While searching for a file on an old hard drive, I ran across some progress photos from a few years ago that I had completely forgotten about! So here’s a (very belated) tutorial to show how I made my dangling spiral curls for Marguerite. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of every step, so you’ll have to employ your reading comprehension skills for those parts. 😉
One of the great things about our Scarlet Pimpernel set is that it allows us all to use our own hair instead of wearing wigs – but my hair, while quite long, is also ruler-straight, and will not hold a curlunder any circumstances. That meant that the spiral curls hanging down Marguerite’s neck would have to be fake, while matching my real hair convincingly. They would also need to be durable, as they would rub against necklace, earrings and collar every time I turned my head, so they couldn’t just be loose curls of hair. After some experimenting, I came up with a successful technique for making solid, self-supporting tube curls.
- artificial hair fiber (I used Yaki extension hair)
- a cylinder in the diameter you want your curls (I used a broomstick)
- hot glue (fabric glue will also work, but will add considerable time to the process)
- stretch fabric in the approximate color of your hair fiber
- a kettle or hot pot for heating water
- rubber bands, twist-ties, or other means of securing hair ends
1) Internal Support
I didn’t want the curls to stretch out or lose shape over time, so they needed some kind of internal structure to hold them together. For this, I sewed a tube of stretch fabric about the same circumference as the stick I was going to wrap the curl around, and a little bit shorter in length than the finished curl. I used brown stretch knit to blend in with the hair, though the fabric doesn’t show through in the finished product. (I don’t have a picture of the fabric tube, but you’ll see the dark brown fabric under the hair in later photos.)
Slide this fabric tube onto the stick; it will be the core of your curl. (If your fabric is very thin, you may want to wrap a bit of foil or plastic wrap around your stick first to keep the glue from soaking through and sticking.) It’s okay if the fabric has to stretch to fit around the stick; once it’s removed, it will pull in and act as a spring to keep the curl wound tight.
2) Matching The Hair
[This step only matters if you’re adding your curls to real hair – if you’re adding them to a synthetic wig, just use the same fiber and they’ll match just fine!]
Some people have natural highlights or multiple colors in their hair, and most long hair becomes lighter toward the ends, so take that into consideration when choosing your fiber color. My hair is a confused mix – various shades of brown, blonde, even the occasional strand of black – so to make the extensions look more realistic, I blended dark and light fibers together.
In the above-right photo, you can see the curls compared to my real hair. I belatedly learned that in bright light, the Yaki fiber is a bit shinier than my own hair. You may want to do a flash photo test first!
3) Forming The Curl
To begin, separate and smooth out a thin, flat section of fiber about two inches wide, with just enough thickness to be opaque when it’s lying flat. (Thinner is better; a thick section of hair won’t glue flat, and strands will work loose over time.) Secure one end of this hair section to the stick, about an inch away from the end of your fabric tube, with a rubber band or tie.
Think of the section of hair as a wide ribbon. Keeping it flat, wrap the section of hair completely around the stick, at a slight diagonal so it covers the area between the tie and the fabric tube. Place a thin line of glue, maybe an inch long, lengthwise at the end of the fabric tube, and wrap the hair over it so the hair is secured to the fabric. (If hot glue will not stick to your fabric, you can use fabric glue for this. It will hold the hair just as well, but takes much longer to set.)
Continue wrapping the hair section around the stick, one circuit at a time, close enough that half the wrapped section overlaps half of the previous section. After each wrap, place a thin line of glue on top of the hair that will be overlapped (see image above), so that each layer of hair is glued to the previous one. Rather than gluing the hair to the fabric base, you want to glue the hair to itself to make a reinforced tube that will hold its shape even when the stretch fabric pulls back together. Keep a bit of tension on the hair as the glue sets, so it sticks firmly and there is no stringing or blobbing.
Keep wrapping and gluing for the full length of the curl. When you reach the other end of the fabric tube, glue the hair down to the fabric tube as before, then wrap another inch or so beyond the fabric before tying off the loose end of the hair.
When you’ve finished, the hair should be attached to the fabric tube at each end, and glued to itself all the way down the curl in between those points. There will be an inch or two of loose hair left at either end of the curl.
4) Setting The Curl
Heat the water to an appropriate temperature for your fiber (for traditional synthetic fibers, aim for about 170 degrees F; for most heat-resistant fibers the water can be boiling, or 212 degrees F).
With your stick braced somewhere safe (NOT held in your hand where you will burn yourself with boiling water!), carefully pour hot water over the entire curl. This will heat-set the fiber into the curl so it doesn’t want to spring loose, as well as soften and flatten the hot glue so it gets a better grip on the layers of hair wrapped over it.
Then set it aside and DO NOT TOUCH. Let it cool and dry completely on its own. Drying may take a while; remember, it’s a piece of fabric wrapped in layers of plastic!
5) Removing Curl From Stick
This step is going to vary a little depending on the base layer you used. With my stretch fabric, I just worked it down to the end of the stick a little at a time and slipped it off. If you used plastic wrap or foil as a barrier under your fabric, you can slide that layer down and off the stick, then carefully twist the wrap material out of the center of the curl. Be careful not to pull any hair loose when moving the curl; instead of gripping the hair, wrap your hand all the way around the curl and apply even pressure to the whole construction to slide it.
If your curl is very large in diameter, you may want to stuff the inside to help it hold its shape. A bit of tulle or fabric scrap can be poked into the center of the tube to keep it from flattening out in storage.
6) Finishing The Ends
Once your curl is free from the stick, pinch the loose hair ends that had been tied to the stick (but are not glued down) and trim off any frizzy fiber or excess length. Place a healthy dollop of glue about a half inch inside the end of the curl tube (or approximately where your fabric starts). Tuck the loose hair ends up inside the tube and press them into the glue to secure them. Hold them there until the glue cools or sets; otherwise, they may pop out and start to unwind. Do this for both ends.
When you’re satisfied that the ends are secure, you can add whatever you would like to use to attach the curls to your hair or wig – a hairpin loop sewn into the curl, a toupee clip, a small comb… lots of different options. If your fiber is very securely glued, you can also just pin through the curl directly into your hairstyle (though over time this may cause some fibers to come loose).
For some reason, most of my good photos of Marguerite are taken from the side without the curls. So here’s a selection of pictures of me swinging about and making funny faces, because they’re the only ones that show the finished curls well. 🙂