website book blog tutorials noticeboard thegilbertcollection email




cloth button

lucet cord


fake braid



stool or
pot stand

Hairpiece Tutorial
to achieve an early 14th century plaited buns over the ears

Let's face it, not everyone has enough hair to braid into exciting side buns to fill out a hairnet in the fashionable way for the early 14th century. Some of us need help.

Here is a way to add extra to your hair so you can finish your look!

What you need:
Scissors, quilting thread to match your hair, some stiff linen or buckram or similar fabric, a couple of rubber bands, pins, 2 wire-edged fascinator bases and false ponytail hair. I used Lady Jayne hair since it is a pretty nice synthetic hair and quite cheap compared to almost every other brand. When you choose your fascinator base, choose one that is shallow and not too big. It will look much bigger when we're finished! Most major craft stores sell fascinator bases.

Okay, let's start!

Step 1:
Gather your things and check you have everything.

Step 2:
Firstly, we are going to make the headband to attach the two sides to. Using your buckram or stiffened linen, measure out a band which goes around your head. Add a little for joining, and double the width (so when it folds over, it will be the right size.) If you only have thin stuff, just cut two and sew one side together leaving the bottom open.
Step 3.
I've pinned the open side together temporarily. The right side is the folded over side and goes to the top.

Step 4.
You can see here how it will sit on your head. At the very end, you will stitch the open bottom ends closed with a little whip stitch where it will be almost unnoticable. Okay. We have a headband to attach to side to. Now to get the sides in position.

Step 5.
We are going to make sure the sides sit not too high or not too low. Place one base over your ear and fold where to think your headband will sit. Don't worry about being too exact. We will adjust in a minute. Do the other side as well. It is important that you have bought the bases with the wire around the edges as it will let you shape your bases a little and provide structure. Now to attach and adjust.
Step 6.
There will be a front and a back, so put your headband on and slip your bases over the top so they look like this. Wriggle the bases forward or back until they are in the right place. If they are sitting too high or too low, you can adjust them now. We will cut them shortly.
Step 7.
At this stage, your hairpiece looks like this.
Step 8.
Do a second try on. Double check you have marked where the front of your hairpiece will sit. This foam head is smaller than mine, so the side pieces look huge, but on my head, it sits where it should. If you are working with a foam head and it looks like this, don't be too concerned.
Step 9.
Cut off the excess tips of the bases. Always leave the base a little longer rather than a little shorter. The top inch or so will tuck into your headband. In the picture, the top of the headband is the solid red line and the open part of the headband is the red dotted line.
Step 10.
Hooray! You have your two hair bases ready for some hair!
Step 11.
Double check time. Slip your bases back into the headband so they sit all the way into the top. Try them on and check that your bases are not sitting too low. If you need to adjust them higher, now is the time to do that. Okay, let's get hairy!
Step 12.
The Lady Jayne ponytail piece comes on some slide combs. Unpick the thread so they come off. You will have a straight edge (where the red line is) which most of the hair comes off and a little extra piece which would normally wrap around the ponytail. You have two choices: Cut that little bit off OR keep it for a little plait at the end. I kept mine on. Line up the straight edge with the side of your base like this. Put some pins in for the moment.
Step 13.
When you turn it over, it looks like this. You can see the straight edge better from this side.
Step 14.
The ponytail is sewn onto the straight bit. The straight bit is wider then we need, and we can trim it in half so there is less of the modern edge on it. Don't trim too low, or you will cut the hair off.
Step 15.
Sew the straight edge of the hair to one side of the base. Use a strong thread. I have used quilting thread as it blends in with the hair extremely well. If you are having trouble pushing through the layers, try using a leatherworking needle.
Step 16.
This is what it looks like when you're finished. My stitches weren't that even, but the main thing here is that the hair is sewn on securely.
Step 17.
Side view.
Step 18.
View from the outside. Now the braiding is about to start!
Step 19.
Here we go! The base goes with the cut side to the top and the round side to the bottom. Part the main part of your hair into two roughly equal sections. We will be braiding separately and winding around. Don't try to just do one big braid. The hair will be really bulky on the sewn-on side and it won't give you the finished look we are after. So- divide into two. The little skinny bit doesn't get braided into this. keep it by itself.
Step 20.
Start with the top section of hair and make a three-strand plait like you would with normal hair. When you get to the end, tie it off with a rubber band for now.
Step 21.
It should look like this. If you're happy with the evenness of your braid, tie it off with some matching thread. This was possibly the hardest part for me as the thread kept slipping off the hair. I ended up tying some thread to the hair before the end of the plait and plaited the last few twists with the thread in with the hair.
Step 22.
Do a three-strand plait on the bottom section of hair. For the sake of keeping it easy to follow, the top plait is the RED one and the bottom plait is the BLUE one.
Step 23.
Okay. Here we go. We are working with the BLUE bottom plait. Take the BLUE bottom plait and curl it around the bottom of the base and around the edges. Don't sew anything. We are just checking placement. The top RED plait sits up at the top. It goes nowhere just yet. It is curled around for the photograph, but it just needs to be doing nothing. We come back to the RED plait later. Plait the tiny third piece.

Step 24.
Still using the BLUE bottom plait, curl the plait into a spiral like this. It won't sit flat properly. Don't worry. It will sit in from the edges. (The RED plait will go around the edges later, so don't go all the way to the edge with the BLUE plait.)

Step 25.
We are going to start sewing the BLUE plait here.
Step 26.
Thread your needle with a double thread for strength. Start on the wrong side and knot your thread somewhere roughly in the right area. Mine is a little towards the middle, but that's okay.
Step 27.
In this photo, the base is upside down to make it easier for me to hold, sew and photograph at the same time. By "upside down", I mean, I am holding the cut bit which goes to the top. I am sewing the BLUE plait around the curved part. The RED plait still does nothing. It all sort of fell apart as I started sewing, so I will just replace it as I go. Check the next pic.
Step 28.
Turned up the right way again... the BLUE bottom plait is being sewn on to fill in the middle bit. The RED plait does nothing. You can see on the left hand side how the start is sitting a little too upright and wonky. Don't panic just yet. We will come back and stitch that down later. Your plait may not also sit well as you sew it on, but the final stitching pulls it all into place at the end. We are filling in the MIDDLE bit at the moment.
Step 29.
Curl the BLUE plait around like this and sew the edge down. Make sure you leave room for the RED plait to fit around the side later on. The RED plait does nothing just yet.
Step 30.
Double check on the plaits. BLUE bottom plait being curled and sewn. RED top plait doing nothing. Little plait out of the way. Okay. Keep sewing the BLUE plait into a curl.
Step 31.
The end of the BLUE bottom plait tucks into the curl. The scruffy ends are hidden away under the plait. It looks like a bit of a bird's nest at this point. Soon we will stitch the middle flat, but for the moment, it looks like this.
Step 32.
Stitch the middle of the BLUE plait down and it will look like this. It's starting to look like a real hairstyle now! It's not perfect, but you can fiddle with it at the very end. We are ready to use the RED top plait now.
Step 33.
Curl your RED top plait around the middle curled plait. It's starting to look good now!
Step 34.
Stitch your RED top plait around the blue curled plait.
Step 35.
Keep stitching. The part that we cut right back at the start will be covered by the plait.
Step 36.
Keep stitching! Your hair should look like this!
Step 37.
Tuck the very end under the plait, and glue it.
Step 38.
Side view of the glue. This will be covered up soon, so don't worry if it looks a little scrappy.
Step 39.
Okay, remember that little plait? If you didn't cut it off, it is the perfect to cover up the very, very edges all the way around. This is very pretty as well. Of course, manuscripts do not show a little plait wound around the very edge, so if you are feeling ultra-accurate, just leave it off. Remembering you will most likely have some kind of veil or wimple, it does give a nice finishing edge.
Step 40.
Stitch the little plait around the edges like this.
Step 41.
Keep stitching. It covers the wire edge.
Step 42.
This is what the underside looks like. It's not very pretty, but the important thing is that the outer side looks amazing!
Step 43.
Okay- finish off the little plait around the edges.
Step 44.
The little plait should easily go the entire way around the edges.
Step 45.
Tuck the end of the little plait underneath and stitch it down.
Step 46.
Looking at the right side, it should look like this.
Step 47.
Glue the end bit we tucked under.
Step 48.
TA DA!! You have a very nice braided hairpiece. Now, repeat for the second side and sew to your headband. (Headband not shown in this photo.)

Copyright © Rosalie Gilbert
All text & photographs within this site are the property of Rosalie Gilbert unless stated.
Art & artifact images remain the property of the owner.
Images and text may not be copied and used without permission.