If weaving already involves great skill, imagine doing it in a format as delicate as horsehair. In Chile there are women who dedicate themselves to this craft, braiding fiber by fiber to make colorful wonders. Did you know it?
This artisanal technique is traditional from the central valleys of Chile and dates back more than 200 years, with its main capital being the town of Rari, belonging to the commune of Colbún, Maule region.
María Inés Baeza is an experienced artisan from Panimávida, who told us the secrets of what the work process is like in this noble and delicate material.
“What we use are our hands, a scissors and a needle, nothing more.”
The raw material is white horsehair (yes, like the one in the song) since this is used to dye it with varied and vibrant colors unlike black or brown hair that can only be used with its natural color.
The first step to create a horsehair work is to wash and disinfect the fibers, and then let them soak for a few hours in fabric softener so that they are easier to comb. When styling, the mane is selected, discarding fibers that are too short or tangled.
In order to dye horsehair, a process similar to dyeing other natural fibers is carried out; It is necessary to make a brine and when the water is hot, apply a few drops of lemon to give shine to the hair. This process is very delicate, there is always the risk of the material being cut, so it is essential to wet the horsehair with cold water before adding it to hot water. Then the horsehair is added to the brine, letting it boil for 5 minutes.
“It can't be more than 5 minutes because it can also be cut, you have to be very careful when dyeing and be with a watch in hand,” María Inés tells us.
After that time, the aniline is integrated, the necessary amount of which is handled by each artisan with great skill. Once the fibers acquire the desired color, the material can be removed from the water, allowed to cool, rinsed and dried in the open air.
Now you may wonder how they build such beautiful three-dimensional objects?
To do this, you first need to build the frame of the figure with a plant fiber called “ixtle” or “tampico”, which is imported from Mexico. An important detail is that the warping is done with an odd number of tampico filaments to intersperse and affirm each run.
The next step is the weaving. Interweaving the horsehair through the frame shapes the figure, and then sewing, which consists of making a final seam to secure the horsehair strands and prevent them from coming apart. In some cases, it is necessary to do a last step which consists of wrapping a set of tampico with horsehair fiber to make certain details.
As you can see, the construction of each piece requires a lot of time, dedication and creativity. María Inés has been weaving for more than 60 years and she loves it so much that she would love to have more time to continue doing what she loves.
The figures that can be found are mainly of an ornamental nature and feminine accessories, such as: earrings, necklaces, rosaries, bouquets of colorful flowers, book dividers, pins and much more.
At Cordillerana we have a beautiful and extensive collection of products woven with horsehair, including the works of María Inés