A horsehair braid is a stiff but flexible fabric tape (made of synthetic fibers – nothing to do with a horse), used to interface the hem and make it look voluminous instead of a damp suib. Yes, the horsehair braid can make the hem of your dress or skirt all pouffy and full. Just like the gowns and full skirts in the movies.
You can buy horsehair braid -in different dimensions – starting from 3/4 inches, I guess to 2 inches. Small width is easier to work than a wider one. For that really bouffant look you can go for a wider horsehair braid.
You can make your own horsehair braid by cutting up stiff crinoline into thin strips in the width and length you want. But it would not be as flexible like the real horsehair braid.
How to sew the horsehair braid
Cut it out to match the bottom edge of your garment. Trim the hem allowance of your garment to 1/4 inch.
Align the long edge of the braid to the cut edge of your garment. Keep the tape right on the top of the fabric – on the right side (as you would a facing).
Start joining the braid from the back of the dress/skirt with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You will be sewing the braid in place as you would a facing.
Now turn the braid to the back.
Turn the stitching allowance also to the back instead of turning the braid along the stitching line (as you would do with a facing) this will create a piping like look on the back of the hem – and most importantly reduce the bulk along the edge.
Sew along the bottom edge some 1/4 inch to the inside. You can hand sew the other side of the braid to the fabric with small whip stitches.
Do not stretch the horsehair – it does have some flexibility and it is easy for it to get out of shape as you sew it. If you want to prevent the short edges of the horsehair braid (where you join it together) from irritating your skin or it fraying inside your dress, you can turn under the edges to the inside once and stitch with a zig-zag or bind the short edges of the braid with bias binding tape that matches your main fabric.
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