Sometimes you end up cosplaying a character with a really crazy hairline, and you think “How am I going to make THAT?”
Maybe you’ve already learned about lace-front wigs and how they appear more natural-looking. Maybe you’ve even heard of wig ventilation, which is the method for individually adding hairs into the lace of a lace-front wig. If you’ve gotten that far, you’ve probably noticed you need special tools, called ventilating hooks/needles, and they can be costly and hard to acquire. Fear not! I am here to show you a few methods to ventilate hair with just normal supplies you can find at your craft and sewing store!
That’s right, you can ventilate hair with just a normal sewing needle!!!
The example I’ll be using for this tutorial is my wig for Noatak — it’s “The Dude” from Arda Wigs.
What You’ll Need:
- a lace front wig
- extra wefts that are twice as long as the hair needs to be
- a thin self-threading needle OR a regular thin needle (~size 5)
- a wig head and stand
- masking tape
- good eyesight & handskills!
When you’re ready to start ventilating your wig, you’ll want to secure it to a foam wig head using some pins. You can pin right through the holes of the lace. You’ll find a comfortable position to work in, strangely enough, for me — that was to have the wig head in my lap! So, a wig stand may or may not be useful.
All lace-fronts should have at least some extra lace in the front that you need to trim before wearing. The Arda wig above has LOTS of extra lace, so I particularly recommend Arda Wigs if you need to make an EXTREME hairline!
Before securing on a wig head, try the wig on and mark with masking tape the area you want to alter. The tape is an easy way to temporarily mark the hairline, but be careful it doesn’t shift when you remove the wig from your head. For mine, I wanted to add a large, triangular widow’s peak. NOTE: It can be hard to see through the lace if it covers as much as the face as mine :P
Let’s learn a little bit about the various needles that one can ventilate wigs with:
A: regular needle; B: side self-threading needle; C: top self-threading needle; D: latch hook ventilating needle; E: regular ventilating needle;
Figures aren’t necessarily to scale, but you get the idea. You’ll notice the biggest difference between the regular needle from the rest is that the hole is completely enclosed. The rest are more “hook-like”, where the thread/hair can be unhooked without having to pull completely off the needle or cut away. This is why ventilating with a regular needle needs to be approached completely differently. (It was hard to wrap my head around, honestly)
I assume you’re at this tutorial because you DON’T want to use a traditional ventilating needle. Because I won’t be talking about that at all. I’ll just say that the process is kind of like crocheting. And obviously, the ventilating needle/hook is more like a tool, so you don’t pull it through the lace like you do with a needle, you simply put the very tip through, grab the hair, and unhook from lace.
BUT THAT’S NEITHER HERE OR THERE, SO LET’S MOVE ON WITH HOW TO USE REGULAR NEEDLES.
The Self-Threading Needle Method
step 1: prepare your needle: Here I’m using a “”1 second needle” brand (side) self-threading needle. A self-threading needle acts like a miniature crochet hook. Unlike a normal needle, you can unhook the hair from the threaded needle. That is why this method is slightly different than a normal needle, and slightly easier and faster.
NOTE: The brand of self-threading needles I was using, even the thinnest one, was a bit too thick to comfortably go through the lace mesh. What I thought was the sound of the lace stretching was the sound of the lace BREAKING. It didn’t cause any structural issues with the final product, but the thickness is frustrating and should be avoided. You’ll want a needle that is about size 4 small 5.
step 2: fold the hair in half: You should cut a smallish section of hair along the top of your wefts (if they aren’t loose already), and lay them on a contrasting sheet of paper to help you see them. Avoid getting it tangled, and pick out 2-3 strands of hair. Align the hairs so they are about even with each other and fold them in half to create a loop.
step 3: hook on the hair: Hook the loop of hair on to the self-threading needle. The needle may crease the hair at the fold, but this it okay because this point will remain the center. Keep the hair taut throughout the next several steps.
step 4: thread through lace: Carefully thread the needle through one section of lace. I’m not sure what the most appropriate way (through the cross-sections or through a straight line of lace), but be consistent. Your dominant hand will also likely effect how you’re comfortable doing this part. Since I’m left-handed, I was threading in a way left-to-right direction. Just be consistent! Also, in general you’ll want to thread in the direction of the hair, AKA not what I’m doing in the picture, hahah. But ultimately, any direction is work but you ideally want the hair naturally going in the right direction!
step 5: pull through lace: Pull the needle through, carefully avoiding breaking the lace. Keep the hair taut, but try not to keep it TOO tight, because you’ll notice the hair will crimp a bit. I found the the crimping doesn’t cause much of an issue down the line, but having the right amount of pressure is important.
step 6: unhook & gather loop: Unhook the hair from the needle, being sure to not lose the tail end of the hair in the process. Once off the needle, you’ll need to gather the loops of the hairs, since you’re likely adding 2 or 3 hairs at a time. This can get a little annoying, but get loops together and wiggle your finger between the middle of the loop of all the hairs.
step 7: pull through loop: Pull the tail (loose hair end) through the middle of the loops, and then pull tightly in the direction you want the hair to go. The hair is now securely knotted through the lace, TADA! One strand is done, now you only have to do that countless more times!
The Regular Needle Method
step 1: fold the hair in half: Grab 2-3 strands of hair and align them so that their edges are about symmetrical, then fold the hairs in half to create a loop.
step 2: make small loop: Pull the tail end of the hairs to make the loop very tiny. You’ll need a lot of control, so make it as small as possible. (I also found it easy to make a loop around the needle, hold your fingers by the hair very close to the needle then slide the needle away. This easily gives you a tiny loop ready to be threaded!)
step 3: thread loop: Carefully thread the loop through needle eye. Depending on how small the eye is, this can be a bit difficult, especially since you’re working with multiple strands of hair that don’t want to cooperate.
step 4: leave a short tail: Pull about 1.5 to 2 inches of the loops through the needle eye.
step 5: thread through lace: Thread the needle through one section of lace. Like I said above, I’m not sure what the most appropriate way (through the cross-sections or through a straight line of lace), but be consistent how you you end up doing it. Look at existing hairs on the lace to see how it was done on the original wig.
step 6: pull & remove needle: Carefully pull the needle through, making sure the hair doesn’t slip off in the process. Once you have an inch or so through the lace you can slide off the needle, and gather the loops, as described above.
step 7: pull through loop: Feed the tail (loose hair end) through the loop, and then pull the tail tightly in the direction you want the hair to go, until the loop is collasped into a knot at the base of the lace. And TADA, you’ve added one strand of hair! Rinse and repeat several dozen times more!
Now that you’re familiar with both methods, you can decide which one you want to try. Both are time-consuming, but in general I’d say the self-threading needle way is slightly faster, because it takes less time to thread the needle. However, you don’t need any “special” equipment to use a regular needle. I actually at first thought it was impossible to ventilate with a regular needle, but my buddy teaStars proved me otherwise! So, it’s thanks to her you all have this tutorial!
The alteration above took me about 8-10 hours. (I can’t say exactly because I was distracted watching movies!) The hair is pretty tightly added in, in order to match the thickness of the wig. Don’t be surprised if adding one square inch takes you 3 to 4 hours of work!!
left: Here I made coarser hairs by doing 4 strands at a time, and slightly more spread out. Closer to the edge, however, I added finer (2-3 strands) hair more densely, to give a more thorough, natural look.
right: When you’re all done ventilating, you can trim the lace! You’ll want to carefully cut it close the the hairline, but take note: once you cut the lace, there’s no turning back! You won’t be able to add to the hairline anymore!!
I hope you find this non-traditional way to ventilate wigs useful! If you want to try ventilating for real, but all means go for it! I TRIED buying a ventilating hook, but got a cheap latch one, and it was too big and just plain awful? So, I experimented with alternative methods. This is a handy way to achieve the same effect without needing special supplies or needing to learn an entirely new skill.
Good luck with your wig ventilating, and if you have any questions, you can find me at firewolf826.deviantart.com or firewolf826.tumblr.com