Fiber Optic Wig

Introduction: Fiber Optic Wig

This wig is just one part of a costume a friend and I made for a school festival.
In case you can't tell we were Alien Dandelion-Babies.
The eye-lashes, makeup and the hover-board (not pictured) will get their own 'ibles, which I will link to once I have made them.

My aim with these wigs was to make something that people would just come up to and pet.
Personal space? No.
Awesome? Yes.

The wig is very simple in theory but a little fiddly to construct, so it might take some patience. I suggest having a podcast on.

The wig was inspired by The Seed Cathedral designed by Thomas Heatherwick for the 2010 World Expo.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Materials Required

Suitable Wig
Spare weave in a matching colour (optional)
Fiber Optic filaments (I bought a mood lamp and pulled it apart)
Rubber bands/string/tape - for holding filaments (I used bands intended for braces)
Sewing supplies
3 x LED          OR     A small LED torch
Battery pack        
Duct tape or hot glue


Sewing needle
Soldering Iron + Solder

Step 2: Speperating the Fiber Optics

Having pulled apart my mood lamp I took small bunches of the fiber optics and held them together with a rubber band. This makes them easier to work with later.
Make sure you don't have fiber optics in a bunch that come from areas that are too far away from each other. This tends to almost weave the fibers together at the base and make them difficult to thread through the wig.

I used small bands intended for braces. To hold the bunches together I made what is apparently called a "Larks head knot" (see picture) and then rolled it down the bunch which meant it secured itself, somehow.

Step 3: Inserting the Fiber Optics

This is the tricky bit.

To be able to be worn, the fiber optics need to sit pretty flat against the inside of the wig.

To do this place the largest clump of fiber optics (in my case attached to the plastic stump) at the back of the wig, just a little bit towards the center.
Take the bunch of fibers closest to the back and begin to poke them through the net that holds the wig together. This can take a little wiggling and pushing to do. I found that it was easiest to work with three or four strands at a time and push them through as a group.

Don't try to pull them completely through the netting - it makes the others harder to thread later.

Once you have successfully dealt with one bunch move on to the next.
Be careful not to take fibers from the left side of the clump and thread them through on the right of the wig. Same for front and back. This just makes a great big knot, and just makes life harder in the next step.

It is possible that your fibers will keep falling out or slipping from their place. You just have to be patient and redo bits. It does take forever, hence having a podcast on in the background.

If I could redo this project I would use loose fibers instead of ones attached at the end like mine was. This way small bundles of fibers could be placed exactly where intended, without having to worry about becoming tangled or disrupting the other strands.

Step 4: Getting the Length

At this point you will have hundreds of little fibers poked some way through the net of the wig. They look stumpy and stupid and are not long enough to have any visual punch. They are however, nicely spread through the wig. If not, redo them now - there is no turning back after this step.

To get the length of the fibers you simply have to push and pull until they are completely through. (Take the rubber bands off first.)
I found that turning the wig inside out and pulling the strands from underneath was a good way to do it.
Alternatively, having the wig right way out and pulling one section and then another a little bit then repeating was effective.
You can be a bit rough with them, there are a lot so if some snap it isn't going to matter too much.

Unfortunately any way you do it, this step is going to take forever and you will want to kill me.
Again this is where loose fiber optics would be better.

Make sure to leave enough fiber at the back so that it will sit flat against your head when you wear it. I would just slip the wig on to see if it was all good and pull them back a little if it felt like they wouldn't lie down.

Step 5: Securing Everything

Now, with everything the right length and with just enough wiggle room to make the wig actually wearable, yell and get someone to thread you a needle while you pray everything stays in place.

That done, sew down the fiber optics with two or three rows of stitches. First should be near the base of the fiber optics to secure everything to the wig. Second about half way up. Third at any points that look like they might move/slip. This is the time to re-thread any strands that you might have missed.

Make sure to sew over the lines a few times just to make them really sturdy.

Step 6: Adding Sparkle

There are two ways to light up your fabulous wig. The easy way and the fiddly one. Guess which I chose?

The easy way is to buy a strong LED min-torch, which are often sold as key chains. It has to have at least 3 LEDs and be pretty small. ( Mine was the length of my thumb).
Tape this strongly to your Fiber Optic base/bundle and you are right to go.
I would recommend this way.

The second option is to build your own dedicated light source.

Get three LEDs and solder them together in parallel.
Then get an empty battery pack (mine came with the lamp and was 3AA) and solder a long piece of wire each to the positive and negative terminals. Then solder this to the positive and negative legs of the LEDs.

I made my wires long so that I could slip the pack down the back of my shirt and no-one would notice it. I had to cut it down a bit with scissors to make it small enough.

Cover any exposed wires with tape and then hot glue or tape the LEDs to the fiber optic bundle, making sure not to let any light escape.
I taped mine so I cannot personally vouch for how fiber optics stand up to hot glue, but I have seen it done without terrible consequences.

Step 7: Adding Volume to Limp and Lifeless Wigs

At this point in time your wig will have been through a lot and be looking pretty disgruntled.

This is OK.
Do not even think of brushing it.

I wanted the wig to look like a dandelion (the ones that grant wishes) so I simply held it upside down and hair-sprayed the beejeezus out of it. I did this a few times. Back-comb for an even bigger look. (I don't have a picture for this. Enjoy the abstract beauty of blue wigs close up instead.)

Unfortunately my wig was pretty cheap and looked quite bald at the back after hair spraying. I would have liked to have had some extra wig weave in a matching colour and just hand sewn it in to fill the gaps.
(I am guessing that if the extra hair is too long just cut it down to size and then hair spray to create a homogenous dandelion puff.)

If the fiber optics aren't quite where you want them or standing up straight enough hairspray won't fix this. You can try lassoing them with a bit of thread and pulling them forward (second picture), but this didn't work too well for me as they are slippery. Let me know if you come up with a solution.

Step 8: Ta-Da

Tuck your hair under. Turn the lights on. Grab your hover board and get ready to go.
Your hair is finished!

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    9 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    3 blue LED at around 3 - 3.5 V each and I assume 20mA;
    3 AA batteries -> 4.5 V;
    4.5 - 3 = 1.5 V;
    1.5V / 0.02A = 75 ohm (1/4 W is more than OK);

    So each LED in series with a resistor, and then all three LED-resistor in paralel


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sounds about right.
    My LEDs were white and I believe were closer to 4 V, which is probably why I escaped without harm.
    Or I just had a battery pack so dodgy it provided its own resistance, which is very possible.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is very very nice! Thanks for sharing your hard work and do have a splendorous day!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think so. But I might be the exception because the battery pack I used had also been the light source for the lamp. It had 3 LEDs connected originally (I took them off because they were bad colours) so I knew it was safe for that number.
    More batteries or fewer LEDs and I don't know. A resistor might be a good idea, it's never nice when LEDs explode.