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How a Hair Lace Wig is Handmade

Here we look at how a hair lace wig is custom made to order. It all starts with a consultation to understand the client’s requirements and ends up with a bespoke and properly fitted wig that looks as realistic as can be.

It takes about a week to make a wig by hand from scratch. Here’s an overview of what a wig maker will do to make a wig for someone.

Consultation

  • A consultation establishes exactly what the client requires. 
  • As part of this, the client will be shown hair samples, finished wigs, pictures of hair fashions, and other such items. This allows the wig maker to establish exactly what the client wants. 
  • Everything will be noted in the client’s file for reference, including hair colour, length and any parting wanted.
  • It is also important to establish how the wig will be used, as this determines what type of hair lace is needed. For example, a wig for a production filmed in high definition will require very fine lace. Conversely, a wig for a theatre production will need a thicker lace.
  • As the wig is progressing, it is advisable to have follow-up consultations and fittings with the client. This ensures that the wig is progressing as required.

Taking Measurements & Making a Head Shape

  • First of all, the client’s hair is wrapped up as flat as possible and pinned under a wig cap or stocking. This allows the wig maker to measure the head accurately and to create a head shape template.
  • Measurements are taken from around the client’s head. The wig maker needs to know the head’s dimensions from various points to help make a well-fitting foundation.
  • A head shape is made by wrapping the person’s head in food wrap (for example, Clingfilm) and using sticky tape (like Sellotape) all over it to create a strong template.
  • Finally, the whole hairline is marked on the template with a marker pen and covered over with tape to protect it. The name of the client and the date is also written on the head shape. 
Head shape for a hair lace wig
Using food wrap to get a head shape template.
The measurements that are taken by a wig maker.

Make the Foundation Template

  • A wig maker uses a wooden block to create the foundation’s shape. Blocks come in different sizes, so a block is selected that best matches the circumference of the client’s head.
  • First of all, the client’s head measurements are marked on the wooden block. 
  • After this, the foundation lace is cut to match the head shape and the pieces are stitched together. This is a complicated process and we have skirted over it somewhat! Ultimately, the wig maker ends up with a completed foundation that corresponds to the client’s head size and shape.
  • Finally, the hairline is tacked into the foundation using a coloured thread, so the wig maker knows where to finish knotting the hair. The thread is removed once the hairline is completed.

Selecting & Mixing the Hair

  • Bundles of hair are available to purchase in various lengths and colours. A wig maker will have a selection of bundles in stock ready to use. From this, the appropriate colours and lengths are picked that will create the desired look.
  • Slightly different colours of hair are chosen to make a natural-looking wig. This is because natural hair is not 100% uniform in colour.
  • It is essential to keep the hair together from root to tip. 
  • A hackle is used to blend and mix the hair bundles. This large metal-toothed tool is also used to comb out the hair, making it easier to work with. 
  • Finally, the mixed hair is placed into a drawing mat to keep it safe. The mat is made of two pieces of thick card with little hooks on it. It sandwiches together (a bit like Velcro) to grip the hair securely. It also stops the hair from getting tangled.
Some of the items a wig maker uses: a cradle to support the wig while on the block, a hackle to blend hair colours, a knotting hook and a drawing mat.

Knotting the Hair onto the Foundation

  • Small sections of hair will be taken a little at a time from the drawing mat.
  • A knotting hook is used to knot the hair into the weave of the foundation. It is a tool that looks a bit like a crochet hook.
  • Knotting hooks also come in different sizes. The larger ones are used to knot several hairs at once, such as around the back and top of the wig. Finer hooks are used for knotting single hairs, for example, around the hairline.

Finishing & Handover

  • Once all the hair is knotted into the wig, it is ready for the client. 
  • Normally, the hair lace is left quite long, so the makeup or wig designer can trim it as required. Likewise, the hair will be left as it is, unless the client has specifically asked for it to be trimmed.
  • The finished wig is now ready to have its final fitting with the client and to be signed off.

An excellent short video by Dutch wig makers, Het Pruykenhuys, showing the handmade wig process from start to finish.

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