HAIR ACCESSORY TUTORIAL: Hair Combs with Tiered Chains

I made this hair accessory to wear for a recent League of Space Pirates event, but I didn't end up wearing them for long, as I couldn't keep them secure in my thin hair. I plan on wearing them next Thursday for our Book and Record release party, but using some spiked alligator clips that I made last year. I'll have an updated post in a couple weeks showing how to wear them that way. If you have thin hair like me and the combs won't stay in your hair, there is an optional construction methods at the bottom of this tutorial, using barrettes.

I took the photos using my camera phone. The top one is a collage I created on my phone and posted to my Instagram, theazurafae. The other two were edited  on my computer, but taken with my phone because I couldn't recall where I put my nice camera. Sorry for the quality, but you get the idea.

  • 2 small clear hair combs - These are not the sort you comb your hair with. These are meant for making decorative hair accessories, though I have a set of black ones that I wear non-embellished. You can get these in multi-packs at most craft stores. Mine have 7 prongs, which makes 6 tptal spaces in between the prongs. This tutorial is built around that number of spaces. Keep that mind if your combs have more or less prongs and spaces, and adjust the other supplies and steps accordingly.
  • 12 large silver jump rings - I make my own by wrapping 20 or 22 gauge silver colored craft wire around a small diameter dowel rod, to form a spiral. Then, I use small wire cutters to cut the spiral into individual jump rings. This allows me to custom make sizes fast, and it's cheaper than buying pre-made jump rings
  • A lot of small link long chain - The length amount is determined by your head size and your style preference. We'll get to how to measure that in the instructions. I used 2 different kinds, but you can use one kind to six different kinds. That's up to you. Just make sure their color and finish is the same if you want the same effect as mine. If you have light colored hair, consider using black chain, for better contrast. Actually, you can use any color you want, but the construction is the same
  • Two pairs of small jewelry pliers - Since the jump rings are so large you can open and close them with your fingers, but it gets a bit fiddly when attaching the chain to the hair combs, so I prefer using jewelry pliers to get into the small areas easily. If you don't have jewelry pliers, a pair of needle nose pliers and your fingers will do ok
  • Small wire and chain cutters - I think they are also called "wire nippers". Mine came with a set of small jewelry tools that contained my small pliers
  • Measuring tape - 


1) First, you need to measure out the 6 chains. They are tiered from shortest to longest. To figure out the length of the shortest chain, hold up the beginning of the measuring tape to the place on your head where you want to comb to go. I chose a spot close to my hair line, where the hair is thicker. While holding that end there, bring the measuring tape around to the other side of your head stopping on the opposite side of your head to where the beginning spot is. You want it to be as even as possible. Make sure the measuring tape drapes a bit in the back, to make for comfortable wearing. My personal measurement isn't important to note, as everyone's head size and placement preference is different. Write this measurement down if you need to.

2) After you have your length determined, lay the measuring tape down on a flat surface. Lay the chain against the measuring tape, holding the loose end where the tape starts, and pulling the chain straight across the tape to where your short length measurement is.

3) Using the cutters to cut through a chain link where your short length measurement is.

4) With the measuring tape still laying flat, measure out another piece of chain, but 1/2 inch longer than the last one. Cut the chain at that measurement.

5) For the next 4 chain lengths, you will measure out each individual chain adding 1/2 inch to each previous measurement, and cutting it at that measurement. You will get get 6 chains that are tiered in length. Lay the chains out in order of smallest to largest.

6) Set your 12 jump rings in front of you. With your fingers or the two pliers, open each jump ring enough to fit over the bar of the comb into one of the spaces. You want to move the ends apart forward and backward vs. stretching them to the side. This will maintain the circle and is the easiest way to work with jump rings. Here's a little Crafty Quickies video from Margot Potter that shows how this is done. This will be handy to see for when you need to close them using pliers.

7) Pick up an open jump ring and one hair comb. Slip the jump ring over the comb bar into one of the spaces between the prongs of the comb. Do this for each jump ring, so they are prepped for the next steps.

8) Take one end of the shortest chain and slip it over an open end of the jump ring at the end of one hair comb. With the two pliers, grasp the jump ring and close it. Reference the Crafty Quickies video if you need to see how this is done.

9) Working with that same hair comb, split one chain end onto one jump ring from shortest to longest chain length, and close each jump ring like you did in the previous step.

10) Do the same thing with the other hair comb, making sure not to mix up the order of the chains. Make sure both combs are either curved up or down, so when you are done constructing the piece, it will function properly.

If you have done it right, it should look like this. 

This is what it looks like laying flat.

I folded it in half, so you can see that the chains are different lengths. This is actually laying upside down...the shortest will be at the top when you're wearing it.


There are a few other ways you can construct this.

Combs and Wire Wrapping
This method might be more secure than the jump rings, because it doesn't allow the chain ends to shift as much as the jump rings do.

  1. After you have cut the tiered lengths of chain, cut a long piece of wire. 22-24 gauge should do nicely.
  2. Wrap one end of the wire at one end of the comb bar where there is a space. Do this a few times.
  3. Slip on one end of the shortest chain onto the wire.
  4. Wrap the wire a couple times more in that same space. Shift over the loose wire into the next space and wrap it a few times.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each chain going in order of shortest to longest chain.
  6. When you are done adding the last chain, wrap the wire a few more times into that last space on the bar. If you still have a lot of wire left on this long length, snip it back until you have about half an inch left. Slip this end under the wrapping along the bar.
  7. Do this for the other comb too, keep in mind the order of the chains and position of the comb.

Using Barrettes Instead of Combs
If you have problems keeping small combs in your hair, this is a great option.

You will need two small barrettes, two long lengths of 22-24 gauge wire, ribbon and batting slightly wider than the barrette, matching thread, and a hand sewing needle for this. If you want the barrette to blend into your hair a bit, select ribbon that is close to your hair color.

  1. Open both barrettes and remove the curved springs.
  2. With one long length of wire, wrap it around one end of the barrette between the hinge and the clasp. Just like the option above, slip on a chain every few wraps and space them out evenly. Keep track of the length order of the chains, start with the shortest and go to the longest.
  3. When you are done wrapping, clip the remaining wire to 1/2 inch. Tuck this under the wraps along the top of the barrette.
  4. Thread your needle, double over the thread, and knot the ends.
  5. Along the top of the barrette, lay the piece of small piece of batting. Place the ribbon on top of the batting. The batting softens the appearance of wire along the top. Fold the ribbon ends over the barrette ends.
  6. Using the threaded needle, stitch the ribbon from side to side along the back of the barrette. Some barrettes have small holes at either end of the barrette. Make a few stitches into those. Make sure the ends of the ribbon are folded under in a way that no raw edges show. 
  7. When you get to the opposite end and feel that the ribbon is secure, knot off the thread. I like to make a special double knot by putting the needle through the fabric (in this case ribbon), and pulling it till the loop is almost closed, then putting my needle through that loop, and through the new loop that creates, pulling both loops shut. If you are careful, you will created a double knot.
  8. Alternatively, if you are terrible at sewing, you can use E6000 to glue the ribbon to the barrette. It's messier to use and I can't guarantee that it will keep the ribbon forever attached to the metal, but it will stay pretty well.
  9. Place the curved spring back on the barrette.
  10. You will do this for both barrettes, keeping in mind the order of the chains and position of the barrettes. Which way you want both pointed is up to you.

As you can see, there are few ways to make this. They all require some patience and ability to keep items in order. Happy makery!


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