Sunday, 28 April 2013

Do or Dye

I recently ordered some hair on eBay to use as facial hair.  I have been wanting to try making a beard and/or moustache for a while, and now that I have some decent lace, I thought I'd give it a try.

This is the hair I bought:

The new hair still in the package

It is sold for doll-making, but the texture looked perfect for facial hair.  Also, the colour is a very light blonde, which meant that it should work well for colouring.  The hair is on a weft, which makes it easy to dye and keep organized.

The package says that it is 100% human hair, but to be honest I have my doubts.  The texture and feel of it are like no human hair I have ever felt.  I think it's probably yak hair, but for my purposes (and, I assume, for the purpose of doll-making) it doesn't matter.  Facial hair tends to be much coarser and more kinky/frizzy than head hair, so this works well.  My main concern was to find something natural (not synthetic) so that I could dye and bleach it.  Before attempting to dye the hair, I burnt a little piece on the stove, and by the smell alone I'm sure that it's not synthetic.  It's definitely either human or an animal of some kind.  Regardless of what type of hair it actually is, it was less expensive than similar quantities of yak hair that I found, so I'm really happy with the purchase.

I had bought three packs, and decided to cut each pack in half.  I then proceeded to dye each piece a different colour.

The hair comes as a very light blonde, #60.  I had to experiment a bit as the hair seemed to take some colours better than others.  It seemed the cooler tones wanted to go a sort of purple-grey, so I did a small test with each colour to make sure that it would give me the results that I was expecting.  I had found Clairol Nice 'n' Easy hair colour on sale, so I bought a selection of shades.  The light blonde that I tried didn't work on this hair, so I will have to try a different one.  However, these are the colours that were successful:

The freshly-dyed wefts hanging in my bathroom

The one that I'm most happy with is the white!  I didn't achieve that with a box dye, but with a toner that I made using hair conditioner and a small amount of Manic Panic Ultra Violet semi-permanent hair colour.  Again I had to experiment a bit to get the ratio right, and ended up with a few lilac test pieces, but finally got it spot-on and the results are fantastic!  Here's a close-up of the original hair (right) beside the hair I treated with the toner:

Before (right) and after toning with the home made violet toner

As you can see, the violet toner has removed all the yellow/blonde from the hair, and has left it a beautiful pure white.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Hair Direction

Progress is slow.  Between work, apartment hunting, and doing my taxes, there hasn't been much time for ventilation.  I have made some headway, though, and I think it's going well.

I'm finding it surprisingly difficult to figure out the growth patterns of the hair.  I am trying to study my own hair growth and translate that into the ventilation, but it's not as easy as it would seem.  I think the main problem is that real hair can grow in any direction.  On lace, we only have six possible directions, and figuring out how to make the hair flow seamlessly from one direction to another can be a bit of a challenge.

I'm honestly not sure how important it is with this particular wig to get the hair flow correct.  I plan to leave the hair long, so most of the direction will be hidden.  I think it's only really critical when you're making a wig that will be cut short.  However, since I'm learning with everything I do, I want to try to make this one as realistic as possible.

I much prefer the look of the hair now that I'm venting single hairs.  At this point I'm still tying double knots, however.  It won't be until I get to the crown and the front of the wig that I will start to use single knots as well as single hairs.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Question of Lace

Buying wig-making lace can be a challenge.  Buying wig-making lace online can make you want to pull your hair out (provided baldness isn’t the reason you’re making wigs…)  The main challenge is that there seems to be no consistent method of classifying lace.  When you’re buying something sight-unseen from an unknown online seller, you’re taking a big risk.  Lace can be very expensive.  I have found prices ranging from $20 to over $200 per metre, so it really pays to know what you’re buying before ordering.

With that in mind, I have decided to do a review of all the laces I have encountered to date, in the hopes that my experiences will help someone else decide what to buy.  I will update this post as I try new products, or come across new suppliers.

Before I get to the review, I would like to address the issue of how lace is commonly (and often incorrectly) named.  Some of what we see sold as lace in fact isn’t lace at all, but monofilament mesh or something similar.  True wig-maker’s lace, or bobbinet tulle as it’s more accurately known, is woven in a hexagon pattern, as in the illustration below.  Other types of net are welded or stamped.

We often see references to French and Swiss lace.  Frequently these names are used to describe the the weight of the lace.  Swiss implies that the lace is very delicate, fragile, and almost undetectable on the skin, while French implies that the lace is less delicate but more hardwearing.  I haven’t been able to determine where these classifications come from, but it seems that they are complete misnomers.

I recently had an email conversation with Geoff Hiscock, Managing Director of Hugo Royer International Limited ( and he set me straight on the naming issue.  He informed me that French lace is made in France, and Swiss lace is made in Switzerland.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In fact, he also said that the only company in France that was making this type of lace actually ceased production in the mid-90s, so French bobbinet no longer exists.

The only way to accurately determine the weight or thickness of lace is to use the denier system, which measures the linear mass density of fibers.  I won’t go into too much detail (there is a Wikipedia article on the subject if you’re interested) but essentially, the lower the denier number, the finer the lace.  A denier of 40 would indicate a heavy, more hardwearing lace, while a 15 denier would be extremely delicate and virtually undetectable against the skin.

It would definitely be so much easier to if everyone used the denier system, but until that happens we will have to continue trying to decipher each company’s descriptive names for the products we use.

And so, on to the reviews, in no particular order.  I will use the names that they are given by each supplier:

Amazing Hair Store • Swiss Lace

The lace that I have been using most frequently until recently is this one, sold as Swiss lace from a Chinese online supplier, Amazing Hair Store.  When I examine it under a magnifier, I can see that it is actual bobbinet lace (rather than stamped or welded monofilament).  It is very tough and relatively easy to ventilate.  It tends, however to be a bit coarse and scratchy on the skin, and is definitely much more visible than most of the other 'Swiss' laces I have seen.  However, with a good attachment it will still work for a front hairline.  This is the lace I used in the previous post titled New Hairline.

The most attractive feature of this lace is the price — less than anywhere else I have found.  Definitely worth a try if you are starting out, and good to keep around if you need a sturdier foundation.

Stylish Lace Wigs • Swiss Lace

This lace is quite comparable in thickness to the previous one, but it is less scratchy for some reason.  Stylish Lace Wigs is an online wig store in the UK.  Although not a materials supplier as such, they stock a small selection of wig lace.  I bought the last piece of the fleshtone lace and it seemed to take ages to re-stock.  I'm not sure how reliable they are as a supplier, but their price is reasonable and the lace is of a good quality.  Again, possibly not the first choice for a front hairline, but definitely a good sturdy choice for less critical areas.  They also sell other colours, if you are looking for lace to match darker skin tones.

Shipping to Canada was inexpensive and quick.

Amid Beauty • French Lace

Amid Beauty in the USA stocks a wide assortment of wig laces.  This was the first lace that I bought, so I thought I would start with a 'French' (heavier) lace.  I'm sorry to say it was a huge disappointment to me.  If you click on the image you will see that, while it is actual woven lace, it is woven in a diamond pattern like wedding veil material, rather than the hexagon pattern of bobbinet tulle.  This might not seem like a big deal, but the problem becomes immediately evident when you pull or stretch the lace.  The diamond pattern collapses and the lace stretches a lot, making it essentially useless for wig making.

I haven't been brave enough to try any of their other laces, but have subsequently found other suppliers that I'm happy with so will probably not bother.

Northwest Lace • Superfine Swiss (SFS) Lace

Northwest Lace is an online hairpiece supplier in the USA.  Ordinarily they don't supply wig making materials, but I had read on several forums that their SFS lace was very good, so I contacted the owner, Eric, and he kindly arranged for me to buy a yard of lace from the factory that supplies his hairpieces.

The lace is very delicate, and much more fragile than the 'Swiss' laces above.  It disappears beautifully against the skin, and would be ideal for a front hairline.  While some people might find it too delicate to use for an entire hairpiece or wig, with careful attachment and removal, I think it would be absolutely fine.

This is the lace that I used for the previous post, New SFS lace test patch.

Hugo Royer International Ltd. • 3104 Ultra fine H/T front lace

Hugo Royer is a hair and wig materials supplier based in the UK.  They have an amazing selection of everything wig related, and their prices are very reasonable.  I have been like a kid in a candy store since I discovered them, and am trying hard to resist spending all my money there!

This 3104 lace is very similar to the above SFS lace — extremely delicate and fine, but still sturdy enough for actual use. It is marked as 20-denier on the Royer website.  The only difference I can see between this and the SFS lace is that the holes on the 3104 are spaced slightly closer together than on the SFS.

Again, this would be fantastic for a front hairline, barely detectable on the skin.

Hugo Royer International Ltd. • 3104HD Very finest front lace

Again from Hugo Royer, this is their absolute finest front lace.  At 15 denier, it is extremely delicate and fragile, and would definitely be very suitable for the most high definition movie close-ups.  I'm not sure, however, that I'm skilled enough yet to ventilate on this lace.  I think this will stay in the drawer for a while, at least until I have ventilated an entire piece using the the SFS or 3104.

I suspect that this would also be fantastic for moustaches and beards.  I might try a moustache, just to see how I do with it!

Hugo Royer International Ltd. • 2905 Nylon mononet

Listed as 20/30 denier on the Royer website, this lace is slightly sturdier than the 3104.  Probably more suitable for everyday use, this nylon mononet is still incredibly fine and disappears nicely against the skin.

I think this would be my first choice for most wig making projects, offering a nice balance between sturdiness and delicacy.