Brightly colored headwraps are traditionally worn by women throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Some American women of African descent also wear these headwraps as a tribute to their ancestral culture. African women often wear dresses made of the same material as their headwraps, while African-American women often wear headwraps as a unique complement to their Western clothes. African headwraps are simply made of a long rectangle of cloth that the wearer skillfully wraps around her head and uses to cover every inch of her hair.
Things You'll Need
Sew a Headwrap
Wash, dry and iron the African-print cotton fabric you have selected.
Measure 13 inches by 36 inches with a yardstick and cut out the rectangle shape in the fabric.
Fold over the edges of the rectangle 1/2 inch. Then fold them in half on the inside so that there are no visible raw edges. Pin in place. Sew the edges down.
Tie a Headwrap
Lay the headwrap’s rectangle of cloth down flat with wrong side up. Take two of the short ends, lay the flat edge on the nape of your neck and tie the two ends on the crown of your head. The rest of the cloth should flow down freely from your neck.
Fold the left side of the rectangle further than where your hair’s center part would be. Do the same with the right side of the rectangle, overlapping where your hair’s center part would be.
With your hands, twist the headwrap to the left, starting at the long, free edge of the cloth. You can do this yourself or have someone else help you. This will create a twisted tube of cloth.
Bring the cloth tube upward and carefully and tightly coil it around your head. Neaten or even it up as you go along as necessary. Tuck the end of the cloth into the top of the wrap.
African-print fabrics feature colorful patterns with African designs or motifs such as cowrie shells. If you can’t find an African-print fabric you like, opt for a fabric featuring a single bright color such as yellow or purple.
Experiment with twisting the cloth of the headwrap a lot or very little to create different looks. You can also twist ribbons around the cloth tube for a dressier look.
Buy a traditional African dress pattern and sew a dress to wear with your African headwrap to create a truly African ensemble.
References and ResourcesCornell University; "The African American Woman's Headwrap: Unwinding the Symbols"; Helen Bradley Griebel
Modern Traditional: Up-Do African Headwrap Instructions