Bedside chest made and upholstered in rich chocolate horsehair, bronze studs, by Calluna.
Horsehair has two main uses.
1. For Traditional Upholstery
Loose, and used as the staple material for all traditionally upholstered furniture: chair seats, arms and backs, sofas, mattresses, stools and bed heads. It arrives at the workshop bagged up, the upholsterer places it over the base canvas or the spring canvas in handfuls to obtain the right depth and shape before the whole is carefully stitched in place. As horsehair is prickly, it is covered with a layer of cotton, wool or silk wadding and then a medium-heavy weight canvas tarpaulin is stretched over and secured to the frame, to keep the whole in place.
A good upholsterer makes this look very easy, but as most of us who have attempted this soon find out, it takes many years of experience to handle horsehair with confidence, to get the right balance for an even seat, and to understand just how much hair each style of seat needs to retain the integrity of the original. Actually, making any traditionally worked seat from scratch takes a lifetime’s experience, not just a few evening classes….
Horsehair upholstery will take the weight of people sitting in and against it for many, many years. Eventually, when it starts to dip in the middle, the webbing that holds it up will need to be replaced, and the seat base will need to be fully re-done. On the horsehair front though, it’s a simple matter to lift and aerate the hair to bring the spring and volume back, and then perhaps to add a little more. Old and very old horsehair, even that which is damp, musty and infested from long attic or shed storage, can be taken out and completely re-vamped: cleaned, even fumigated, re-laid and re-stitched.
2. As Fabric
Horsehair is also used as an upholstery covering material. As it’s woven to accommodate the length of the tail, each width of material of approx. 70cm () wide. It is now available in almost any colour and pattern combination you could want, from subtle/natural to highly coloured and vibrant hues. It’s perfect for dining chair seats as it cleans easily, lasts for ever and is visually pleasing but undemanding. Weaving horsehair is a niche business, so one of the bonuses is that should you wish to have the family crest on your dining chair seats, or any favourite motif or colour, or combination, it is always possible to commission your own meterage.
Horsehair is suitable for many upholstery purposes : side chair seats and backs, ottomans, screens, consoles, stools, chests and boxes…