How to make synthetic dreads

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14th March 2011

To start with, there are double ended and single ended dreads. Each person has their preference for wearing/making and some people may combine them. I prefer double ended dreads because they offer more coverage and show less of your hair, as the hair is braided down on one side only. Single ended dreads, have a loop on top, through which you pass your hair and then braid down the length of the dread.
In this tutorial, I’ll use double ended dreads as an example.

So, first, your materials. You will need: – 100% Kanekalon hair. Make sure it’s that, 100% Kanekalon, as it’s the most suitable fibre for making dreads and other fibres might give you trouble. Amount depends on dread count you want to make, thickness, length and all that. Probably about 5-10 long double ended dreads per pack and double that for shorter or single ended dreads, but it very much depends on what and how you’re making it. – A comb to backcomb with. – Some means of heating (hairdryer, clothes iron, hair straightener, steam from a kettle, steamer, or boiling are some ways to get that. Personally I’ve only tried the hairdryer and the clothes iron and prefer the iron.) – A place to work at. You will need a place to hold your hair/dread while you’re backcombing it. – A piece of wet cloth if like me, you’re using an iron. – And some patience! It takes a while to get a hang of the different parts of dread-making, so if your dread isn’t looking right immediately, don’t give up practice makes perfect! :)

Alright, so every person has a different house, so I can’t tell you what to use to hold your dread. You’ll need something that isn’t permanently attached on both sides if you’re making single ended dreads, so you can slip the loop out when you’re done. A broken coat hanger could do the trick, to get uniform loops of a good size. Think that the loop should be about that size. And then you’ll need it to be somewhere that it’s sturdy, so that it doesn’t come loose as you backcomb the life out of it.

First of all, take the amount of hair you want. Generally, the dread when backcombed will turn out a little thicker than the hair you picked up. And the more backcombing the thicker it will become (but it will also become shorter). Twist your hair and calculate that it will be a little bigger than that when backcombed. For starters, you can take a pencil thick amount of hair if you’re not sure how much to use.

Pencil-thick hair amount

Now, take your hair and put it on whatever it is you are using to hold the hair. Make sure the other end is held firmly somewhere (for example between your legs) so that you can backcomb it and it won’t come loose.

For single ended dreads, you don’t need to be holding the opposite end, since there is only one end. Just backcomb all the hair at once.

Start backcombing from the top, making sure to stop every few brushes and smooth out the hair. Split it to smooth out any knots, since you want the hair to be knotting, but not to be forming lumps. Occasionally, try twisting your dread to see how it will look when it’s done and if any lumpy/uneven places exist and if the thickness is ok. The more you backcomb, the thicker the dread you will get.

Backcombing at the top

Move your way to the bottom, all the while smoothing your dread.

Backcombing middle

Backcombing end

Twist to see how your dread is looking.

Twisting backcombed dread

Don’t worry if it takes you a while, it takes some time to get used to it and learn how to do it. Speed will come with practice.

So, if when twisting your dread looks reasonably uniform and well-backcombed (the dread in the picture is medium-length and backcombed enough to stand straight when I hold it), the backcombing part is done. Next is the sealing. After the sealing is done you will have a complete dread!

A backcombed dread

To seal your dread, you will need some form of heat, as previously mentioned. Steam is especially good for this. In this tutorial I’m using a clothes iron and a wet cloth to produce steam.

Secure your dread somewhere so you can twist it and hold it that way to seal it. I’m just using my leg against the ironing board to hold the dread. Remember, whatever your sealing method, mind that you don’t get burnt! :)

Start twisting your dread smoothing it with your finger. The way you twist it and seal will make a big difference on the outcome since you can smooth out minor mistakes. Make sure you twist tight enough.

Secure your backcombed hair and begin twisting

Take your wet cloth and place it on top of your dread. Sprinkle more water on your cloth if it’s not wet. You should be hearing the hissing sound of the created steam when you place the iron on the cloth.

With your iron, start sealing the dread. Put the iron on the wet cloth and slowly move it opposite to the direction you’re holding the twist. Try to roll the dread under the cloth, so that it get a nice even, smooth round shape.

Start heat sealing your synthetic dreadlock using an iron.

Proceed to the lower parts of the dread

Be careful not to burn yourself when you get to the end! You can get something like a pliers to hold the end while you’re sealing it. Or, like me, you can seal the ends where there’s only a few strands of hair, later, with a hairdryer.

Turn the dread and seal the other side, the same way.

When you've finished sealing one side, do the same to the other.

For a single ended dread, you will need to find somewhere to hold the dread from the loop, so that you can twist it and seal it. Ideally, you’d use the same thing you’ve used to make your loop, so that you don’t twist it smaller or make it bigger than you wanted.

Snip off the ends and you have yourself a finished dread!

One complete double ended dread!

To make a full set you’ll need about 40-60 double ended dreads and double that number if you’re using single ended ones.

Happy dread-making!

Here is the finished look.

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