Making Dreadlocks with the Latching Method
Popular names for this method:
When used as a method to tighten dreadlocks this method is often called crocheting. It is not recommended for tightening dreads made with other methods because of the difference in texture between locked and latched hair.
- Latch hooking
- Sister Locks
- Wrapped Locks
- Knatty Locks
- North, South, East, West
Latching exploded in popularity about 10 years ago. It seemed like everyone wanted to know how to dread hair with latching. There are a lot of variants to this simple idea and they all have the same benefits and the same shortcomings. The biggest benefits to latching are it's ease and it's durability. Because the hair is wrapped though itself rather than knotted the latched locks are very durable, in fact they are almost impossible to remove without cutting should you want to remove them, whereas other methods can be combed out with relative ease using dreadlock removal products.
The term "Latched Locks" is referring to dreads that are started and then maintained by continuously latching the new growth. They could also be started in short hair and the latched areas could then be allowed to grow out while the new growth locked organically. This process would work more like starting locks from braids/plats because the new growth would begin locking organically.
The difference between Latched Locks and Dreadlocks.
Let's talk about regular dreadlocks first. The knots that make up dreadlocks have no pattern. They are completely random. When your eye looks down the length of a dreadlock there is no pattern and no repeating themes of any type. This very organic composition of knots has a great deal of character and it's randomness parallels the natural charm of dreadlocks.
Theses knots can be created in a variety of ways. In some methods, like twists, strand twists and backcombing, the knots that you create to start them evolve and mature into dreadlocks. Other times the hair that is used to start the dreads is discarded after the dreads begin to lock on their own, as is often the case with plats. Even though the hair that was in the plat is cut off, the new growth that grows out at the scalp, where the plat originally met the scalp, will lock as the hair grows (assuming proper care) and these knots will be random and organic, creating a smooth pleasing dreadlock.
Latched locks that are maintained with continued latching are different. Latched locks do not have the random knots of dreadlocks. When locks are latched they are basically wrapped though themselves repeatedly form alternating directions. Each wrap is made up of hair strands laying against each other. They run parallel instead of being randomly knotted. Close examination will reveal that these wraps never really go away. Once a dread has been latched it always carries evidence of the latching. In an attempt to make these wraps less visible it is desirable to pull the dread though itself from different directions. This does help but it doesn't change the fact that the lock is made of wrapped hair laying beside other strands of wrapped hair, rather than random knots.
Latched locks tend to be thinner than organic locks formed with the same amount of hair. This is because hair laying flat beside other hair takes up less space than hair that is knotted randomly. Latched locks are also more prone to awkward looking bends. In organic locks when you bend a dreadlock it tends to bend smoothly and evenly. Latched locks have a tendency to bend more sharply in one area than others. So, if the tip of the dread is resting on your shoulder for example, you might see the dread bend smoothly up until a point where it has a sharp bend. This part of the dread is probably not weaker than the rest, it just appears to be due to the way it bends. Keep in mind this does not always happen but it certainly happens more often in latched locks than in locks that were organically formed.
The next question is: Does it matter? Sure there are some people that would not consider anything but "real", organically formed, dreadlocks but how much does it matter to you? Latched locks are quicker to maintain and, in the beginning, they are very durable. No amount of washing will remove them. Latching hair is simple and straight forward, while creating knots and helping them form dreadlocks is a bit more tricky. You should give this some consideration and decide if latching is right for you.
Latching Step by Step
A wide range of lengths work well for making dreads with Latching. You can latch when you have enough hair to hold on to. Usually as little as 2" will work. You can start latches in very long hair has well. It takes a couple minutes for each inch of hair you lave to latch.
- 1. If you'll be sectioning the hair, first use a comb or your fingers to section the hair into the size sections you want. The larger the section the thicker the dreads. Keep sections square so dreads grow round, not flat. Secure the sections with a clip as you go.
- 2. After all the hair is sectioned choose a section at the back and add a rubberband to the tip of the section (where the hair ends). This band should be nice and tight. You won't need a band near the scalp.
- 3. The idea behind latching is that you are passing the dread though itself again and again from alternating directions. You can pass it through using your fingers if there is room. Later, as you work your way down the dread or when you're tightening new growth you'll probably need to use a loose hair tool. Their are a variety of latching tools which accomplish the same goal. It's just a matter of what you prefer and find easiest. I like the loose hair tool because it's easy to use and has the added benefit of being able to fix loose hair anywhere on the dread, and it makes perfect, round looking tips very easy to make.
This is a bit tricky so listen up. To make the latching as smooth as possible and prevent holes in the latched lock we need to change up two things with each wrap or latch we make:
1) We need to change the direction that the wrap comes from as it passes though the lock.
2) We must be sure that we are not passing between the same stands over and over.
Follow the steps carefully so your latching stays smooth.
- 4. Hold the tip in one hand and with the other hand spread the hair near the scalp apart with your finger. Be sure to stick your finger in from the top. We'll call this the 12 o'clock position because it's like 12 o'clock on a watch face.
- 5. Next we'll slide that finger toward the tip that's held by the other hand.
- 7. Pass the tip of the strand through where your finger is. The lock to be is now wrapped though itself.
- 6. Continue holding the strand by the tip. Now we will repeat the process but instead of spreading the strand at the 12 o'clock position (from the top) we will spread the strand apart at the 3 o'clock position (the right side). You'll spread it at the roots and slide your finger up just as before.
- 7. You'll continue moving around the clock face, making a 1/4 turn each time you wrap: 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock etc (Bottom, Left, Top, Right, Bottom, etc.) It may also be helpful to think of them as directions on a compass: North, South, East, West, which is where that name comes from. Some people just alternate between 12 o'clock & 3 o'clock. See what works best for you.
- 8. As you continue wrapping you'll notice the wraps building up near the tip. You'll continue latching until you have reached the roots. When you reach the roots and can no longer spread the hair with your finger you'll being using the loose hair tool. To use the hair tool simply pass it though the dread where you would spread it apart. Hook the tip of the dread while the hook is sticking though the dread. Close the latch. Pull the tool back though along with the tip. Continue pulling until the lock passes through itself fully.
If you don't wish to use cream you shouldn't. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to. That said, you should give it a try.
Lock Creme and Latched locks.It's been said that latched locks to not require lock creme. This is certainly true. But while no Dreadlock (or Latched loc) requires creme, they can all benefit from it when it's used properly. Creme provides two main benefits: It helps the loc mature and it provides the loc with nutrients and moisture so that it stays strong and healthy and doesn't dry out. Because the hair in a latched lock is wrapped rather than dreaded, use of a dread creme is sometimes skipped. This is unfortunate.
Not only does lock cream help latched locks stay healthy and prevent dryness, just as in dreadlocks, but it also helps the loose hair at the surface of the lock works it's way into the lock and dread. While the center of a latched lock remains latched the surface of the lock will have knotted hair that has worked it's way out of the lock. The bottom line is this: If you don't wish to use cream you shouldn't. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to. That said, if you been getting along without it, you should give it a try. Not only does it benefit the locking but It also make your locks luxurious and soft while keeping them moisturized and healthy.
Residue Free Shampoobenefits latched dreadlocks as well as dreads formed with other methods. You'll find the dreads themselves look richer and healthier without buildup and drying time is reduced as well. It should be noted though that one of the main benefits of washing dreadlocks in a residue free shampoo is how it helps the new growth dread. Since latched dreads are latched manually they don't get to take advantage of that particular benefit.
The point at the tip of the loose hair tool allows it to do more than a typical latch hook. It can be guided down the center of a dread, then pushed out the tip. The loose hair at the tip can then be pulled up inside the dread using the tool and leaving a blunt, rounded tip that will lock trouble free.