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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.

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.

Consultation

  • A consultation establishes exactly what the client requires. 
  • The client will be shown hair samples, finished wigs, pictures of hair fashions, and other such items. This allows the wig maker to establish what the client wants. 
  • Everything will be noted in the client’s file for reference, including hair colours, length and any parting wanted.
  • How the wig will be used is also an important consideration, 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.
  • Follow-up consultations and fittings with the client are advisable. 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 and pinned under a wig cap or stocking. This is done to allow the wig maker to measure the head accurately and to create a head template.
  • Measurements are taken from around the client’s head to help make a well-fitting foundation. The wig maker needs to know the head’s dimensions from various points. 
  • 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.
  • The whole hairline is marked on the template with a marker pen and covered over with the tape to protect it. The name of the client and the date is also written onto 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. Blocks come in different sizes, so a block is selected that best matches the circumference of the client’s head.
  • The client’s head measurements are marked onto 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.
  • Finally, the hairline is tacked into the lace 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

  • Wig makers have bundles of hair available in various lengths and colours. From this, they will pick the appropriate colours and length needed to create the desired look.
  • To make a natural-looking wig, they will choose slightly different colours of hair. This is because natural hair is not 100% uniform in colour.
  • The bundles of hair are blended using a hackle. This is a large metal-toothed tool that is used to mix hair colours. It also combs out the hair, making it easier to work with. 
  • The mixed hair is then 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

  • The wig maker will take a small section of hair from the drawing mat to knot it to the foundation.
  • The hair is knotted on the foundation using a knotting hook – a tool that looks a bit like a crochet hook.
  • Knotting hooks 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 the wig has all the hair knotted to it, 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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