Jack Sparrow Costume Part 1 – DIY Dreadlocks for a Proper Swashbuckling Pirate Wig



It’s August, and that means there is a lot of talk about Halloween in this house.  Last year, my son was Jack Sparrow.  I made his entire costume by hand, from the felted wool pirate hat to the boot covers and buttons.  Hopefully we’ll get more into that later, but for now I thought I’d post a tutorial for making this salty, dreadlocked pirate wig:

Salty Pirate Dreads.

Salty Pirate Dreads.

Before we begin though, I have to confess…I went a bit overboard making this wig, because I saw that an investment of about $50 could transform a $3.00 wig I bought years ago at an after Halloween clearance sale into a high-quality costume accessory that could be used many times in the future. To customize this project to your budget, you can use as many (or as few) accessories for this wig as you like.

Make sure to purchase enough wool roving to make several (at least 18) dreadlocks. I bought 10 oz. of wool on Etsy (the link to the store will be posted at the bottom of the page), and I still have plenty left over, even after making a set of 12 dreadlocks that ended up looking more purple than brown and were unusable for the Jack Sparrow wig.  A word of caution:  RIT dye doesn’t seem to work very well with wool, so unless you want to end up with strange purpley brownish colored dreads, use gel food coloring .  I used Wilton colors, and the final product matched the original wig  color very nicely.

What you will need for this portion of the project:

1 dark brown wig, medium length
8-10 oz. hank of wool roving
Large bowl of warm, soapy water
A towel, wooden cutting board or other rough, clean surface for rolling out dreadlocks
A 5″ length of string for each dreadlock you plan to make
Assortment of black, brown, and yellow food coloring pastes
White vinegar
Glass measuring cups
Oven-safe baking dishes or bowls



Prepare your bowl of warm, soapy water.

For each set of dreadlocks, cut the wool into 2-foot lengths. (This seems long, but you’ll be folding each dread in half to attach it to your wig, so you’ll actually end up with two 12″ long dreads.)

Jack Sparrow Halloween Costume Wig DIY

Hank of wool roving waiting to be divided

Next, separate the hank of wool you just cut into 1/2″ to 1″ wide sections. Fold each dread over on itself and match the ends. This creates a loop at the top, like this:

This is the loop...

Making the loop…

Do the same thing to one of the pieces of string. Lay the looped end of your dreadlock over the loop of string. Bring the ends of the string around wool and through the looped end of the string. Pull to tighten.


Lay one of your pieces of wool over a string, like so…

Jack Sparrow Dreads, Step 2

Later, you’ll use the string to tie the dreadlock to your wig!

For added security, tie string in a regular square knot. Your wool should now closely resemble a long white mustache.


Tie a square knot at the top…

When you finish securing the string to a piece of wool, drop the whole thing into the bowl of soapy water.

After all of the dreads have been added to the water. agitate them gently with your hands or a spoon.

Lift dreads out one at a time by the string at the top. Squeeze excess water from the wool and straighten the dreadlock. On the surface of the towel or butcher’s block, roll each dread from the center out toward the edges. The friction from the rough surface will cause the wool to felt, creating a look that is very similar to dreadlocks.


Roll out from the center moving toward the ends…

Set your new dreads aside for a few minutes to prepare them for the dyeing process.

Preheat your oven to about 170 degrees.  After the dreads have air dried for a bit, prepare a dye bath by mixing together vinegar and one or more of the food colorings.  Take care to try to mix the colors to match the wig you’ll be using.  Pour vinegar and dye mixture into a non-reactive glass casserole  dish that is large enough to accommodate your dreads without crowding them.  Place the dreads into the dye bath.  Make sure that there is enough of the dye mixture to completely cover the dreads and that they are completely wet before placing them into the oven.  Place the dreads into the oven and let them “bake” until the liquid in the bath is clear.

If the color isn’t quite right (like it was in this photo), you can always dye the dreads again  in a new dye bath:



These are completely the wrong color. But never fear, they can be fixed!

As with any other type of dyeing, start with a lighter color until you get the hang of it, because you can always go darker if you need to.  Removing the dye once it has been set is probably possible, but I wasn’t able to find a method that removed all of it..

Coming up next:  How to attach your dreads to the wig and add the accessories.


Wool Roving can be found at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/brushcreekwoolworks


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