Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All About Yarn Braids

V on her 4th birthday!
We already have a two part video series about Yarn Braids in our video gallery which you can watch here.  (you have to scroll down the page quite a bit)  I made those videos several years ago - although I don't have much new information, I thought I would do a little written rundown for you all!  Let's do this in Question/Answer form...

Q:  Why would I want to put in yarn extensions?

A:  I feel like yarn braids give you a similar experience to locs, without the permanency of locs.  They are SO versatile.  Once you have a whole head of braids you can do whatever you want with them to change up the style daily: ponytail, pigtails, half up, you can even cornrow them!  You could get this same effect from doing a box braid style without adding yarn, but since the yarn braids have a lot of length and thickness to them, I feel like they are more versatile.  Also, if your child still has pretty short hair, it is fun to have the extra length that you can get from yarn braids.  Thirdly, they are a very long lasting style!  I only do yarn braids about once a year, but when I do, I love that I can leave them in for close to two months!

Q: Why use yarn for extensions instead of synthetic hair?

A:  I feel that yarn is much easier to use.  You only need two pieces of yarn per braid and you don't have to separate out a bunch of tiny little hairs.  That can be messy and frustrating!  Also, yarn is inexpensive and you can get it in almost any color you want!

Q:  What kind of yarn do you use?
A:  The important part is that you use ACRYLIC yarn.  The brand doesn't really matter.  It is also up to you what weight you use.  I like to use Medium (4).  For V I also like to use BLACK yarn because it matches her hair color so well.  You can only tell the difference between her hair and the yarn when you are looking up close.  But B has brown hair, so if I did this on her I might choose more of a deep brown color.  I have used red yarn at Christmas time and Pink/Purple yarn for a back to school look.  Both times I only used the colored yarn on some of the braids for fun.  I didn't give her a whole head of red hair!

For this style I only added the pink/purple yarn to the braids coming from the heart cornrows on top.  After 4 weeks, I removed the cornrows and put in more regular box braids with black yarn on top so she no longer had the colored yarn.  We left them in for another 4 weeks!

Sorry these are the best pics of the red yarn braids.  I only did 8 braids with the red yarn along the center part on the top of her head and then a few more along the back.  I also used red and black beads on the ends.  GREAT Christmas hairdo, but she didn't have very many other red things to wear for the next 6 weeks, so it wasn't my favorite!

Q:  How long does the hair need to be?

A:  That is hard for me to answer personally since the first time I tried them on V her hair was already at least 6 inches long.  I think you could do them on almost any length of hair though!  You would just need about two inches of hair to get a good grip on it to start the braids.  BUT, you should keep in mind that the yarn is a bit heavy, so if you are working with shorter hair, I would stick with shorter braids, the longer the natural hair, the longer you could make the braids.

Q:  How old should my child be?

A:  This kind of goes with the length questions.  For a little one who doesn't have very long hair, I would make much shorter braids and I would start them with bigger sections of hair.  A toddler's hair is going to be a little more fragile so I would recommend using larger sections of hair to give them more of a base with less strain on the hair.  I also might not leave them in as long on a little one.

Q:  How long can you leave them in?

A:  That is totally up to you!  I have left them in up to 8 weeks.  You might find that yours start to come out sooner than that.  Or maybe yours look great, and don't smell so you want to leave them in longer!  I find that around 6 to 8 weeks, they start feeling kind of yucky and the new growth at the scalp is getting obvious so they look a bit messy.  I don't usually get many that start to slip out, but I have had a few do that towards the end.  I know other people keep yarn braids in almost year round.  They will just replace a few at a time so that they get new ones every few weeks.

Q:  What is your daily maintenance with them?

A:  I just spray her scalp with our watered down Taliah Waajid spray like I do with any style, EXCEPT, I really only spray near her scalp, not the whole length of the braid.   I know some people also wash the hair with the yarn in or at least rinse the braids.  The only hard part about this is that it takes FOREVER for the yarn to dry!  I haven't done it because I didn't feel it was necessary.

Q:  How do you take them out?

A:  This is a good question!  Some people have been able to just grab a hold of the knot at the base of the braid and just slide them out!  I wish it were that easy for me!  I normally will cut off the yarn at the bottom right up to the point that her real hair is (no sense wasting time unbraiding yarn!)  Then I unbraid her hair from the tips up to the scalp.  It takes me FOREVER and I hate it!  Although now that I have B to help me....  Last time that V had the braids though, we just happened to go swimming right about the time I was ready to take them out.  Her swim cap would not stay on her head so I just gave up and let her swim without it.  When she got out of the pool her hair was, of course, drenched!  The weight of the soaking yarn caused some of the braids to start slipping out, so I grabbed ahold and to my amazement I was able to slide it out!  YIPPEE!  I quickly set to work on her head and was able to slide most of them out.  There were a few that wouldn't budge, and I didn't want to hurt her hair so I unbraided them my usual way.  I plan on trying this again next time, but the key I think is that they need to be completely, soaking wet!  A spritz with a spray bottle is not going to do the trick.

Q:  Do you think the yarn is damaging to the hair:

A:  I have not found that yarn braids cause ANY damage to V's hair.  On the contrary, after I have taken out the braids in the past, I can see that she has had substantial hair growth while they were in and that her hair looks beautiful and healthy!

Q:  How do you put them in?

A:  That is where the videos come in handy!  The two videos makeup about 15 minutes worth of info and demonstrations so PLEASE watch them to learn how to put them in OR if you have any other questions after reading this little Q and A!  Yarn Braid Extensions Part 1 and  Yarn Braid Extensions Part 2

V really loves yarn braids and I feel like they are a great addition to her versatile choices of hairstyles.  I am not really interested in doing them that often, because we have plenty of other fun things we can do with her beautiful hair, and I don't want her to think that she needs to have extensions(or additions) to her  natural hair in order for her to be beautiful.  I am so glad that we have started doing more "free" hairstyles on her too.  I think that between, cornrows, free hair, yarn braids and the many other fun styles we do, V has learned that her hair texture has AWESOME and ENDLESS possibilities!

Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy!

These were her first ever yarn braids!  She looks so little!

Here the braids are in half pigtails.
This one shows how you can add snaps for extra decoration - This was on Valentines Day.
This was her second set of yarn braids, just held back with a headband.
You can add yarn to locs too!  We did this style on B for the first day of school last year.  I think the yarn was nice because other wise her ponytail would have been really short which would have looked funny with the big thick cornrows!

You can see that I didn't add the yarn into the cornrows, only the hanging part of the braids.  You can also see that the black yarn isn't a very good match for B's hair, but I didn't have any brown, so I just used what I had.  It still looked cute.

One of our readers sent in some AWESOME yarn braid pics which have got my fingers itching to put more yarn braids in V!  I think I will do them in October.  So you will have to wait until then to see them!

Have you tried yarn braids yet???  Have I inspired you to give them a try???



  1. I love the yarn braid hairstyles they are so cute. What do others say when they see the yarn. My daughter wears extensions which have help relieve the stress on her hair and allowed her to gain some length. I would love to try the yarn braids but I've never seen it in person before so I don't know how realistic it looks.

  2. @Margaret - A lot of white people don't even realize that she has yarn in her hair until I tell them! It is hard to tell from far away. But even some people, when they touch them, I still have to tell them! We have gotten a really great response from black women in our community when they have seen V's yarn braids. They are usually impressed that I knew how to do them :)

  3. I've done yarn braids twice in my daughters hair and she loved it- I learned how to do it through your videos Katie so thank you! For my daughter I have only left them in for 3 to 4 weeks as many of the braids would start to slip by then and it would look messy but I usually do her hair every week so having the break was really nice. The only reason why I too will only do them once maybe twice per year is that my daughter ends up preferring them over her other styles as she loves having the long swingy hair but I want her to love cornrows, afros and all the other beautiful styles we can do with her hair.

    Thanks again for the great videos!

  4. Margaret-I was skeptical too about how realistic it would look. But after putting them in, they do look really good. You can tell if you know what you're looking for but most people don't pay close enough attention to hair to know.

    I have terrible problems with build up at the base of the braids. I only use coconut oil to moisturize (and water). No other products. That is my only gripe, one that I wish I knew how to avoid. I'm thinking it's just because my daughter is 3.5 and into everything and often has her hands in her hair but if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it.

  5. thanks Katie, I'll talk to her and see how she feels about trying them!

  6. Do you think that this would look alright in a white girls hair? I was thinking that it may look cute to do on my girls, but would like to see pictures of someone else doing it on their girls. I just think some look better on certain ethnic groups than others. (Sorry, I am not being racist at all, just trying to ask the question.) :S

  7. Yes. I did them on my two-year old daughter and I loved them. I, too- loved them for their versatility. Once in I could change it up by putting her hair in all sorts of other styles. I found it difficult to add beads on the ends with the yarn-- what is your experience? Also, how do you "tie them off" if you don't want to do beads? Just an elastic? I knotted the ends the first time I did them but the ends ended up getting a bit fuzzy with the yarn.

  8. @mydaughtersdos - My honest opinion is NO, I don't think it would look good on white girls. But I haven't seen it, so I couldn't really say. It might depend on how you do them. What color yarn you use and how many you do, etc. There are a lot of styles that are AWESOME on black girls that I think just look silly on white girls. I don't think that is racist. But maybe I am wrong.

  9. @Stacy - I just tie off the the ends of the yarn and I cut them really close to the knot. I have not had a problem with the ends getting fuzzy. You can melt them, but I didn't have good luck with that and I think tying them is faster and less hazardous!

  10. Thank you for your response. (I wouldn't want to try to melt the ends, either! Yikes!)

  11. Katie, I wanted to let you know I love your yarn braids. They look so cute!
    I tried them and I did NOT have as good of a turn out as you! I was trying to go for a Denise look (from The Cosby Show) when she had those real long dread locks. I did the extensions on my daughters hair all the way to just past her waste. I thought it looked cute, but I did make my braids too small, so I ended up with way too much yarn! No one else liked them but me, so I was going to leave them in for at least a week or 2. But then someone- a grown man- laughed at my daughter and hurt both our feelings so we went home and took them all out the first day she had them. I will NEVER do them again, but your daughter's hair looks cute with them!

  12. @Danielle - Oh Danielle! I am so sorry, this is SO sad :( I can't understand why someone would do that! In the end we all have different taste about what we think looks good and what we don't. But why would someone laugh at a little girl? I wish you hadn't had such a rotten experience. Yarn braids are a lot of work to put in, I can't even imagine taking them out the SAME day!

  13. Read the post, watched the video, spent 4 days putting yarn braids in our 3 year old's hair. She loves it, "Now i look like my friends and my sister!" I love that i can easily put it in ponies or add a few clips or bows. Very cute!
    Thank you.

  14. @Stacy
    «You can also add a drop of glue «9crazy glue like they use in nail salons«0 on top of the braid, hold for 3 seconds and snip of whatever is below the glue. Works amazing and it`s FAST!

  15. About the white build-up that gets at the base of the braids: The build-up is caused by the continual use of different moisturizing products on hair- especially creamy ones and oil. It is Very essential to keep real hair and extensions moiturized to maintain a neat look, however using products that are cream-based or oil-based are the main culprit to this problem. So how do you keep the hair moisturized?? Use plain tap water! That's it, that's the secret, just regulare tap water. You can find Spray bottles at any 99cent store, just fill it with tap water and spritz Do Not Drench! Your scalp Naturally produces oils that should do just fine with the additional water. If you are a person with a very dry itchy scalp, then your scalp may not produce Enough oil to keep your scalp/hair moisturize; I recommend using Pure Olive Oil(found at the grocery store) Yes, you can put pure olive oil on your hair-it's no different from Carson&Carson.Take Your Time, and apply it along the parts of the hair. It is not needed along the shaft or extension. This method is safe enough for anyone if you don't trust that tap water would be sufficient enough for your braids. Some people would rather just blob it on their hand and rub it through, but remember: Anything worth having is worth working for:) Enjoy your Yarn Braids.

  16. I've been doing yarn braids for a couple of years. You might enjoy looking at the pics on my blog. Just look up "hair" in the archives.

    Laurel :)
    mama of 2 beauties from Ghana + 10 of the "homegrown" variety

  17. Does anyone have a picture of this style on a toddler that they can share? My 18 month old has hair about 8 inches long (probably more like 4-6 in the back) and I think it could look cute on her, but I don't want it to look silly for her age, like she's wearing a wig or something...

  18. @jasmine

    My thoughts are that with 8 inch long hair already, the only use that yarn braids would have is to make it be several inches longer, but I think it would not look natural on a child that age. You are blessed to have a child with such a head of hair at such a young age! The other thing is that yarn braids take a really long time to put in well and I have no idea how a toddler could sit thru that.

    You must be able to do some amazing styles of all kinds on her hair. I just don't think the extra couple of inches you would get out of yarn braids would be worth the hours it takes to put in, and I think thick footlong hair on an 18 month old would look a little odd, maybe? Perhaps Katie has another thought.


  19. Your videos on YouTube have actually taught me to do yarn braids for myself. I haven't made the commitment to do the big chop, but in between relaxers, I like to give my hair more time to grow.

    You also help to inspire me to come up with styles for my daughters. While they don't have the same kinky hair that I have, I'm able to come up with some new styles for them.

    Your work is amazing and you're children are beautiful.

  20. Just found your blog and YouTube videos and I am so excited to have new styles to try. I am also the proud non-biological mom to 2 girls with radically different hair and radically different than mine. One of my girls is purely Africa American and I am purely caucasian so I have searched the web for help. I have done ok with her the last 4 months she as been with us,but I needed more ideas. I cannot wait to try the yarn braids, now I just have to work it into our schedule. I will let you know how it goes when I try it.

  21. Yes indeed, you have inspired me to do yarn braids on my hair and on my oldest daughters hair! I will send pics when I'm done. Thanks so much:)

  22. Your daughters are so blessed to have you take care of their hair so wonderfully! I have been following your blog recently and have watched nearly all your videos! My family fosters a 2 year old Haitian girl and she has very little hair. She was very malnourished when we first started fostering her and the back of her head was completely bald. It is starting to grow in now but it is still very short and difficult to work with. I saw your video on the yarn braids and they are so cute! I would love to do that with her hair but I am not sure if it is quite long enough in the back yet. She has maybe three inches on the top but only about 1/2 inch on the back and sides. Also, we live in the Caribbean and we are ALWAYS at the beach and she swims in the ocean almost every day. I didnt know if this would be a problem with the yarn extensions. Thanks for your help! Your daughters are absolutely beautiful and your blog and videos are SO helpful to me since i have never worked with black hair before!

  23. Thank you for the video. I'm going to try these on my daughter in the coming weeks. I am curious, like the Milah, about how these hold up in the pool and at the beach. My daughter has swim lessons once a week. Any experience with this?

    Thank you again. Your children are beautiful.


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