The Much Anticipated, Long-Awaited Hair Roll Tutorial

11 Oct

It makes me feel better to pretend that's not real human hair in there!

The inspiration for this project comes from an original hair “rat” from the Forties that I was lucky enough to win on ebay. It was created using human hair sewn into a hair net with brown cording on either side. It’s placed on the crown of the head and the hair is tucked up and over it and secured with pins to form a roll. The first time I used it I snagged the hairnet on my pin and tore a hole which inspired me to create one using modern day supplies that could take more of a beating. Now, on to the tutorial!

First, you’ll need to gather your supplies.

What you’ll need is about 1/2 yard of ribbon or cord, two chignon foundations, needle and thread, and a pair of scissors. If you’re a sewist you’ll have many of these things laying around the house.

  • First, take your ribbon and use it to measure your head from the base of your skull up to the crown of the head. Add two inches to this and cut the ribbon. For example, my head measurement is 22 inches so I’d cut a 24 inch piece of ribbon. For my hair rat, I’m using 1 inch wide red velvet ribbon. Cut the ends at an angle to prevent the ribbon fraying. If you have some Fray-Check you can add it to the tips of the ribbon as well.
  • Next, open your chignon foundations. Fresh from the package they look like donuts. Make one cut through them to open them up. Do this to both foundations. They’ll look like this:
  • Take the two chignon foundations and whipstitch them together using your needle and some waxed threadย  so that they form one long foundation. This is the foundation for your roll. It doesn’t have to be neat as it will later be hidden underneath your hair. To illustrate, mine looks like this:
  • Now take your piece of ribbon and cut it in half. Stitch each half to one end of the roll foundation that you’ve just created. If you want a dressier look, use a fun ribbon. If you’d like the roll to be hidden, you can use a length of cord that matches your hair color here much like the original. Again, your stitching doesn’t have to look pretty because it will be hidden by your hair. This is what it should look like when you’ve finished:

    I Heart Hair Rolls

  • At this point you can do one of two things; if you think you’d like to tie your roll onto your head and make a pretty bow then you are finished! I opted to add a few snaps to the top of the ribbon to secure the two ends together but again, this is entirely up to you. What I did was place the roll at the back of my head and sew snaps to the ribbon where the cut ends overlap. I cut off the excess ribbon at this point.

Now, the fun part- using your new hair roll!ย  First, I curled the top of my hair into a backwards roll at the top of my head. Iย  put the back of my hair up in a loose ponytail. I took the hair elastic and slid it down to about an inch away from the ends of my hair:

Slide the hair elastic to the ends of your hair

Then, take your new roll foundation and place the center of it on top of where you slid the hair elastic to. You can then begin to roll your hair up towards your head.

Rolling Hair Upwards

Once you’ve got it up to the base of your head, you’ll take the two ends of ribbon and either snap them (as in my case) or you’ll tie them in a pretty bow. For extra security, take two bobby pins and pin the ribbon or cord to your hair just behind your ears. Layered hair like mine will have a lot of ends hanging loose; at this point take any stragglers up and over the top of your roll and stuff and pin them down. Smooth the hair and arrange it in a fashion to where the roll is no longer showing. Secure with a liberal use of bobby pins. It should then look like this:

From Behind

From the Front

Side View

Viola! Now go rock your fabulous vintage ‘do with pride. But don’t be surprised when you get questioned as to how you got your hair to do this. I got stopped more than a few times when I wore this to the mall! Hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

21 Responses to “The Much Anticipated, Long-Awaited Hair Roll Tutorial”

  1. Casey October 11, 2010 at 8:00 PM #

    You look so pretty! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh wow!!! I cannot wait to make this–I’ve been dying for you to do this tutorial since we first talked about it! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Now I just need to get to Sally’s to pick up another chignon form…

    โ™ฅ Casey | blog

    • eileensbasement October 11, 2010 at 9:27 PM #

      Thanks Casey! Post a pic if you make one- it’ll look smashing on you!

  2. Debi October 12, 2010 at 2:13 AM #

    Ohhhh…I can’t wait to make this as well! What a great tutorial! Thanks!

  3. elizaduckie October 12, 2010 at 11:47 AM #

    Interesting — not that I have enough hair to make one. Did you see this randomly generated “similar” topic? Your retro do is making a return in a slightly different guise.

    • eileensbasement October 14, 2010 at 8:16 AM #

      That looks like a cute way to work this look in . . . at work!

  4. Tobey October 12, 2010 at 3:39 PM #

    Great tutorial! Wonderful style, and you make it look so easy.

    • eileensbasement October 14, 2010 at 8:17 AM #

      Thanks Tobey! It is pretty easy. Once you get the roll made you just tuck your hair all around it ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Nancy November 19, 2010 at 12:28 PM #

    You’re who won that roll on eBay! Haha, congratulations!
    I’ve been thinking about this hairdo for a while now and I’ll have to try this out. Thanks for posting a tutorial ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Hem M A Blog

    • eileensbasement November 20, 2010 at 8:37 AM #

      My pleasure- we’ve got to keep lovely hairstyles like this alive and kicking!

  6. Susanne Sparks February 2, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    Brilliant idea. I’d been working on making a hair rat, but this is so much better. Thank you for sharing.

    • eileensbasement February 6, 2011 at 8:21 AM #

      You’re very welcome! I’m glad it helped you!

      • Fiona February 15, 2011 at 3:23 AM #

        I have seen a ‘rat’ made using one cut leg ofpanty hose. You stuff one leg with the rest of the panty hose – it is really easy too. But no sewing needed!

      • eileensbasement February 17, 2011 at 9:21 PM #

        Oh, that’s a great idea! I love blogs because of the ability to share ideas. I’ll have to try that, thanks!

  7. Blanka April 22, 2011 at 8:58 AM #

    Really wonderful! I get the link for this tutorial from Casey because I was looking for a “hair rat”… and your tutorial really helps me! I need to do this hairstyle because it was very often worn by English women in army and I am a reenactor of WWII…

  8. Jennifer April 28, 2011 at 11:34 AM #

    Fantastic! Now must go to Sally’s straight away!

  9. Janey June 6, 2012 at 4:35 PM #

    OH MY GOODNESS! I think you may have just changed my life. Thank you!

  10. Bellashoot Bellas June 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM #

    Great tip! You should share them on โ€“ a great way to reach DIY beauty lovers!


  1. Vintage Hairstyles – How To Do A 1940s Style Back Roll | Trashy Diva Clothing - January 1, 2011

    […] via the Tumblr of Casey of Elegant Musings. Her friend Eileen of Eileen’s Basement wrote up a fabulous tutorial on how to do a 1940s style back roll. If you’ve ever wanted to learn some vintage style hair tricks, head on […]

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