Crafting With Human Hair


Victorian Hair Wreath

During the 19th century it was fashionable to incorporate human hair into brooches, watch chains, wreaths, and other objects that could be worn or displayed. Victorian Gothic explores the lost art of sentimental hairwork:

Mrs. Hamlin of Omaha, Nebraska left a rather curious heirloom to her descendants—an intricately woven bouquet composed entirely of human hair. Buried deep inside, each of its flowers is numbered with a tiny label corresponding one of fifteen names written on a separate index card; those of herself and her loved ones. More than a century ago, each of these people offered up their locks of brown or gray—literally, pieces of themselves—to provide the material for what would become a lasting symbol family unity.

The weaver need not have been the eccentric that one might suppose. On the contrary, she was likely to have been a conventional middle class lady going about her fancywork. She may have included a lock of her own in the wreath, but quite possibly she did not, preferring instead to be present as the sum of its parts; the invisible weaver of family ties. As a good 19th century woman, the domestic harmony she fostered was an expression of herself; her self-portrait in sacrifice.

As Helen Sheumaker describes in Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hairwork in America, hairwork in its myriad forms had not only established itself as longstanding tradition by the later half of the 19th century, but had become an active fashion. Husbands went to work wearing watch fobs fashioned of their wives hair. Locks from the dearly departed were mounted into rings and brooches. Ladies filled their autograph books with snippets from their friends. At a time of rising commercialism, sentimental hairwork became a way both to signal one’s sincerity and, paradoxically, to stay in style.

[Full Article and More Pictures at Victorian Gothic]

6 Comments on "Crafting With Human Hair"

  1. Redacted | Feb 5, 2012 at 2:04 am |

    Crazy cat ladies already turn their Cats fur into thread, why not go a few steps further. As long as the donors of said hair consent to it being used in such fashion.

  2. Quite nice, but they didn’t craft anything to do with Ron Paul, so they are clearly liberty-hating Commies.

  3. Anarchy Pony | Feb 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

    I feel an odd combination of fascination and disgust.

  4. GoodDoktorBad | Feb 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

    I’m gonna have my grandma do this with pubic hair….

  5. Calypso_1 | Feb 6, 2012 at 1:22 am |

    I had a great aunt who had one of these things – It had been made from over 100 years of visitors to her  family’s home and it had the most sickening, creepy vibe to it.  Years later, after having the opportunity to study with some indigenous shamans I felt there might be a definite need to having ritual understanding regarding the creation of talismans and power objects that are derived from living beings.

  6. Anomaly_of_Anomie | Feb 6, 2012 at 1:40 am |

    Looks like something my cat hurled up. 

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