Drag Queen Uropa’s Yarn Wigs: Taking Over the Stage, One Skein at a Time.

13 July 2022

Sponsored in part by:

Ad featuring a mocked up cover of a book called Quilting, and the words "Essays and exercises for creative exploration. Back the book on Kickstarter from Nine Ten Publications."

Ad for the book Gathering Colour, featuring the book cover and the words, "Use natural pigments to make dyes, inks & paints from the world around you." A button at the bottom says, "Buy now."

We recently had the chance to meet Canadian drag queen extraordinaire—and unconventional crafter—Uropa.

Jeffrey, the originator of the Uropa persona, chatted with me about his journey to drag.

At age fourteen, Jeffrey watched the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Seeing a world where people looked like him and had the opportunity to be celebrated for their art enchanted him.

Growing up singing in church and with a passion for performing, the choice to study musical theatre was an easy one for Jeffrey. After finishing the theatre program at Sheridan ColIege in Toronto and unsure of his next move in theatre, Jeffrey moved into the drag scene in Toronto.

He found his way back on stage when he entered the drag world with a production of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert in Calgary. It felt like Jeffrey had found his niche as a drag queen who could act, sing, and dance. This year, he took on a role in a staging of Kinky Boots in Vancouver.

The journey to discovering Uropa has been an amalgamation of years of inspiration, from the shows he watched to the art he made. Jeffrey chose the name Uropa because Europa is one of the moons of Jupiter. The name was unique, celestial, and a bit absurd—which suited him perfectly.

So, why we are interviewing a drag queen for an article of Digits & Threads? In a very unconventional way, Uropa and Jeffrey are intertwined with the fibre world.

There are so many ways to use yarn. Most of us think inside the box and use yarn for knitting, crocheting, weaving, and sewing. Some, like Uropa, think outside the box, and use yarn to make wigs.

Wig making with yarn has been around since Ancient Egypt, but Uropa has been a pioneer in making lace-front wigs out of yarn. Wig construction starts with a wig cap, a mesh cap that hair—or in this case, yarn—is woven through. Lace-front wigs are favoured because they create a more natural-looking hairline, and allow you to create good volume, for drama and style. In drag queen lingo, you can definitely “clock” a synthetic or badly made wig from its harsh lines, the inability to part it, and poor styling options.

Wigs are one of the most transformative aspects of drag. They’re just as important as other aspects of stage craft, such as garment making, padding, and makeup, and offer realism, camp, storytelling, and beauty. Jeffrey/Uropa work with unique materials to make wigs because audiences are thirsty for unconventional textures. It’s novel and surprising to serve beauty with a hair texture that is different to the one we all know so well.

In comes lace-front wigs and Uropa. Higher-end wigs include lace-fronted styles, which allow for a more natural hairline and better styling options. However, you’re looking at dishing out anywhere from five hundred to thousands of dollars, especially for natural hair wigs.

Having an academic background in musical theatre, Uropa has devised a way to make wigs, realistic ones at that, with yarn. Her choice of using lace-front wigs allows for a more natural look, with many styling options. Her drag aesthetic is inspired by the Muppets and Lady Gaga, inspiration that translates quite beautifully to her wig making.

image description: a drag queen standing sideways on from the camera, showing off a very long wig made out of hot pink yarn

When asked about the wig making process and yarn shopping, Uropa is much like any yarn addict: excited and like a kid in a candy shop, but if it doesn’t spark joy, it stays on the shelf. Inspired by colours and texture, choosing yarn is an involved process.

Uropa’s Three Golden Rules for Choosing Yarn for a Wig

1. Value all yarns equally. The lightness or darkness of a colour needs to be equal, or else they won’t blend together and will pull too much focus.

2. Never pay a compliment. Complementary colours can pull too much focus and be too harsh. Choose analogous colours (e.g., pink and orange, purple and aqua, with a pinch of sparkle to keep the eyes on you).

3. Double up. You can add interest, not only through colour, but through texture. Using accent yarn that is larger in size but with a similar texture will always pair beautifully with your main yarn.

On average, it takes between seven and eight skeins of worsted weight yarn to make a wig, which can cost as much as two hundred dollars, but for a drag queen that’s a bargain. The usual yarn choice is an acrylic base because of its light weight, cost, and the ability to style it. And don’t worry about the scraps, they are used to create stuffing for some of the styling options.

I was excited, to say the least, when Uropa explained the process of making and styling wigs. I definitely want to try making one for myself, because I too like channeling the Muppets and Lady Gaga aesthetic.

Although she is busy starring in Kinky Boots in Vancouver until late summer, Uropa has big plans for taking over the stage in the fall. When I suggested her touring and stopping at local yarn shops, the sparks in her eyes were visible through the Zoom call.

“May your death drops never break you, and your yarn never tangle” – Uropa

Find Uropa and her creations through Instagram, YouTube, and her website.

image description: a drag queen wears a wig with an elaborate braided hairstyle

Watch a video lesson on making wigs with yarn:

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Follis/Uropa Queen.

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our members.

Copyright © Zoë Desborough except as indicated.
Image description: Zoë Desborough sits on a settee in a yarn store, working on a yarn project.

About Zoë Desborough

Quitting their PhD due to toxic work environment and relationships, Zoë decided to take on the challenge of becoming a first-time business owner: a yarn shop owner! Obsessed with crochet and fibres, and then knitting, the transition seemed perfectly logical, but somewhat risky. Flash forward to today, and their shop Crochet & Co. just celebrated its 2 year anniversary amid the global pandemic. Crochet & Co is not only a local yarn shop, but also a safe space for all; a place that promotes open-mindedness, support, and inclusion. Their academic background in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and their activism for the LGBTQIAAP community has allowed them to work with several organizations and businesses to better their D.E.I. practices and policies, as well as guest speak on different panels in the fibre community.

Related Posts

Get 10% off!

Join our mailing list to get special Studio Membership pricing! PLUS hear about new Digits & Threads content and community news.

Subscription success! Well done, you.