So, finally, I've got round to writing the tutorials for making your own luscious woolly locks!
The advantages to wool dreads are a plenty – they're instant for starters. Well, not immediately instant but much quicker and easier to achieve than natural dreadlocks. They're also exceptionally lightweight. If you're like me and have fine, thin hair, natural dreads can get mighty heavy (ask me how I know, having now lost 3 crops of dreads)
They are also fantastic for personalising. You can make them just about any colour you fancy. Have a stash of multicoloured pencil roving? Fancy big, bright hair? Then have some fun with your woolly locks.
On the downside, you don't want to get these babies wet, especially if your hair is fragile. Wet wool weighs far more than wet hair and it could seriously damage your follicles. There are tricks to keeping your scalp clean when you have these babies in – tie them up out of harms' way and rinse your scalp with a water/vinegar/tea-tree solution. If you'd like more advice on that side of things, visit: http://quinnster.fqdn.net/
This tutorial is for single end dreadlocks. When I was researching how to make these babies I found loads of info on double ended dreadlocks but not much on the singles. Double end dreads are great for adding in bulk but that's also their downside, and they're not as neat at the roots. Single (or looped) end dreads suit fine hair really well and are much better for the edges of your hair, especially around the face.
With double end extensions, the hair sectioning needs to be thicker to take the weight, whereas single/loop end only require finer sections, which is ideal for fine hair. Double end extensions can be too heavy for fine or weak hair. It does boil down to choice, and single ends do take longer to install, but I think they're worth the extra effort.
Special thanks go to Alpaca Addict, who sent me the roving and enabled me to make my dreads - I very much appreciate your gift, thank you! If you're in need of some pencil roving and don't know your way around the world of fibre, I suggest trying Wingham Wools for a full range of colours & world wide shipping to boot.
The tutorials will come in 3 parts: 1) felting, 2) dyeing and 3) attaching. Each installment will be available as a PDF to download from the Dreadlocks page. Let's kick off this first installment with a materials list.
200 – 300g of undyed pencil roving, or in colour of your choice
(the best place to get pencil roving is Wingham Wools - they ship worldwide too)
1 ball bright nylon garden string
Large bucket or bowl
Ready? Let's get started then!
1) Grab yourself around 200-300 grams of pencil roving. Break it up (don't cut this stuff! Tease it apart with your fingers) into lengths that are just over twice the length of your intended locks.
2) Next, grab yourself some bright nylon string, in a colour that contrasts well with the colour you wish to dye it (that's the 2nd installment)
3) This photo gives you an idea of the thickness of the pencil roving. I found that this gauge, folded in half and felted, gave me nice size dreads. But I don't like them too fat. If you want them thicker, add an extra length (i.e. 3 lengths of the roving). Any gauge roving or unspun yarn can be used, just bear in mind that it will shrink to just over half it's thickness.
4) Cut the nylon string into approx. 10”/12.5cm length. Cut a lot, to save time and speed up the process. Fold the string in half and then half again, then fold the roving in half too, forming a loop at the halfway point in each. Place the twice folded loop of the string underneath the roving loop and then bring the string up and over the roving then draw it through itself and close the loop. This description is a bit of a mouthful but it's much easier to do in practice.
5) Now you'll have a nice attached loop that will not only stay on the roving as it gets wet and make it noticeable in the dye bath, but it also marks the half way point of the roving. It's other main job is maintaining the loop of the wannabe and to stop it felting closed – we need this loop to attach the dread to your hair.
6) Next, give all your wannabe dreads a really good soak. Soak them for at least a few hours. I had this bath beside me as I looped all the wannabe's up, and dropped them in as each one was ready. Cold water is fine for this job, hot water isn't necessary for felting, especially if we're felting by hand.
7) When the unfelted roving is wet, it is fragile. To avoid stretching or tearing it under the weight of the water lift each wannabe out by the nylon loop. As you lift it out, squeeze out any excess water and make sure it is soaked through (wet wool, especially undyed, takes on a slightly translucent nature)
8) Fold over the lower end of the dread, the end where the roving was torn as you measured out your pieces. Folding it over and starting the felting here gives your dread a nice neat end (if you've ever had natural dreads, you'll know what we're trying to avoid here)
9) From the lower end, and working your way up towards the loop (held by the nylon) gently start the felting by rolling the wannabe between your hands, as you would when making a sausage out of plasticine. Don't be too vigorous – this is the point where you form the shape and you want to keep things smooth and avoid lumps (well, I would as I was a little OCD about keeping my dreads neat and even. If you fancy lumpy, here's where you encourage that shape)
10) Once the wannabe has started it's journey to becoming a fully fledged woolly dread it's time to start encouraging that sausage shape more. Here I switched over to rolling the wannabes into shape on a piece of ply that we had (we kinda have this stuff knocking around. I live with Tom). An abrasive surface helps encourage the fibres around the outside of the dread felt up, whilst allowing the inner fibres to felt at a slower rate. Working on a surface that isn't slippery and allows some grip makes your job at this point much easier. Do be careful when hand felting on a surface like this – it can be hard work on your hands! Give yourself breaks and don't let your hands get too rough.
11) Continue in this fashion until the dread is felted enough but not too much (see below for photos of examples). The aim here to felt sufficiently to hold the dread together but not felt too much. If the dread is over felted it shrinks and stiffens up. Working this way gives us the felted shape without too much shrinkage: that means the dreads will be lighter, and more fluid (i.e less stiff).
12) This photo shows the (wet) felted dreadlock at the top and a single strand of the pencil roving below. The felted dread is 2 strands of the oencil roving, and has shrunk to just below half it's original size.
13) And here are all of the 120 woolly dreads I made for myself. To dry them, I lay them all out on a hanging airer and avoided them doubling up or layering, to make sure they each got plenty of air. Felted wool can take a lot longer to dry than most other fabrics. We used all of the 120 dreads on my head, even with the thin hair. The estimates you may find online for around 80 dreads are for double end extensions - you need more single end extensions! I wish I'd have made 130, to give me some spares, yet we managed OK with 120. Double end dreads are twice as long as single end, so making these didn't take any more work than it would to have made double end dreads.
14) Here's a close up of the dreads to show texture and detail. There is a slight twist to each dread, which is fine, and really won't notice once they've been dyed. If you'd like a smoother texture then continue felting, but be aware that they could shrink further.
The next installment in this guide to making your own woolly dreadlocks is how to dye them an even, solid colour. For this you will ideally need some acid dyes, or have access to someone who knows how to dye. If you've used pre-dyed roving you'll be able to skip pt2 and go straight for pt3, which shows you how to attach the dreads. Making the dreads is the longest part of the process so if you've got this far it won't be long before you're sporting your own locks!
If you've followed this tutorial and made your own wool dreads, can you add a link to a photo in the comments below? It'd be really cool to get a users' gallery together at some point.
If you'd like the PDF version of this tutorial for printing etc, please visit the Dreadlocks page. Thanks!