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.
Making a Made-to-Measure Wig
A wig made by hand would take about a week to make. Here’s an overview of what a wig maker will do to make a wig from scratch for someone.
A consultation establishes what exactly is required by the client.
The client will look at hair samples, finished wigs, pictures of hair fashions, and other such items so that the wig maker is confident they know what is wanted. Everything will be noted in the client’s file for reference, including hair colours, length and any parting wanted.
The wig’s use is also important, as this determines what type of hair lace is used. For example, a production filmed in high definition will require very fine lace, but a theatre production needs thicker lace.
As the wig is being made, follow-up consultations and fittings with the client are advisable to ensure that the wig is progressing as required.
Taking a Head Shape & Measurements
A head shape and measurements are taken from the client or actor to make a template for the wig’s foundation.
A head shape is made by wrapping the person’s head in food wrap (for example, Clingfilm) and using sticky tape (like Sellotape) over it to create a strong template. The hairline is marked on to the food wrap with a soft pencil and covered over with the tape to protect it.
Measurements are taken from all around the head so the wig maker knows the head’s dimensions from various aspects.
Make the Foundation Template
The head shape template and measurements are used to create the lace foundation.
Firstly, the head shape is fixed to a wig maker’s wooden block. After this, the foundation lace is cut to match the head shape and the pieces are stitched together. This creates the cap for the hair to be knotted into.
Finally, the hairline is tacked into the lace using a darker 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
The required hair length and colour are selected by the wig maker. To make a natural-looking wig, slightly different colours of hair will be blended, as natural hair is not 100% uniform in colour.
The hair is blended using a hackle – a vicious-looking large metal-toothed “brush” that is used to mix hair colours. It also combs out the hair.
The mixed hair is then placed into a drawing mat -a double-sided mat with little hooks on it (a bit like Velcro). This makes it easier for the wig maker to take a small section of hair to work with and keeps the hair safe from being tangled or blown away.
Knotting the Hair onto the Foundation
The mixed hair is knotted into the lace foundation using a knotting hook, which looks like a small crochet hook. These come in different sizes – larger ones to knot several hairs at once (for the bulk of the wig), and finer hooks for knotting single hairs around the hair line.
Cut & Style the Hair
The hair can now be cut and styled as required.
An excellent short video by Dutch wig makers, Het Pruykenhuys, showing the handmade wig process from start to finish.