Friday, 23 August 2013

Making Hair Rats

In order to properly wear my ridiculous hat, I require a new rat.
I had saved up enough hair to fill my hair receiver, plus a small bag, so I thought there would be enough.
First, I suppose I should warn the people who are squeamish about this sort of thing. There are lots of pictures of clumps of hair in this post.
Personally, I shall never understand why anyone would find hair to be "gross" the minute it detaches itself from the scalp, but some people do and I have warned them in bold letters.

Hair receiver, having received several weeks worth of hair.

All the clumps, before washing.
I washed the clumps with shampoo. It did not turn out well. Maybe the water wasn't cold enough or maybe I agitated them too much. Whatever the reason, they felted slightly.
All the hairs are tangled up and matted.
It was very difficult to pull the clumps apart and fluff them up enough to get suitable rat materials.
A fluffed up clump. Still a bit snarled and matted in some places.
I wanted a big C shaped rat to go around the back of my head, which will hopefully help create a hedgehog. I started wrapping the hair around and around, making sure to put the pieces containing the most purple bathrobe fuzz on first so they would end up in the middle.
The beginnings of a C shaped rat.
I kept on fluffing up the clumps and wrapping them around the rat.
Fluffed up clumps on the left, not fluffed yet clumps on the top, and the end of the in-progress rat on the right.
I tried to stretch the bits of fuzz into longer shapes so that they would be easier to wrap around.
After about half the hair was added the rat looked awful. It wasn't wrapped quite as tightly as it should have been and the hairs were not holding on very well. It was lacking structural integrity.
A disappointing rat in progress.
After adding all the washed hair, the rat was a nice size and shape, but still not holding together well. I tried poking it with a felting needle, but it didn't help.
Thankfully, it was several weeks ago that I washed the hair clumps and I had accumulated a bit more hair since then. I found these unwashed clumps extremely easy to pull apart.
Wispy bits of hair!
I fluffed all of these clumps out.
And I wrapped them all around the rat. It was a definite improvement, but I didn't have enough clumps.
Before making this rat I had made 5 others and it hadn't occurred to me to wash the hair for any of them.
All of my rats.
You can really see the difference in texture. The earlier rats are very smooth and they hold together wonderfully. The newest rat is horribly scruffy looking. I will add more layers of unwashed hair as I accumulate them.
It seems that slightly greasy hair makes much better rats. It's probably more historically accurate too.
The unwashed hair rat on the left, the washed hair rat on the right.
I'm not sure where I will store this new rat. The other 5 hang from a shelf in a brown string bag I made, but this rat won't fit in there. Perhaps I will keep it in a box.
5 rats in a string bag.


  1. Wow! I am very impressed with your rats. I tried doing a similar thing, but my roommates objected to the baggie of old hair in the bathroom. :/

    1. How sad. People can be so unreasonable about some things.
      Would some other type of vessel be less objectionable?

    2. Maybe Adi needs to find a potter to make her a nice hair receiver. :-)

      Much more elegant than a baggie.

      Actually, if I had known that you were going to have so much hair saved and such a volume of rats I'd have made you a very large lidded vessel (large like the one at the entrance to the kitchen) with a wide mouth to hold your finished rats. But I can't do it until I get the wheel and kiln set up here, which is going to take a few months, given that I'm going to be far too busy this fall.

    3. Thank you for the offer, but the hair receiver is just for collecting hair. A pottery vessel would be a ridiculously cumbersome thing to store one's rats in. A box will be just fine. Could it be that you are looking for excuses to make more large pottery vessels?

      Actually, the hair receiver is good for collecting large amounts of hair even if all the hair doesn't fit in it. When my receiver is full I transfer the hair to a bag which is stored out of sight. The receivers job is to be convenient and aesthetically pleasing.

  2. Maybe it is the disorganization of the hair once it comes off of the hard that freaks people out.
    You could spin the excess hair and make a hat for the spinning retreat! In the mean time you should apply for the scholarship today!

    1. What excess hair? It all goes into the rat. I am quite confused by your first sentence, did you make a typo?

      I do no require a new hat for the spinning retreat. Both my 1780s hat and my multicoloured tricorne are sufficiently mad.
      I do need to apply though, thanks for the reminder.

    2. What is "the hard"? I am similarly confused by the comment.

      I think the suggestion to spin the hair is a separate idea, and it has nothing to do with whether or not you NEED a hat or not, rather it's just a suggestion of something you could do.

      And I simply can't ignore that she wrote "mean time" as two words. It's "meantime".

      And you do "not" require a new hat, not "no require".

      Both of you need to proofread before you hit "Publish".

      These are the problems you face when living with someone who has edited thousands of pages of documentation.

    3. I do proofread! I'm not sure how I overlooked the missing "t".

      I already have a skein of hair yarn and I don't know what to do with it. I am actually considering picking it apart and adding it to my rat. I think that knitting a hat out of hair is a rather dumb idea. It would be quite itchy.

      There will never be excess hair. It will always be made into rats.

  3. Oh my goodness! I love this post! :) I am working on saving enough up for a rat, but it's taking a while. I think saving hair for rats is one of those neat, old things no one really does any more - so kudos to you!