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How Do I Make Yarn Dreadlocks?

By S. McNesby
Updated May 21, 2024
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Creating yarn dreadlocks is a craft that merges tradition with personal expression. According to a study by the Textile Research Journal, felting efficiency can be significantly enhanced by choosing the right type of wool, with fine fibers felting faster than coarser ones.

When learning how to make yarn dreads, selecting high-quality wool yarn is often recommended for its natural felting properties. Acrylic yarn, while not traditionally used for felting, can be manipulated to mimic dreadlocks and offers a vegan alternative. 

With patience and the proper technique, you can braid and felt your own yarn dreads, adding a unique touch to your style. While the process can be solitary, enlisting help can streamline the attachment to your hair, which is best when healthy.

Basic Concept

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.

Necessary Supplies

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.

FAQ on Yarn Dreadlocks

What type of yarn is best for creating yarn dreadlocks?

For creating yarn dreadlocks, it's recommended to use 100% wool yarn because of its natural ability to felt and lock together. Acrylic yarn can also be used, but it won't felt, so the dreadlocks may not be as durable. Wool roving yarn is particularly well-suited for this purpose due to its loose, unspun fibers that easily mat and bind into dreadlocks.

How long does it take to make yarn dreadlocks?

The time it takes to make yarn dreadlocks can vary widely depending on the length and number of dreadlocks desired. On average, creating a full head of medium-length yarn dreadlocks might take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. This process can be time-consuming as it involves backcombing, twisting, and felting the yarn to achieve the right texture and firmness.

Can yarn dreadlocks be washed, and how should they be cared for?

Yarn dreadlocks can be washed, but they require gentle care to maintain their shape and cleanliness. It's best to use a residue-free shampoo and to wash them sparingly, allowing them to dry thoroughly to prevent mildew. Wool dreadlocks should be washed with cool water to avoid felting further, while acrylic dreadlocks can handle warmer water. Regular palm rolling helps to keep them tight and neat.

Are yarn dreadlocks permanent, or can they be removed?

Yarn dreadlocks are not permanent and can be removed. However, the removal process can be time-consuming and may involve cutting out the yarn if it has been in for an extended period. It's easier to remove yarn dreadlocks that have been installed using the braiding method rather than those that have been felted into the hair.

How do you prevent yarn dreadlocks from getting frizzy or unraveling?

To prevent yarn dreadlocks from getting frizzy or unraveling, it's important to properly maintain them. This includes regular palm rolling to keep them tight, using a crochet hook to tuck in loose hairs, and avoiding over-washing. Additionally, wearing a silk or satin scarf at night can protect the dreadlocks from friction and help maintain their appearance.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1003468 — On Jun 30, 2020

I have recently had gorgeous acrylic dreads weaved in and I am so pleased.

By burcinc — On Jul 29, 2014

@ysmina-- There are ready made, yarn dreadlocks on sale. Salons often sell them and I think most people prefer to have them attached by a hairstylist. It can be difficult to attach yarn dreadlocks alone, especially if one is trying to do a whole head of hair.

By ysmina — On Jul 28, 2014

@ddljohn-- Yarn dreads are awesome. They're very popular, and will be more popular than real dreads I think. I actually don't know why anyone would want real dreads when they can have yarn dreads. Yarn dreads look just as natural as real dreads. And they can be removed and changed at any time. If someone wants a different color in their hair, all he or she needs to do is remove the dreadlocks and put in a different colored one. It's much easier to maintain these than real dreadlocks.

The only problem I've encountered with them is that they can be difficult to make at home. I've tried many times. Some turned out okay, while others came loose too quickly. There is definitely a method for making beautiful dreads. People without experience might have issues.

By ddljohn — On Jul 28, 2014

This is such a great idea. I've been wanting to try dreadlocks for the longest time. But I was afraid of it due to all the horror stories I heard about managing the dreadlocks. People kept telling me that the only way to get rid of dreadlocks later on was to shave my head.

I did not know that I can make dreadlocks with yarn. I will try this soon, I'm so excited!

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