Saturday, 25 June 2016

Heat-forming lace

Although I'm still constantly learning new wig making techniques, it isn't very often these days that I have what I would consider a major breakthrough.  However, today was definitely a breakthrough kinda day!

I have known about this technique for a while, and have monkeyed around with it in the past without much success.  But today I got serious about heat-forming lace, and I'm happy to say that it went WAY better than I thought it would!

I hate knotting through darts in a wig base, and I have noticed that many of the commercial wigs are made without using any darts at all.  This is achieved by stretching nylon lace over a form, and heating it with a heat gun to permanently form it to the correct shape.

I had bought a wooden toupee block a while back on Aliexpress, and I decided that it was time to put it to use.  I stretched some inexpensive Asian 'swiss' lace over it (also from Aliexpress) and secured it with a staple gun.  I took my time and made sure that the lace was taut but not too tight, and that it was as smooth as possible in the area that I would use to create the hairpiece.

I then heated it gently with a heat gun - the kind you would buy at a hardware store to strip paint.  I was hesitant at first, and didn't want to get too close to the lace.  However I found that on the lower setting, the gun would heat the lace without burning it.  I tried it at the edge on the higher setting, and the lace just shrivelled and became crispy.

I continued on the low setting, making sure that I covered all of the lace, especially the perimeter of the base shape.  I went over it several times just to be sure, and once I was happy that I had heated the entire base, I set it aside and let it cool completely.

Below are the results.  I'm amazed at how well the lace holds its shape!  In the photos it looks stiff, but it is actually still very soft and malleable, it just has the perfect shape of the head block that I used to form it.

This will be fantastic, not only for making toupees, but also for forming lace for the front of wigs.  No need for darts at all any more!  I really feel that this could completely change the way I make my bases from now on!

Now that I'm comfortable with the technique I will try a few different types of lace to see which ones work with heat.  I'm really excited to see what the results will be!

Lace stretched over the wooden block.

Removed and trimmed.

I'm amazed at how well it holds its shape!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Another re-fronted commercial wig.

I finished this one a while back, not sure why I never posted images.  This was a commercial synthetic lace front wig, but I hated the knotting at the hairline.  I removed the old stiff monofilament and added my own, better quality lace.

Despite being synthetic, I think this wig has an amazingly natural look.  This was achieved by using a lighter density and cross-ventilating the front.  I also used a lighter blend of hair along the front edge and at the temples, giving the wig a very natural sun-kissed look.

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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Before & After

I don't think I have ever shown this before, but I thought it would be interesting to show a recent project, first on the mannequin head before being cut and styled, and then after it has been attached on an actual scalp.

The photos are un-retouched, and no-one was harmed during the installation of this hairpiece! :P

This is a mix of 'Brazilian' remy hair (custom coloured) and high heat synthetic for the grey.  It is knotted using only single strands and single knots on Hugo Royer 2905 lace.  The knots have been lightly bleached to help them disappear against the scalp.  It was attached in the last two photos using Walker 3-mil lace front tape.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Dark, re-fronted commercial wig

When I first started learning about ventilation, I bought a few inexpensive (and a couple of not-so-inexpensive) 'lace front' wigs, to see how they were made.

In hindsight, the commercial wigs really weren't much help – the knotting was not great for the most part, and all but one of them were knotted on stiff, scratchy monofilament mesh, not lace at all.

As a result I have a small collection of mediocre commercial wigs that are just sitting on a shelf in my office.  I decided, rather than let them go to waste, that I would re-front them using decent lace and finer knotting.

I just finished the first one.  The main body of the wig is good, and even the knotting wasn't terrible, it's just that the scratchy monofilament (aka 'German' lace) was very uncomfortable.  Also the shape of the hairline was very round and unnatural.

I have redone the entire lace section using only single (2-way) knotting, and I think the final result is much more natural.  This is high temperature synthetic hair, so it probably wouldn't work as a hair-replacement wig, but I think it would make an excellent theatre or opera wig or even a fun fashion wig.

As a side note, I have the wig on a cheap plastic mannequin head that I bought to help when I'm working on hairlines.  I find the eyes really disturbing, which is why I have it wearing sunglasses... :P

Friday, 2 October 2015

Thor No More

At long last I plucked up the courage to start the final cut-in on the blonde synthetic wig that I had made previously (see: Making Waves).  Its long, Thor-like locks have given way to a much more respectable pompadour style.

I worked on it most of the afternoon, and it's getting close to where I want it to be, although it still needs some finessing.  I have realized that I really need to take a barbering course.  My cutting skills are not good enough for this kind of work!

The synthetic hair also made my job a LOT more difficult!  The synthetic is great for longer styles, but requires a lot of work with the curling iron to make it look natural after it has been cut.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos of the cut-in so far:

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Cross-knotting (aka 2-way knotting) explained

A few people have asked me to explain the idea of cross-knotting (cross-ventilation / 2-way knotting).   The most common knot used in traditional wig-making (except in the Chinese factories) is the single, or flat, knot.   When used properly, the single knot gives the most natural appearance, especially if the hairs are knotted one-at-a-time.

However, single knots can tend to lie quite flat, without much volume.  To combat this, the wig factories use split knots.  These add a LOT of volume to the hair, but in my opinion they look horrible!  Also, I believe that split knots shed much more easily than single knots, which is why factories often resort to using double split knots everywhere except the hairline.  This just makes for an ugly end result, as far as I'm concerned, and the reason why a lot of the factory wigs still look 'wiggy' and fake.

Cross-knotting allows the use of single knots, but adds volume to the hair.  It also adds a more freestyle direction to the knotting so that it's not set so much in a single direction.

The idea is that every second row of hair is knotted in an alternating direction.  The best way to get the idea is to see it illustrated, so here's a diagram showing the very basic concept:

Cross-knotting / 2-way knotting

In this example, we want the general direction of the hair coming forward from the crown, towards the hairline.  So each row is knotted at slight, alternating angles to the final direction of the hair.

To add even more volume and lift to the hair, a technique called REVERSE cross knotting is used, in which the hair direction is knotted in the exact opposite direction from the final direction you require.  Using the same example, again with the final hair direction being forward from the crown towards the hairline, it is actually knotted backwards at alternating angles.

Reverse cross-knotting

When the hair is finally brushed into its final direction, it retains much more lift at the root, giving a very natural volume to the hair.