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How to Make Your Own Wool Dreads

Published on 30th September 2008

If you’re thinking of making wool dreads for the first time, you should read this whole article, and maybe even look up some more information before you start. It’s a lot of trial and error, but you don’t want to be in the middle of it and have an unanswered question. I did not just come up with this on my own, I wouldn’t even say I’ve mastered it. I used many different tutorials found elsewhere on the web. However, I found it very fun and got nice results so I wanted to share it with my friends here.
To start out with, you’re going to need a few things. Wool roving, which you can buy dyed or natural, and comes in many different types. I reccommend merino, because it dreads easiest. I couldn’t find any nearby, so I bought mine off of ebay. You’ll need a different amount depending on how thick and long you want the falls to be. You’ll also need baking soda (soda of bicarbonate), a large bowl, a few towels, thread, and elastic cord or lace. If you buy natural colored wool, you’ll need something to dye it with later, I would suggest kool-aid (or flavor aid, etc. Just drink mix with no sugar,) because it’s easy to use and smells nice.

Before you start you’re going to need to cover the area you’ll be working in with towels. I’d also suggest working in a place where it won’t be a big deal if something spills, or splatters. I personally use my shower stall. Next, take your wool and cut a length of it keeping in mind how long you want your ending dreads to be. I made dreads of several different lengths to give a layered effect. Then you will split the length of wool into sections keeping in mind how thick you want the dreads to be. The dread will end up a couple inches longer and about 1/3 the thickness of the starting piece of wool. This tutorial is for making double ended dreads, which can also be braided into your hair (just like elysee star dreads.) So you want to make the dreads twice as long as you want them to hang from your hair. I would suggest only cutting and splitting one length of wool at a time and keeping the rest in a bag in the meantime. Otherwise you’ll end up with cat hair, your hair, carpet fuzz, string, and everything else in your wool. Finally, you’ll heat up your water, as hot as you can stand preferably, and be prepared to re-heat it several times. Add baking soda to the water. I didn’t use an exact amount, the best rule of thumb I can give you is that you can’t really add too much. The idea behind the baking soda is to make the water alkaline.
Now you’re ready to begin dreading! Place the wool section you want to begin with in the water/baking soda mixture and let it soak for about two minutes. I was impatient and probably only let each piece soak for a few seconds and I had to re-dread them several times. The soaking opens up the cuticle of the wool, facilitating the “dreading.” After it’s soaked, pull one end out of the water and roll it quickly between your hands, forming a tapered end. It’s best to keep all the wool except what you’re dreading at that moment submerged in the water. Work your way down the length of the wool, rolling between your hands. If you can stand it, I would suggest fluffing out each section before you roll it to prevent creases. To taper the other end, once again roll it quickly. You may need to re-roll the length to get it uniform, but that’s basically it! It takes a lot of trying before you get what works for you going, so don’t give up. In case anyone is wondering, the way you process the wool is known as wet felting. Once you’ve finished for the day, you want to tie them together with yarn or string and hang them up to dry.

The workstation:  1.  raw wool roving, split into strips  2.  baking soda/hot water bath  3.  finished dreads.

The process:  fluffing and rolling.

Now, a few notes about dyeing. You may buy pre-dyed roving, or want to keep your wool natural colored. If this is the case, feel free to skip this part! For those of you looking for a color you couldn’t find, or who just want to do your own thing, this can be very fun!
Now, I personally read up on this subject a lot while I was waiting to get my roving in the mail. Most people dye their roving BEFORE dreading it. I did the opposite. This can be better or worse depending on your preferences. If you want even, uniform, all-over color, you should dye your roving first. If you want a more arty, or different look, you might want to try dreading then dying. Either way you do it, the process is the same. You’ll need a large bowl, a smaller microwave-safe bowl, saran wrap and your kool-aid. (By the way, if you want a specific color, use a search engine to look up “kool-aid dyed wool,” to get some idea of what different flavors will look like.) Basically, all you do is soak your dreads (or wool roving) in hot water for about thirty minutes this time. In the meantime, be mixing up a strong batch of kool aid. I used one mug of water per packet of kool aid, but this is another thing you might need to experiment with a bit. Once your dreads have soaked, take a few at a time, squeeze them out, and lay them on a length of saran wrap big enough to wrap them in. Drizzle on some kool-aid mixture, wrap them up quickly and squish it around until they’re all saturated. Then put them in the microwave, in the microwave-safe bowl. I’d say for about thirty seconds to a minute, (I did thirty seconds then flipped them over) but obviously you should keep your eyes on them. You may want to use a pot holder when taking them out of the bowl, or just dump them out. Put them in the sink to cool off while you’re working on the next batch. After they’re cool rinse them out. If you want you could redye them as many times as you please to get your desired results. Mine got kind of crimpy and fuzzy after all this, so you may want to re-roll them a bit (I didn’t go through the whole process again, just rolled them in my hands before hanging them up to dry) then again, you may like how they look and you can always leave them. It’s all about what you want.


Getting dreads ready to be attached.

Finally, You’ll want to attach these into your hair already! There are a few different ways to do this. To make falls, you’ll just want to attach the dreads onto the elastic cord or lace. I personally split the dreads into two sets so I could have pig tails. Then, I doubled each dread over the elastic, and sewed it to itself, so that the middle became a loop around the elastic. I continued this process until all dreads were on the two separate elastics. You can also tie thread around the dread just below the fold to make a loop, then thread lace or elastic through the loop. To put them in your hair, make two buns high up on your head, and simply tie an elastic around the base of each bun. I also wrap a couple long dreads around the base of the bun once the falls are attached to hide the thread ties. If you wanted, you could also attach both falls doubled over on one bun to make a thick pony-tail. I hope this has been helpful, happy dreading!

The resulting falls, worn two different ways!  (Sorry my pigtails are crooked, I was in a hurry.)

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