Steampunk Circus Clown: Yarn Wig Tutorial

I have finally finished the first part of my Steampunk Circus Clown costume:  the wig.  And I LOVE IT:

Notice the pile of coupons for Joann’s and Michaels underneath…

When I decided on making my circus costume that of a clown, I knew I wanted a pseudo-Victorian hairstyle.  Since you can’t typically find this sort of thing in regular clown costumes, I knew I would have to make my own.  I also knew I wanted it to be made of yarn, as if my clown was a doll like Raggedy Ann.

Four skeins of Patons Beehive Baby Chunky bright pink acrylic yarn later, and I have an adorable wig.  Heavy, but adorable.

I decided to go with a 1870’s style of wig, mainly because of the curls they always seem to have hanging down.  My inspiration for the style was this photo:

Clara Adele Mowerson, 1874

Since the outfit is also to be a riff on Victorian Fancy Dress (of Elizabethans), I decided that the hairstyle needed to evoke that period as well.  The best portrait I found that represented the style I was going for was this one:

Elizabeth I, The Rainbow Portrait, attributed to Isaac Oliver and Marcus Gheeraerts. Collection of the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House.

Once the jewelry and decoration is added to the wig it will better resemble the Elizabeth I portrait.

I started making the wig by knitting a cap.  Details as to the actual knitting process are on my Ravelry page here.  It is a very basic hat with some ribbing at the bottom.  I made it slightly larger than I needed for my head as I realized that it would shrink somewhat when all the bits and pieces were attached to it.  I then attached yarn along all of the edges of the hat a la fringe on a scarf.

Yarn fringe attached at the edges of the basic hat.

The foam head I used to construct the wig on was a HUGE help.  I attached the hat to the form using T-pins.

I smoothed the yarn backwards and stitched it down to the hat about 3-4 inches back from the edge.  I used plain sewing thread for this.

Hand stitched yarn covering hat.

Since I had inadvertently cut some of the yarn pieces shorter than the other, I wound up with a rather uneven amount of leftover yarn on top.  I gathered it into a ponytail and tied it off with a piece of leftover yarn.  (Keep ALL your scraps – you will likely use them.)  I then tucked the remaining bits inside and stitched it down the best I could.

Only little bits remained sticking out at this point.

I trimmed down the few stragglers that remained.

Then because I didn’t think of this beforehand (wound have made it SO much easier to do it before hand) I made a braid of yarn and slid it in between the knitted hat and the yarn covering it so as to make the hairline less flat, and with more of a “poufed” look.

Sliding the braid inside the yarn.

From the underside I stitched it into place with a piece of yarn rather than thread, as I wanted it to be able to comfortably stretch.

Poufed edge with the braid inside.

Next I made a very fat braid of yarn to sew along the crown.

Very fat braid.

I stitched it using the thread around the unfinished area of the crown on top.  Because I didn’t measure the size of this area, the braid wound up short by about 4 inches.  This worked to my advantage, as I wound up stitching the curls there.

Then I made a smaller, thinner braid and stitched it down with thread along the inside of the fat braid, like a braided bun in the center.  I wound up stitching a corkscrew curl in between the bun and the heavy braid to fill in the space.

At the top you can see the braided bun inside of the fat braid, with the corkscrew curl stitched around it.

Next I decided to make the curls.  My original idea was to make curls by wrapping the yarn around wooden dowels and dipped it in boiling water and letting it dry.  This seemed overly complicated and messy, and I decided to try to find a better solution.  I looked up how to knit curls on Ravelry, but everyone said that the curls didn’t stay curled, and wound up being a pain.  Then my friend Michelle commented on FB about her Grandmother crocheting little curls for her hair when she was little, so I investigated that option.

It turned out to be the best option out there.  It was also surprisingly easy, as I had never crocheted prior to this project, and the first thing that I ever crocheted were these corkscrew curls.  There are many tutorials out there on how to do them, including several on YouTube, which I watched over and over until I felt comfortable making them.

They did crochet very quickly and evenly, but they ate up yarn like you wouldn’t believe, and the concentration level I needed for them resulted in my feeling like my eyes were crossed whenever I would finish one.  I made them in various lengths and widths and draped them around the wig base trying to see what looked best.

I wound up with a number of long curls sewn in half at the base of the fat braid, and smaller curls stitched on top of that.  I had a rather empty spot right at the base of the bun, and I needed more filler at the sides, so I made one very long and fat curl and draped it across the top of the wig and stitched it into place.  All curls were stitched down with regular thread.

Image of all the back curls sewn into place.

I also wrapped one around the base of the fat braid and stitched it into place to give more dimension to the braid, and to add some weight to the front of the wig.  There was so much yarn on the back of the wig that I felt like it needed more weight in front to balance it out.

Note the large curl sewn around the fat braid. The curl draped across the back of the bun covers the edges of this curl.

Lastly, because I wanted some bangs on the front to help hide the hairline (which seems silly now, as this is a YARN wig and no one is going to mistake it for being real), I stitched another thinner curl along the hairline, leaving the ends free on both sides to hang in front of my ears when it is worn.

The side curls hang freely just above the ears.

I stitched this curl on using yarn, as I wanted it to be able to stretch if needed.

The additional things I still have to add to the wig are:

1.  Sewing 2 hair combs on the inside front edge of the hairline to help hold it in place at the front of my head due to the weight.

2.  Sewing a hair comb in the middle section of the wig to stick into my own hair’s bun to help support the weight at the back of the wig.

3.  Run the pink corded elastic I have purchased through the edge of the hairline to the back underside in order to be able to tighten the hairline of the wig and make it adjustable.

4.  Add decoration.

I also plan on spraying my hair with a pink spray before wearing the wig so as to hide any of my natural hair color when wearing it.

The whole thing turned out so much better than I had anticipated, and I love the finished product.  I can’t wait to wear it with the final costume!

Side view of the finished wig.

81 thoughts on “Steampunk Circus Clown: Yarn Wig Tutorial

  1. Naergi says:

    This is so brilliant! I wouldn’t “just” wear it as a wig, but also as a cap, though – I bet it’s warm and soft and would make a great winter cap 😀

  2. Talia Lee says:

    I am making this in white for a masquerade ball. Boy are those corkscrews a lengthy project. whew. I will post a pic if I can 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Cool! The corkscrews do take a lot of yarn and a lot of time and concentration. I would advise to periodically look up and away from your project so your eyes don’t cross, lol. I am thinking of doing one in an 18th century French style. I should probably finish the rest of the costume first. 😉

  3. Trevor Shay says:

    Wow that’s really cool! Have you ever thought about like, making it like a beanie. My wife would love a beanie if it looked like a hairstyle like that. Pretty much just slip on over her head like a winter beanie with the locks and stuff hanging out the back. We would gladly pay you for one of two!! Please let me know.

    • Laura says:

      I hadn’t thought of that style, but it would be fun! Unfortunately my joint pain prohibits me from making these for sale. I have a link to the pattern, though, and I am sure there is a knitter/crocheter out there who would be able to make it for you. Good luck!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you very much, but my joint pain prohibits me from making these for sale. I have a link to the pattern, though, and I am sure there is a knitter/crocheter out there who would be able to make it for you. Good luck!

  4. Aria says:

    This is awesome!
    I would suggest that instead of spraying your hair pink, to make a pink wig cap (pink tights cut up & sewn off.The spray will rub off on the cap and may not wash out easily.

  5. Shirley says:

    I absolutely love your finished project! You are so creative. Can’t wait to see the entire project. Isn’t clowning fun!?!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you! No photos yet because it isn’t finished yet. My deadline is February 1st, so hopefully I will have photos soon. Of course that also means I need to keep working on it….

  6. LEXXi says:

    wow, it´s absolutely wonderful! Thank you for giving this idea to me – when I´ve finished all the other things maybe I give it a try 😉 I think about a carnival- costume – a wig like this in black would look pretty good to a red renaissance dress, I think!

  7. Lee Christian says:

    My friend who just went through chemo mentioned that it would make a great Winter hat for chemo patients. I thought that was brilliant! Hope that idea catches on.

  8. barefootandmenopausal says:

    If the base were made as a cabled slouch hat, eliminating the weight of some of the braids and such, but keeping the curls, it would make a very cute chemo-cap. Back in the dark ages when I was doing chemo and was bald, I would have worn this in a heartbeat.

    The corrolary to this statement is that I must now learn to knit cables so that I can make one myself. 🙂

    • Laura says:

      I have seen Victorian Fancy dress done to resemble Elizabethan dress, 18th century Georgian dress, etc. So it is my version of Elizabethan as done as Victorian fancy dress.

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  10. helen scott says:

    oh my word, think i made several squeaky noises reading this. Must now think about what colour i would like to make a wig in because this is AMAZING. thank you for sharing

  11. Jeannine says:

    Laura – when you say its heavy, how heavy are we talking? I want to make this for an actress to wear in Pirates of Penzance and she has to sing and move around and stuff. . . do you think it would be too heavy?
    Thank you for the information – this is SUCH A COOL WIG!! 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Jeannine – since I wrote the original tutorial I actually wore the wig myself. I did not find it to be as heavy as I thought it would be. It needs to have wig clips in the front to hold it at the hairline, and a comb or something in the middle to support the weight of the curls, but I think it would be fine for a theatrical production. It is actually very comfortable to wear and is cozy. I would strongly recommend putting the elastic along the inside edge so as to help it shape to the head and stay on.

      Can’t wait to see the finished product!

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