This project came together quite fast – only somewhere around 3 leisurely hours – and it’s made entirely from fabric remnants, chosen to approximate the color of reddish and brown hair. I made it up as I went along, so I’ll do my best to describe the process!

I created the wig as a finishing touch to my most recent belly dance costume. Because, you see… my natural hair is not very long at all right now, and that’s not very gypsy-like, which is the goal for this particular costume. You’ll get to see the whole ensemble later on, I’m sure. 😉

The above photo shows just ONE of many ways that you can arrange and wear the separate items that I made. To entice your further into trying this project, allow me to demonstrate the various ways in which you could assemble the elements:

wig combinations

Mandatory materials for the Wig (by itself) :
* At least 2 or 3 colors of scrap fabric. These can mimic real hair tones, or be really wild – Your choice!
* Scissors to cut the fabric into thin lengths, to be braided.
* The ability to make a basic braid with 3 strands.

Optional materials:
* Plastic or metal baubles, beads or “dread” beads, jump rings, dangly trinkets or pieces of costume jewelry — if you want to tie them into the pieces of the wig. Don’t use anything too heavy or too low down on the braids, or you’ll risk swinging one of the decorations right into your eye while wearing the wig!
* A sewing machine is helpful if you have it. Especially if you choose fabric that unravels easily. If you choose fabric that does not unravel when cut, you’ll be fine without a machine, unless you want to get fancy with the scarf base. Or, use a machine if you don’t want to tie the ends of the braids, and instead want to stitch across the fabric at the bottom end to reduce bulk at the ends of each “strand of hair” (I did this… was a LOT more work, but, eh… a slightly better result for me, so it was worth it).
* A bit of velcro if you want to use it instead of tying things at the base of your hairline in back.
* Elastic if you wish, thick enough to be used as a headband if that’s what you wanna do.
* decorative trim, a long charm bracelet, bellydance coins, or any other thing if you want to make an extra dangly ornament in front (i.e. the decorative headband above my eyes in the photo).
* any other colored scarves that you want to wrap around your head (I used a teal one just behind the forehead ornament).

To give you an overview of what I’ll be describing later, allow me illustrate the EXACT way that I arranged these elements onto my head, in three steps. Here is the page from my sketchbook:

How to wear the wig

FABRIC specs:
You’ll want to make sure that the type of fabric you choose is easy to work with, because you’ll probably want to braid much of it, as I did. I figured 3 colors was the minimum to create a good deal of interest and depth. The amount of material you need will depend on how full you want your wig to be.

1. The mid-toned fabric that I chose (which is also the color of the “scarf” piece in front) is a very stretchy, soft, thin cotton. It does not fray easily when cut. It feels good against my head and skin, which is important if you’ll be wearing it next to your face, as I am.

2. The deep brown fabric that I chose happens to unravel and stretch out to thin, frayed lines when you cut it one way (which was actually cool for this purpose) and was stable and not stretchy when cut the other way. It was a bit thicker, but still soft and flexible.

3. The yellowish highlight color is some sort of gauzy polyester, and had the tendency to unravel in both directions when cut. Since I only used a bit here and there, for accents… it was manageable when braided with one of the other two colors, which I was gonna do anyways. Next time I hope to be more choosey and pick fabrics that behave better. But also, right now, the variety adds some texture, which is also good. Your choice.

With the fabric, I created the following elements: (pics to come soon!)

1. A basic stretchy headscarf – mine mimics the main color of the “hair” in the wig, and pretty much serves as a base for the wig, and for other decorations and scarves to adorn the forehead area. Keeps things from moving around. Just cut a rectangle of fabric with enough enough width to cover the hair you wanna cover, and long enough to be tied snugly around the base of your hairline.

I ultimately decided to make my scarf a bit more fancy, and to embellish it so that it could stand alone if needed. The braided “ridge” along the back actually prevents the wig (when worn on top of the scarf and in front of this ridge) from slipping backward while moving around, especially when swinging around and dancing. If you always intend to wear your wig in the same way, you could actually just sew (or permanently attach) the wig part to the scarf, for convenience. Personally, I liked the flexibility of several pieces.

2. The Wig – I started with one main length of braided fabric long enough to tie around my head in the same way as the headband. I attached decorative ends to the braid, so that I could easily find the ends and be able to tell them apart from all of the other strands of braid that I would be adding (which is equally helpful when you’re UNtying the wig from your head!). I closed the ends of the main braid into a desk drawer, so that I had a half circle handing from the drawer — by suspending the main braid in the air like this, it simply made it easier for me to insert all of my pieces of cut fabric into the loops of the braid, without getting everything tangled and confused.

Each piece of fabric was pulled through a loop in the main braid, so that it made two lengths of fabric which hung down (sometimes equal, sometimes purposefully different lengths). In addition, I strategically inserted shorter lengths toward each end of the main braid, and longer lengths in the middle where I wanted most of the bulk. I braided the lengths of cut fabric as I went along, gathering three strands together from the pieces in close proximity to each other. I also made sure to vary the combinations of fabric colors in a way that would mimic highlights and lowlights in real hair, and decided to keep most of the darkest color towards the center, and the highlights toward the edges.

Alternatively, you could just pre-braid a whole bunch of combinations and lengths of fabric, and then sew them to the scarf separately where you want them. But, I wanted each and every braid of hair to be integrated into the main braid before combining them. This is to increase long-term stability, and to reduce the sudden increase in bulk that would occur with braids becoming doubled in thickness right at the point where they attach to the headscarf.

3. Various other lengths of braided fabric, from the same materials used in the wig. You can use these lengths of braid to tie up the wig onto your starting/existing ponytail so that everything matches, and for a little bit more volume. I definitely found it easier to use these long ties, as opposed to trying to use a regular thin plain hair elastic to grab ALL of the volume of the wig to tie it back. I put decorative ends on the ends of these extra ties, same as the ends of the wig ties. Really helps you to FIND the ties when you want to undo everything.

Or, if you wish, you can attach/sew these extra lengths of braid onto the headscarf (separate from the wig), to match and create more interest. I did both of the above.

I also made:
4. The front forehead decoration is made with a purchased ankle bracelet. I first sewed the bracelet to the darkest “hair fabric” which was NOT stretchy so it was a good stable choice for the metal jewelry. I sewed it mostly by hand using a regular needle with some clear (invisible) nylon sewing thread, but was able to do some zigzag with the thread on my machine. (Was tricky – I broke a machine needle trying that, but I’m not sure that I saved any amount of time, versus just hand-sewing with a whipstitch.) I then attached the fabric with the bracelet to a length of dark brown elastic that fit all the way around my head, and used it also like a headband. I ended up putting velcro in the back of this headband to make it easier to put on over top of the scarf.
[Thanks for your patience, I’ll INSERT A PHOTO soon!]

I tried to be as detailed as possible in my directions, but I’ll also attempt to take photos of the individual items in case any confusion remains. Would also like to be able to take photos at each stage of the creation process, but I always get caught up in what I’m doing — and I forget. (What I really need is a photo gnome to follow me around and document what I’m doing.)

This was my first ever attempt to create something like this from scratch. As I mentioned, I made it up as I went along, and there are some things I could have done better, and some things I could have streamlined. But even so, it’s a very successful and quick experiment!

***I’ll be wearing this wig at Fog Fest this weekend (Sept 29th and 30th, 2012)! Wish us luck!