A History of Hairwork, Part 11

March 24, 2010

Let’s travel across the pond to America with A History of Hairwork Part 11…

America’s hairworking industry is as old as the United States itself, beginning in folk art and evolving to one of the largest industries in the world. Many memorial pieces began as folk art, such as samplers, due to their relation to the family and their textile creation. Items could be produced in-house and need not be commissioned by a third party. American quilting of the early 19th century produced its own version of the form. American symbolism can differ from European, with the inclusion of the bald headed eagle and American flag. Samplers were also created throughout regional Europe, with different regions having their own variations on the typical symbolism. Swiss styles of the mid 19th Century are broader in size and depend on the art of the neoclassical period. English samplers carried the familiar motifs of the previous century through, but are quite formal in style.

Being an primary part of the education of young women, weaving and needlework are essential in the personal creation of mourning items, specifically samplers and their evolution. When looking for styles in construction of samplers, DeLorme describes these techniques; “the simple cross stitch, most commonly employed in a young girl’s first sampler, was later to include satin stitch, French knot, running and outline stitches, seed and bullion, couching and crewel”. Mourning samplers with water colour painting in the piece, as well as coloured silk, wool, or chenille thread on silk or satin background are also prolific, according to DeLorme. Hairwork memorials with woven hairwork (regularly in the shape of flowers) placed over a background (often silk) and framed are a popular use of hair as a material, as well as being chopped and glued in the form of a memorial image.

Keep Reading!
> Part 1
> Part 2
> Part 3
> Part 4
> Part 5
> Part 6
> Part 7
> Part 8
> Part 9
> Part 10
> Part 11
> Part 12
> Part 13

12 Responses to “A History of Hairwork, Part 11”


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Heggie, Hayden Peters. Hayden Peters said: A History of Hairwork, Part 11: http://wp.me/pPzeJ-28 […]

  2. Tom Says:

    The last thing I want is for you to think me a Philistine but I can honestly say that I’d not had much in the way of interest in hair based items but I found this article enlightening and I’m looking forward to what you post next.

    You’ve blatently covered this in a previous post or on the seminal AoM.com but when would you say hairwork went out of fashion and was it a sudden stop or gradual shift in fashions and attitudes?


    • That’s a very good question, my friend. I’d say the decline gradually had its inception around the 1880s, as from within a 20 year period of this, hairwork had fallen out of mainstream fashion and was overtaken by new forms of art in jewellery and society.

      Remember, this was an industry that had survived over two generations in the mainstream, that’s a long time for any style to stay popular!

      • Tom Says:

        I’m starting to see why you find it so fascinating but a little odd that hairwork’s decline coincides with your favourite historical decade.

        Or what I think is your favourite decade.


      • I love the 1880s with a gooey passion; remember that something reaches its highest peak just before it starts to decline!

        Besides, there’s a lot more to the 1880s than mourning, I adore the fashion, the cultural changes of the time and the technological advances.

  3. Tom Says:

    I knew it! I’m doing a smug face, you can’t see it, but you should definitely know its happening.

    I don’t think I have a favoured historical period, never really given it much thought. I probably will now.


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