Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Beginning – What You Need To Get Started

I first started practising by just doing random knots on a small piece of tulle. The basic materials you need to get started at this stage are:

A styrofoam head - You can get one of these for around $4 in the US or upwards of £7 in the UK. Good places to get them: on ebay, Amazon or from beauty supplies stores and wig shops.

A ventilating needle – There are two types of needle: German and Korean. I have the German needle in sizes 2 and 1. I actually recently broke the #2 needle by dropping it on the floor (which crushed the hook part, rendering it unusable). However, the reason I started with the German style needle is because it was recommended to me. I am hoping to buy some Korean needles to try sometime. I think that which type you choose comes down to personal preference. The difference seems to be mainly in the shape of the “hook” part – on the German needle it is like a number 7; on a Korean needle it is like a J. The number relates to the amount of hair that the hook picks up.

A ventilating needle holder - You can get these with handles made from brass, wood or plastic. The cheapest is plastic. I like my plastic one, although I wouldn't mind trying the wooden one. I am not a fan of brass as I do not like the smell of the metal on my hands. I also think that a brass one would be rather heavy compared to the plastic or wood. 

Blue paper or Scotch-Blue Painters Tape – Either will do, but the paper is cheaper in the UK. For some reason the tape is expensive over here. You need one of these options to put on top of your styrofoam head so that you can see your lace, tulle, mesh or mono without straining your eyes. I prefer lighter coloured blue as it creates more of a contrast.

Light – A good lamp for working in low-light conditions is a necessity. In the daytime in the spring and summer, if you have a bright, sunny room then you can work without supplemental light. However, if you want to work in the evening or during the autumn and winter then you will need a bright light. There are so many different kinds and I shall be doing another separate blog post about them later, however, the cheapest option you can usually find is a desk type lamp which allows you to angle to 'neck' of it to illuminate the part you are working on.

Hair – You can use 'old' hair or buy some cheap wefted human hair from an online store or beauty supplier. I use 'old' hair that I cut from the wefts of a processed human hair wig that I no longer want. If you can do this, it is a good way to save some money. There is definitely no need to buy bulk or expensive hair at this stage as you are just practising and won't be wearing what you are making.

Scissors & Pins – Most people have these items already, but if you don't then you will need a small pair of embroidery scissors and some pins such as ball head pins or t-pins. If you have a pair of nail scissors, you can use them instead of buying embroidery ones. You will also need a larger pair, such as fabric scissors, for cutting your tulle or net. However, again if you have regular scissors that you use to cut things like wrapping paper, they will suffice at this stage.

Tulle or Net – I bought some white tulle from a local sewing shop; it does not cost much at all. I was also given some by a friend in a different colour. The tulle/net comes in different patterns. I have both diamond and honeycomb shaped tulle; either will do, but honeycomb shapes are more consistent with the Swiss, French and German lace that you will be using later if you decide to make a proper wig or hair piece. Please note, you can only use this type of net for practising on as it is quite fragile and will easily rip and tear if you are rough with it. For example, I have stuck T-pins into it and they have become stuck and ripped. If you are just starting out and already have some small offcuts from full lace wigs or lace front wigs, you can also use those to practice a few knots on.

If you search for wig making supplies on Google, you will find the wig making supplies companies for your area. In the UK there is one main one and there are a couple in Europe. In the US there are couple that have a big online presence, as well as lots of theatre and stage make-up supplies companies that sell small selections of wig making products.

Optional – You can buy a plastic clamp to secure the wig head to a table or other surface. I have one, but I don't use it for wig making; I prefer to use the styrofoam head on my lap, as I usually sit on a comfy seat.

It is a good idea to get your eyes tested before you engage in this type of close up work. Some people find that using a magnifier or magnifying lamp is helpful as it not only helps you to see better, but also can ease/prevent eye strain.

There is more equipment that you will need to buy later if you wish to make an actual wig. I will list other items in another post.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Introducing: "Teach Myself Wig Making" & "The Wig Making Diva"

So I guess a first post should typically introduce the writer/blogger and set the tone for the blog...

Right? Okay, I'll give it a go! Perhaps rather disturbingly, I shall now interview myself with the questions I think someone might want to know the answer to...

What's this blog about then?

This blog is going to be about wig and hair piece making.


I began a journey a while back – can't even remember when, but some time last year – to teach myself how to make wigs and hair pieces. Primarily I am attempting to learn to do this because I have alopecia, which means that (in my personal case) I have lost some of the hair on my head. As a woman with long-term alopecia, having 'something' that replicates hair is pretty important, even if, as in my case, you don't choose to wear it all the time.

So why don't you just buy a wig or hair piece?

Well, in the past I have done so, many times. However, to be honest, there are a number of factors involved in such a purchase that have to be right in order for the wig or hair piece to be satisfactory for the wearer. In my case, I need something that is the right density and, for some reason, this is hard to get right. Also, I would prefer human hair, but in the colour I want this tends to be quite (read: very!) expensive unless it is heavily processed and the type of wig or hair piece I would want in human hair, is out of my budget. I also have a head that is difficult to fit because it is in-between sizes, meaning that generally stock wigs are too small for me, which necessitates buying a custom made piece. Lastly, for comfort reasons I love the feel of a hand-tied wig and they are not easy to find in a size that fits me unless I purchase custom, which again is too expensive. The only way I could get what I want is to buy a lace wig, however, the hair quality on lace wigs is generally poorer than I would like and I don't want a lace wig as I don't want to bond the perimeter in any way. I actually have a full lace wig, but for varying reasons I don't wear it on a frequent basis. 

Due to all the above factors, I decided that if I can't get what I want, then why not try making it? I love working with my hands, am quite creative and inventive (even if I do say so myself), so I feel and felt that it is worth a shot. I also feel that, if anyone knows what I need in terms of density and colour, it's me. So again, I feel that I have my own best interests at heart and I will put a lot of love into making something for myself.

Anything special or different about your approach to learning wig making?

Well I am trying to do my “learning” on a budget. I have been lucky in that some people have given me bits and bobs that they don't want or need that I could use. I have bought the bare necessities to learn ventilating with (which is the term for knotting the hair to the foundation material) as I figured that this is probably the most important part to 'get down' before I start doing anything else. The ventilation makes or breaks the wig and I reckon is of equal importance to the foundation (the wig cap that the hair is attached to). So if you want to do wig making on a budget, perhaps you can pick up some tips from me!

All of my learning thus far is self-taught, again for budget reasons and also for practical purposes because there are no wig making classes or courses nearby. Plus it seems that wig making courses are very expensive over here in the UK. I am not discounting the idea of attending more formal learning at some point, as there are some elements I would love to get professional guidance in, but for now I am happy to continue with what I have been doing.

What is your 'plan of action' for the future?

I started off practising the knots I will be using – single and double knots. I have since learnt how to do a split knot also; although opinion is divided over whether this is a “real” wig making knot. So to begin with, I was just doing rows of random knots. My next stage/latest project has been to construct the first inch of the back, the crown and the vertex -  a bit like a “mini hair piece”. To most people this would look a bit like a small topper or closure. My reason for doing this is because, rightly or wrongly, I believe that these areas are the hardest to get right and to perfect. They require practice and in doing lots of this, I am actually learning how to achieve the various special effects needed to create a piece or a wig the way I would want it.

I intend to finish this piece of work shortly and I will be posting information and pictures to show what I am doing. Once I have finished this, I hope to have obtained or be in the process of obtaining my professional materials in order to move onto the next stage of my education, which is: how to make a foundation. Making the correct foundation is important because I have specific needs that I have to address when I make it. I am sure it will be a bit of trial and error. Once I have nailed that, I can move on to actually making the wig.

What's been the hardest aspect of your wig making education process so far?

Two things: the research element and double knots!

Research element – I have spent literally 100s if not 1000s of hours researching wigs and wig making. It's almost embarrassing to admit how many hours I have spent looking for information, watching videos, reading books and so on. I guess having a slightly obsessive personality helps! It's a lot of work and commitment required and more so because I am doing this alone. The upside of this is that it is very satisfying to find the correct information and everything you end up doing really has meaning or a little story behind it.

Double knots – I am sure that most people don't find them hard, but because I was unwittingly using the wrong (in my opinion) needle, I made the task a lot harder on myself than it should actually be. I am not a fan of double knots even now I know how to do them as I find they are quite bulky. 

Anything else you care to say right now?

If you are interested in learning more about me and like You Tube, you can find videos on my channel: