Yay! I’ve reached 200 posts here on my blog!
To celebrate I will offer you something that is definitely different. Here’s my very first hair tutorial to show you one of my very favorite way of achieving a curly hair style. This method of pinning or setting my hair for curls was shown to me through my good friend, who is a hair stylist, by her salon’s owner, Cecil. Apparently, it is the real-deal old-fashioned way that they used to do it before we women had metal, foam, plastic, wire, and electric devices to resort to for a hairstyle we wanted…ladies resorted to paper and fabric! I have no idea when “rag rolls” and “curl-papers” originated in history, but my first introduction to this type of pinning up one’s hair was in high school when I read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”. There are several references to “curl-papers” in both Nancy’s and other ladies’ hair throughout the book, with the most prominent citations in Chapter 13 (find it yourself here). Just think – this book was from circa 1840!
It might be the best looking way to set curls (hubby thinks I look rather funny in it), but it is natural, easy on the hair and head, and requires only very simple and readily available supplies. Little or no money is needed to try it out…only a little time.
This is the final part, number 3, to my post series on easy and simple ways to stay comfy, cozy, and effortless but authentically vintage when it’s time to unwind. Post number 1 is a 3 hour, bias-cut nightgown and post number two is a fleece, very coat-like housecoat. The pictures below show my finished style after using my hair curling method. Enjoy the following tutorial!
This might sound weird to start off with, but I will demonstrate how to make your own “curlers” using something menial but soft and readily available – toilet tissue paper. This is how Cecil first showed me. In “Oliver Twist” and Jane Austen times, women used paper – and you still can try this with strips cut from a lunch bag or such if you’d like. In addition to toilet paper, you can even use paper towels. I also have “curlers” made from real rag portions or scrap fabrics, the reason this kind of set is often known as “rag rolls”. However, learning to use toilet tissue paper means wherever you go, you’ll never lack the necessary tools for lovely curls…just sayin’! Later on you’ll see my curlers made from velvet leftover from this blouse, but just basic cotton is actually the best material, in my opinion, for rag rolls. You don’t want to use any material silky or slippery in feel. You want a fabric that will somewhat “stick” to itself. Here’s your fabric scrap pile’s big opportunity to become useful!
Best perk ever – this set is the most comfortable to sleep through the night in that I have found yet! This is due to the fact my method of rag rolls is not just wrapping hair around a strip of fabric and tying a knot. Who wants to sleep on that?! My rag roll method is all about making the perfect “curler” that eliminates any knotting, tying, or any little bird’s-nest of hair to sleep on overnight.
First off, you need to start with a rectangle that is about 4 inches by 12 inches (or 3 squares of toilet tissue paper to be exact). You can make your rag rolls longer (maybe 15 inches) if you want them to be a bit easier to work with and you can also make them wider (maybe 5 or 6 inches) if you want thicker “curlers”, but I would not recommend going smaller with the proportions.
You are going to take this rectangle and fold it first in half towards you, long wise (step #1 & #2), and then in half again (step #3). In other words, the rectangle is being folded into fourths along the length.
This done, you hold both ends and twist only 3 times. A semi-twisted rectangle piece, not a tightly wound ‘rope’, is the ideal. A few twists of the wrist while holding each end is all it takes. Now, put your finger into the middle and fold the whole piece in half, keeping it twisted. Voila! You have your curler! You can do this as you go to see how many you’ll need or you can do about a dozen and work with that.
Now, I usually only do my rag rolls when my hair is completely dry or partially dry. Starting off with wet hair would only soak the rag scrap and prevent your hair from ever drying (unless you sit under a hood hair dryer for a long, long time). Wet hair with toilet paper “curlers” seems like the formula for a gunky mess, so make sure your hair is dry for this option. My hair is naturally curly so maybe starting off with hair completely dry will not work for everyone without adding on some sort of setting lotion or the like…I don’t know, I’m not you! You’ll just have to try and experiment to see what works best for you.
The same thing goes for the portions of hair you want to use – you’ll have to experiment. I usually grab a portion about 2 inches square from the scalp and always curl under (unless I want a 60’s ‘flipped end’ style). Now’s the time for some rapid fire quick tips. Smaller portions make tighter curls, larger portions make looser curls. You can also twist your portions of hair like you did for the rag “curlers” – this helps the hair stay in place but also makes for a loose, wavy sort of curl. Rolling in with the hair at a 90 angle or more from the scalp creates volume, versus rolling in at a 45 degree angle which creates a curly style that lays closer to the head. Rolling in all the way to the scalp creates more, tighter curls while rolling only half way up to you scalp leaves a flat crown with curly ends. There are so many possibilities for changing it up for a different look!
I like to make the front side portion as tighter, smaller portion curls rolled in a vertical angle. The same goes for the bottom back hair along the nape of my neck. These two spots come un-curled easily over the course of a day and I like tighter curls falling down one side of my face. My hair is cut in long layers, with the front angled down so curling this way pairs up well with my haircut.
Once you have a hair portion, hold the end of your hair because you’ll start curling there. Find the middle of the rag “curler” (still keeping it twisted and looped in half) and put your other finger over it. Roll the end tips of your hair twice over both the “curler” and your finger. Then pull your finger out and keep rolling in from there. Having your finger over the rag roll at the beginning of the curl keeps the tips of your hair from being kinked or rolled way too tight. Otherwise you’ll end up with a finished curl that has an end which is very frizzy and terribly ugly (called “cow licked”). Believe me, I tried a set without my finger there at the end just to see what it would do and won’t do it again!
Once you’ve rolled up as far as you want to go, take your two “pinchy fingers”, thumb and index finger, and peek them out through the loop at one end of the rag “curler”. Grab the two “tails” at the other end of the rag “curler” and either stuff or pull them through the loop.
It takes practice to get the loops just right because if they are too big they won’t hold the curl or tails. If the loop is too small, well…it won’t work at all either, especially if you’re using toilet paper (it breaks and you have to start over). Again, this step takes a bit of practice.
With all curls looped closed and hair pinned up, I’m ready for bed!
After a night of sleeping sometimes a few curls do come undone. However, they almost always survive intact well enough to do their job. All taken out, below at left is what my rag rolls look like un-combed. After a thorough brushing with a bristle brush, this (below right) is my finished hairstyle. The curls do relax a bit over the course of the day, more so with extra brushings, but generally last me for two days. Of course, as my hair is naturally curly, it probably takes to the set better than others might find.
This hair set works for many decades depending on how you use it. A loose set is something I can use for the 40’s and especially 50’s, while a tight set I use for both the 30’s and the 80’s. Look what fabric can do for your hair!
Please do let me know if you try this and how it works for you. It took me several times of experimental sets before I felt like I had it down and was doing it decently enough. Please do ask me if you have a question – whether it’s something you need clarified or whatever!
P.S. I will have a “short and sweet” version of this hair curling tutorial on my Instagram, just done with velvet rag “curlers” rather than the toilet paper used in this post. Also, in case you were wondering, the printed tee I am wearing in some of my pictures is my newest Agent Carter acquisition…to see the whole thing, go on my Instagram post here and figure out the meaning to it!