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Wool Dreadlocks

The very basic idea: Felt bulk wool roving into a dread shape, dry, then wear.

What kind of wool do I buy?

I suggest starting with 100% Merino Wool Roving Tops. Be sure it is NOT superwash and NOT pencil roving. (Superwash means it won't shrink when felting. Pencil roving is very very thin; making dreads from it would produce tiny results.) Other wools like corriedale and alpaca are usable. Often times, they are more difficult to felt, but that all depends on the fineness of the wool. The finer the wool, the faster it will felt--to tell how fine any wool roving is look at the micron count OR Bradford Spinning Count System number. The micron count measures the diameter of the individual wool fibers. 20 and below will be easy to felt. The Bradford Spinning Count System predicts the number of 560 yard skeins you could spin from 1lb of clean fleece. The higher the number, the finer the wool. Your average merino is a 64 count on the Bradford system. For more info on micron count & Bradford system, click here.

What else do I need?

You need three basic things in order to felt wool; heat, soap, and friction. This can be supplied in several ways. The most traditional is dipping wool into hot-hot soapy water, then palm rolling into a dread shape (tutorial links below). A newer method is to toss bits of wool into the washing machine to be felted. Either way, I suggest buying some felting needles (see Basic Definitions). Rubber gloves, towels, and a bowl may also be necessary.

How do I make them?

As stated above, you need heat, soap, and friction to cause wool to felt. How this is applied exactly depends on what kind of wool dread you want.

*Important!* The following types of dreads will come in two shapes--DE (double ended) or SE (single ended). See "Basic Definitions." For a discussion of the pros and cons of each see here. It really is all about personal preference, but I suggest starting with DE dreads because they will be easier to install later. DEs are much more common for wool dreads.

Basic Wool Dreads: Click for picture. These are made by dipping wool into a bowl of hot-hot, soapy water and then palm rolling them into a dread shape. Here's a tutorial with pictures and directions. Here is a video that goes along with that tutorial.

Basic Twisted Wool Dreads: These are made by dipping wool into a bowl of hot-hot, soapy water and then palm rolling while twisting to help aid the felting process. Here is a tutorial of the Twisted Method.

Alternative Felting Wool Dreads: These are made in a similar way to Basic Wool dreads, but the wool's width is used rather than its length. See the tutorial here.

Crinkly/Wiggly Wool Dreads: There are several ways to achieve a crinkly or wriggly wool dread. Right now there's no tutorial out there for it, but I promise to keep my eyes open!

Wavy Wool Dreads: Click here for picture. Wavy wool dreads are achieved by tightly twisting the wool, then letting it twist back on itself, and finally felting in a washing machine. This tutorial explains it well.

Curly Wool Dreads: Curly wool dreads are achieved much like curly synthetic dreads. First, make a Basic Wool Dread, then wrap around a rod, and felt again. This tutorial explains the technique.

Dread Braids: Click for picture. A basic three way braid made of wool and then felted in the washing machine. See a Prezi tutorial here.

How do I wear them?

There are several ways to attach your made dreadlocks to your head, with the most popular being Dread Falls and Installation. These are the same ways to wear synthetic dreads; many of the videos and tutorials below show synthetic dreads, simply imagine a wool dread instead.

Dread Falls: This is attaching dreadlocks to a piece of elastic or lace or ribbon, then tying them around buns of your natural hair. Here is a video about how to make dread falls. Here is a tutorial about how to wear dread falls. Here is a video about how to wear dread falls. Here is a video about how to wear dread falls with short hair. Patience, practice, and finding your own technique are very important to wearing dread falls. And also, always remember to get dressed BEFORE putting on your dread falls.

Installation: This is attaching the dreads to your head by separating your hair into small sections, then braiding the dread in with your natural hair. Here is a video about sectioning your natural hair. Here is a video about how to install DEs and one about SEs. To see it done on an actual human head, watch this series of videos which use blanket stitch braid (check Basic Definitions page). To see someone doing it alone with a three way braid, watch this here. Here is a discussion with tips about installing and another shorter one here. This is advice about where to put the most and least dreads. If you have no one to install your dreads for you, do not despair! You can do it by yourself with the use of multiple mirrors to see the back of your head or by setting up a webcam behind your head. Personally, I do it mostly by feel with no mirrors. Again, patience and practice!

Jaw Clips: This is attaching the dreads to a piece of mesh which is then attached to a jaw clip and attached to your natural hair. This tutorial here is about making a cyber fall on a jaw clip, but just imagine sewing dreads to the mesh rather than tying plastic, foam, and tubing to it.

Clip In Dreads: This is just a few dreads sewn onto a wig or weave or snap clip. It's easy; just use a needle and thread to sew on two to three dreads.

What else can I do with wool?

Dying Wool: Unlike synthetic hair, wool is a natural fiber. Because of this, it can easily be dyed with a variety of materials. Natural items, like purple onion skins or bark, can be used to dye. Household items, such as powdered Koolaid or food dye. And of course, wool dye, which is also available in UV colors. You can dye the raw roving before felting into dreadlock shapes or after felting. There is a large discussion about how to dye wool here with food dye and another one about UV dying here and another about using official wool dyes here.

Needle Felting Prints: Example picture here. More wool can be added onto felted dreadlocks to create patterns. Using small bits of wool, a felting needle is stabbed through the extra wool and the felted drealocks to attach the two. Leopard spots, zebra stripes, flowers, vines, and words are some examples of what can be printed onto wool dreadlocks. It is time consuming but gives really great results. I haven't been able to find a tutorial yet :-/

How do I care for my dreads?

Installation: I have a helpful page here about wearing dreads as an installation. Things like can I wash my hair? How do I take them out? My scalp is itchy? Etc. The nice thing about wool dreads is that they can be washed. After an install, pile all your dreads into a pillow case and tie at the open end. Set your washer to the gentlest and coldest cycle. Put a small splash of Woolite in. Drop the pillow case in. When you take them out, separate them and hang or lay to dry near a fan or warm place; they cannot be wet for more than 24 hours or they may rot.

Falls and Clips: When storing your falls or clips, try not to fold or kink up the dreads because those marks could become permanent. Try to lay them flat, and I always suggest storing them in a bag of some kind--old pillow cases work great! You can wash dread falls as describe above, but I would be warry of putting jaw clips in the washer.