It's been a while since I've done box twists, and even longer since I've done yarn braids. I've really been wanting to try out some yarn twists and am grateful to have found that all conditions worked in our favour to give them a go this weekend. And after investing several hours putting these in I am reminded as to why I don't do extensions that often. In fact, I didn't actually finish this style until 6pm this evening, if that's any indication as to how long our day went.
Don't get me wrong, we took several breaks (including lunch, 2 snacks, and naptime). But when we start at 9am and don't finish until 6pm it just feels like I've been doing hair all day. And my fingers are cold and pruned in support of that assumption.
Also, Boo's hair is really thin. The reason that I actually used yarn in this style was not so much for length (her hair is pretty close to the length you see in the photos) but rather to add thickness to her hair. It's still pretty thin and although there are 4 strands of yarn in each twist, they are still not all that thick. So that should give everyone an idea of how thin her hair really is. It's long and healthy, but there just isn't that much of it. Yet. There's new growth all over her head so I expect it will continue to thicken over the coming years.
I guess I should probably talk a bit about the yarn I used. First of all, DO NOT use wool-based yarn. It will felt and thus loc the hair. Unless, of course, you're trying to loc the hair. If not, don't do it. I use a very cheap acrylic yarn (found at Walmart) called Red Heart. I've also used Lion Brand Homespun, as well, because it already has a natural "S" pattern to the yarn, but it is more expensive. For this style I used the Red Heart because it's what I already had.
This style functions under the assumption that you already know how to do a two-strand rope twist. Twists are absolutely not necessary, you can use yarn to do box braids just as easily. I prefer twists because they're easier for me to take out and they don't frizz as much as braids tend to in Boo's hair.
It helps to pre-cut your yarn before starting. I used two strands of yarn folded over to add 2 strands of yarn to each of the two strands of the rope twist. So basically each twist was formed of 4 strands of yarn along with Boo's natural hair. I always cut the yarn longer than Boo's hair and then trim it after the style is in. To measure, I take the longest section of Boo's hair and pull it straight and use that to measure how long I want my yarn. Then I will double the yarn length (because I'm going to fold it in half for the twists) and then cut.
I started the style by parting a boxes in Boo's hair. My normal pattern is to do a brick pattern from the crown down the back to the nape of the neck, and straight boxes from the crown to the forehead. I don't usually put her hair into two ponytails when in box twists, but I do like the option of the center part in the front for half-ponies in the front of her hair. Having straight parts in the front just make for cleaner parting for that purpose, but you can part your boxes in whatever way works best for you.
As you can see above, I didn't use a rubber band at the base of these twists. I began by taking a single box and parting along the diagonal of the box to form my two strands for the twist.
This is when I add the yarn. I take two strands of yarn and find the middle of them, then lay it across the part that I just made.
I then pick up the right-hand side of the box and two of the strands of yarn.
With my left thumb I brace the center section of the yarn to stabilize it, and then I begin to twist together the right two strands of yarn and the hair, working with them as if they were all just hair forming a single twisted strand.
As soon as I get my right strand twisted together enough, I will repeat the process on the left-handed side, working with the yarn and hair together to form the second strand of hair to be used in the rope twist.
Once I have both strands twisted together (just about an inch at the root is enough) I can then begin my rope twist. It's that easy. Folding the yarn over at the base helps to keep the yarn from slipping out. I find that yarn slips a bit more in braids than in twists, but it might just be Boo's hair, I don't know.
For those who are skeptical, you can see from the photo above that you can hardly see the difference between the yarn and Boo's hair. Boo's hair is actually shinier than the yarn, so if you look really closely you can see the difference in sheen. But other than that they look really natural.
The downside to yarn braids/twists (and the dead giveaway that they are yarn) is the ends of them. You can finish them off in several ways. You can put beads, snaps, or barrettes on the bottom. You can even put rubber bands on the bottom. That is especially easy because, if you've made your extensions slightly longer than your child's natural hair, you don't have to worry about breakage when using them.
For this style, I actually rubber bands, beads, and I (well, mostly my husband) burned the ends of them with a lighter to keep them from fraying. Burning the ends is not a necessary step, but with a 3-year-old who's always rolling around on the floor my goal is to keep her hair looking as "neat" as possible, all things considered. So cleaning up the ends in advance is my attempt to be preemptive in this area.
I also like adding beads to yarn extensions because the weight of the hair is a little light and it doesn't have the same movement that other extensions have. By putting the beads on the bottom it adds the necessary weight to make the hair move a little more naturally. They also help "pull" the hair straight by weighting it down. That is, they help minimize the random directions that twists tend to take after sleeping and naptime.
What I really like about using yarn is how well Boo's hair is kept moisturized when they are in. I don't use a styling cream for this style at all. The yarn does a really good job of helping keep Boo's hair in place for the style. What I do use is a really heavy conditioning butter to keep her hair moisturized. Our absolute favourite right now is Blended Beauty's Butter Me Up. I slather her hair with it, combing it through each box with a fine-tooth comb before adding the yarn, and then using some more to help smooth the yarn and the hair together while twisting. It's like hugging her hair little conditioner blankets.
As most people would expect, Boo had to do a little "whipping" of the hair back and forth as soon as we were done.
UPDATE: Check out our "Yarn Extensions How-To Video" for further instruction.