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A Colonial Wigmaker

The wigmaker was cleaning up his shop while waiting for a customer. His apprentice and journeyman were putting the finishing touches on the peruke (a wig) one gentleman wanted. On the shelf were wig blocks (we call them dummy heads) with white, black, brown, gray, blond, and even blue wigs on them. Some were made of horsehair, goat hair, and silk threads, but the most expensive were the ones made with human hair. There were many styles of wigs. A tie wig was pulled back and tied with a ribbon. The bag wig was a wig with a silk bag covering it. In the shop there were at least a hundred different styles.

A man walked in and asked to see the wigmaker. The wigmaker shaved the man's head so the wig would fit. Then he measured his head by putting strips of paper on to see how long the skullcap would be. The apprentice got the hair ready for the wig. He put the colors the man wanted together and tied them in bundles. Then he dusted the bundles with sand to soak up oil in the hair. He shook the sand out and combed the hair until it shined.

After the journeyman pinned the hair into curls and boiled it for three hours, the master craftsman picked out the right length the gentleman wanted. Then he made a pattern for the wig to show where the rows of hair should be. Next he wove the hair together in rows of the right length. A journeyman used a dummy head the same size as the customer's head and fit a net made with woven silk or cotton around the wig block. He then sewed ribbon around the sides of the net to keep the shape. That finished the skullcap. The master craftsman took the rows of hair that were done being woven and he stitched them in place one row at a time.

For part 2 of this story, click A Colonial Wigmaker part 2 Copyright 2007 sponsor Canon Printer Cartridge