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Cheap & Easy Dread Wig

Published on 21st August 2009

I LOVE dreadlocks and crazy extensions but personally don’t have the patience or type of job to make the commitment. I also don’t want to damage my waist length locks with dye, backcombing or braids. I like to attend raves, goth club events, and just play “dress up” in general and I wanted a cheap and easy alternative to extensions or dreads that would allow me to experiment with color and texture based on the event. That’s when I discovered the beauty, and low cost, of yarn. You will need: 3 to 5 average sized balls of thick, single stranded yarn, a metal or strong plastic comb, scissors, strong hold hairspray (any brand will do, but preferably something nice smelling), rubber gloves (optional), beads/ribbons/clips/hair baubles, etc.

Step 1: Shop around for cheap yarn in a color(s) you love. Check craft stores, dollar stores, and the net. Ask grandma if she has any extra lying around. Avoid buying yarn that is multiple strands wrapped together. Look for single stranded, fat yarn that is soft. You are going to need to backcomb this like hair, so think about the consistency of the yarn before you buy – is this going to clump up nicely or fray all over?

Step 2: Decide the length you want your dreads and add an extra 4 to 5 inches. Cut 15 to 20 strands of your yarn that length, and save one string as a measuring guide. You don’t want to keep holding your dreads back up and guessing how long the next bunch of yarn should be as your finished dreads will be slightly shorter than the original yarn pieces. If you are using multiple colors the amount of each you use per dread all depends on if you want a dominant color. I used 12-14 strands of pink to 3-5 of black for mine. If you want your dreads to taper leave make about half the strands full length, then cut your other strands at random lengths getting progressively shorter (but not too short – 3 inches shorter than the full length of your dread at the most for short length dreads, 6 inches for medium length and 10 inches for long dreads). Then the dreads will be thinner at the bottom. Try to twist the shorter ends into your yarn bundle before you backcomb to prevent fraying.


Step 3: Bundle your strands together at the top and tie off with a matching strand of yarn – TIGHT!!! Firmly attach this end to something: painters tape it to a table, shut it in a dresser drawer or, my fav method, hold it between your toes while you sit Indian style.


Step 4: Get your comb and backcomb the sh*t out of that bad boy!!! To those new to “backcombing” it’s exactly what it sounds like – comb in reverse, up the strand instead of down it. This will make your yarn bunch, fuzz and knot up until the individual strands seem to disappear into a giant mat. Twist your strands together tightly as you do this. If you have multiple colors be careful to place your twists where you want them – as you backcomb they will be fused in that position.


Step 5: After you have backcombed take a 3 to 4” section of your knotty strands and twist it very tightly. Using a can your hairspray – try to get something pleasant smelling,not overpowering, and for god’s sake sit outside or open a window – and spray the dread like crazy. While still holding it tightly twisted backcomb that section a bunch more then spray the crap out of it again, smoothing any frizzies with your hand. (This is where the latex glove comes in, unless you are like me and don’t mind being covered in a combo of tacky hairspray and yarn fuzz). Repeat this step for the length of your dread, never letting it untwist. Once you get to the end spray the whole mess again, with the whole length still twisted tightly, and smooth any lumpy or frizzy spots with your hand. If you notice it doesn’t seem to be dreading you have not backcombed enough (you can never backcomb too much). Cap the end with a bead, braid rubber band or tiny ribbon bow, so it doesn’t unravel.


Step 6: Repeat steps 2 through 5 to make dread after dread. Hang your dreads up to dry – clothes pin them on a line, hang them over the top of your shower rod or the back of a non-cloth chair – be careful with a freshly made dread, it will be sticky!!

My real hair.

Step 7: After your dreads have dried lay them out flat on a table horizontally with their ends overlapping 2 to 3 inches.

“Weave” them together with a coordinating piece of yarn by tying the yarn firmly around the farthest back dread then going over-under the other dreads – like weaving a loop through when making a pot holder. When you get to the front dread wrap the yarn around a couple of times loosely and weave through to the back again, this time going over the strands you went under last time and visa versa. Do this till you’ve woven the entire width of where the dreads touch each together. This should you give a sort of matted dread skull cap with you dreads hanging loose from either side.


Step 8: Make a yarn fringe to cover the back of your head by cutting strands of yarn double the length you would want hanging down in the back, then double the yarn over in a u shape. Put the loop end of the u shape under your last dread that makes up the back of your “dread skull cap”. Put the two loose ends through the U and pull tightly. Approximate the width you will need your fringe to cover by holding a piece of yarn to the back of your head and measuring from the back of one ear to the other. Start at the middle of your dread skull cap and work your way out on either side til you’ve covered the length of the back of your head. Voila! You have completed your yarn dread wig.

The front of the dread wig.

Step 9: To install, put your hair up in high pig tails – if your hair is very thick I suggest braiding each pig tail into 1 to 5 braids so it won’t be fluffing out between your dreads. Pull the dread wig on from the back like a hood so that the “skull cap” rests on the top of your head with the dreads evenly dispersed to either side of your head and the yarn strands hanging down in the back. Get a friend! Gather the dreads on one side up around your pigtail. Have your friend hold this mess together at about 6” from your head. Using strips of cloth or ribbon tie the dreads tightly around your pigtail. Use more than one if you you know what’s good for you! Repeat on the opposite side

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