Sunday, March 31, 2013
Horsehair Upholstery Fabric
Horsehair has been used as a very durable upholstery fabric since it was first woven in mid-18th century Prussia, as a way to avoid having to import fabrics from England, France and Italy.
Horsehair upholstery fabric was woven in a flat weave and solids, with the inherent variations in the hair's color and thickness adding interest to the fabric.
Horsehair was popular on a range of furniture styles for more than two centuries. Neoclassical, Empire, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Biedermeier, Victorian, Renaissance Revival, Gothic, Antebellum and Arts & Crafts styles were adorned with beautifully woven and practical, easy-care horsehair fabrics.
Today, horsehair is expensive (wholesale prices range from about $400 per yard to more than $1,000 per yard for more intricate designs) and rare, but great buys can still be found. In fact, we currently have a bolt of beautiful horsehair fabric in our website store at less than half of wholesale pricing. (If you are a follower of this blog or our facebook page, contact us,
and we'll give you an additional $10% off your order.) If you are restoring a period chair, settee, or similar piece of historic furniture, you will want to consider investing in timeless long-lasting horsehair fabric. (Horsehair fabric was also used to stiffen crinolines.)
Before I go any further, I want to make sure that you know that horses are not harmed in any way in the manufacture of horsehair fabric. Entire tails are not used. Hair comes from the trimmed tails of show horses and mostly local horse farms.
Today, horsehair fabric is woven with a cotton, silk, and/or polyester base or warp (vertical fibers), and using hair from a horse's tail as the weft (horizontal fibers). This limits the width of horsehair fabrics since they cannot be wider than the length of the hair. Horsehair fabric is usually between 24 and 30 inches wide. Because of this some pieces of furniture may be too large to use horsehair, but it can be seamed or joined with piping or decorative trim.
Horsehair fabric is woven in solids, stripes, and patterns both geometric and intricate, and sometimes embroidered with motifs such as Napoleonic Bees, Laurel Wreaths, or Fleur-de-lys. Today, horsehair is also available in a wider range of colors, although many of those must be custom ordered through an interior decorator or designer.
It is important to have horsehair upholstery done by a skillful professional to avoid stretching. You should also keep horsehair upholstery away from direct sunlight as it may fade, especially if used in front of an uncovered glass window, which will magnify the effects of the sun's rays.
Horsehair should not be subject to high heat and any spills should be wiped dry immediately. Fabric can be professionally dry cleaned by someone experienced in handling horsehair fabrics but usually regular dusting and vacuuming will be all that is needed.
Remember, natural variations in color and thickness are inherent in horsehair fabrics, as is their beautiful lustre.