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Sewing with creative materials

Feb 14, 2011
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I wanted to share some pics of an interesting project I’m working on. In my daily travels, I get up to the hair goods district here in New York. I have an odd fascination with hair weave–especially the synthetic stuff, as you can get a consistent color in quantity–and I have done projects in the past with it. I decided to make a fantasy fur coat with it, and thought the process would be of interest to you, Dear Readers.  This post, is about how I am making the fabric. I started out by finding some colorful clown hair at one of the hair goods places. I wanted to make a whole coat out of it, but since multiple colors were more expensive to sew into weft than one color, I decided against it. Also, a whole cloth out of this would really look like Ringling Brothers. This is a photo of the previous coat I made in synthetic hair, so you all can get an idea of what I’ve made before. People either love this coat, or hate it–there’s no middle ground.  But I adore wearing it, and look fab… The photo here is one of the finished sleeve sections. A little information is in order…

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  1. caprig October 25th

    I have not stopped laughing since I found this delightful series of posts! I am like the WIG queen and am always trying to purchase hair to sew into wigs that I like with bald spots, etc.

    This is absolutely PERFECT if I ever get to the point where I want to retire my enormous wig collection. This is fabulous!!!

    I am all excited and would love to mess with this- although I would have to insert some holographic strands and other textures for interest because I am just that way.

    This made my day!

  2. rkr4cds1 August 17th

    I'm curious about all of the puckers in the weft ribbon. I assume you held the ribbon and weave smoothly taut as they passed under the presser foot; but why so many puckers? No way to avoid those after all of your experience on your second coat?
    As a cosmetologist I do have a theatrical application I could use this for, but am afraid that those would become scratchy or bumpy against the head....especially balding males.

  3. User avater horandesigns June 14th

    It has always been the territory of true artists to push those boundaries that most of us wouldn't even approach.So what if it's not our cup of tea? So what if we're over 40, or 50, or 60? Does that relegate us to Chico's and Coldwater Creek? Yikes! Kenneth's work always bring a smile to this face, often a giggle and, occasionally, an outright belly laugh.Lord knows, in today's world, we can all use a daily giggle or more. My litmus test of whether someone is expanding or contracting with life is to utter two words...Lady Gaga. If I see a scalp tighten, I know there's some contraction going on. You don't have to like her, or her music, but she sures knows how to push boundaries and the Haus of Gaga is incredibly creative. If your lips purse when you look at a clown fur coat, right before you make a critical comment, maybe it's time to lighten up and try a belly laugh on for size.

  4. User avater KennethDKing March 16th

    Thanks, Threadjunkie! A good tip, which I'll adapt to this situation!

  5. threadjunkie March 15th

    While I can't say I'm in love with the idea of a wig coat, I can answer your question about styling synthetic hair. Steam is the best way to do it. You can use a curling iron GENTLY, but you can easily burn the hair which makes it frizz.

    Usually when I am styling wigs I put them up on hard rollers and pup them in a cardboard box with plenty of room on the sides and top (the bathtub will do in a pinch) Cover the top with towels and then poke the head of your garment steamer in there. Let it go about 20 minutes. You can check in 10, but unless you have very little hair on each roller or the hair is quite short, it will take longer than that.

    Let the wig dry and cool off. Once it's cool, unroll and viola- it's curled without being fried.The curl will stay even after being wet; unlike human hair, synthetic hair does not set with water.

  6. User avater KennethDKing March 12th

    To Kathrynlena:

    I haven't tried curling the hair, but I believe you can do that somewhat with synthetic. I'm working on the jacket now,and will have to touch up with some trimming when I get it done, to better blend the layers together. Really, it's like a wig for your body, so style away!

  7. kathrynlena March 12th

    Brilliant technique and creativity. Can you style the hair, curl, straighten? Very interesting. Thank you for breaking norm, paving the way for new insperation. Props

  8. User avater KennethDKing March 9th

    Hello, Butis!

    A handbag is the next project I had in mind for the fur--mine would be a messenger bag--somewhat large, for day wear. But your idea for something small and delicate for evening would be cool as well. Creativity--that's what it's all about!

  9. butis March 8th

    Mr. King you look so great on that coat. And It inspired me. Wouldn´t it be lovely to do a purse with that technique?.. Imagine, so soft and delicate. Thank you. Your imagination is really amazing. I am an actress and find your projects so dramatic in the best sense of the word.

  10. User avater KennethDKing February 26th

    That's the spirit, CFields! It always makes me happy to see the creativity of our readers in action. I wouldn't have thought of making doll hair this way!

    You'll find that when you construct doll hair this way, the weft won't be visible (as opposed to stitching the weft directly to the fabric) because the succeeding ribbon will cover it.

    For a smaller scale like a doll's head, you'll use a narrower ribbon, of course. One thing to keep in mind however you use this technique--choose a ribbon color slightly darker than the hair that will go over it. This will blend better. I tried a lighter-colored ribbon when making my sample for this piece, and it showed too much through the hair.

  11. User avater CFields February 25th

    What a great technique! I would never have thought to build the backing, row by row, with ribbon. I would have attempted to sew the stips of hair to a solid piece of fabric and I'm sure I would have had trouble with it bunching and puckering. I've made wigs for dolls and have had trouble with this but now I see that the whole back of the doll's head could be made out of the ribbon-and-hair fabric. Very cool. Thanks!

  12. User avater KennethDKing February 24th

    A shout-out to Austin, then, as another center of fashion! Glad to hear that you're inspired, and would love to see your take on this technique when you're finished!

  13. User avater talondrago February 24th

    "I admit it's an extreme garment, not for the faint of heart or for places outside New York, Paris, or Berlin."

    May I add AUSTIN, TX. I will make something like this and it will sell in Austin. Thank You for the inspiration and encouragement. I love ALL your articles. This one is at the top for me.

    talon@designsbytalon.com

  14. SewcietyMaven February 24th

    Pretty disappointed here. I thought the idea was to share some of the different materials we have used in our sewing, not just a critique on Kenneth's design. Thank you Kenneth for providing a starting point.
    I am always fascinated by the challenges on Project Runway, but haven't really done a whole lot on my own. I do work on horse items using rubber, neoprene, and fleece. That about does it.

  15. User avater hoosierchic February 23rd

    Mr. King, your creativeness has urged my first comment. It fasinates me to see and learn from others who create various forms of art. Whether it is painting 'art', jewelry 'art' or clothing 'art', I never fail to be inspired by true masters. As others have said much better, we all have different personal tastes in things, but true inspiration by gifted artists can never be wasted. We can always take away something on file for a rainy day. I can't wait to see this finished project. As a woman with MS, I sometimes wear wigs to save energy and sometimes for the fun of it and seeing this coat go together has set my mind to all sorts of things. In fact, on those same days when I'm saving energy and wearing one of my wigs, how fabulous would it be to throw on a duster length vest in those gray tones you spoke of. Can't wait! Thanks so very much!

  16. Zoeyskeeper February 23rd

    Mr. King, Thank you for sharing your ingenious creativeness with each and everyone of us. If the readers would maul over the limitless opportunities that are available, each of your ideas could be incorporated into countless projects, because you generously give step by step instructions on how to duplicate the effect.

    Disrespectful comments regarding your ideas tend to rankle me, because I truly believe that they are missing the point of your illustrations. Every idea that one encounters throughout their life needs to be carefully pondered before it is disregarded as something that is not useful to their own particular needs. If I cannot find a way use a new and unique idea, I become frustrated with myself, because I believe all new ideas can be used somehow.

  17. User avater patunia729 February 23rd

    I love it Would love to see how it is made Your work is alway beautiful.

  18. User avater EvaDress February 23rd

    Wow, I am with NoraBora and MMCM.

  19. User avater LuvThreadsMagazine February 23rd

    Luv, Luv, Luv it!!!!!!!

    Senor King continues to astound while stretchig all metes and bounds.

    Every innovation is someone kicking a hole into whatever keeps us from the future. Kenneth King again opens a portal with the sheer strength of his imagination and fortitude.

    Watch the runways to see if any hair garments, or real fur given a perm, don't skate before you.

    Thank you Threads for this gutsy article.

  20. putnam February 23rd

    You are indeed "fabulous" Mr. King, and we do love you! We wish you would provide us with a photo-essay on the 'digs' in which your wonderful creations are developed and constructed. It would be so nice to be able to picture you in your element so to speak.

  21. User avater beachwardie February 23rd

    I had the privillege of meeting Kenneth King in his studio
    in San Fransico about four years ago.
    He was ver imformative and kind.
    The projects about were beautiful, glad to see'he is still
    so productive.

    Thanks to Threads we are able to see some of his suggestions
    and creations.

    Keep up the good work Mr. King

    Beachwardie

  22. User avater MorningRose February 23rd

    As a costumer, custom clothier, and accessories designer I love articles like this. I personally wouldn't wear a 'hair coat' (althought I do wear furs), but I do love seeing different techniques on how to do things. I have come up with a way of doing something, then Threads might give me a better way, or even move my brain in another direction.
    This feature is simply a technique that most of us can use in some form taken to the extreme. Thanks so much!

  23. User avater KennethDKing February 23rd

    I've posted a photo of the last hair weave coat I made, for you all to enjoy (or not)...

  24. User avater KennethDKing February 23rd

    Hello, all,

    To those who like this, expect more posts regarding the technical details, like slit pockets. This whole project is really engaging to me in an engineering sense, and so I'm showing you all my "process", as I figure out how to make this particular project. My aim is to speak to those who may be engaged in costuming or other wild projects, and need out-of-the-ordinary construction solutions.

    To Auntiesewandsew: I laughed about the comment of "punk Cousin It". I heard words to that effect just yesterday, and that's partly what I'm wanting to do with this jacket.

    For those for whom it isn't their cup of tea, not to worry. That's what's so wonderful about fashion--one person's fabulous is another person's poison. When it's all said and done, I dress and design to please myself (and clients) and everyone else's opinion is just that. I know I'm fabulous, and that's all that matters.

    I admit it's an extreme garment, not for the faint of heart or for places outside New York, Paris, or Berlin. But as a creative person, if I don't take some risks and possibly fall on my face aesthetically, then the whole thing gets boring. There will be a leather yoke (you'll see it later) that tames the whole thing down a bit, but I do admit, when I got it al basted together, my first reaction was that I'd gone too far. But I tried it on, and--WOW! Fabulous.

    Showing this technique in this color range, doesn't mean it can't be made in more subtle shades (I see it in grey hair). Perhaps the large scale of this is off-putting to some. Another application for this, which I'm doing next, is handbags, which contains the size.

    But when it's all said and done, this series of blog posts is more inspiration/process, rather than making something you could wear to church. There's plenty of that information around. While I enjoy posting and writing about things that one could indeed wear to church, every now and then I need to kick the boundaries out--it's refreshing.

    And to Norabora: Threads is a magazine for technique, not a fashion magazine. We look to what is happening in fashion, but in the end, technique is what we're about. As a Contributing Editor, I'm proud to be associated with Threads, as it is highly regarded in the needle arts world. We strive to make things that people might want to wear, but as I said above about fashion, one person's fabulous is another person's poison. Trying to be all things to all people is the death of any venture, and one can't please everyone. Threads does what it does well, which is to publish a magazine that strives to bring its readers good technique and solid information in every issue.

  25. sewingsabo February 23rd

    Wow, really interesting. I have to wear a wig but have never thought of the construction of it. Even if you don't want to make a coat you never know when a piece of information like this will come in handy. Thanks Kenneth for being inspiring.

  26. mesewlot February 23rd

    Very Creative idea! I agree with Ariesa, sounds like a great wardrobe piece for Lady Gaga or Nikki Manaj. I can't wait to see the finished results.

  27. NoraBora February 23rd

    Wild idea? Yes. Sophisticated? Elegant? Wearable? Not so much. I was hoping for something else.

    Frankly, my wish is that Threads could hire a consultant to improve their color coordination. It is so very rare to find elegance in the magazine. Technique? Yes. But I would not be caught dead in most of the finished products - garishness reigns.

  28. AuntieSewandSew February 23rd

    My first thought when I saw this was , "oh look, it's a punked out Cousin It"! That said, as an amateur costumer, I think this is a great technique and can easily see it transferred to other materials for a variety of applications. For everyday use, not so much.

  29. User avater Suze February 23rd

    I love this idea Kenneth - you are SO creative and inspiring! What I like most about this is how adaptable the idea could be. No, I probably won't make it in clown hair, but I rather fancy the idea of doing it using fancy yarns wound around a hairpin fork, then applied to the ribbons in the same way. I see it in a big swathe around the hem, cuffs or collar of a jacket.
    I have inherited an old gadget made by Singer sewing machines (I think it's from the 1930's) called a Singercraft Guide. It can be used on any machine. It was invented for making trims and rugs - which when you think about it is basically what this is!!! I keep getting the thing out and looking at it for inspiration - and you have just sent it -Thanks Kenneth.

  30. User avater Jetmuis February 23rd

    wooow this is amazing i have worked too with a lot of strange materials to make your own kind of fabric , love it, love the new material you've made and the furry look, the colours as well.
    thank you for the great tute you 've made and the sharing.
    well done!!!!!!

  31. User avater Karel February 22nd

    That is so wonderfully bizarre. Truly creative people like Kenneth cannot keep such ideas from bubbling up from the brain. One day, exquisitely beautiful haute couture, the next day, clown hair.

  32. kcautela February 22nd

    Love the idea of the coat. I used to work in a part of Columbus where "hair" was really popular. I used to love to walk through the stores and look at all of it.
    I personally think even at the age of 51, I would wear the coat like Lady Godiva with a smile. !!

  33. Puterdame February 22nd

    I'm sorry, but the minute you said "clown hair", that told me all I needed to know. All I can think of it an obscure movie I saw with Robert Downey Jr., and Nicole Kidman, called "Fur".
    Perhaps I'm aging, but I can't see any practical application of this project for the 'average' person. In the little suburban town that I live in, I'd be a spectacle in this completed garment.
    That being said, I STILL admire your creativity and workmanship; over the years, I've learned a TON of information from you, and I truly do see your creative juices in this project, just not for me.

  34. User avater triangles February 22nd

    You would, Kenneth! wish I was about 25 years younger, I'd so rock that jacket in Maryland!

  35. User avater DKCB February 22nd

    No, I am just not feeling it. To each his/her own.

  36. User avater abcameo February 22nd

    It amazes me that your brain can be both so creative (right brain) and yet so analytical (left brain.) My brain is 95% creative and 5% good organizational skills, period!! Math and this type of analytical thinking is so difficult for me to comprehend or formulate.

    I can imagine and visualize my garment as if it was coming down a runway toward me. If it's knitting, I can even create my vision quite successfully. But when it comes to sewing, the technical skills required to turn projects into "meticulously" sewn end products sadly still escape me.

    Wow, I admire your amazing talents and am so impressed with how you deductively reason out your vision to construct each garment to perfection. You're so fortunate to have it all--creative, technical & business savvy and smarts.


  37. User avater pinkkangaroo February 21st

    I love that!

  38. User avater geminimistress February 20th

    All I can say is wow. I can't wait to see the finished result.

  39. ariesa February 16th

    Professor King is very creative. This wearable art would be great on both Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj. Hope they see it. I say this because these two can appreciate this beautiful work.

  40. User avater Moirnet February 15th

    I liked it on Project Runway when Chris used real hair and the judges poop pooped it. It think it is just very imaginative. Hooray for Threads!!!

  41. User avater loyl February 14th

    oh wow I am in love with that idea!!! i love color!!

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