How to do yarn braids

Here’s another project I’d been meaning to try for awhile.  Actually I did it a couple days ago (and it took lots longer than 31 minutes!) but since folks asked about it on yesterday’s post, I’ll show it to you now as part of our month of focus and refresh. 

I’d seen yarn braids on other little girls before and thought they were cute.  So a few days ago with the very capable help of our teenage daughters, I finally got around to doing yarn braids in our two youngest daughters’ hair.   Sure enough– it’s not too hard and gives hair a really fun and different look.  We were all happy with the results.

You use plain old Red Heart yarn, the kind you can get at any Wal-Mart. Begin by combing out and sectioning your daughter’s hair. I usually begin with a criss-cross part, first making a part from ear to ear, and then take another from center front  to the nape of the neck. Ponytail each of these segments off. Then working with one section at a time, gradually divide the hair into more sections, braiding as you go. We probably did at least 8 braids per section, and just for fun, we made our sections triangle-shaped.

Once you get the hair divided and detangled, cut a bunch of pieces of yarn that are just a little more than twice the length of your child’s hair.  My daughters have fairly long hair, so our yarn pieces were a bit more than 2 feet long. The next step is to take two pieces of yarn, fold them in half, and interlock them, as is shown in the photo below.

Grasping the yarn in one hand and a sectioned-off bit of hair in the other, set the looped part of the yarn on top of the section of hair.

Begin under-braiding, using all the hair as one portion, and the long tails of yarn as the two other portions of the braid.  Braid two or three turns with each tail.  At this point it won’t look like a braid, it’ll just look like the yarn is wrapped around the hair close to the head.

Then comes the tricky bit.  What you’re going to do is to divide the hair into three portions, adding yarn to each portion.  Since there are four yarn ‘tails’ and only three portions of hair, two of the hair portions will have one yarn tail in them and one of the hair portions will get two pieces of yarn.  We found that the yarn showed up best if we put a little less hair in the portion that contained two pieces of yarn.

Once you get the hair and yarn divvied up, it’s smooth sailing.  Braid as normal. You’ll find that the yarn shows up really well in some of the braids, and not as much in other braids, depending on the amount of hair in each braid.

When you get to the end of the hair, tie a knot in the braid at the very end of the hair and trim the yarn just a little longer than the length of the hair.

Repeat lots more times and you have a hairdo!

You may be able to see that Julianna (in blue) has a head full of simple braids.  Emily (in red) has cornrows in front and simple braids in back.  Either way works well. They love their fancy braids and have gotten lots of compliments on them wherever we go.


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  1. Thanks Mary,

    My little Wren is just turning two this week, and her hair isn’t really long enough for braids yet…nor is she patient enough for that much sitting…but I’ve saved this for future fun! As a very straight-haired Caucasian Mama with a beautifully curly-haired multi-ethnic daughter, I’m very aware of the importance placed on her hair (and my ability to tend it well). We’ve finally found some organic products that we really like for her hair, and a routine that seems to work for a squirmy little toddler, and my go-to protective style right now is two-strand twists. But, I can definitely see the day when braids and some yarn fun will be in the works.
    Thanks as always for such good information!

  2. This is the first time I’ve seen this. I think both my daughters would get a kick out of these yarn braids, but only one of them has enough hair to actually have these done. I’ll have to ask them what they think after quiet time. :))

  3. How long will you keep the yarn braids in? Are they hard to remove?
    My daughter would love these, I think. I bought the yarn last week — just need to work up the nerve to try it out! I have read to make sure to use acrylic yarn. The wool yarn will make the hair loc apparently.

  4. That looks lovely. I think that is the first time I’ve seen their names, too.

  5. Oh, that looks so cool! And there hair is really long! Great job you did on braiding. Jealous of your cornrow skills! :o)

  6. What a fun ‘do! How fun that you have a Julianna, too! Mine is 17 months old 😉

  7. How fun! My friends’ little girls all are wearing feathers in their hair. It made me a little sad that my daughter couldn’t enjoy this trend. So this is a great solution that is adorable! I do have one question that I’d love for you to answer. My daughter who is four and has been home a year, likes to anger me but undoing her hair or putting sand in it. Sigh. It’s frustrating because it is so time consuming and I know the cultural importance of nice looking hair. Any words of wisdom to help change this behavior would be great.

    • HI Lesley,
      That’s tough, and of course the issue goes wayyyy beyond hair. My best guess at the psych-jargon is that she is most likely uncomfortable with closeness and so is behaving in a way that will push you away. This is NOT conscious–she is working from a place of fear. MANY kids who are newly arrived just get freaked out by closeness and relationship, so they sabotage moments of closeness. And what more effective way to push mom away than to trash a project she spent hours on?

      I think the best (and hardest!) thing to do is to be non-reactive. Simply sit down with her and redo the hair. Every time. Most little girls don’t love having their hair done, and will eventually decide they’d rather preserve their old do. I also think that for awhile I’d keep the hair relatively simply. It’s going to be easier for you to redo the hair without anger if you only have to redo four or maybe 8 braids. If you feel like she needs a consequence, you could tell her that to make up for the wasted time, she’d going to have to help you do your work now.

      Then set her up near you doing a job that is very simple and hard to fail at– for example, sweeping the patio while you weed. As long as she’s moving, call it obedience. Or give her a rag and have her scrub the dirty spots on the kitchen floor for as many minutes as she is old. Or give her a stack of washcloths to fold; as soon as she folds 10, she’s done. Think carefully before you prescribe a consequence. If she’s likely to make it another chance to fight, I’d probably skip it– and sitting through yet another hair fix really IS a consequence on its own.

      I think that once you stop reacting to the hair ruination, and she figures out she doesn’t like having hair done so often,she’ll do that behavior less. BTW, I would NOT fix her hair 10x a day. I’d do it once. If she ruined it, I’d say something like, “Oh, I guess you need a new hairdo. I guess we’ll have to do it this evening instead of playing outside.” (Or in the morning instead of something else she enjoys.)

      Then do something simple and not elaborate, but let her know she’s going to have to sit through a braiding session every time she does that. Remember that the hair ruination is just a sign of the woundedness of her little heart. Just LOVE on her as you’re doing that precious little head. Bonus points if you’re chill enough to sing and chat and hug and praise and be really relaxed during the re-do. Obviously to have the wherewithal to be in that space mentally, you’re going to have to be rested, with a schedule that has some margin, and filled with power from the Holy Spirit. This is HARD, hard to do.

      Hugs to you. The work we’re doing with brokenhearted children is some of the hardest stuff– but also some of the very most meaningful– that we’ll ever do in our lives.


  8. How adorable! (I have a Julianna too!)

  9. So cute! Thinking my little blondies would think this is fun too…can it be done with straight hair?

    • Suzy, You’d probably need to secure the yarn into the braid close to the head using a tiny rubber band (the kind made for hair). But I think you could make it work.

  10. So cute. Brings back fun memories of braiding. 🙂