and I didnt measure very accurately - it just barely stays on my wrist, coming very close to coming off when my hand is down. Without taking it apart, I dont think theres any way to make it smaller. But it will look nice hanging off my purse or rear view mirror in any case, and is a neat way to have Milo with me anywhere I go.

1 comment:

Rising Rainbow said...

There's got to be a nack to getting those things all smooth. Don't know what is it because I've never tried braiding horse hair but I can't help but think things could get a little uncomfortable if there are ends sticking out.