Making yarn dreadlocks can be a time-intensive project, but in most cases it involves braiding or weaving long strands of yarn together, then “felting” them to approximate the look of a real dreadlock. You’ll want to choose yarn in the color you want your dreads to be. Most do-it-yourselfers choose wool yarn, but acrylic options can be good choices, too. There are a couple of important differences between the materials both when it comes to creation and ultimate attachment. Doing some research and talking to experts in the field can be a good idea if you aren’t sure. In most instances you can braid, felt, and attach the dreadlocks by yourself. The process is usually faster and easier with help, though, particularly when it comes to attaching the yarn to your existing hair, and you’ll usually get the best results if your hair is healthy and strong to begin with.
Dreadlocks are a hairstyle most commonly created by rolling and matting sections of hair together. It’s usually more or less permanent, and the locs have to be cut off in most cases to change styles. Yarn alternatives have a serious advantage in this respect; they allow wearers the look without the commitment.
Faux dreadlocks, also known as yarn falls, are typically made by attaching long strips of prepared yarn to an existing hair clip or elastic. Once dry, they’re either clipped into or woven into the hair, usually depending on how long the person wants to wear them.
To make yarn dreadlocks, you will need at least one ball of thick yarn or roving, a pair of scissors, and a rubber hair elastic. You will also need access to a sink with warm running water and some shampoo, or a washing machine with a gentle cycle. In most cases you’ll want to allow about an hour to make a thick set of yarn dreadlocks, not including drying time; more may be needed if you’re a beginner.
Deciding Between Cotton or Acrylic
Most faux dreadlocks are made from natural wool fibers. These tend to most closely mimic human hair, and are also usually easier to “felt,” or texturize, to make them resemble true dreads. If you’re looking for really thick locs wool is probably the best yarn for you. Acrylic fibers usually lend themselves best to tinier, more precise strands. Temperature is also a consideration for many people, as wool can get really warm. If you want a long look in the warmer summer months, you might find that acrylic yarns are more comfortable.
Choose Your Length and Thickness
Once you have all of your supplies together, you’ll need to choose a length for your locs. The easiest way to do this is to hold strip of yarn up against your head and look in the mirror. Adjust the yarn placement and length until you have the look you want. To cut the yarn to the right length, fold a long piece of it in half and cut it to the size of your sample. This will yield a strip of yarn that is double the length of your sample piece.
Thickness is also an important consideration here. Natural roving is usually much denser and thicker than more refined weaving and knitting yarns. If you want very thin dreadlocks, refined yarns are fine; otherwise, look for roving or braid or twist smaller yarn strands into the thickness you want.
The Felting Process
”Felting” is the name of a process in which woolen fibers become bound and take on a fuzzy, almost furry appearance. If you’re using acrylic yarns this step is one to omit, but it’s important for wool fibers.
There are two main felting methods for yarn dreadlocks. The first requires the wool yarn to be held under warm running water; add a drop of shampoo and rub it across the length. Hold the wood strands together and rub them back and forth through your hands to twist them together. Rub the wool yarn between your hands for about a minute; the warm water and agitation will cause the strands to stick together.
You might also have better luck using a washing machine, especially if you want to felt all of your locs at once. With this method, you should place the completed locs in a mesh bag, then put them in the machine using hot water. The gentle cycle is usually best. Check on them periodically, but in most cases they’ll be done after about 15 minutes. Once felted through either method, the yarn will have a matted, fuzzy appearance. It’s usually best to let them air dry for at least 24 hours. Note here too that the warm water makes the yarn shrink; plan for this by cutting your stands longer than you actually think you’ll want.
Attachment and Wear
The easiest way to wear faux dreadlocks is to gather your hair into a ponytail or pigtails and secure the yarn with a barrette or clip. Wrap the elastic with the dreadlocks around the ponytail, covering your hair as desired. You can also weave them into your natural hair; this makes them more permanent and realistic, but also takes a lot more time. Dreadlocks made from yarn don’t usually require any special care, though you’ll want to be sure to keep your natural hair and scalp moisturized.