Tutorial: Hair

When I started this blog and decided to make a Tips and Tricks tag I was originally thinking about hair.  After the jump you’ll find a comprehensive guide to hairstyling amigurumis.  It’s just a guide and certainly not intended to be a formal pattern.  I’m hoping it will provide some insight and maybe some inspiration to try some techniques of your own.

Hair.

It’s not that hair is particularly difficult, it’s that it’s one of my favorite parts of making an amigurumi caricature.  That probably bears repeating: caricature.  The method to the Xanadoodle madness is to try to create simplified caricatures of well-known characters, so they resemble the original with a minimum of details.  Hair matters big time.  Get hair wrong and your end result is much tougher concept to sell, visually speaking.

Picard by Xanadoodle

Bald: The fastest and easiest hairstyle you'll ever do.

Short vs Long

Knowing how your chosen yarn will behave at different lengths is important.  See, yarn is made of multiple twisted fibers.  The fibers are twisted one direction, and then they’re twisted together in the opposite direction.  The tension between the opposing twist directions keeps the bundle together in a strand.

That tension may also make your yarn want to stand at attention.  Cut a 1 inch strand of yarn and hold it horizontal to the ground and you’ll find the end will stick straight out, defying you, your will, and the law of gravity.  There is a point where the total weight of the length of yarn will be sufficient so that it will head groundward and hang down, but cut a piece shorter than that point and your yarn will want to hover.

And that’s great, if you’re making a pompom.  Not great for most amigurumi hairstyles.

Pom pom

Um...

Density

So how much do you actually need to string?  That all depends on what’s going to show and how full or flat you want the final style to be.  Each strand will boost the strands around it and the style will get bigger and fuller as they get more populous. String too much hair and your curly updo will turn into a puffball.  String too little and your little guy will look like he has mange.

A character with very smooth flat hair may only need to be strung around the crown.  The hair hangs down and conceals the unstrung areas without gaps.  Characters with ponytails, in particular, can be done this way.  String just enough to cover the visible areas and leave the rest unstrung.  Otherwise your ponytail will be so bulky that it’ll outweigh the total doll.

Joan by Xanadoodle

Joan needs just enough hair to sweep smoothly back and a set of swoopy bangs.

For characters with shorter hair you may need to string an entire hairline.  Start at the forehead and work your way around to establish the whole border, then work within that space to fill it in.

There’s no simple answer here, just keep going until you can’t see scalp anymore.  The point is that it’s more like trompe l’oeil than actual hair.  You just want to do enough to create the visual impression of the style.  That may mean very little actual yarn and some creative styling.

Let’s make some hair.

Long Straight Hair

This one is easy so I’ll start by describing the stringing technique.  Determine where your amigurumi’s hairline will be.  Does your character have a broad forehead?  Does he/she have a low brow? Find the row of stitches that best defines where your hair should start and pick a stitch right in the middle.  Cut a long length of yarn and use a tapestry needle to start knotting the yarn to the stitches.  Work through the gaps between stitches and knot around stitch posts.  Change the angle of the knots as you tie because irregularity will fill the space more naturally than perfectly aligned knots.

If you’ve used a sport weight yarn for the head, which I typically do, this will be easy because the gaps between stitches will easily pass a needle.  The other advantage to using sport weight when tying hair is that the stitches themselves are small so your hair knots will be small. Leave each length of yarn longer than you want your finished hairstyle to be and snip.  Rethread your needle and tie, snip. Rethread, tie, snip.

Tifa by Xanadoodle

You want long hair? I give you long hair.

Typically I will go across the head and do the entire hairline, stopping just above where I’ll attach the ears.  Although if the hair will hang over the ears I’ll sometimes skip that detail.  I’ll try to vary the angle of my knots to encourage strands to fall on either side of where the part will be, if the hair will be parted.

Once the hair is all strung I go in with scissors and cut, layer and style like it’s an actual haircut.  I will string as much as 200% of the yarn I need just to cut it down to the right style.  You can always cut shorter.  You can’t cut longer.

Long Wavy/Curly Hair

The great thing about the twisted fiber construction of yarn is that you’ve got a built-in curly solution.  Unravel the individual strands and the component fibers are going to want to remember their curl.  This will vary from material to material, but if you work in acrylic like I do you should be able to do some pretty awesome big spiral curl hairdos.

Troi by Xanadoodle

I mean Texas-grade big hair.

The stringing technique is the same as above, but before cutting I go in and unravel each individual piece of yarn.  I use my fingers to lightly comb out the strands so that they lie next to each other, rather than wrapping around each other.  It gets big, and it gets big fast.

Layering is important for curly hair styles, because it allows the spirals to hold various degrees of curl, which will look a little more natural. When you cut it up to the length you’re looking for, angle your scissors and get into the mass to trim some of the sections a bit shorter.

Mixed Texture:

You can shake things up a bit and do a messier, more complicated texture by only unraveling some of the yarn.  This will help you find a happy medium between curly and straight, or may make hair look a little more disheveled.

River Tam by Xanadoodle

Or crazy.

The Dude by Xanadoodle

Or stoned.

Medium Length Hair

Now this is where it gets more complicated.  Hair that is shoulder length may want to stick straight out.  If your character has full hair, that may be okay.  If you’re doing just a fringe where it’s just a single row, that can help reduce fullness and work, too.

Worf by Xanadoodle

Aliens and male pattern baldness included.

If your character has smooth medium-length hair that needs to lie down flat, you may need to stitch through your character’s head.  This will require a different approach to stringing, because you’ll need to start by establishing the location of your part.  You will also want to work a continuous thread without snipping.

Thread a tapestry needle and tie into one of your stitches where it will be concealed by the coverage of the hair.  Threading through the head, emerge at the crown where your part will start.  Pull up your slack just enough to cover the surface, but not enough to squeeze the head and distort the shape.  Even tension will be crucial here.  Re-enter the head at the chin/ear/shoulder length you’re aiming for and re-emerge at the crown.  Continue around the head on either side of the part until you have a solid wall of hair.

Maude by Xanadoodle

Bangs are done similarly, just shorter.

Short Spiky Hair

Sometimes you find yourself working on a guy with a short, spiky do.  That’s all fine and good, but your concern now is going to be density.  Since strands will be cut short and stick up, any gaps between the knots where head color shows will stick out like a sore thumb.  Not that your amigurumi has thumbs.  What I’m saying is, stay thumbless.

Ben Linus by Xanadoodle

Doctor Who David Tennant by Xanadoodle

Casual, spiky, a little bit silly, a little bit naughty.

Short Neat Hair

Ah, a haircut you can set your watch to.  High and tight, crisply styled, a short male hairdo is where you’re going to need to get out your crochet hook and do a little work.  Short hair is done in rounds, starting with a magic circle.

If you’ve read my head tutorial, you already know my amigurumi heads are built on increments of four.  Accordingly, my hair pieces are built on fours. For men with solid hair coverage I do a single disc.  For men with parts I do two discs and join them.  Here are a few examples.

Jack by Xanadoodle

Short buzzed hair.

Short Buzzed Hair

RND 1: Start a magic circle and SC 4 into the ring.  Pull your tail to close the loop.
RND 2: SC 2 in the next SC.  Repeat 3 times. (8)
RND 3: SC 1 in the next SC, 2 SC in the next SC.  Repeat 3 times (12)
RND 4: SC 1 in the next 2 SCs, 2 SC in the next SC.  Repeat 3 times (16)

You’re basically building another sphere, just like the head, with the same increases.  You want to go just wide enough to hug snugly to the curve of the head at an appropriate hair length. If you’re maxed out on width and you need more length, stop increasing and just SC in each SC.  For super-short hair you might only go through RND 3 and then CH 1, turn the piece over, SC halfway around, CH 1, turn the piece over and SC back to the start.  This gives you coverage on the top and back of the head.  Sideburns are created by joining into the hair just ahead of where the ears will fit and CH 2.

Use your long tails to stitch the hair to the head by threading through it with a tapestry needle.  Weave in your ends and finish.

Geordi by Xanadoodle

High and tight flat-top.

High and Tight Flat Top

For this style you want to square off the top of the head.  This is easy to accomplish by switching to one round of front-loop only SC at the widest point and then no longer increasing.

RND 1: Start a magic circle and SC 4 into the ring.  Pull your tail to close the loop.
RND 2: SC 2 in the next SC.  Repeat 3 times. (8)
RND 3: SC 1 in the next SC, 2 SC in the next SC.  Repeat 3 times (12)
RND 4: SC 1 front loop only in the next 12 SC (12)
Rnd 5: SC 1 in the next 12 SC (12)

RND 4 basically gives you a 90-degree turn so your disc of hair is flat on top.  Ch 1 and turn, SC halfway around, CH 1 and turn, SC halfway around.  This covers the back.  Do the sideburns the same as described above.

Malcolm Reynolds by Xanadoodle

Parted hair with forelock.

Parted Hair with Forelock

In this case you’ll crochet two small rounds and join them.  Decide which half of your subject’s head is fuller and make a bigger ring for that side.  As described above, crochet through RND 3 (12).  Tie off.  Start a second magic circle and crochet through RND 2 (8), leaving the last 3 stitches unfinished.

Line the two discs up flat against each other and finish your last 3 stitches of the second disc by SC through 3 of the stitches of the first one.  Continue SC around to the halfway point, CH 1, turn the piece over, SC back around to the opposite halfway point, CH 1, turn the piece over, and SC back around until it’s even.  Tie off.  This now gives you parted hair with a side part and forelock with coverage for the back of the head.

Wesley by Xanadoodle

Flippy bangs.

Flippy Bangs

This is just a variation of the parted method above.  The only difference is that you may choose to finish the larger disc with a CH 1, turn the piece over, SC 3 just to extend the front a bit.  This gives you 3 extra stitches that extend past the main bulk of the hair.

When the two circles are joined you can either use your fingers to push the extra stitches up and shape them or you can do a quick concealed stitch from the back to hold them upright a bit.  In small quantities a few extra stitches may be willing to be molded into shape manually, so don’t be afraid to try it.

So that’s it.

I find every character presents its own hair challenge.  While these techniques can start out as guidance, you’ll fare best if you experiment with a stitch here, a decrease there, a slip stitch or two.  When you get it right your character totally rings true.  When you get it wrong, just rip it out and try again.

Good luck!  Feel free to post questions in the comments section or contact me via email or Etsy if you want a bit more clarification.

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One response to “Tutorial: Hair

  1. Hi! I’m wondering if you have any idea of how to do an up-do, like seven of nine in voyager (a french twist). It’s got me stumped.

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