Caring for African Hair: The Art of Parting

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In this section, you'll learn the art of parting hair to create beautiful braided styles.  If you think you will need more help than this, feel free to enroll at the African Hairstyles course.

Lesson 1: Caring for African Hair Overview
Lesson 2: Beading
Lesson 3:  The Art of Parting
Lesson 4:  Sane Hair Straightening

The Art of Parting

Parting is half of the beauty of any braided hairstyle.  Even if you are not so good at cornrows yet, being good at parting will at least make your individual braids, twists, and afro puffs look fabulous.  You should use the stick end of your rat tail comb for this.  You can usually find these at your local beauty supply, but if there aren't many braiders around, they might not stock them regularly.

Be careful if you use the cheap ones though.  If it scratches the skin on your hand, it'll scratch your scalp.  Smooth edges that are too jagged with a nail file.

So let's start with a simple style for girls' pigtails.  If you don't yet know how to part as you go along, secure each section with a rubber band or hair clip before proceeding to the next step.

A Basic Parting Pattern

Part the hair down the middle vertically.
Then part it again horizontally so that you have four sections.  The horizontal part should extend from the middle above one ear, to the other.
Now make two more vertical parts, starting from the center front of the first two sections, to the original center line in the back.
Now make two more parts starting from the back of the ears to the center line again.  Here's a side view.
This is it from the back.
Tail Comb

Now let's have a look at a simple cornrows pattern:
For cornrows style, you will of course have to begin by planning.  Your parting pattern in this case is going to be with sections beginning at 1 and 1/2 ro 2 cm. or wider, gradualy narrowing until they all reach a central point at the crown of the head.

There are at least 3 styles you can do with this parting pattern...

One of them is all of the rows starting a the hairline and extending towards the crown.
Another is with all of the rows starting at the crown and going towards the hairline.
Yet another style is achieved by making alrernating rows, one up, one down, one up, and so on.

...but what if you want to do a style that has a really complicated parting pattern?  How do you keep it neat without getting confused?

The answer is strategy.  Remember, the way to keep it from being painful, and to cut down the amount of time it takes is planning.

We'll use a popular elaborate pattern as an example...individual braids with diamond shaped parts.  Bear in mind that this is a 2d example, and that in real life, you will need to go by the shape of your individual model's head.
First, you're going to think about the sort of pattern you want to accomplish.  With diamond parts, some like to have the sections meeting at their apexes like chevrons, while others prefer spiralling rows of squares or rectangles.  Either way you are not going to make them exact on a human head, so you have to figure how to get the closest you can based on their head shape and hairline.
What you want is a style something like this, where the individual braids can hang loose or be pulled into an updo, and still look great.
What you do to keep it all organized is to first divide the pattern into major sections.  I would recommend at least three, possibly six.  Tie all but one of them out of the way with a rubber band or hair clip.

This accomplishes two things we've touched on already...Staying organized, and preventing the hair from matting while you're working.  Remember it's going to shrink as it dries, and you don't want to have to overuse detangler spray.

Now take the last major section, and separate what will be your first line of parts in the style.  Tie off what is left with a rubber band or hair clip.
Then make the part for the first braid, and tie off what is left in the rest of the line with a rubber band.  As you can see, now you have a clear area to work with.

Once you've braided that section, take the rubber band off, take another section, tie the rest, braid your working section, and so on.

It might seem a bit much, but it really does save time for a novice or occasional braider.  If you do something right the first time you don't need to redo it.  Also, it takes some time before one gets to the point where they can hold curly hair down with the sides of their hands while braiding.

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© 2006 Nicole Singleton Lasher

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This page is about:
Parting hair.
Parting the hair.
Basic hair parting patterns.
Hair parting patterns.
How to part hair neatly.
Parting hair for braids.