Working with Synthetic Fiber vs Natural Fiber
Hey guys! I’ve gotten this question from time to time and it’s a bit too complicated to write out as a small FAQ, so here’s a list of a bunch of stuff I’ve experienced working with both synthetic and natural fibers.
Natural fibers are materials like alpaca hair, wool, and human hair, that occur and grow naturally. For doll wig-makers, the most common fibers you see are animal fibers (like Suri Alpaca) and plant fibers (like bamboo). Human hair is a less common fiber to use for wig-making because of the scale of the fiber and the often higher price-tag. Natural fibers are diverse and create various effects in wigs; tightly curled wool makes great natural curls on BJD scale, bamboo is shiny and soft. Some people feel that natural fibers appear more realistic than synthetic fibers due to the small scale and lack of glossy texture. Wigmakers especially love natural fiber for its diversity and ability to be styled in many ways.
Soft and lush Some people feel natural fiber looks more ‘realistic’ Can use heat styling tools Some natural fibers dye with human hair dye Easy to style Distinct types of natural fiber can mimic several human hair types Some natural fibers lack the artificial ‘shiny’ quality some dislike about synthetic fibers Fibers are usually light so wigs can be made very full/with a lot of fiber
Natural fibers must be prepped and cleaned correctly Some fibers are fairly pricey Some fibers may cause allergic reactions High fiber loss during the wig making process Some fibers take dye poorly or must use acid dyes
Dyeing Natural Fibers
Most natural fibers can be dyed to some degree with human hair dye. A more reliable method of getting bolder color is to use acid dye. Sometimes fabric dyes will also work well on natural fiber if it has been properly cleaned. To dye natural fiber, pick a method and follow the instructions that come with the dye. Make sure not to let your natural fibers get too hot during the dyeing process - this could damage some of the more fragile fibers.
Some people don’t realize this, but synthetic fiber is just as diverse as natural fiber. Not only does synthetic come in a wide array of colors (colors you don’t have to dye yourself), but it also comes in a wide array of fiber types. Some synthetic fiber can take heat styling (to an extent) and some is made to be incredibly soft and silky like natural fiber. Some even combine natural and synthetic fibers to make a more realistic product. If you’re curious about learning about synthetic fibers in person (without taking a class), check out a beauty supply or wig store. Just by touching the wigs, weaving, and braiding hair you’ll start to notice the difference between each type of synthetic fiber. Unlike natural fibers, synthetic fibers can be used for both human-scale and doll scale projects. There are also synthetic animal fibers which is was most ‘fur’ wigs are made from. These resemble natural fiber in look and sometimes even in texture, but like other synthetic fibers, come in a wide assortment of colors and styles.
Wide array of colors Generally inexpensive Easy to create dreadlocks Maintains and like-new appearance for a lengthy period Easy to find at local beauty stores or online Little to no fiber loss during the wig-making process Holds style longer than natural fibers No cleaning or prep needed
Special dye jobs like ombre/gradient effects can be difficult to accomplish Can be frustrating to maintain once flyaways start Synthetic fibers do not lay as 'naturally' as natural fibers do Most fibers can’t be styled with heat Proper ventilation/breathing masks may be necessary to work with some synthetic fibers and heat styling tools
Dyeing Synthetic Fibers
Synthetic fibers do not take dye like natural fibers do. However, there is a way to change their color. Synthetic hair that is a light color can be 'dyed' using a permanent marker like Sharpie. All you have to do is color on the wig and then wash it thoroughly in hot water until no color runs through. Be warned that this method may leave staining on your doll. I've personally used this method before and have had no trouble with it but I can't guarantee you'll have the same results. If you want to see what a wig looks like dyed in this method check out this blonde wig with green streaks. This method works with natural fiber but there is no way to fully seal your color so I would not recommend it.
That's all for now! I'll add more as I think of more or as I get more questions. Hope this helps :D