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Dread Brilliant 2

Posted by starlaiste on 2005.10.09 at 19:39
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Tags: , ,
Originally posted in my journal round about the 29th of July, 2003. Re-posted here by request.

I got all of this text from this site:
http://www.btinternet.com/~quinnster1/hair/hair.html, which has now moved here: http://www.angrycaninelovestick.org/


Make a big pile of individual dreads first, and attach them later
One of the more common ways to create a full head of synthetic dreads is to make a big pile of individual dreads (see instructions below), and then attach them to your own hair.

Ashbet's method - Click here to read how Ashbet advises attaching them to your hair (Ashbet says:
We're making individual dreads using the boiling method, and the large number of household items we've co-opted to the task will probably give some of you a laugh . . .
Tonight was occupied with much hilarity surrounding our attempts to pinch-braid dreads into Ismene's hair . . . the *attachment* of the braids is going just fine, I have no problem with that -- but the making of said dreads is involving such interesting household implements as a pot-full of boiling water, two forks, a chip-bag clip, and a screwdriver . . .

Anyway, I thought I'd mention the method I'm using to attach the dreads, because it's so damn *easy* and *fast* . . .

First, we make the dreads by looping over a section of synthetic hair, twisting it tightly, and sealing it at the top, middle, and bottom with the flat plates of a crimper. Then, we twist it back up again using a chip-clip to hold the bottom and a fork through the loop (a fairly small loop is ideal) and dunk the twisted dread into boiling water. This seals the twist pretty well, and we then go over the top and bottom again with the crimper if necessary.

Alex wants small, tight, silky-type whippy dreads . . . obviously, for bigger and fluffier ones, backcombing would be used.

Then, I separate out a section of her own hair, and divide it into two -- one section twice the size of the other. I use a latchhook tool to poke through the loop on the dread, grab the big section of hair, and pull it through the dread loop.

I then separate the big section of hair into two, and do a normal three-way braid the length of her hair, and end the braid with a rubber band.

The hair we're using is mostly the color of her natural hair, which means that the dreads and braids don't dramatically stand out from each other. We're adding burgundy and red/black swirled dreads as well.

This method means that the dreads are *nice* and tight to her head, and when she's ready to take them out, all she has to do is unbraid her own hair and the dread loop will slip right down the unbraided section.

Our original intent was to do string-method, but I'd discovered this method on my own head and it had been so much faster and easier (and resulted in less slippage), so we're trying it on her with great success so far.) - she has devised a good method where your own hair is braided, and the dreads are 'locked in' at the top of each braid. You can also just braid each dread into your hair just for the first inch or so of your real hair, and fix with a rubber band or thread - if the dreads are bulky enough, they should cover up the loose hair beneath. You will need to make single dreads with a loop at the top for this method.

Kohl Eyes (see here for explanation on her site) has also devised a way of attaching pre-made dreads. You section your own hair into very small ponytails with small elastics (though her natural hair is dreaded, so this isn't necessary for her). The top loop of a pre-made dread is then pulled through the base of each small ponytail, under the elastic (or in her case, the base of her real dread). The real hair is then fed through the loop at the top of the dread, and this holds it in place quite nicely. If you think your own hair will show too much by leaving it loose next to the dreads, you could try twisting it into a dread shape using some hair pomade. You will need to make single dreads with a loop at the top for this method.

Double-ended dreads method: (I made these dreads using about 4 packets of silky straight hair - 3 bright red and one fluorescent pink (mixed in with the red). The hair was just backcombed, twisted and zapped with a hairdryer, and it took me about 5 hours to make 50 pairs of what I can best describe as double-ended dreads. Instead of looping the hair round something and dreading it to create one dread with a top loop, I took one long section of hair and dreaded each end of it, leaving a 3-4" section in the centre of each piece which was undreaded, like this.

I didn't want the dreads to be the same length all over, so I cut each pack of silky hair in half where it folds over, and made most of the dreads with that half-length hair.
I then made a few more (about 12) that were a bit longer by cutting about 6" off the end of a full pack of silky hair and using what was left.

I finished off the end of each dread with my heat clamp which made them look quite neat and not quite as 'chopped off' as they can look if you trim off the loose ends with scissors. I imagine a lighter or braid sealer would do the job just as well.

Next, I got a friend to braid them into my hair for me, which took about 3 hours. My own hair is about collarbone-length and dyed red, so it doesn't clash too badly with the dreads.
She started at the back of my head and sectioned off my hair in horizontal rows, and put about 4-6 pairs of dreads in each row, so the sections of hair are quite large and therefore don't get too stressed by the dreads hanging from them.

She braided just one side of each dread pair into my own hair, using two pieces of real hair and one side of dread as the three stalks of each braid. The un-dreaded bit of hair in the middle of each dread pair went into the braid at the top, and she just kept braiding until she ran out of real hair, and fixed with a clear elastic band. [the undreaded section is what is in the braid. so the dreaded sections of the synth hair will have one part hanging down from the top of the braid and one part hanging from the bottom - braid in the middle - very attractive]
I took a picture of the back of my head, so you can see the first row, and how each attached pair has a braid at the top and a dread hanging loose next to it.

She put the longer dreads that I had made in at the back of my head, and used the shorter dreads towards the top, so the whole thing is quite graduated and has quite a lot of volume.

I'm a big fan of this. It's huge, it's lightweight, it was quick and easy to do and very cheap. I'm writing this a week later just after washing them for the first time, and they're still poofy, holding up well and very comfortable. Best of all, my own hair hardly shows because the dreads that aren't part of a braid hide the ones that are part of a braid.

The biggest drawback I can see with these type of dreads is that if your own hair colour is very different to the colour of the dreads you're putting in, then the braided parts will show up. Black hair and black dreads hide the braids very well, but bright and light colours don't. Consider using a 'base colour' for your dreads which matches your own hair to minimise this. Longer hair also tends to show up the braided bits more than shorter hair does.). I had a go myself at making a big pile of double-ended dreads and then braided one side of the dreads into my own hair, leaving the other dread hanging loose alongside. My own hair hardly shows at all, the dreads are big and pouffy and very comfortable. This is going to be my hairstyle for the forseeable future, I think :) You will need to make 'double-ended' dreads for this method, with no loop at the top.

Making single dreads from synthetic hair

I would suggest that everyone has a go at making their own dreads. It's so easy, you won't believe it! You can either make individual dreads, to tie or braid into your own hair and create a full head of dreadlocks, or you can add them to hairpieces, wigs or ponyfalls. You could thread a series of them onto a length of lace or ribbon to use as a separate hairpiece.
Making a big pile of individual dreads to add to your own hair is quite a cheap and easy way to have synthetic dreads. No need to sit and wait patiently while two people backcomb and dread the hair above; you can just make the dreads over the space of a few days when you have time, then braid them all in in one sitting. There's also a good chance you'll be able to do this yourself, with no help needed from anyone else.

Thanks once again to Atropa for this method. She's the one that explained it to me - so hats off to her!

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

To make synthetic dreads, you will need:
A comb, a source of heat such as a hairdryer, steamer or boiling water, and synthetic hair.

It's a simple formula:

synthetic hair + backcombing + heat = dreads

What type of hair?
Whichever type of hair you use is up to you. Silky hair is easy to backcomb and to keep tidy while you work, but can be pricey. Yaky and jumbo braid are cheaper, and melt very easily (especially if the packet says Kanekalon or "hot water use" on it), but can be messy when you start backcombing... though their slightly crimpy texture can take a bit of the backcombing work out it for you. If you aren't sure what to use, and it's your first try, use the cheaper hair. If you're happy with the results, great! If you aren't too happy, try the silky hair instead, and you may find you have more success.

I have found from my own experience that you can make reasonable dreads from any type of hair, but the differences lie in the way they feel, and also on what method you use to seal them into shape.

If you're using a hairdryer, Jumbo braid dreads can be rough and snarly, and can stick together a bit. Hairdryered silky hair dreads feel smoother and softer, and they don't stick together so much. Hairdryered dreads also have a smoother appearance than steamed dreads do, because the hairdryer seems to do a better job of blasting stray bits of hair into the dread, which steam doesn't do.

If you're using steam to seal your dreads, all types of silky hair and also certain types of jumbo braid (such as 'twin braid' or 'super soft jumbo braid') make lovely, non-sticky dreads, but it can be a bit hit-and-miss because some types of jumbo braid don't seem to react to steam at all (i.e., 'super silky jumbo braid'). Most hair that I've tried that says 'Kanekalon' on it seals into shape OK. Steam heat also tends to make hair shrink more than hairdryer heat, so your finished dreads may be less fluffy, and more dense and firm than hairdryered dreads, which means using more hair to get thicker dreads (so ultimately, they may be heavier than silky hair dreads).

I've also tried the Toyokalon 'pony' hair (the shiny stuff with a large flick curl at the bottom) and had a lot of success with that - it melts better than anything else I've tried and doesn't go crunchy like jumbo braid does, even with a hairdryer. If you're really not sure what other types of hair will work well for making dreads, then try this stuff.

Why backcomb?
Backcombing is a key part of making dreads that stay dreaded. You can twist un-backcombed jumbo braid round and heat it, and it will keep its shape for a while, but not permanently - though you do get nice smooth 'stick' type dreads this way. Twisted-type dreads also tend to be quite heavy, and will weigh about twice as much as the fluffed-up backcombed variety. The fact that they're heavier, they don't stay twisted, and that they require more heating because they're so dense means that I prefer the backcombed type of dreads.

You need to make sure you backcomb evenly - if the matted bits are dotted throughout the dreads before you twist and heat it, you'll get lumpy dreads. If the whole lot of hair is equally matted, you'll get more uniform, slightly neater dreads.


MAKING A START

Backcombing.
To make single dreads with a loop at the top:
To begin with, Loop the top of the hair round a static object like a doorknob or the top of a chair. I tend to use a metal wire coathanger, and put my legs through the main triangle of the coathanger, so that I can attach the fake hair to the top hook.
To make 'double ended' dreads:
(Double-ended just mean that you take a folded piece of hair and dreadlock each side of it, giving you a 'pair' of dreads, joined at the top). Look at this really badly drawn diagram to see how to loop the hair round something, so that you can then dread each side of the loose synthetic hair in turn. If you hook it on a coathanger, as in the diagram, you can just slide the dreads off the hook when they're finished.

Don't use too much hair - this is fairly important, because if you do use too much, the dread won't stay in place and will unwind. Dreads are only fat and thick because they've been fluffed up to that size - your starting piece of hair should be narrower than a pencil. Also, consider how you're going to seal them into shape - steaming or boiling them will make some types of hair shrink quite a lot, so you could end up with skinny dreads where you may have wanted thicker ones. Play about and see how much hair you need to use to get dreads of the right size which keep their shape.

The key to making realistic dreads is backcombing - literally, combing the hair in the opposite direction to which it 'grows' (or would if it was coming off your head). You should use fine hair, and a fine comb, then attack the former with the latter! Any old comb will do, but metal flea combs (the sort you use on pets) are really good for this. You can get the hair very ratty by pulling the hair apart with your fingers after each 'round' of backcombing, i.e., once you've backcombed your chunk of hair, pull it all apart widthways, then backcomb again.. then pull apart again. Eventually (hopefully) it'll be one big long piece of very ratty hair, and it'll be hard to pull apart widthways because of its rattiness.

Twisting
After working some serious knots into the hair (think: big fluffball with a diameter of 3 inches), twist it round and around - this will alter its shape from tangled mass or hair into more of a dread shape. Start at the top of the dread, and as you twist the hair, smooth it down with your hands. This should take care of any big loops of hair that are hanging about - if you smooth as you twist, it all gets incorporated into the dread. Keep twisting and smoothing and you work down the dread towards the tip.
Twisting by hand can be a bit laborious and give you sore fingers, so if you've got one of those Conair quick braiding tools, you could put it to use on twisting your dreads.

Heating
Finally, fix the dread into place using heat:

Hairdryer and direct heat: crimpers or flattening plates work OK, as does continous blasting from a hot hairdryer along the length of the dread (you might have to keep twisting it while you apply heat, to get it to hold its shape better). As mentioned above, it needs to be a good hairdryer, at least 1500W, and preferably more powerful than that. I use mine with the vent attachment on it, which makes it easier to concentrate the heat along the dread. I hold the hairdryer right against the dread, not just near it, and do about 3 or 4 passes along its length, taking about 15 seconds to do each pass.

Steam heat:Some people have find that spraying the hair with water before heating can also help form better dreads, which makes sense, since steam is hotter than the air that comes out of a hairdryer. You could improvise and use a steam iron, or a kettle (but for Christ's sake be careful - steam burns are worse than hot water scalds) but clothes steamers, or steam cleaners, seem to do a better job than anything else, if you can lay your hands on one. This type of heating is good for the sort of hair that gets rather scratchy with a hairdryer.
I recently bought one of these - and it's very good for making dreads. It comes with some useful attachments which allow you to run a jet of steam along the length of the dreads, so you can seal them in two passes with the steamer. For anyone in the UK, I bought it from these people and got it in 2 days - thumbs up! As with the hairdryer, I have had the best results by holding the steam right against the dreads - they get slightly wet, but dry off in a few hours.

Hot water: Using hot water can be fiddly, but produces good results if you can be bothered. Darktigerlily suggests anchoring the top of the dread to a tap, then pouring boiling water over it, so the sink below can catch the hot water. Nyssa243 suggests forming the dread, then wrapping it round with plastic-coated wire to keep its shape before submerging in hot water for about 10 seconds. Mskittie13 suggests making the entire hairpiece, securing at the top and bottom to keep all the twisting in place, then lying the whole thing in a bath before covering in hot water.
The key seems to be to find a way of keeping the dread twisted while it's submerged without burning your fingers with hot water or the steam that rises from it. Hairclips, barbecue tongs, rubber bands, chipclips, pliers.. these are all handy implements if you plan to boil your dreads.
With all use of hot water, the dreads don't need to be in hot water for very long, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds at the most. Once they've come out of the water, you need to let them dry before you can use them. Boiled dreads tend to be quite soft, even if you use the sort of hair that goes velcro-ey with a hairdryer. Boiled dreads also shrink a lot more hairdryered dreads.
Emmelinemay reports that if you've made dreads with a hairdryer and they've gone crunchy/rough on the outside, you can soften them up again by boiling them. This would also get round the problem of getting a dread to keep its shape while it's being transferred to boiling water, too.

Finito!
All of this should give you a single dread with a small loop at the top (or a pair of dreads with a little undreaded section between them, if you're making double-ended dreads). If they've got straggly ends that you don't want, just snip them off - I use a heat clamp to singe them off mine, which looks neater than just using scissors.

You can then attach these using the methods listed above.

How many dreads can I make from one packet of hair?
This is a difficult question to answer, because it depends on the length of the dreads you make, how thick they are, whether they are single dreads or double-ended dreads, how much hair is in the packet (some packs are 2.5oz, some 3.5oz), whether they're steam-sealed of hairdryer-sealed... As a rule of thumb, though, 2.5oz pack of hair will make 7-8 medium (15" folded) length double-ended dreads, or 6-7 long double-ended dreads - or, about 15 medium single dreads, and 12 long single dreads. The chunkier 3.5oz packets that some brands sell will obviously make a few more than this. If you're amking short dreads, you can cut the hair in half at the top where it folds, and get about 15 pairs of double-ended dreads out of one packet, or, 30 or so single dreads.

Making dread hairpieces:
I had a bit of a play about myself, and took pics at each stage to illustrate each part of the method.
I wanted to make a short dread hairpiece that I could wrap round my own ponytail.
I bought a pack of blue and a pack of black silky hair (total cost, about £5/$8), then spent about an hour making a basic, short loose hairpiece by attaching lengths of the hair to a piece of lace. I cut the hair in half lenthways because I only wanted a short hairpiece, not a long one. You can use different hair like Yaky or Jumbo braid if you wish, I just find silky hair easier to backcomb properly. I use lace because it's quite rough and scratchy, and grips hair well when you tie it on.

Tie the lace between two static points (like the back of a chair, or tape each end to the edge of a table). This gives you a firm anchor, which is half the battle. Once the hair is attached to the lace, you can pull it as much as you like, and therefore backcomb better.

Loop the hair over the top of the lace. You can keep the length even on both sides for a shorter, thicker dread, or keep one side much longer for skinnier, longer dreads. Remember not to use too much hair - start with half the the thickness of a pencil, and see if that produces chunky enough dreads for you.

Keep a tiny section of the hair separate, and plait the rest of the hair for about an inch. It doesn't matter if this is messy; it all gets covered up anyway. If you don't want to do a wrap (i.e., the picture below), then at this stage you just plait all the hair (no little left-out bit) and squidge on some latex hair glue, or hot glue, which will hold the braid - though it might look a bit messy round the base of the hairpiece. It's up to you, really. You don't have to do the wrap bit, it just gives it some height. I suppose you don't really have to use glue if you don't want to, it's just easier to backcomb if the hair is anchored to something rather than just looped over it.

Wrap the small, left-loose part of the hair round and round the plaited bit so that you cover all the plait, then squish this wrapped part between the flat plates of a crimper of straightener. If you have a very hot hairdryer (or a heat gun) this might also be hot enough to work. This creates a little inch-long tight hair wrap, which helps the hairpiece stick up once it's on.

Remember, you don't have to do the wrap if you don't want to :)

Backcomb the hair with a comb (not a brush). Keep hold of the very end of the hair, and roughly comb the rest of the hair towards the wrap at the top. It doesn't matter how messy it gets - the messier, the better.

When you've done a few minutes backcombing, the whole length of the hair should be snarled and messy. Usually the hair gets thinner towards the end, because you'll have ratted the hair at the end into the middle of the section.

Twist the backcombed hair round and round in one direction. The hair will become more like a stick of twisted, dready hair, and stop looking like the demon child of cookie monster. At this point, blast with a hairdryer or steamer. You need to keep the heat moving, and hold is against the dread, not just near it. When done, the dread will probably untwist a bit, but will still hold its dread shape. If it's too thick and unravels, just pull it apart into two dreads, re-twist and blast with heat again.


Make sure the width of the dreaded sections along the lace is not wider than the circumference of your ponytail. I have very skinny hair, so my clump of dreads was only 3" wide along the lace When finished, scrape hair up into a ponytail (then turn your own hair into a bun if you don't want it to mix in with the dreads) and tie the lace round the ponytail so the dreaded bit covers your own bunch. Skewer with a few hairgrips through the base of your ponytail, just to stop it slipping off, tie some old tights-legs or a scarf round the base to hide all the seals and hairpins..

And I only used half of each packet of silky hair to make the hairpiece.
Bear in mind that these are dreads, so they're supposed to be uneven and fuzzy - if you think they look messy, you've probably done a good job!


Colours
Because dreads require a lot of twisting to make, you can get a nice spiralling candycane effect if you use two or even three different colours of hair in each dread. You might find that the colours all get mixed up when you backcomb, but even then, you still tend to get streaks of colour spiralling through your dreads.
To get very neat candycane dreads, use two pieces of hair of contrasting colours, and lightly backcomb each colour separately from the other. Then bring the two pieces together, and backcomb again a few times along the length, enough to fluff up the hair a bit more but also enough to matt the two colours together, side-by-side. Then twist carefully and firmly, keeping your thumb between the colours as you twist so that both colours stay on the outside of the dread and one doesn't overlap the other. This produces neat candycames which don't unravel.

If you want to add even more colour, just make a single dread, then backcomb a separate thin section of hair, and wrap this round and round the dread, working downwards - then zap with a hairdryer to fix into place. You might find a bit of spirit gum or latex hair glue can hold this wrapping piece in place before you seal it with heat.
You can also make two-toned dreads quite easily: brabajagal made this 'flame' dreaded hairpiece using three different colours of hair. This graduated effect was acheived by backcombing orange and yellow hair together first, then twisting and steaming it into place. Shorter lengths of red hair were then backcombed lightly and wrapped around the top half of the yellow/orange dreads - then all three colours were twisted together and steamed again.
This would be an excellent way to blend your natural hair colour in with a dread hairpiece - start with dreads which match your natural hair colour at the top, then have them blend into a contrasting colour at the bottom.

If you find it a bit tricky to mix the colours of your dreads up in one hairpiece, you could always make a few one-colour dread hairpieces, then wear them one on top of the other to get a mix of colours. Vainvixen made the hairpieces to the right; you can see how they look worn together by clicking on the picture.
This way you could make some dreads that match your natural hair colour as a base piece, then add different colours on top of those, depending on how you feel that day!

Taking care of your dreads
Regardless of the type of dreads you have put in, at some point, you'll need to wash them.
The instructions for washing are very much the same as for braids, so it's worth have a look at that page.
Basically, your dreads will become very heavy when wet, and the only part of your hair which really needs to be washed is the scalp. You should therefore try to keep the lengths of your dreads held up and out of the way when shampooing. Try tying them all together loosely on top on your head then tip your head upside down and use one hand to shampoo, and one to hold the dreads out of the way. Alternatively, cover the lengths with a plastic bag (but some water may still run down the lengths when you rinse).


Mix up a dilute shampoo mixture in an old bottle.
Wet your scalp with a showerhead or jugs of water.
Pour the shampoo mixture all over your scalp.
Work into a lather with your fingertips, then rinse your scalp. Rinse well, because residual soap suds may give you an itchy head.
Wrap the dreads in a towel to soak up excess water, then replace the towel with a clean one when it gets too damp.
You can use a hairdryer on a low setting if you wish.
You shouldn't need to shampoo your dreads more than once a week, and you get away with shampooing them far less frequently than that.
For day to day stinkiness, febreeze sprayed on the lengths does wonders for getting rid of cigarette smoke smells, food smells etc - but don't spray it on your skin.

Wool dreads:
I see people ask a lot 'how do you dread wool?'. The simple answer is.. you don't. You buy it that way.

One of the most-used types of 'dready' wool is called 'Point 5/.5' and is made by a Welsh company called Colinette - you can see a scan of it by clicking here.

If you want to do a full head of Colinette yarn without using hairpieces, then the method is very similar to doing wool braids (see below), except that instead of using several pieces of wool together and braiding all of it into your hair, you use just one long piece of Colinette, folded over at the top, and braid just one side of this into your hair. The other side of the Colinette is left hanging loose, so for each segment of hair, you have one Colinette-hair braid and one loose piece of colinette. Colinette is pretty bulky, so usually hides the braids fairly well. If you want to add more volume to your wool, then simply tie more pieces of Colinette in at the base of the braid. You don't have to braid all of your hair if you don't want to, just an inch or two at the base would do.
You'll need 4-5 skeins of Colinette .5 for a full headful.

Colinette make some extraordinary yarns and wools , both natural and synthetic. Have a look at their website and see if they list anywhere near you that stocks it. They dye the wool in specific colourschemes or 'colourways' rather than one flat colour, but it is possible to buy it in plain colours, you just have to ask. As it's pure wool, you can also, of course, dye it yourself at home to get a specific shade.

If you're in the UK you can order directly from them, but International buyers have to rely on local stockists. Colinette is sold online in the US for about $20 a skein, when it only costs £5 ($7) in the UK! People often sell Colinette wool in lots on ebay, though, so definitely worth a look on there.
If you're in the UK, you can order it from Bobbins (thanks for the link Leila!). US stockists include Uniquekolours (official stockist), Yarnforward, Hook n' needle, Awesome Ewe and Spin a Yarn. CA stockists are Linda's Craftique and Village Yarns. Or just do a search for 'Colinette yarn'.
Ashbet@ Psysheep is also making hairpiece sets using Colinette yarns at the moment - drop her an email with your colour ideas, and she'll give you a quote!

Other types of thick textured yarn that would make good 'dreads' are Rowan 'biggy print' and Gedifra 'gigante'. As ever, you'll be able to find these on ebay.

Roving

Another commonly-used type of wool which resembles dreads is called 'roving' - it's pretty much raw wool, unspun. You can buy it in two forms; one big lump of unspun wool which feels greasy and smells of sheep, or, a variety which has been cleaned and rolled into dread shapes. I suggest trying to get hold of the second type! You can order roving online from 21st century yarns in the UK in a huge variety of colours - they'll do custom dyes batches for you if they don't have the colour you want.
You can braid it into your own hair in the same way that you do loose wool colinette 'dreads' (above) or double-ended dreads and you'll need about 16 oz/1 lb/500g for a full headful.

If you can only get hold of the unshaped type of roving, (Cashmere cat in the US sells raw roving, and there's a load of it on ebay), you can make your own 'dreads' from it by wetting it and rolling it into dread shapes between your hands. If you roll it enough, it should keep its shape pretty well.

Other types of carded wool and wool batting would be suitable for turning into hand-rolled wool 'dreads' too.

Wool braids: Novim (http://novim.net/Yarn1.html) has an excellent step-by-step guide, with photos, on how to put in your own yarn braids.

For wool braids, you can use the same method that you'd use for doing synthetic hair braids - the difference is that instead of using synthetic hair, you'd be using 3-4 long, doubled-over lengths of wool. You can just tie wool extensions off at the bottom, no need for rubberbands, gluing or melting. Just plain, non-textured wool is good for both wraps and braids.

Hairpieces?
Hairpieces are a quick and easy way to add length to your own hair. They usually take a matter of moments to attach, and can be removed just as easily. Hairpieces will usually cost a lost less than fixed extensions, and they have the distinct advantage of being instantly changeable!

So how do I do that, then?
Essentially you make a bunch of fake hair, attach that to your own bunch of real hair.. hide the roots with a scarf or hairband, and off you go! You can use a number of different types of hair for hairpieces: Straight synthetic hair of the type used for fixed loose extensions, kinky 'jumbo braid' hair, Toyokalon 'pony' hair, Yaky hair, pre-braided hair, synthetic dreadlocks, curls, human tracks of hair.. The best thing to do is play around, and see what you like best. If you want to make a copy of loose extensions, then use silky hair, or Yaky hair. If you're going for huge hair, try jumbo braid.

"Ponyfalls" - quick method, takes about 5 minutes to make.
You will need:2-3 packets of synthetic hair and a cotton-covered elastic band or two
Most synthetic hair comes with a rubber band or two looped around the hair at the top to hold it together. You could just fix the rubber band onto your own hair straight from the packet, but you'll probably find it kinder on your hair to replace the rubber bands with a cotton-covered hair band. You might also want to pull the bottom of the hair around a bit, so that it is a bit more layered, like real hair, and not so neat and blunt.
You could also chop the ends around a bit with a cut-throat razor or a pair of scissors.

To attach to your own hair, scrape your hair up into a ponytail or a bun. Loop the elastic on the ponyfall round the base of the ponytail or bun to secure it, making sure that the synthetic hair falls over the bun or ponytail if you want to hide it. If it's being stubborn, use hair pins to pin the fake hair into place over your own hair.
If your own hair is very long, and too thick to put in a bun or buns, the easiest thing to do is to pull it up into a ponytail, attach the ponyfall to the ponytail, then twist your natural hair around on itself (or braid it). Then wrap the natural hair around the base of the bunches of fake and real hair, and pin into place. This makes it extra-secure and very unlikely to fly off your head, mid-boogie!.
Cover the whole base of the ponyfalls with a scarf (or the leg of a pair of tights, which works well - strong and stretchy). If you think your own hair is showing too much between your forehead and the ponyfalls, use something like a pair of goggles, a scarf or snood, or a section of feather boa to hide your own hair a bit more. Ostrich feather boas are particularly good for this, because they have an almost hairlike appearance.

Hairpieces - longer method, takes about an hour to make.
You will need: 2 or more packets of silky hair, a piece of strong lace about 1½" wide and about 2' long, a hot glue gun or some latex hair glue
If you're having trouble getting your hair to hang properly, you can try to attach/arrange it in small sections along a length of lace, so that instead of wrapping a rubber band round your own hair, you tie a 'fringe' of synthetic hair around your own ponytail or bun. This is easy to do, and well worth the extra effort for the improved results. The lace acts as a particularly firm 'tie' around your own hair, because lace is quite rough and textured - you can try other fabrics, but I find lace the best.
It's as easy as it sounds - take a small (¼" wide) section of hair, loop it over the top of a piece of lace , braid for about an inch, then squidge on some glue from a hot glue gun, or a bit of rubber hair glue to seal it. Repeat, until you have a section of hair arranged along the lace which is the same length as the circumference of your ponytail. You can alternate colours quite nicely in this way. To attach, make your hair into a bun (even a small stubby bun will do), then firmly tie the lace around the base of the bun, so that the section of lace with hair attached is wrapped round the bun. Skewer a few hairgrips through the hairpiece and the base of your bun to hold in place - then hide the base of the hairpiece with a leg from an old pair of tights, scarf, feather boa, etc. This also supports the hairpiece, so it doesn't place quite as much strain on your hair.

Wearing hairpieces
The most comfortable way to wear very long/heavy hairpieces is to arrange them that they don't so much hang off your head, as sit on top of it - and attaching it on top of your head also gives extra height to the hairpiece.
If you want to wear a pair of hairpieces, do two high ponytails or buns close to the top of your head. Attach your hairpieces to each ponytail/bun, then wrap the leg from a pair of tights around the base of both ponytails, so that you're almost tying them together. You can just wrap round both ponytails, or do a figure-of-8 with the tights. This really does help to take a lot of the strain off your own hair. You can also skewer hairsticks though the base of your hair/hairpiece which will help to take some of the weight off.

A word on mixing, and blending with your natural hair...
It's worth bearing in mind that if your natural hair is not dyed, then most bright colours will look -very- fake in anything but dark clublight. Sometimes it's worth matching the synthetic hair to your own shade, then mixing in streaks of the colour you want to add.. this -will- look much better than just strapping two bright blue bunches onto a brown head of hair. Also, the higher up you wear the hairpieces, the more the synthetic hair will fall over your own hair and cover it up.
If you really want to have lots of odd colours that would clash with your own hair, there are coloured hair sprays or pomades you can use - and you can always hide your own hair with an assortment of goggles, headwraps, scarfs and boas, so that the hairpiece pokes out at the top and is the only visible haircolour. Consider also braiding a few pieces of the coloured extension hair into your own hair, around your hairline or where your own hair will show - this will help to break up the contrast more, and blend the hairpiece in much better.

Human hair on wefts
My own favourite way of wearing hairpieces at the moment is using wefts of human hair on a track. This is just like a long fringe of hair.. so it's very easy to wrap the weft round and round a bunch of real hair, and pin into place. Most wefts are about 6'-7' long, so you might want to fold the weft over a few times and stitch into place, just so you only have to wrap it round a few times to get the same volume of hair.
Because it's human hair, it looks very real indeed. Weft hair comes in a whole range of natural colours with freaky-coloured ends, which makes it a good way of adding both colour and length whilst blending in with your own colour. You could also do what Stevy did in the pic above, which is to trim a section of human weft, and attach it to a hairband to make a fake fringe.

Taking care of the hair
There's not a vast amount you can do to prolong the life of cheap synthetic hairpieces. Jumbo braid type hair tends to snag very easily, and picking out the worst of the knots by hand, whilst combing silicon spray through the hair with a wide-tooth comb is about the best you can do. Textured hair like dreadlocks and curls tends to hold its shape for many wearings, so it's easy to keep looking nice. Monofibre hair will stay looking nice for a lot longer that cheaper jumbo braid hair.. I really can't stress that enough. If you want a good-looking, long-lasting hairpiece, spend the extra money on the nicer hair. Monofibre hair can also be blow-dried straight using a hot hairdryer and a bristle hairbrush, which restores it to its shiny 'brand new' state. My number one tip for keeping fake hair in good condition is not to let the cats anywhere near it!

Wrapped 'silky' dreads

This method involves braiding the client's hair, then wrapping each braid round and round with synthetic hair and sealing into place with heat and/or glue. Strictly speaking, at this stage they are known as 'sticks', but are also termed 'silky dreads'. For more realistic dreads, the surface of the wrapped 'stick' can be teased to give a more matted appearance, or, the piece of wrapping hair can be backcombed before it is wrapped round the underlying braid.
You can either braid all your own hair first, then use separate pieces of hair to wrap around the braids, or, you can use just one piece of looped-over extension hair to make the entire dread (see the explanation of this method in the section below).
If your own hair is quite short, you can simply have synthetic hair braided into your own hair until it's as long as you want the dreads to be.
This method, like the hairpolice method, involves no damage to your real hair, since it remains tucked away inside the dread. When you get fed up of the dreads, you just snip the end of the synthetic part off, unwrap the dread and unpick the braid underneath. The biggest drawback with this style is that it can be painfully heavy - wrapped braids = a lot of hair! These can also be the most expensive style of all. I was quoted £450+ ($700+) for bum-length dreads this way.
It doesn't just damage your bank balance either - when I had my blue dreads in, they pulled quite a lot of my own hair out of the sides of my head. It's only now, two years later, that my hair is returning to its former thickness (not that it was very thick to begin with). If you've got weedy hair like me, but you really, really, really want dreads, I would advise trying the Hairpolice style dreads, or double-ended dreads, which only take half as much hair to create as the wrapped style do.
Please note, the picture of Dollie is © Heathcliffe 1998, and is reproduced with his kind permission. Don't nick it. Or the clowns will eat you.
* - Go and visit Atropa's site if you haven't done so already. She has the most astonishingly wonderful range of extensions, and her site is constantly updated too!

This is how you do wrapped silky dreads yourself, using one continuous piece of hair:
You start with the extension hair looped over at about a third of the way along it's length, and braid the shorter length into your own hair, for the whole length of your natural hair. If you can get friends to help with it, box-braiding is the best way to do it, but a 3-way braid still works well. You leave the other 2/3 of the extension hair hanging loose at the top of the braid. You need to have this extra length, because you need approximately twice the length of a braid in wrapping hair to completely cover it.
You then backcomb all of the loose hair at the bottom of the braid, and, you loosely backcomb the part of extension hair that you left out.
Dab a bit of spirit gum on the top of the braid for the first inch- and try to just dab it on the synthentic hair, which makes it easier to remove the extensions when you take them out.
Then wrap the part you left out tightly round and round the braid, working downwards, until you run out of hair to wrap round. Provided your own hair isn't too long, you should be able to cover up all of the braid so that all you can see is synthetic hair. The more you backcomb the loose hair before you wrap, the 'snarlier' the dreads will be. If you want smooth hair wraps, don't backcomb at all!
Dab some more spirit gum at the bottom of the braid and finish wrapping over the spirit gum. Then backcomb the end of the loose hair, and the hair at the end of the braid together, into each other. If you backcomb enough, then the ends shouldn't come undone.
Then twist the whole thing round and round, right down to the very bottom, until it's one long twisty stick of hair, and blast it with a hot hairdryer. My poor little travel hairdryer is too wimpy to do this, but a 2000 watt hairdryer will do a nice job - the heat from the hairdryer doesn't quite melt the hair, but it does fix it into shape.
Trim any long or straggley ends off.
If your own hair is very long, I would advise using two pieces of extension hair to make each dread with; one piece to make the underlying braid (along with your own hair), and one piece to do all the wrapping with. You can use a crochet hook or a latch-hook hair tool (available from Dr Locks) to pull the loose hair for-wrapping-with through the braid at the top, before you start to wrap the hair. This is easier than trying to anchor the loose end of a section of hair down at the top of the dread.

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