06 November 2010

Woven Hair Jewelry...A Victorian Boondoggle?

Weaving hair.
I'm not talking about the popular practice of adding 5 inches to your already existing tresses. I'm talking about the art of braiding long strands of hair that have been removed from your head into intricate designs and worn as jewelry.
If you are unfamiliar with Victorian woven hair jewelry you may find the concept kind of creepy.

Strands of hair woven into a braided pattern not unlike those plastic coated strands that we braided into lanyards at summer camp. You can find these and many other interesting craft kits for kids here.

Did you know that these are actually called boondoggles?...an often heard word from my husband to describe a scheme that wastes time and money...used in reference to many of my crazy (to him) ideas!...I digress...

I recently acquired a small collection of these beautifully woven works of art and was curious to find out that they were not only woven to commemorate the passing of a loved one (the creepy factor) but were also kept or given as a token of affection.

Understandable to me who has lovingly taped the tiny locket of hair from my son's first haircut into his baby book.Is saving a hair a weird thing or a loving gesture?

How about saving hair for a practical purpose?

A hair receiver was a very common item up until the early 50's. Adorning a ladies dressing table, it was used to collect the hair from from ones brush.Many fine examples are available on ebay. The lovely one above can be found here.

The hair was deposited through the hole in the top and saved to be used in making a something called a ratt (now THAT is creepy and there will be no pictures)

A ratt was made by stuffing the collected hair into a hairnet until it was the size of a potato to be used to create a hairstyle like this (this may look a little TOO rat like!)
Collecting locks of hair was a popular Victorian pastime not unlike scrapbooking today. A ribbon was tied around a strand of hair, the hair was then snipped and placed in an album much like this:
Jewelry made with hair is dated as far back as the 1600's. The hair was woven using a special table with a hole in the center and weighed by bobbins. It was woven much in the same way as bobbin lace.
It was sometimes placed in a locket like thisor fashioned into earrings. These were worked around a mold.With the addition of gold fittings, woven hair was made into braceletsand ringsThese stunning examples are available for purchase from the informative website of Jane Haley Clarke owner of Morning Glory Antiques. Thank you Jane!

There is more to hair weaving than getting extensions!

To see the watch fobs that inspired this post visit Whimrose Projects Ebay Store


Sadge said...

I was always fascinated, and a little creeped-out, by a hair wreath in Leadville's Healy House, a Colorado mining town's Victorian-era museum. Set into a picture frame, all different colors of hair had been formed into flowers, ribbons, and leaves to form a picture.

Carol said...

Fascinating history. For whatever reason the earrings gave me the "ick" factor :)