7 Braid Secrets

The quest for the perfect braid is about embracing imperfection. This is rule number one.

( Photo Be The Fair for Free Your Hair, Mercado Sagrado 2016)

I can too easily recall the feeling of sitting behind the girl with the perfect french braid in 3rd grade. Her braid was smooth and shiny, symmetrical and without a bit of fuzz. Mine, which was done really hurriedly by my mom who I had BEGGED and begged that morning to braid me, my poor mother who had 3 children to get out the door and to the school bus on time.

She had a total of 6 meals to prepare that morning ( breakfast and lunch for the 3 of us ) and braiding was not at the top of her list of important things to do. Needless to say, my braid was rushed and lumpy, frizzy and limp. And I felt nothing but pure burning braid envy as I gazed at the braid in front of me.

Perfect braid, probably a mom who just loved to braid her hair and never felt rushed ever, and also, she got to take horse back riding lessons and she made sure everyone around her knew it. Thats my braid sob story and also my point of reference for where my braid journey began. This was the origin of my quest to make a perfect braid.

I don’t want to go to deep into the soul of this story because I could ramble on for fucking lightyears. Instead, I will share with you my favorite tricks for creating great braids.

Circling back, embracing imperfection. I think many of us have this perfect braid in our heads that we can never quite replicate (thanks, Pinterest, for making us eternally feel unskilled)


Step 1. Get your Mind Right

 Shake off the expectation of braid perfection because it’s a setup for failure and also, thankfully, today’s braid is everything but perfect. The key to a life of great braiding is changing your attitude, believing in the process and letting yourself experiment.

Try and enjoy the journey of the braid, because it shows. If you can appreciate the process, your braid will shine brighter. It’s kind of like a beautiful garment, if it is made with love, you feel it every time you wear it, and it shows.

Pro-tip: If you are starting with your braid technique at ground zero, teach your hands before you teach your eyes. Close your eyes, and get the rhythm down. Take it slow, and send love to your hands, thank them for learning a new thing. Don’t rush it.

Also, put on Beyonce’s Lemonade and invoke the skills of the braid empresses who came before you as you braid.


Step 2. Braid Basics

Take some time to just play around with your hair, starting with a simple 3 strand braid. If you can get all your hair into one braid, start there. If your hair is short, there is a magic thing called an accent braid, that just means a little braid strategically placed somewhere that’s only purpose is to exist. Not a lot of function, just a little adornment…..A little something to make it interesting. An accent braid is to hair what earrings are to ears.

Just do some simple braiding in your hair, to work up the muscle memory in your hands and coordinate your fingers. Get the feel of it, get comfortable. Nothing fancy yet. Practice.


Step 3. The Power to Deconstruct

Today’s braids are soft and sultry, slept-on. JBF braids. Natural braids. Braids that look beautiful and effortless. Imagine Joni Mitchell, windows down on 110 heading towards Big Sur braids. Free Braids.

I love this part because we get to rebel against that piece of us that still believes in that perfect smooth orderly braid but needs to break free. The key to the Free Braid is to start with a solid structure, then go back in and mess it up.

My hair mentor once told me that every great hairstyle depends of strong scaffolding. In the case of the braid, it means using a steady hand, even tension, yoga posture, conscious breath, and 3 cleanly divided sections of hair to work with.

Make sure your braid is tight and right to begin with……Do a nice solid 3 strand braid. Then, secure the ends, and spend some time pulling at the braid, tugging it cross wise from either edge, widening it and softening it. Start at the ends, and work your way up towards the base of the braid.

Pull some hairs loose around your face. Loosen up the hair at your crown a bit to lift it up so you don’t get a flat spot. Muss it up. Shake it around.

Pro-Tip: If your hair has a lot of texture to it, or is very long or layered, you may be able to braid it all the way to the tiniest of itty-bitty ends and then let it hang free with no hair tie to secure it. This will allow it to naturally soften and unravel on it’s own.


Step 4.  Step up your game.

Once you have embraced the basic deconstructed braid, it’s time to try out some new braid techniques, and play around with using different combinations of braids together in the hair. You can do this, I promise.

Here is what you need to learn now:

French braid. Dutch braid. Fishtail braid. Learn the mechanics of these braids……If you can do a simple 3 strand braid, you can do these 3 braids. Once you have these techniques down, you have the power to combine braids and get creative. Now you get to use your imagination.

Pro-tip: Remember the power of an accent braid! A simple braid can be made so much more interesting with the addition of a smaller braid hanging with it, or framing your face.


Step 5. The Power of the Tool

If you are feeling very challenged, know that with the proper tools, braiding can be made much easier. 

Add some things to your braid alter:

A mixed bristle brushTo detangle and prep the hair for easy braiding. Start smooth for much better results and a less frustrating process. 

A braiding comb: For sectioning and making clean parts, and for my curly/ natural texture babes to detangle and prep the hair. 

Dry shampoo/texture powder: For fine hair and slippery hair especially! If you have trouble getting a good grip of your own hair, powder up first. I like to sprinkle powder directly onto my mixed-bristle brush and brush it through when I prep my hair for braiding. The powder will make it easier to braid, and also help the braid stay in better. 

Salt spray: Same idea as Dry-shampoo, but a different employment. Mist it into your dry, pre-brushed hair to add texture, thickness and grip before you braid. For max results, powder first, brush, then spray with salt spray. Great braids for days. 

Clear elastics: Secure them ends. Please don’t break the bank on clear elastics. Get them at any and all drug stores. 

Bobby pins: The covertly secure bits of hair post braid. Again, don’t break the bank on these.


Step 6. Just Add flowers

Just take my word on this ones. Tuck what ever is in season at the flower shop, whatever is calling to you in your neighbors garden, or whatever green is creeping from the cracks in the concrete, into your hair. 

Wearing flowers in our hair is just a small yet powerful way to connect us to the natural world, and help us remember the simple beauty in life. Use your intuition on this one. Just find a little plant or flower that intrigues you and wear it in your hair.

I especially love to take a small fragrant flower like a Daphne and pin it into my braid with a bobby pin so I can catch the scent of it all day. Early Spring, the hellebores are  great ones to adorn your braid with….And don’t discount wild greenery! Delicate leaves and creeping vines are also lovely.


Step 7. Make it Social

Get a bunch of your babes together and braid each other’s hair. I guarantee everyone will have a trick that they learned from their mom or grandma to add to the communal braid tool kit. 

Braiding is a matrilineal tradition that has been practiced in every documented culture. It is an inherently social art and practice. It is a skill best learned socially. So, grab a few bottles of wine and some dark chocolate, put on some tunes, light sage and candles. Braid each other’s hair. Viva la Braid Circle. Make it a thing.

Valentine’s Hair Special

Hi babes. In honor of a day to celebrate love, here are two hairstyles to rock and profess your love to yourself and your hair.

The first one is called Flying Hearts, and the second one is called Nameless Braids.

I made small simple videos to show how they are done. Enjoy!

Happy Valentines Day!

 

xo, HTHG

Seasonal Color, Seasonal Braids

Hi Babes! Wanted to share some recent hair color and braids I did on my neighbors Birch and Cameron. img_7653img_7642

Cameron wanted cooler tones, Birch wanted warmer tones. I mixed these shades from primary colors and applied them intuitively in small sections, blending one into the next. I saturated their ends and softened the color as I painted it upwards towards the roots, using sweeping feathery strokes.

They both have basically virgin natural level 7 hair. I did balayage both of them last Summer, so there is a tiny bit of pre-lightening.

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Birch got french braided pigtails. Check out this tutorial to get the gist.7u6a04747u6a0590

Then, she got wrapped in twinkly lights:). Tis the season!

img_7681Cameron got this beautiful braided do. Of course had to get a shot of her hair in half-deconstructed mode because that is always when those braids look the best.7u6a0382

I didn’t make tutorials for these braids, but check out a video posted today on @howtohairgirl via Instagram to learn this last beauty…….It is surprisingly really easy to do.

Merry Merry Season!

xo, HTHG

Cedar Solstice Braids and the Secret Selkie

7u6a0256-1Jules came over for some new color and a little lunch the other day. We went with seaweed green panels within the layers of her hair.fullsizerender-6

It reminded me of the story of the Selkie, the myth the Seal Woman from coastal Scottish and Irish folklore. I had posted this photo the previous week, from a fellow hair artist Aylah Rose. She created the look inspired by the Selkie and the Wild Women of our global folk history.

Jules took me on a tour of Scotland when we were 19. She is a Scotswoman. Not much in the blood, but 100% in the soul. It is funny how a tiny bit of actual ancestral rootage can come through so strong in some people. She lived in Glasgow for several years, and is a fiddler and a flat foot dancer. She is now a Rick Steve’s Scotland guide in the Summertime. In short, she’s a Secret Selkie.

After we finished Jule’s hair, I fed her my favorite soup that I have been making lately. It is Seaweed Soup and I can’t stop eating it. It is made with chicken broth, fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, green onions, cilantro, wakame seaweed, and kelp noodles. No measuring, just throw it all together and boil it for 20 minutes. Turn stove off, let it cool a bit. Add a large spoonful of miso and mix it in. BAM!


Solstice Braids

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Then, we did some braids.

These braids are my new favorite way to do Milk Maid Braids, and I re-named them Fire Maid Braids because I originally did them on Fire Keeper Miriam at last years Spirit Weavers Gathering and she rocked them so beautifully. I love them because they are very sturdy and can be worn for weeks at a time, and they look so great from all angles. Finally…….here is a tutorial:)picmonkey-image-3

 

  • Begin by creating 2 french braids. Dutch braids also work, it is totally up to you. Secure the ends with small elastics.
  • Now, gently pull the edges of the braids apart, starting at the ends and working your way up. This softens them and plumps them up a bit:)
  • Now, pull the ends of the braids forward and overlap them at the top of your head. Use bobby pins to secure them every few inches. Add extra pins as needed to the places that stick out. Tuck the ends under the braids and pin them so that the hairstyle appears continuous.
  • Pull down soft pieces of hair around your face and neck to soften the look.
  • Add little Cedar boughs and bits to adorn the braids for the perfect Happy Solstice/ Holiday Hair Vibe.

 

xo, HTHG

 

 

Yoga Braids on my Magic Carpet Yoga Mat

7U6A9302Raise your hand if you have a yoga mat that you love? ( My hand is raised high. ) I have a beautiful Magic Carpet Yoga Mat that has helped me commit to carving out the time to do a little yoga once a week.

Some times, I do 5 of my favorite poses in 10 minutes and call it good. Other times, I flow through 45 minutes of deep stretching and holding poses as I try and keep my mind from wandering off my beautiful mat, to my nasty carpet that needs cleaning. Meet my mind, the constant monkey. I do what I can as far as trying to calm and soothe it but it is a constant journey.

Why am I telling you this? Because I love my yoga mat so much that I felt inspired to reach out to Sophie, the owner of Magic Carpet Yoga Mats and see how she felt about me featuring a mat in a blog post about yoga and braids. Thanks Sophie for obliging!

Why do I love my yoga mat so much? Because it is so lovely to behold that I feel invited to do yoga every time I look at it. And then, when I hop onto it, I feel supported and strong. And the moments I spend on my mat, though infrequent and hasty, hugely help me function better in life. Taking the time to stretch, breath, and bring awareness back into my physical body is necessary to my wellbeing, I am finding. And practicing things that engage both sides of my brain, as yoga does, brings focus and major mindfulness into my daily life.

Something else that I do to engage both sides is braid hair. Which is another reason why this post came about…….Because hair braiding can be a lovely practice which engages both sides of the brain, and is the perfect opportunity to work a little meditation practice into life.

Read here on the importance of synchronizing both sides of the brain with meditation.

Some feedback that I get very often when teaching people to braid is that it is hard on their body to sit still and keep their arms up, let alone coordinate their fingers behind their own head and stick to the braiding rhythm. That is so many things to do at once!

I tell every person who I teach how to braid this……For best results, think of your body positioning while you are braiding like a yoga posture. Body aligned, breath moving, mind focused, intuition strong. Close your eyes. Feel it in your body. Here. Let me show you what I mean.

Jules is going to demonstrate a braid, using the correct posture and breath that is used in her regular yoga practice. She sits in a grounded pose on the sacred space of her Magic Carpet yoga mat, and what better place to braid your hair than the place that you spend peaceful time integrating your body and mind in a yoga practice?7U6A9321

Begin by sitting cross legged, or on your knees if you prefer. Rest your hands on your abdomen and gently engage your abs, as you tilt your pelvis forwards a bit, rounding out your lower back without forcing it, grounding your tailbone and aligning your back. Feel the gentle strength in your belly. Take a few deep breaths into your abdomen.

Now roll your shoulders backwards, and around in slow circles, working out kinks and loosening them up. Roll them down your back, opening your chest. Let your arms hang loose at your sides. Roll your hands around at the wrist, working out the kinks. Roll your head from side to side, stopping and breathing through the tense areas.

Continue to breath. Bring this feeling of relaxed alignment into your braid practice, breathing into your arms and shoulders, keeping the energy flowing and allowing your hands and brain to speak to each other without the interruption of your tense physical body. NOW you are ready to braid your hair.


Yoga Braids7U6A9333

Begin by making a center part. Bring the hair from both sides of the part in front of your shoulders.7U6A9343

Now make a part that bisects your center part, going straight across the top of your head from one ear to the other. This will create 4 sections of hair.

Take the left front section and make a 3 strand braid with it. Secure the end with a clear elastic.  7U6A9361Repeat on the right front section.

Make a small french braid down one of your back sections. Hold it in place at the base with a hairclip while you do the other side. ( Are you still breathing and keeping your body in alignment? Take a minute to get back in position if you need to)7U6A9420

 

Now pull the front braid from the opposite side across the back of the head and braid it right into your french braid, adding it to one of your 3 braid sections, and braiding all the way to the ends of the hair. Secure with an elastic. 7U6A9428

Repeat on the other side, criss crossing your braids7U6A9436 and integrating your braid into your french braid. Secure the ends, and take a second to appreciate what you just accomplished.

Consider yourself in great shape to strike up your usual asanas, hair braided and energy focused and contained within your body. Did you know that some cultures do not engage in ceremony without braids in their hair?

7U6A9638Here is a different Yoga Braid from that same sunny Sunday at the park. After our Yoga+Braids session, Jules played me a tune on her fiddle then we walked and got burritos down the street.

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Sophie from Magic Carpet Yoga Mats for sharing her beautiful mats with us.

If you enjoyed this post and are seeking more ways to be more mindful in creating rituals of self-care, I invite you to check out this post on the Ritual of Hairbrushing.

xo HTHG

 

 

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