Padding your hairnet

I was showing how to braid and tape two braids in place for a renaissance look just the other day. My hair is silky, slippery, quite thin and very long, reaching my thighs. Still it was remarked and I agree, my natural hair doesn’t even come close to the fashionable profiles. Not that I really want to look like I have a huge doughnut on my head, but a bit of help is obviously needed. Naturally I went overboard, stuffing my hairnet with all shed hair from the last decade and my own hair.

And what about hairnet users that have a modern short haircut? Many have said to me that they don’t feel like a hairnet would work for them because their hair is too short. Maybe they shouldn’t worry about it. As long as you can slick your hair back and there is some length to use for pinning the net in place, the result is lovely. If the hair is long enough to be pulled into a small ponytail or bun, you can attach and wrap false braids around this base. It will keep in place nicely.

Plastic hair is cheap and can easily be matched to your hair colour. But it’s plastic. It shines, it itches, it slips and it’s not my favourite. Then again, I really don’t enjoy using bought real hair either. Donated or collected real hair doesn’t bother me at all, but some people hate the idea of “dead hair”. You just have to make your own decisions here. If you’re worried about hygiene or the smell, don’t be. You can wash the hair and it mainly smells like hair and shampoo.

You can always add shape with the use of a wulst, the period false braid. Wulst can be a padded linen tube either braided or straight, padded with cotton or something similar. Or it’s a padded ring with a rigid centre. The Curious Frau has a nice Youtube tutorial on how to make this ring. The shape it gives is a wonderful halo on the back of your head and these can be huge. The wulst is usually covered completely and that’s why there is no need to match it to the colour of your hair. This said, I probably would use a wulst dyed to match the hair rather than a plastic false braid. Wulst comes closer to the period solution and feels nicer.

How about collecting your hair when you brush it or cut it more than 10 cm? We know that Victorian and Edwardian ladies did this, collecting hair in special boxes and using them to pad those huge hairdos of the period. I find this idea fascinating and have been saving my hair for some time now. But please, just clean hair from a comb or brush, not from the drain! Still, I know this shed hair disgusts some of you and that’s fine. You have other possibilities. But look away now, because next I’ll explain how I made my hair padding, sometimes called a hair rat.

Real hair padding

Start collecting your hair now. Pick individual hairs from your comb or brush and store them as fluffily as possible. You can actually start with a smaller amount and continue stuffing the tube. I’ve been collecting for some years and there is about 80 g of hair here and it looks like a huge amount. But you’ll see it shrinks down a lot when shaped. The hair had matted into different sized balls just in storage. When you have enough hair, pull the hair apart, wash it with shampoo and hot water to get rid of dust and make it a bit shaggier. What you see in the picture is just dust, cat hair and bits of yarn (life well lived). I washed mine in the sink, letting it just soak and squeezing the water out. It dried over some spare fabric. And came out in one huge dreadlock! So treat the hair gently, pick out the dust before you store it.

My version of the netting is naturally a modified hairnet. I saw a brilliant idea to use a fishnet stocking matching your hair colour as the tube! Or you could just stuff it into a plastic hairnet in a similar colour. And many tutorials omit the netting altogether.

The tube has only 40 loops on a round, made with silk using a 8 mm gauge. I tried dyeing white yarn with the same henna I use for my hair, making a cool paste and letting it sit overnight. But the colour did not come even close! So I’ll be using brown silk for the netting. The empty tube is c. 50 cm long and is designed to fit more hair at some point. But honestly, it’s too stuffed already.

Shape your shed and washed hair into either an oblong ball for little padding or into a long sausage for more padding. Roll this shape between your hands to tighten it a bit. Then stuff your tube gently. If the tube is too long, just fold the extra inside it. Close the open mouth with a long cord, about 0,5 meter, made from the same yarn as the tube. Tie another long cord to the closed end of the tube. These cords will help you to shape the padding and tie it in place.

In article picture my loose hair is wrapped around a doughnut shaped tube, like you would wrap you hair for rollers. The same hairdo can be seen in my article Linen hairnets. My hair tube is meant to be used in several different ways, from a 19th century Gibson girl halo to a late 13th century neck bun. Used pointing up it would actually work as a base for a huge 18th century hairdo!

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