Thursday, 20 October 2011

Finally... Pictures!

Since my last blog post, I have finally gotten around to taking some photos of the work in progress. Hopefully they will be helpful in illustrating what I have been, and am still, talking about and doing.

The update on making the wig foundation (wig cap) is as follows:

In the video I uploaded on YouTube, I was still working on getting the perimeter of lace and honeycomb tulle sewn down. I have now sewn the entire inside edge of the perimeter down, except for the extended nape.

This meant that I could, joy of joys(!), take the foundation off the block and... try it on! It also enabled me to remove the mould I had been using.

Trying it on - this was interesting! I was actually rather nervous about it - all this work so far seemed like a big time and energy investment, not to mention the financial aspect of purchasing all the supplies. Then there is that moment where you think: okay this could go either really wrong or really well. Funnily enough, my mind had not allowed for the middle option of: okay-ish. The result thus far (no hair on it, just the lace and tulle) is that it fits me okay. But - and this is a big 'but' for the perfectionist in me - is not quite as snug as I had hoped for at the front. I think for a first attempt it has been a good learning curve thus far and that it is a good outcome.

One thing I do know, is that undoubtedly I will have to use something at the ear tabs/sideburns area as it is too flappy. Those of you who have worn or tried on lace front wigs or glue-less lace wigs, will know exactly what I mean by that. This issue is compounded by the fact that the lace I have used is so fine and soft that it lacks any inherent structure. I shall have to look at how I can add more support and structure to that area. So far I have been thinking to add some wig springs (of the metal variety), but I am also looking into an alternative form of combs to the ones I have tried. I would not mind using combs if I could get them to grip my hair there. That is a big 'if', as up till now I have had no luck in that department due to a combination of a loss of density of my bio hair there and my hair being now very fine and slippery in texture. Ultimately, if I have to, then I will tape it down at that point, but of course I would rather not do this.

My next task is to sew the overlapping joins between the tulle and lace - I am already working on this. It means cutting the tulle down so that it fits just underneath the lace at the seam and then when I have done that, pulling the lace over the top and sewing the two down to create as smooth a line as possible on the top vertex.

One thing I have decided and learnt from the whole project - up to this point - is that I also want to try making a wig cap based PURELY on my measurements. That is to say, I will take a pattern of my front hairline, but aside from that I shall use the measurements to chart/mark out the pattern for the foundation on the wig block instead of using a mould. This is something that is instructed in all my wig making books, so at least I will have some plan to follow.

Another thing is that I may just go with the whole U-shaped vertex construction that you see on regular wigs - that is: a very fine (often a drawn through silk/French top) and then the sides and back (from crown to nape) being made with a more robust material (like the honeycomb tulle or stretch lace with wefts). I don't think I will do the drawn through option, but I might try doing honeycomb tulle everywhere except for the U-shaped vertex, which could be made from the fine lace. This might give the wig better stiffness at the sides, especially if combined with a metal spring.

I also - I know I am getting ahead of myself now, have it in my mind to try making a cap that does have a wefted back and sides, but sewn onto stretch lace in the manner of a sheitel (Jewish regular wig). Just to see how that works and turns out.

So many ideas and options... so little time and energy!

Thursday, 13 October 2011


After my last post, I have made some more progress with the foundation. I have just posted a new video on You Tube talking about my issues - the stress situation - and showing how far I have come with the sewing of the galloon and lace etc.

So to further document the next stage I have completed:

I laid the honeycomb tulle down. Funnily enough, and again surprisingly, it took me ages to do this. I do think that laying lace and tulle is going to be a real area where practice makes perfect. I am sure that with time and repeating the exercise, I shall get quicker. I suppose one also gets to know one's head shape, so once you have darted and tucked it one time, if you are using similar materials the next time, you will probably be making darts and tucks in roughly the same places *assuming the foundation fits well the first time around*. The other thing about this is that, again, I found that after quite a while of struggling I gave up and then came back the next day and "boom" I did it very quickly. Perhaps the brain is assimilating information while I sleep?!

Sewing the darts in the tulle has now been completed. I experimented with polyester cotton in a fairly matching colour for the nape darts (they are quite big/thick due to my head shape). I am not so sure how I feel about the look of this thead though; it looks quite obvious to me compared to the effect achieved with transparent thread. This is not such a bad thing because the nape ones will be covered by hanging down hair. However the two upper darts that are around the crown area, I have sewn down with the transparent thread as I definitely did not want that bulky or possibly visible look up there. The thing is, with the tulle, I was wondering if it is better to sew with polyester cotton as the tulle itself seems to be made from something like cotton. I was thinking: will the transparent thread rub against the tulle and wear it down? I don't know! We shall see; time will tell. If it does, I can probably mend it. I suppose that is the advantage of doing it yourself - you can fix most things reasonably well.

I know I have probably said this before, but I definitely will... take some pictures of the canvas wig block so that I can post a few WIP (work in progress) shots.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Stressful Week - Decisions

This week has been a bit stressful for me in terms of wig making.

The good news is that I have made progress with sewing the galloon and that is all done now. I am really pleased that I did finish that within the time frame I had given myself. I am making a real effort now to set myself mini targets and to stick to them as I know if I don't do this, I will never get anywhere with the wig making. For anyone else who is reading this and is thinking about having a go or who is already trying to teach themselves wig making, I would suggest that you do the same. Long term and short term targets are really valuable tools in motivating yourself. My short term target right now is to get this foundation (wig cap/base) finished. My mini goal is to finish sewing my first piece of lace down.

After I finished with the galloon, I started laying down my first piece of lace, which covers the: ear to ear, vertex and front hair line area. It took me a long while to do that; much longer than I anticipated. I think this was partly because I have the kind of head shape that requires some darts. I found it more challenging to lay down this lace than the tulle when I made the prototype. The area is slightly different because when I made the prototype I was constructing a circumference band type wig cap, whereas because I wanted to lessen the amount and appearance of galloon going over my vertex area, I decided to make the real wig cap with only one piece of galloon on the vertex, in addition to the perimeter galloon, and this piece goes over the crown area.

The key to laying lace is to get the front hairline as smooth and flat as possible. You don't want any bumps, lumps, ridges or wrinkles. Instead of stretching the lace to make it taut, you need to smooth it with your fingers and then pin in place. I found myself smooth and pinning, then smoothing and re-pinning as pinning in a new area kept creating undesireable wrinkling in other areas. I took the lace off several times and re-started. I think the key at the novice stage is:
  • To have patience
  • To not be afraid to re-start
  • To take frequent breaks
  • To come back again later if you can't do it and try again 
Sometimes it can be really hard to bear those things in mind; especially when you really want to get onto the next stage or just to finish something you had set your mind to doing. However, it is well worth taking the time to ensure that this bit is done correctly as it will make a big difference to the overall look and fit of the wig.

I thought I would have a couple of darts running from the galloon at the crown towards the front, however I ended up with one over each ear. When I made the tulle prototype, I believe I ended up with one over each ear and a couple on the top - so in a way, this may be better. The next step, which I have completed, was to sew the darts down. This helps to keep them smooth and flat.

After sewing the darts, I commenced sewing the lace onto the interior edge of the galloon. I have sewed two thirds of that and am just about to sew the last part (once I have finished writing this). I enjoy the sewing; it is quite therapeutic. I have been timing myself and I noticed I am definitely getting quicker the more I do it. I am hand sewing at the moment, but in the future I hope to try doing most or all of it on the sewing machine.

Once I have completed sewing the lace down, I can cut the excess off and start laying the next part down (the crown to nape).

Now onto the bad news...

I have had to make a decision over how to best ventilate the hair when I get to that stage. Several of my online friends and myself have wondered about the correct and optimum length of the returns (that is the piece of hair that is left and can stick out, sometimes called the mustache, when you make a knot with a hair strand). The wig making books that I have (I have 3), and that other people I know who are interested in wig making have, say one thing. Other people - on You Tube and at a wig making suppliers & a hair suppliers for example - were saying a variety of different things. I found this very confusing and completely overwhelming. Having so many different opinions stating this is how you should do it, makes it very difficult to judge which option or path to choose to go down. I started to feel like a cook who was in the middle of following a recipe and then had people saying: don't do that, it won't work out right, do this... The reality is that the length of the returns is important and a crucial part to get right of the whole wig or hair piece making process. Knowing that caused me to feel an intense amount of stress and pressure. No one wants to think they are going to expend all this effort and energy to get it wrong.

I have come to the conclusion that when you choose to attempt to make wigs, that canvas wig block, foundation and hair become your baby. To complete the task, a certain amount of dedication and enthusiasm is required and because most people who attempt to do it have great passion about what they are doing and want to achieve, it is hard not get really emotional about the whole process. For me, the learning curve continues. My lesson of the week has been to realise that will make mistakes and to be prepared to pick myself up, dust myself down and try again.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Wig Springs

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post, but which probably deserves a mini-post of its own is the wig springs!

Earlier in the year, I was talking about them and a person reading this blog asked me to provide further information, which I did. However, as I had not used them, I couldn't really comment on them in-depth, beyond the information I had read/been provided with by suppliers.

Now I have actually used them in a wig, I can give a bit more commentary. Here are the basic facts:

1. The plastic ones I have come in 3 sizes. The size relates to the length.
2. They are made from a very slightly bendy, white-ish plastic.
3. They need to be covered with galloon before you can use them.

Extra information relating to points 1-3:

I tried all 3 sizes at various points/positions on the wig I was converting (from full lace to more of a regular style that does not require bonding). The largest, which are the longest, work very well in the back of the wig. I used two of these - each one stretching on the diagonal from the two 'corners' of the nape towards the occipital bone. Using the other two sizes was less successful. You have to cover the plastic with galloon in the same colour as your cap (or your flesh); a. so they are not noticeable and b. so that you can sew them to the wig cap as the plastic would not hold otherwise (there is no obvious way of sewing simply the plastic on) and it might rub your skin. Because you have to cover them, this increases the bulk and I found that at the front, if I positioned them nearer the front edge/front hairline area, in a way which in theory would be better for a closer fit, they pushed the sides of the wig out and you would be able to see them (or be conscious that they might be seen).

In addition, these plastic springs are not as bendy as I had hoped for. I knew they wouldn't be "bendable in half", but I did think they would be more malleable than they are. The bendability - is that even a word? - of them is minimal. When I compare them to the springs I can feel in mass manufactured wigs I have worn in the past, they are definitely less bendy, and as such, I find that they are not as useful when trying to mould the wig so that it lies closer to the skull.

The reason I was trying to use these plastic wig springs as opposed to the metal ones, is because they are safer from a rusting point of view. However, I am now beginning to think I shall try the metal ones too - I will get hold of some and try them on my next wig - as I have a feeling they might, just might, be a lower profile.  I also think they may be a bit more bendy and flexible, which is what I really need. Of course, to address the possibility of them rusting, I shall have to buy some protective material, which again needs to be tightly bound around the spring.

I will have to report back my findings in the future.