Thursday, 17 January 2013

Wig Making Questions: Ventilating Loop, and How Much Hair Needed?

I had a question from a reader asking about ventilating and the amount of hair needed for a wig.


I know that you're supposed to loop the hair between your thumb and index finger before you begin the ventilation process... I was wondering if the loop is supposed to be even meaning if the hair is 24 inches long originally, will it be 12 inches as you ventilate it or does it not matter?

For total beginners - When you ventilate you need to create a curve (loop) in order to catch the hair in the ventilation needle, which means you can then pull it through the lace hole and do your knot. This is achieved by folding over the top of the length of hair where the root end is - remember the hair you buy and use needs to be cuticle correct or it will tangle and matt up when the wig is worn/washed.

To help keep your bulk, raw hair organised, use a pair of drawing cards. Write 'root' at the top, and always place the hair you are using with the root end lying at the end marked root on your drawing cards. You should be able to tell the root end when you buy the hair, as the hair is usually bound more strongly and obviously at the root end. Depending on how the hair was collected, you can also tell by looking at both ends: one end will normally look 'cut'.

Drawing Cards
Tip: Hold them together with an elastic band or a pair of clamps. If the cards fall on the floor, they may fall apart and all the hair get mixed up in different directions, which would make the hair unusable. 
Root End Marked
 Drawing Cards - The 'Teeth' Hold the Hair in Place and You 'Draw' a Small Amount Out to Ventilate

In answer to the question - Firstly, it should not be even. It depends on the hair used. With processed hair, you can generally get away with longer returns if the cuticle has been completely stripped away (of course it is hard to know whether this has been done or not!). With cuticle intact hair one is aiming for a fold (return) of about 1 inch. Of course this is not a completely exact science, so somewhere around that length should be okay. In my case, I am aiming to do a 1 inch-ish return and this is what I would advise people to do unless the hair is heavily processed and very coarse, thick strands. A good way of judging how it will look is to take a scrap piece of lace, then ventilate about 20 hairs in two 10 strand rows, and just see if the returns are poking up.

 Hair Folded Over to Make a Return

The Loop - this is the holding position for ventilating. Hold the folded loop together between your thumb and index finger. Then draw hairs from the loop through your lace, monofilament or tulle.  
Tip: don't take too much hair at a time from your drawing cards or you might get finger fatigue from trying to grip it all! This also helps to prevent hair wastage when learning, as you may drop some or find it gets caught up and need to chuck it in the bin if the root to tip becomes mixed up.

One problem with returns is the 'salute' you issue - where the returns stand up and poke out of the ventilated hair like a load of regrowth or broken hairs. I have noticed this seems to be more a problem with thick, coarse hair as the returns are not fine and soft enough to fall flat. When using European human hair, this is less of an issue as the hair is finer and softer. It is a complaint that some wig wearers make because it looks odd (unnatural) and irritating, and I have seen people requesting 4 inch returns when they order a full lace wig from China to try to combat this. In theory, as I said before, if the cuticle has been entirely stripped away, this might work okay, but if the cuticle is there, you would risk matting and tangling issues. This is because the cuticle on the hair shaft is like a load of tiles on a roof. When the cuticle is closed and the hair is healthy, the tiles lay fairly flat, but when the cuticle is opened or damaged, some of the tiles stick up. On normal hair growing out of the head, all the strands of hair have the cuticle facing the same way - downwards. When you ventilate hair onto a wig, assuming you have cuticle intact hair that has been kept with the root-to-tip the correct way up, you end up with the long main part of the strand hanging with the cuticle as it would be on your head, downwards; however, on the return, the hair strand is now upside down with the cuticle facing upwards.

If the cuticle opens up (say when you use hot water or a deep heat treatment on the hair) or becomes damaged, then the parts of the cuticle hanging downwards can snag against the return which has the cuticle facing upwards and cause tangling or matting issues. As a result, a shorter return is preferable to a longer return as there is less return length to tangle and snag against the main hair strands on the wig.


Also, how much hair is needed normally for a lace front wig? (100-120% density)

How much hair you will need depends on how long the hair is, as even for the same density, the longer the hair, the heavier it will be.

Length - remember that you will lose at least 1 inch for the return; however, I bank on losing 2 inches (I am a cautious person). Then, you need to take into account whether you will want to have the wig cut after you made it. If you do, you will lose maybe another inch or two. So if I want to make a wig that is 12 inches long, I would buy a minimum of 14 inches, maximum 16 inches in length.

To get a length of 14 inches, to be cut down to 12 or 13 inches finished length after styling - I personally would be looking to buy between: 170/180 grams (14 inches) to 190/200 grams (16 inches) of raw, bulk hair. This is about 6 to 7 ounces. I like to allow for a little wastage, so would tend to round up rather than down. With a bulk hair vendor, you can usually buy in small increments - certainly in the UK you can buy by the 10 gram increment.

I have tried to think how to make some kind of formula for this. The best I can come up with (I hope this works! BUY AT YOUR OWN RISK - double check with the hair vendor, as they should also be able to advise how much you need) is:

For every increase of 2 inches, add 20 grams, for every decrease of 2 inches, remove 20 grams. This is approximate, it depends on the thickness of the hair (think about it, if the strands are finer, you will get more strands than if they are thicker!). The range gives you a little adjustment because if you end up with raw ponytails, you may find you cannot add them together to weigh exactly 160 or 220 or whatever. I would tend to favour the upper number, better to have too much than too little and, in my case, I have a big head so more foundation to cover (hehe).

10 inch wig: you would need at least 12 inches of hair, you would want to order 150/160 grams.
12 inch wig: you would need at least 14 inches of hair, you would want to order 170/180 grams.
14 inch wig: you would need at least 16 inches of hair, you would want to order 190/200 grams.
16 inch wig: you would need at least 18 inches of hair, you would want to order 210/220 grams.
18 inch wig: you would need at least 20 inches of hair, you would want to order 230/240 grams.


Generally, if you are buying bulk hair from a supplier like De Meo Brothers (US) or Hugo Royer (UK), it is a good idea to buy a little extra hair for repairs and/or in case you misjudge how much you need. The upside being, the more wigs you make, the more hair you will have in stock (assuming you don't use all the hair each time you make a wig) and you can eventually gather compatible colours together, and blend them to make a hair piece or wig if you want to.

Density - If you want a heavier density wig, then add on another 25-30% so:

Medium density weight x 1.25 (to add 25%)
Medium density weight x 1.30 (to add 30%)

I hope this helps.

Disclaimer: Buy at your own risk. I accept no responsibility for these numbers being inaccurate!


  1. Thank you sooo much for posting this :)

  2. I love you blog! It's the most helpful site I found online. But could you please include any other sources online with information on wig making? that would be amazing!

    1. There are not really any - just dribs and drabs you can find by reading 1000s of Google search results. This is why I created the blog, because no where seems to provide comprehensive information. I don't have the time to include links unless I happen upon them now - all the stuff I have read in the past are bits... Tiny snippets on random sites, and would be impossible for me to remember or list.

    2. Oh I see, because except from your blog that's all I could find as well. And I was hoping that there were more but I just couldn't find them.
      Thank you for your great work!
      It helped me learn a lot and soon I will as well be on my journey to wig making.
      Have you finished yours yet? I'm dying to see it!

    3. I haven't finished yet - nearly there! I got distracted as I started some more training and got busy with that. I just keep plugging away at it - it doesn't help that I have a giant head and decided to do an extended nape! If I had a small head, I would have finished by now lol.

      What kind of wig are you going to make?

      I think the reason there is so little info is because a lot of people start and then don't finish! So they may write a bit and then give up or find they don't like it or whatever. It can be quite tedious and there is no one else motivating you - you kinda have to set yourself targets and become your own cheerleader! That's how I feel - when I do wig repairs, I get the motivation because someone else is waiting for me to finish it so they can use it!

  3. Hi i am so happy i goggle wig making and found you..I have went through..almost all of you blogs...and i can't seem to find how you actually start putting the hair on the lace..i guess i'm asking how do you loop it on the cap/lace...I feel like i have the foundation on making the wig by reading your blog..Now i need to know how to make make wigs already with closures .but i want to to learn how to make my own closures...and i want to use the skin that looks real..if not i can always dye the lace of silk..omg..I am so excited right now i found this blog...God bless..And thank you for taking time out to do this..My email

    1. Hi Charnell

      I haven't put information on how to ventilate (knot) the hair, because to be honest it is not something you can describe very easily so it is better explained visually. The best way to learn is to either attend a class/course or, as in my case, to watch YouTube videos. There is a book called Wig Making and Styling (Allison Lowery and Martha Ruskai) that is also helpful and if you search online you may find a digram of how to do a knot... all these things together should help. I suggest practicising on a spare piece of lace - do some rows and see how you get on.