I recall the first wig I ever made for a bjd. I thought everyone made their own doll wigs and was quite surprised when someone asked me how I constructed it. I blithely stated how easy it was and commented on how I thought everyone was making their own wigs... I look back on that exchange now with a bit of embarrassment and wonder if the audience thought I was being pompous and arrogant with how flippant I was in my response to their ardent query.
In all seriousness I did not know 'wig making' was not an art form everyone was familiar with and since I recently was emerging from the cloth artdoll scene (where everyone and their mother makes their own doll wigs) I didn't realize not everyone was 'doing it'. You know what? Even literal years and years after the original conversation the simple fact still remains not everyone is 'doing it' and furthermore not everyone knows even how to do it.
So, I have made wigs. I have made wefted, rooted, skincap and other manner of wigs; but, I don't want any misunderstanding and desire to be perfectly clear that this does not make me a wig-making expert. The reality is I still find the best wig is the one someone else has made. Does that make me lazy? No, it just makes me practical. However, for the times when I cannot get the wig I desire or the one I am drawn to is a bit more costly than my whole outfit combined, I will simply make my own.
So how does one go about making their own wig? In practical terms there are almost as many techniques under the sun as there are wig materials. But to start off there are some terms that are helpful when embarking on the merry quest of Making a Wig for a Doll.
Although this list is by no means a comprehensive one here is some useful wig terminology:
Weft/Wefting: thread or yarn made of spun fiber; in doll wig-making refers to such fibers being sewn together in parallel rows to create long collections of such rows that can be applied to a wig cap or directly to a doll's head by gluing or sewing them into place.
Wig Cap: a snug cap made of silicon, rubber, latex, fabric, animal skin or glue that fits over a doll's head where the hair-line would fall. Can be used to construct a wig upon or to create a more snug area for a separate wig to sit on. Wig caps can be created from crocheted, molded, or sewn techniques and may even use elastic or stretchy materials in their construction.
Hand-knotted: a wig technique that is comprised of individually knotted groups of fiber, thread, fur, yarn or hair onto a wig-cap
Rooted: a technique usually used for vinyl dolls in which hair is individually punched through the head-cap with an appropriate tool
Reroot: a technique usually used for rooted doll's heads in which the original rooted hair is removed and new hair is rooted in its place.
Roving: spun fur or fibers
Tibetan Lambskin: interchangeable term usually referring to animal skins with attached fur that are used to create a wig-cap and wig in one
Mohair: goat fur that is either free stranded or still attached to a skin that are used for wig-making
Tibetan Lambswool: free strands of animal fur that are generally used for wefting or gluing to a wig cap to create a wig
Synthetic Doll Hair: synthetic fibers that are used for creating wig-making-wefts or for rooting/rerooting a doll's head-cap, meant to mimic real hair-- some types of synthetic fibers more commonly used in wig making are Saran, Nylon, Acetate and Kanekalon
Fantasy Fur/Craft Fur/Fake Fur: synthetic 'fur' used in place of animal skins to create doll's wigs. Unlike animal furs this comes in a variety of 'fantasy' colors and styles.
To reiterate the terminology list is by no means a comprehensive one, but it should get you easily through any wig-making related tutorials you attempt.
As I stated in the beginning I have crafted my own wigs and by far my favorite technique is still buying a wig crafted by someone else. But also having crafted my own wigs I have to admit, as with all items hand-crafted by oneself, there is a certain satisfaction you only get from creating a thing with your own two hands.
The types of wigs I have created have varied; especially since I spent some time in close contact with the cloth doll community. Being a part of the cloth doll-making community was a terrific experience where I learned a lot about sewing and surprisingly more about doll-making than I would have imagined. Wig making is actually a serious topic in the cloth doll community because a cloth-doll's wig can make or break the entire look of the doll. This same adage fits a bjd-doll's wig as well. The perfect wig can enhance or downplay the artistry inherent in a sculpted bjd whatever the material the bjd is constructed of.
The first wig I made involved using wefted mohair fibers on a glue wig-cap and was actually just a fast and dirty way to create a wig for a polymer-clay and cloth-body doll I constructed. It wasn't the best wig but I was in a hurry to give the doll some hair and I wasn't all too worried about the look.
I also did a root of a vinyl head doll with embroidery floss starnds-- I used embroidery floss since at the time it was very difficult to find shimmery fibers that were specifically for hair. The rooted head turned out nicely and I decided I would actually not hesitate to use embroidery floss for wigs in the future if the floss imparted a look I was seeking.
My first constructed wig for a bjd actually came about due to a lack of finding the type and color of wig that I wanted for my very first bjd. I wanted the wispy look of real hair on the doll in question and most synthetic wigs at the time looked too contrived for my tastes. In defense of synthetic wig-makers every where-- the years have been very kind and have actually improved the fibers used in synthetic wig-making for dolls, so that it is now possible to get an in-scale appearance for hair-wigs constructed solely with synthetics. I digress... my first hand-crafted bjd wig was actually part a Tibetan Lambskin pelt purchased for cloth doll wigs. It turned out nicely and I actually constructed a matching wig for my second bjd using the same method.
Most recently I constructed two temporary wigs for two very small bjds out of glue and crazy yarn (crazy yarn is yarn with fun textures or fibers). I do plan of getting them wigs made by a fabulous wig-maker though, yet, for now the temp wigs will suffice since they are the color I wanted for the dolls they were constructed for.
These are not the only types of wigs I have ever created but just examples of types that are possible to create using wig-making tutorials available online. Each and every wig chosen for an example was constructed by using an online resource.
Some additional links with tutorials and suppliers:
Blythe wigs (check the supplier's links at end of the post!):
Pictorial glue & muslin wig cap:
Gauze and glue wig cap:
Morezmore mohair supplies:
So what online resources did I use when I constructed my wigs? In all honesty, after so many years of being involved in doll-making and related arts, most (if not all) of my original sources have been lost in the mists of time but that does not mean there are not perfectly good current websites available for learning wig construction. I did my best to compile a few of the ones that I felt were promising for someone desiring to create their own wigs.
One of my favorite doll-makers has several, very well illustrated methods for wig making on her site, although fitted for specific sized dolls I am certain with a bit of tweaking each of her methods can be scaled for different doll sizes:
Crocheted wig cap methods:
Lambskin method (any method that uses lambskin can use faux/fun fur for construction instead):
The following was created for Waldorf style dolls but I felt like it could be adapted for a bjd. Also leaving the head-cap free instead of tacking it to a doll's head before adding yarn of any kind for the locks would be similar to the Antique Lilac tutorials. The only difference would be in using yarn for the hair (imagine using a crazy yarn for this type of wig and the fun and funky styles you could create!):
In addition to purchasing pre-made wefts, there are several techniques for making wefts for wigs. There is the sewn method as well as the 'glue' method-- 'glue' could interchangeably mean actual pva-type tacky glue, latex mold making rubber, silicone sealer and as the following tutorial shows, adhesive caulk. Although please use care and caution when using home improvement materials and be sure to use non-toxic, oil-free brands in your wig-making process:
Many of the tutorials use pre-constructed wig-caps-- which in all fairness could be purchased as well as the wefted fibers could-- most but not all of the following methods use pre-constructed wig-caps for wig making. Here are some terrific tutorials for various methods:
Glue and Weft method:
Sock head-cap, Weft and Glue-gun method:
Two Head-cap, Sewing and Sewn Weft method:http://parabox.jp/eng_new/custom/custom-wig4.html
A variety of Crocheted, Fur pdf and linked wig-patterns-- it may take a bit of seeking the pdf-links (many regular webpage links are on the left sidebar)-- this was a link suggested by Dollzwize of The Resin Cafe so it is bound to be good (one of the links is actually the Waldorf wig-set on flickr from above!):http://byhookbyhand.blogspot.com/search/label/Wig%20Making
Multi-method with Wefts and Head cap:
3-Part Fabric/Glue Head-Cap and Hand-Knotted Sewn Weft method:
Molding Rubber Wig-Cap with Wefts:
Faux/Fun Fur Wig-Cap:
Fur Wig-Cap (mainly showing this method to show how they measure the head to create a wig-cap for the faur-fur wig):
2-Part Glue-Cap Wig (do not use rubber cement! Although silicone or similar caulk, as used in the katiebair tutorial, can be applied and again I suggest non-toxic brands-- I also suggest using wefts when adding hair instead of the method she shows):
Skin-Wig (The method used can also be used for faux/fun-fur, additionally the method used to measure can also be used for a wig-cap base for wefting):
The following link is discussion of doll-wig methods in regards to cloth-doll making but the focal is of weft-construction and various methods used (I was surprised she did not use a temporary interface sandwich to create wefts in any of these as this was the method I learned years ago). Also any fibers (which she notes in the beginning of her tutorial) can be used for making wefts applying any of the methods:
Although the following shows a human head for this method, I would bet it can be scaled down for doll sizes:
With the idea that almost any fibers can be used to create a doll wig, here are some sites that sell various fibers for hair. Some of the following sites have synthetics for rooting/rerooting dolls' heads but since many different fibers can be used in wefting I have included them for interest, fun & variety. These links are not all inclusive! There are many, many, many other sites that have fibers, skins and yarns for sale to the public. If you know of a great one, message me and I will be sure to include it here with a note on who suggested it! (Also remember your local arts, crafts and fabric stores may often carry a variety of wig making fibers as well):
As an additional note some people use velcro, double sided tape or hot glue to keep a wig/wig-cap on their doll but by far the best method I have learned of is to use is a strip of NexCare Waterproof Tape wrapped around the removeable head-cap of the doll. It comes off without leaving a sticky residue, stretches to fit any sized cap, does not damage the doll and handily helps wigs to stay secure on the doll's head. It has also been touted by others as a clever way to prevent a wig staining the resin but I personally cannot vouch for this particular magic power of the NexCare Tape.
No one method is better than another when constructing a doll wig. As a matter of fact the best method is the one that you like the most and the method that creates the looks you want for your doll(s). If you have a method that you feel should be included here drop me a line with the relevant link and I will add it to the list with a note on who suggested it!
Of course, after conducting your own trial and error journey in creating a hand-crafted doll wig you could discover (like me!) that the best method is still to leave the wig making to the experts and just buy one instead. But whatever your thoughts on the best wig-making method, good luck in obtaining the perfect one. Also please feel free to message me if you did get courageous and created a doll wig of very your own from any of the methods I've showcased here. I would love to see what you've come up with!