Saturday, August 09, 2008

Make Your Own Victorian Hairpieces

Just in case you thought you didn't have a use for all that hair you've been secretly saving. You thought I didn't know about the hair, didn't you? I see everything.

Switches were braided and pinned into a lady's hair to give the appearance of having several acres more of the stuff than she really had. False curls were worn at the back, sides or across the forehead. Most ladies had a hair receiver on her toilet table to put hair combings into which were then either sent away to be made into hair pieces or woven herself. Shorter or unusable hair was used to make "rats" which plumped out pompadour hairdos and chignons.

Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work, Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, Braids, and Hair Jewelry of Every Description, Mark Campbell, 1867

The above cut represents the apparatus used for weaving hair into switches, curls, wigs, etc. It is a very simple arrangement, and can be easily constructed. Provide two sticks, about twelve inches long, and in one of them bore three small holes, two inches apart, in which to place as many thumb-screws, to be used for tightening or loosening the cords; in the other, have a single wooden pin or nail, to fasten the cords to. Place the sticks in a firm, upright position, about three feet apart, either by boring holes through a table, or by using mortised blocks, such as plainly shown in cut, at the right end. After placing them in position, put on three cords, as shown in diagram, numbered 1, 2 and 3. For this weft use linen thread, at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

In commencing to weave, place the hair between two cards (the square brushes used in carding wool), and draw out with the right hand, between the thumb and fore-finger, the quantity of hair required for the size of the weft; then change it to the left hand, and place it up to the threads, Nos. 1, 2 and 3; lay the strand over No. 1, under No, 2, over No. 3, around under No. 3, over Nos. 2 and 1, around under Nos. 1 and 2, over No. 3, around under Nos. 3 and 2, and over No. 1. Then push the strands together, as in cut.

Note: Modern pre-made weft hair can be purchased and sewed into switches and hairpieces.

The No. 1 of the above cuts represents the winding and sewing of the switch after it is woven. For sewing a switch on points, after weaving, take a Berlin cord, about one-sixteenth of an inch thick, and tie a solid knot at the end, and sew the end of the weft to the knotted end of the cord; then wind the weft around the cord, as shown in the cut, the length of point desired, turning the end of the cord over to form a loop. Cut the weft according to the number of points desired in the switch. Cut No. 2 shows the switch all complete.

Note: He does not clarify the term "points."
After weaving, according to directions, take a piece of ribbon an inch wide, the same color of hair, and as long as you wish the curls to be in width, and sew the weft to it back and forth. After that is done, pipe them, which is done in this manner: Dampen the hair, comb each curl out straight, and wind it tightly on a rattan stick about four inches long, having each curl on a separate stick, and commencing to wind at the tip end, tying them firmly to keep in place. Then boil in water for thirty minutes, and place them in an oven as hot as they will bear without burning, until quite dry. When dry and perfectly cool, take them off the sticks, and smooth over a curling iron, the size you wish the curls. Side curls and frizzes should be prepared the same way.


Jane said...

I'm pleased to know that, should civilisation collapse, I could make my own extensions and still sport a big honkin' Victorian hairstyle.

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