How to make ringlets (old fashioned rag curls)

by - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When I was a young girl, Nannan Joan taught me how to style hair in ringlets using strips of fabric - no curling irons or heated rollers required! It was such a novelty to me at the time, though strangely in the years since I haven't curled my hair - at least not using rag strips!

Last week it was Princess' birthday and we'd planned a fun day out, so as a treat we decided to style her hair using this technique to help her feel extra pampered on her special day.

In today's post I'll explain the technique we used, complete with a few photos to illustrate this old-fashioned but incredibly effective method of curling hair.

What you'll need

To create your rag-rolled ringlets you'll need several long strips of fabric - preferably white cotton. The width and length of your strips will depend on the length of your hair and the tightness of the curls you want to produce: longer strips for longer hair, wider strips for looser curls, etc.

Princess has quite long hair and we wanted the curls to be reasonably tight. We cut up an old men's T-shirt into strips about 20 inches long and 2 inches wide.

You will need to have damp hair and plenty of time to allow natural drying which will ensure your curls stay in place. Rather than wash Princess' hair, we simply dampened it in the shower and roughly towel dried to get rid of the excess moisture. We figured that "day-old" hair would retain the style for longer as freshly washed hair has been stripped of natural oils (and as you'll see later, we were right!).

If you do decide to wash hair prior to rag-curling, I'd recommend spraying each section with a little hairspray to ensure the style holds better.

Lastly you'l also need a comb to section and smooth your hair before wrapping around the rag strips.


We sectioned Princess' hair into eight sections (four on each side of her head) as she wanted her curls to appear "long and bouncy".

For each section of hair, we tied a strip of rag around the hair fairly close to her scalp. One end was fairly short (leaving enough length to tie closed later) while the other was about twice as long as her hair.

Next, we tightly wound each section around the fabric strip. When reaching the end of the length of hair, we wrapped the fabric around the bottom a couple of times to secure the end, then continued wrapping around back up to the knot at the top.

As Princess would be sleeping in her rag-curls, we folded up the hair before tying securely at the top to ensure the rolls stayed in place overnight.

The next morning, we gently untied the knots to find Princess' hair had been transformed into lovely bouncy ringlets. With a little teasing we neatened them up, and she was very happy with the end result!

I didn't use hairspray on Princess' curls but they lasted for two whole days (until I insisted that she washed her hair again).

Unfortunately I'm not a great photographer and was using my phone's camera to capture the steps we took to curl Princess' hair, so apologies for the poor quality though I hope they suffice to explain our technique!

Creating different effects using this technique

If you have shorter hair or would prefer tighter (or more) curls, it would be better to rag-curl more sections of hair than we did.

Another way of rag-curling is to tie the fabric strips at the end of each hair section, then roll the hair around the rag, tying in a knot close to the scalp. This creates natural looking curls rather than ringlets, and is an ideal alternative to using heated rollers or curling tongs.

What do you think?

Have you tried rag-rolling your hair using this (or a similar) technique? Do you have any tips for us which could result in a better finish next time?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

Image credit (top of the post): HairstylesLaLa, via Flickr. All other photography is copyrighted to Amanda Kennedy.

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