Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Adventures of GypsyLocks

Photo by Kaye Porter
So my year-and-a-half-long experiment with yarn dreadlock extensions is over.  I (with Dore's help) devised a method of braiding yarn into the hair and wrapping the braids that created a sort of dreadlock look, and didn't have to be taken out and redone every couple of months like braids do.  You just add more yarn and wrap the roots as they grow out. I call them GypsyLocks.

I really liked how it looked - my hair is normally fine and thin (and worn short for most of my adult life), and I’ve always envied that thick, ropey look of dreads.  After looking into getting actual dreads and exploring other methods of creating the look, I ended up making up my own method.  My hair was about 3 inches long when I started, and I paid a professional braider to do the initial installation, which took about 3 hours.  My method added several inches of length and increased the volume by probably over 1000%!

I dug adding different colors and types of yarn and decorating it with beads and bits of brass tubing, wrapping it with colorful scarves and clipping in feathers and flowers.  It was definitely a distinctive look and a lot of fun to play with.  Styling it was pretty effortless - no styling products necessary, no brushing or blow drying or curling.

However, it did take a bit of effort to maintain, and Dore did a lot of the work, since I couldn’t see or reach a lot of it.  Bless that man!

Photo by Steve Cheski
Overall, it was a fun experience. 
I spent the first 2 weeks feeling incredibly everyone was staring at me and thinking I was a dirty hippie freak.  But I found that once I adjusted and got comfortable with it - once I owned my weirdness and let my freak flag fly, I got overwhelmingly positive reactions.
 I actually got to know my local shop clerks and neighbors better because I was much more noticeable and recognizable and they felt compelled to comment on my hair, and relationships were struck.  I actually got a lot of compliments on it - from young people (I was a hit at my stepson's graduation!) and old people (the ladies at JoAnne's were especially curious).  I'm sure there were plenty of people who thought I was a freaky weirdo, too, but they didn't mention it to me.  

One downside was that it was hot and heavy, since my head was covered with several skeins of yarn.  When I washed it (about once a week), it would get REALLY heavy, since it was basically a huge sponge, and took a lot of squeezing out and time to dry thoroughly.  If I didn’t let it dry thoroughly, there was the danger of the dreads getting moldy and smelly.  Yuck!

Spontaneous swimming was out. When I did get in a pool, I had to tie my hair up out of the water and limit my activities to avoid submerging.  Hats no longer fit on my head.  I couldn’t wear certain clothing because the collars wouldn’t fit over the volume of hair. I no longer needed to use a pillow (using one gave me a gnarly crick in my neck).  After a while, some of the older braids started looking ratty.  Bits of loose hair began to work their way out and the braids either had to be taken out and re-done, or further wrapped to smooth them out. 

I decided that after Burning Man, I’d pull them all out and start over fresh, with thinner and shorter braids this time to reduce the weight.

Photo by Genevieve

I was correct in suspecting that my braids would be in bad shape after the Burn.  They were full of dust and showering nearly everyday to keep clean and cool ended up resulting in the dreaded (haha!) moldy smell toward the end, even in the dry desert heat.  By the time we left Black Rock City, I was more than ready to get all this yarn off my head.

I started pulling them out on the 12-hour drive home.  This required scissors to snip and nimble fingers to unwind and untangle the strands, some of which had felted and matted together.  Some of the older braids were encased in several layers of yarn.  Underneath the yarn, the hair had formed actual dreadlocks, which then had to be combed out.  It was not a pretty process. 

Two days later, Dore (bless him!) and I were still pulling yarn out of my hair.  I could not believe how much yarn I had in there after a year and a half.  I swear I pulled out at least 5 skeins of yarn and a ton of hair that would have normally fallen out with regular washing and brushing.  By the end, my fingers were sore and I was desperate to just get the damn thing over with.

Finally, we got all the yarn out and I spent half of the next day combing out the rattail dreads.  At last, I was able to run my fingers through my hair again, and shampoo and condition like normal.  My scalp was thrilled to be scratched and massaged and moisturized.  My head feels about 5 lbs lighter.  Once my hair was clean and dry (in less than a half hour!), I sat down with the Tingler wire scalp massager thingy and had a few rather delicious moments of cranial ecstasy.  Aaaahhhh!

My hair has grown about 5 inches since I first had the braids installed.  This seems like a lot more growth than I normally have.  Perhaps the weight of the yarn sped up the process?
Unfortunately, it’s still fine and thin, and now more gray then ever, with that frizzy, wispy old lady texture.  I definitely look older – shockingly so, because of the huge contrast from the thick, dark dreads I had a week ago.

Not sure what I’m going to do with it. 
Right now, I have zero desire to re-install the yarn.  The removal process was rather harrowing. I was considering writing up a tutorial on the method, but after enduring the removal process, I don't know that I'd recommend it.  Perhaps I'll continue to experiment and modify the technique at some point.
But not right now.

My fuzzy old lady hair feels like a soft cloud on my shoulders.  I kind of like it.
And tonight, I’m going swimming.  And diving right in without hesitation. 


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