Monday, June 22, 2015

Regency/Federal Hair Pieces, Part One: Making the Pieces

Edit: You can now find part two of this showing how to work these into long hair here.

This post includes hot and sharp things: please use caution and common sense. If you cannot be trusted with hot and/or sharp things, maybe go do something else instead of suing me because you are burned and bleeding. 

Several people have asked me about how I do my hair for the Regency/Federal era, so I thought I'd dust off the old blog and explain. This post will show you how to create the hair pieces I have been using. For the sake of keeping it short(ish), I will write a separate post soon on how I work them into my hair.

In action at Locust Grove.
Photo by Fox & Rose Photography.

My hair comes down past my waist. Before a recent cut, it was below my butt. And while I love it dearly, it is actually too long in the front for perfect little Regency ringlets. I used to try wrapping the front parts around a bun in the back and then pinning them in place and curling them. That worked alright, but it was very time consuming and the curls didn't always do great in high humidity. It was also impractical if I didn't start the day with an outlet handy, and let's face it, some of the coolest places to sleep just don't always have electricity!

Since it is so long, I would have trouble fitting it all under a wig. Wigs also add to the heat factor, which is the last thing I need in a Kentucky summer, so pieces I can tuck into my hair are the best way to go for me. (If you are interested in doing a full wig, you can see a wonderful tutorial from the Bohemian Bell here.)

To begin with, you will need the following

  • Hair scissors 
  • wig clips
  •  needle and thread (the thread won't show but you should still find a color that doesn't stand out from your natural hair color, I'm a brunette and I'm just using some black here)
  •  curling iron- dont' use your best one (I'll explain below). For  the curls right around your face I recommend a 3/8 barrel. I also use a 1/2 inch for some larger ones in the back. 
  •  hairspray
  •  (not pictured) roller pins/ bobby pins 
  • Fake hair (or human hair)

Now, I know some people taught the benefits of using human hair, and you can totally use that if you want to. Personally, I am uncomfortable with it, so I use this stuff. The following instructions should work for either. Make sure whatever you get says that it can take a curl.

This stuff holds a curl well, and is very cheap. This package was $6.99 and it is going to last me a good long time, since I only go through a few inches at a time. You can usually find this or something similar at ethnic hair store wherever you live. You can also search for it on Amazon.

It can leave a little bit of residue on your curling iron. This wipes off pretty easily while still warm, but this is why I don't recommend using anything extremely expensive or fancy (I got mine on Amazon for $20 or so). Please do a test strip on your iron and use caution and common sense.

It comes in different lengths. This stuff was 10 inches, which is a little long for what I needed, so I took off 2-3 inches. When you take length off the bottom, try to layer it a little instead of just chopping right across to create a blunt end. What you want is something that will fit nicely into the bottom of a curl. I haven't tried this, but someone who knew what they were doing with a razor blade could probably create a nice effect. Again, please use caution and common sense and don't sue me. (Trust me, I'm a teacher, you're not going to get much. )

For these pieces, you want a piece about 3-4 inches wide which will give you 3-4 curls. I usually double it over to give more volume, so I would cut an 8 inch piece. It is held together at the top with a nylon weft so it shouldn't fray when you cut it (human hair should be similar). Double it over and sew the two lengths together on the weft so you have one nice secure piece.

Prepped and ready to curl. 

Now it is time to start curling! I do this on my ironing board (SO much easier than trying to do it on your own head!!!).

The next two steps can be done in either order, depending on what you are comfortable with and what kind of hair you are using. I have heard from folks using human hair that it may be easier to sew the clips to the weft first, since human hair may not hold a curl as well the first few times it is set. Personally, I like to make sure I have gotten the curls the way I want them before I bother sewing on the clips.

The instructions that come with this 'hair' are as follows

The directions tell you to hold the 'hair' on the iron for 2-3 seconds. Personally, I have found that I need to hold it on a hot iron for at least a full minute for the curl to take. I recommend you try a few experimental pieces with your iron first to get a feel for how long you need.

You will want to leave at least an inch of uncurled hair near the base. This will be covered with your own hair to hide the base and clips you will be using.

Gently remove the curl and slide it off the iron. Be very careful to keep the curl's shape as you go. Once you have eased it off, it is still not completely set. Don't let it fall or bounce around. Gently gather up the curl with two roller pins or bobby pins to keep its shape and spray with hairspray.

As you go, trim away any fly-aways with your hair scissors. Since this isn't your hair (or anyone's!) you can be pretty liberal about trimming and sculpting. These should last you awhile, but even if you trim so much that you eventually can't use them anymore, the materials in one set cost less than a dollar, so trim away!

Repeat for the rest of the hair. Once you are done, you will want to let it sit overnight with the pins to set the curl. You can also just leave the pins in until you are ready to wear the curls- this will be a good way to keep them neat and tidy wherever they are stored.

Now it is time for your wig clips. These are fantastic little things. Since they are made of spring steel, you can slide them in where you want them, then just press down for them to snap closed and they hold very well.  They have little holes in the top that makes it very easy to sew them to the nylon weft. 

You can do this while they are still setting, but be sure that the hairspray has dried or your hands will get all sticky.

Finished piece- back view with wig clips stitched in place. 
You don't need to match the thread exactly but make sure it doesn't contrast. 

Close up of the stitching. 

And that should be it! Be sure to store them someplace they won't get smooshed. Storing them with the pins in is best to keep them tidy.  The best part is, you can do all this way ahead of time, and when you wake up at an event with no outlet, you can just take them out and snap them into place!

Finished piece -front view.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where I will show you how I work them into my hair.

**Thank you to Melissa Alexander for her proofreading and for sharing her experiences**