View Full Version : How did you get "good" at updos and braiding?

November 12th, 2013, 01:41 PM
I'm just curious for those who feel like they have improved on their updo/braiding skills: How did you get better?

Mostly practice, I'm sure. But was there anything in specific that helped you learn or any special tricks you've found?

Do you use mirrors, etc or prefer not?

November 12th, 2013, 01:45 PM
Mirrors for sure, but I'm better practicing on other people! It's harder to do it on yourself, get something to practice in like they use in beauty school or ask someone.

My poor husband has been my victim, and my little girl. I didn't learn the 4-5 strand braids until I started to practice with them, it was very hard to do in my own hair.

November 12th, 2013, 01:54 PM
I watched a lot of YouTube videos on updos and braiding. I occasionally use a mirror, depending on the updo or braid. But mostly, it's just a lot of practice on myself.

November 12th, 2013, 02:14 PM
Mirrors for sure, but I'm better practicing on other people! It's harder to do it on yourself, get something to practice in like they use in beauty school or ask someone.

My poor husband has been my victim, and my little girl. I didn't learn the 4-5 strand braids until I started to practice with them, it was very hard to do in my own hair.

This is exactly how I feel. :agree:

Practice is the main thing (If my album and blog are any indication! :laugh:), and know when to quit when you get frustrated. You can always try later. If something is complicated then try using smaller sections of hair (especially for braiding) to get an understanding of how the finger placement should go. Once you feel comfortable with smaller sections of hair (and thus smaller strands), start using bigger sections until you're happy with what you can do. It sure helps if you have a hair type that isn't argumentative, which is why I so seldom french/dutch braid my hair.

Also, tutorials definitely help. If you find yourself practicing and just can't for the life of you get the finger placement and method down, try looking for an alternative tutorial on the same style. It might simply mean that a different way of doing it would be the thing that finally clicks.

Once you get some basics down, the rest of the ride is a really fun adventure. Good luck!

November 12th, 2013, 02:16 PM
Practice is the obvious answer. But I also found that finding tutorials that make sense to me (YouTube and other places) is very helpful. For instance, there are about 100 videos on waterfall braiding on YouTube, but several of them were just more confusing to me and I didn't really get good at it until I watched a video that made sense to me, practiced on someone else, and then on myself. It has to click with my brain before I actually can see improvement.

November 12th, 2013, 02:20 PM
I find braiding without a mirror to be better... That way I don't have the whole left/right mirror confusion going on.

And, practice!

November 12th, 2013, 02:22 PM
For some things walking away from the mirror and just trying to do what I saw in a video made a huge difference. Also, good lighting on the vanity, a clean mirror, and a clean hand held mirror made a huge difference in how well I could see what I had done.

November 12th, 2013, 02:26 PM
I find practicing on other people to be helpful. I do like using a mirror when I do mine. When I do my own hair I find my hair does better damp but that might have to do with my hair type. You could try damp styling one time to see if that helps you style your hair better. If you have problems with hair holding or hairs going everywhere due to fly aways you could try a styling product.

November 12th, 2013, 02:40 PM
Just practicing a lot, and watching tutorials on youtube. :) :disco:

November 12th, 2013, 02:49 PM
^^ This.
Lots of tutorials, then practice, practice & practice.
When I learn a style from a tutorial, the first time I follow the steps at the same time with the video (using "pause" a lot) and then repeat.

November 12th, 2013, 02:58 PM

Practice more.

If unsure, never hurts to practice a bit more.

I am anti-mirror. Some people have good spatial abilities and do not get confused by mirrors. A *lot* of people get confused by mirrors. And then there's me, where if I have to think about spatial stuff consciously, I've got about 50/50 odds of getting the movement right. Adding in mirrors is not helpful to me.

I do think practicing on a doll, mannequin or someone else can be very helpful. It won't translate directly to your own head, but more ways to practice pretty much never are going to hurt. Bonus points with a doll since they can't complain about how often you're redoing the braid to get it clear in your head which movements make V shapes and which ones make ^ shapes and how it relates.

It can take me 20 or 30 tries to get a new style, sometimes a lot more depending on the complexity and how fussy I am about the finished look on myself.

November 12th, 2013, 03:41 PM
Practice is everything!

There was no internet back when I began braiding. I haunted the SF Main Public Library on my lunch hour and looked for books on braiding. No hair braiding books, but there was a book on leather braiding, and one on Peruvian weaving. I also researched books on 19th century costume, hoping to come across info on hairstyles.

The library did have a fantastic hair reference book FASHIONS IN HAIR by Richard Corson. So many wonderful ink drawings..but next to nothing on how to accomplish the styles. I did find a very short description of how to do a cable plait, so I treasured that tidbit.

I only really "got" into braiding (French and 4 strands, lace braiding) when I discovered braiding books at Mr. Michael's salon in 1982.

Back then, the movie "10" with Bo Derek raised a lot of braid awareness...but with a few exceptions, it was cornrow braiding, which didn't interest me. However, one thing lead to another and I found a Pivot Point book that had terrific step by step pictures on braiding..and that helped A LOT to understand certain concepts.

And I also kept a close eye in the beauty section of bookstores, hoping to find hair braiding books. I snatched 'em up as soon as they appeared. Most were pretty basic. Only the Pivot Point book went into specific detail about what to do.

I also practiced with thick strands of wool - tied in a knot - then tied to a doorknob. And I never used mirrors...just too frustrating. I just closed my eyes and repeated the mantra over and over...and over some more...day after day, week after week, until my fingers adjusted to the movements and my hands learned the proper tension and angle. There was a LOT more to braiding than just crossing strands!

chen bao jun
November 12th, 2013, 04:10 PM
I have very thick hair also, so anyone else who had to style it (mom, the hairdresser) would complain endlessly. It was easier to learn myself than to listen to the complaints.
the upside of having thick hair is that by the time I finish doing any style on my head, I've had a lot of practice due to having to do it to all the hair.
It was very standard, though, for little girls to wear braids in their hair in the early 60's when I was a kid, and inconceivable that you wouldn't know how to braid.
I had to learn to how to cornrow on the sneak, though, because my mom, who is black and middle class considered corn-rows to be a lower income kind of hairstyle and did not want me and my sister to wear them, or even know how to do them. I managed to learn (years before the movie 10, which really only showed that it was possible for white women to have corn-rowed hair also, harder, because of the more slippery hair, but possible) and it has been a useful skill. I don't really like to wear corn rows per se (because of the thick hair, takes too much time to put them in and I have no intention of keeping any hairstyle for months and months) but a cornrow is basically a french braid, so if you know how to do one, you know how to do that, and its a small step from there to a lace braid (only take from one side), etc. etc.

November 12th, 2013, 05:37 PM
The only mirror in my house is my bathroom, and it's a pain to do anything in there. Mostly I would sit and practice while watching the video, over and over.

November 12th, 2013, 06:39 PM
Thanks everyone for your contributions. Does anyone know how much a mannequin would cost or the best place to get one from?

November 12th, 2013, 06:50 PM
Check with businesses going out of business... I've picked up some cool stuff at places like that. Also there used to be a display store in town and you could go there and find things like heads, hands, etc. for displaying jewelry or hats or things. They had mannequins too but I was never in the market for one so I have no idea of the cost.

November 12th, 2013, 07:16 PM
Thanks everyone for your contributions. Does anyone know how much a mannequin would cost or the best place to get one from?

Yedda, you might want to contact member Gumball. He used mannequins for his gorgeous work. He probably would be able to give you valuable pointers (type of model, type of hair, stand, etc.).

November 12th, 2013, 08:20 PM
Tutorials, and of course, practice. I do use the mirror, but not all the time. If I'm learning something new, I can't always feel if it's looking right but sometimes I have to walk away from the mirror because the backwards image can be so confusing. Unless it's a quick English braid, I find it so much easier to braid on someone else.

November 13th, 2013, 02:54 AM
My braids all seem to twist in a weird way if I do them in front of a mirror. So I avoid mirrors.

For me it has a lot to do with patience, which I lack. To make sure I don't rush and get frustrated I time myself, I decide that my braid attempt needs x minutes to be completed (I'm generous in my estimates) so I take my time and if when time is up it looks completely awful I undo it and do one of my go-to styles, otherwise I secure it and wear it with pride! I do try and wear my braid attempts as much as possible even if they are not perfect because that makes me feel like I accomplished something.

Tail Feathers
November 13th, 2013, 02:57 AM
oh, out of desperation . . .
my mom could not make a ponytail to save her life,
years of practice on myself . . .

now, i can do many styles also on other people
for the longest time, i was able only on myself

Torrin Paige...
she is full of wonderful tips !

November 13th, 2013, 03:04 AM
I still suck at updos and braiding, even with tons of practice. In fact the longer my hair gets, the worse it seems to get. I think a small percentage of us are just doomed to be fairly incompetent at styling our own hair. Or it could just be me. :silly:

November 13th, 2013, 04:42 AM
^Nope, me too! I am not good at all. I have a horrible sense of direction, so that make following some tutorials hard. I don't see getting much better :)

November 14th, 2013, 06:09 PM
Thanks everyone for your contributions. Does anyone know how much a mannequin would cost or the best place to get one from?

Beauty schools and beauty supply stores should have heads that you can practice with.

November 14th, 2013, 09:52 PM
Beauty schools and beauty supply stores should have heads that you can practice with.

Very true. I would strongly caution you to try and feel the mannequin hair you'll be working with. I found out the hard way - via mail order - that my mannequinn's hair came straight from hell. Ghastly, snarly and getting a wide tooth comb through it was a battle.

November 14th, 2013, 10:02 PM
Lots of practice, but oddly, I do better on myself when I can't see it. Go figure.
Of course, it's been so long since I've braided my own hair that I hope I can remember how!!

November 14th, 2013, 11:40 PM
Watching myself braid from a mirror just confuses the heck out of me so for me mirrors do not help when you are braiding. I do it by feel 90% of the time. Use a mirror when you need to check progress and placement.

November 15th, 2013, 07:03 AM
Practice makes perfect! I don't happen to use a mirror. I do what I do, see how it feels and just do how I please. I use a mirror to check every once and a while to make sure I don't have weird bits, but it messes me up to braid watching myself in a mirror.

November 15th, 2013, 08:15 AM
Thanks everyone for your contributions. Does anyone know how much a mannequin would cost or the best place to get one from?

Honestly, I don't know. I started learning as a little girl, and there are lots of dolls with hair that works well for styling. If I were starting out as a grown up, I'd be pretty tempted to get an American Girl just like me type doll with long hair. I'm not sure how good their type 4 texture is, but I know they have models where the hair is very similar to my type 1.

November 15th, 2013, 08:41 AM
When I am not really needing or willing to do an intricate style,it is just hard and confusing.

November 15th, 2013, 09:19 AM
Practice, Practice, Practice. I do better on my own head than on someone else's, oddly enough. I learned all the basic braids when I was 13 and I just practiced constantly to train my fingers what to do.


I bought this book back in 1989(?) and this was beyond useful to me when learning to braid. My mom had short hair, plus she couldn't do more than a simple english braid (on me) and I was the only girl (I had 2 brothers). I had to be able to practice on myself and I wanted to do fancy braids. I still have my old copy of this book. I've loaned it to friends and plan on giving it to DD when she's old enough for it to be of use. It was incredibly helpful. I really liked the illustrations of the fingerings and how to hold your hands and the strands of hair. Check it out...

November 15th, 2013, 11:04 AM
Yup, it's all practice. I started braiding pieces of yarn when I was maybe 3 or 4, and my mom sat me down at the kitchen table and held the yarn down with tape. I started French braiding (or attempting to) when I was 6, and watched my 16 year old foster sister braid my younger foster sister's hair. I'd watch intently and eventually figured it out myself.

For me, knowing how to French braid opened up the door to basically any other style. Sometimes I can look at a style and replicate it, but other times I have no idea.

November 15th, 2013, 11:19 AM
Torrinpaige does some of the best hair tutorials on youtube, plus her hair is blonde so it's really easy to see everything. Tutorials on darker hair are harder to follow for me. Also I find that it's best to pick a tutorial with someone explaining the steps as they are styling their hair rather than just showing it.

chen bao jun
November 15th, 2013, 11:54 AM
I never look in the mirror when braiding either. Only for placement.
I would try ebay for dolls, or heads.
If you just wanted to practice braiding (not french braiding) you could just simply buy a track of fake hair, clamp it to somewhere and work on that. But actually yarn would work just as well.

November 15th, 2013, 11:55 AM
Definitely practicing a lot, to get the techniques down, but personally I find I also need bright lighting and several mirrors to make anything complicated look right. I have stubborn hair.

That is to say, I need the mirrors to periodically check my work and make sure it's not wonky, not for the work itself. Everything being backwards is usually more confusing than helpful, and I do most things by touch anyways...

chen bao jun
November 15th, 2013, 12:06 PM
There are few dolls with type 4 out there--plenty of black dolls but they all have type 3 hair, like 3a or 3b. I don't think I've ever even seen one with type 3c like my hair.
However, this is not an issue because braiding hair is such a cultural thing for African descent people, I would think it would still be rare among them not to know how to do it just from hanging out with other kids and practicing a lot from a childhood on. Of course nowadays there a lot of biracial or adopted kids who might miss out on this--but on the other hand, there is the internet and braiding tutorials all over.
And braiding type 3c -type 4 hair is very easy! It's like, it was made to braid. It's much harder to braid other hair types, honestly, though of course it can be done and looks great. But hypercurly hair stays where its put, rarely needs bands on the ends to keep it braided, is easy to french braid because it wants to stay up anyway, braiding it is a dream.
I'm actually not supergood at braiding for a black person (due to my mom's prejudice against cornrows and such)--I've seen little girls do elaborate designs in braiding that would boggle your mind, real works of art--
the only thing to watch out for is that many African descent braiders pull really tight to make the designs stay (certain type 4 hair types can keep braids in for months, which I can't with my 3c) and if you do this a lot, you get that traction alopecia which is epidemic among black women, after age 40 or so, its actually unusual to meet a black woman who doesn't have a destroyed, bald hairline. Sad.