steps in making a roach

roachgif1if making roaches was easy then everyone would be making them. anyone can learn to make one. not everyone has artistic ability though, that is evidenced by some of the roaches you see at some pow wows. some are the kit roaches you see, made by first timers. or some roachmakers just dont give a damn in how well they make the roach. done for a quick buck. commercialization. i will show the steps i follow in making a roach. it is just a step by step process. you do the same thing over and over. you dont have to do it the same way. develop your own style. i once read that some roachmaker said he was only one of a few roachmakers in the country that made roaches the way he did. the guy is full of it. most roachmakers use the same basic techniques. not much has changed in the art, just some of the materials. artificial sinew, for instance, is used today because it is more durable. yarn or rope is used in the mat, because it takes more time to use hair for the mat. and is more costly.

red-yarn2the first thing i do is make the base. i use aunt lydia’s 3 ply rug yarn. the company is out of business so it is hard to find. the online auction site has it but you pay more for it than it is worth, then the cutthroats add shipping costs to that. i still use the yarn for the base cuz i learned how to make roaches with them. so i still do. if anyone out there knows where i can buy some of that yarn for a fair price let me know. i am always looking for supplies. they use to make the mat with deer, elk or moose hair. you pay more for that today. some supply houses sell ready made yarn or rope bases.  if you’re going to make a roach, do the whole thing. i braid three strands of the yarn together like you would braid hair then sew that into a keyhole shape. it is done the same way that yarn rugs are made. some want the mat to match the color of their outfit, but you dont see much of it at all. the spreader may cover most of it. the spreader may be a leather one or it can be a fancy silver one. some even bead their spreaders to add color. some even use a cd. feathers are attached to the spreader. most dancers have their own preference in how the spreader looks.


i tie the deertail trim for the inside next. there are how to videos out there and the kits come with instructions so i wont go into how to tie the roach. i think there is a book on tieing also. again techniques are different. some tie left to right, others from the right to left. some use a single strand while others use a double strand. the deertail and the porky hair is tied the same way. and sewn on the same way. some of the techniques in sewing them on are different also. thing is do it the same way everytime. once you develop your technique you can improve on it by doing it over and over. practice makes it better. i was proud of my first roach i made. it doesnt compare with the ones i make today. i have gotten better by making them for over thirty years. most roaches are made the same way they have always been made. you can see roaches in museums that are over a hundred years old. so it works. they are made to last unless it is not taken care of properly. sadly some dont take care of their roach, then want to blame the roachmaker.  when the roach is not in use, it is best to keep it wrapped on a stick. that helps shape it and it protects it. i have seen a roach left out exposed to sunlight. the color in the deertail gradually faded. it did give it an antique look. wrapping the roach prevents the hair from breaking too. if you allow the hair to keep breaking off it will make the hair appear to be sparse. protecting the hair keeps the roach full.

pile-of-porky-hairi sort the porky hair next. i buy it by the pound. a kit will sell you an ounce and a half of hair, thats the amount needed to make a roach. give or take.  the kits are usually a rip off. you will get more bang for the dollar if you bought 3 or 4 ounces of hair for the same price, then sort it. if you use the hair in the kit, you are stuck with what hair is  in the kit. more than likely they pulled the long hair out anyway. same with the supply houses and the online auction site. they pull the long hair to sell it at a higher price. then you dont really get what they advertise either. it is much better to buy hair in a large quantity then sort it. i pull out all the hair that is not black with the same colored tips. some hair is all blond, some is all black. i pull these out. then some have tips that are longer. i try to match the tips so they are the same size. tips that are too long distracts from the look. other hair has too much white at the bottom. some white will show at the bottom, but the deer tail trim will cover this. if the deer tail trim wont cover the white (usually about 3″) i will pull that hair out. the more time you spend sorting the hair, the better the roach. i spend alot of time in sorting hair. sometimes i sort hair for weeks. without even trying to tie a roach. when i have a supply that is ready i then can tie a number of roaches. not quite an assembly line but it works for me. i can tie a roach in 3 days if i had to. i spend more time preparing than i do in actually tieing a roach.

sorted-hairthe hair should end up looking like this. all black with solid colored tips. in order for the hair to bounce when the dancer moves the hair has to be at least 7 inches. longer is better, however it is hard to find long hair. even if you buy in large quantities. now and then i get a request for a roach with 10 inch hair in front. yeah right. i dont have enough hair out of the last 5 pounds of hair i bought to tie even one roach with 10″ hair in front. i sort the hair in bunches so it gradually decreases in size. that way when it is tied, it has a symmetry to it. it is rounded in shape. i use hair that is around 5″  long in the tail piece. anything shorter than that just dont look right. that is just my personal preference.



i tie the porky hair on a board.  long ago some used a bow like frame to tie the hair on. we adept today. i use a board from the house i grew up in. some government program demolished it to make way for a new home. so i retrieved a board from the old house to tie my roaches on. i tie the hair in a single row. i have seen where some advertise that they tie two or three rows of hair to make it thicker. then they still look sparse. the old guy that taught me how to make roaches said to do it with a single row that is thick enough. there is now need to sew several thin rows together. so thats how i do mine.

37 Replies to “steps in making a roach”

  1. OMC. I’ve been looking all over the internet on how to make a porcupine roach, for my son! Thank You So So Much. I’m going to give it a shot. (two thumbs up)

  2. I was wondering what the exact measurements were per length of hair on the string you tie too. I am working on my second hair roach and was just trying to get better.

  3. scott sorry it took a while to answer you. my site wasnt allowing me to answer. not quite sure what you mean by exact measurements. i sort the hair like in the picture, so it gradually flows into the next size. the hair in front is usually at least 7 inches. the back hair is a minimum of 5 inches. that allows the top to show abive the deer tail trim.

  4. eddie,
    It’s good to see that some people still take pride in the quality of their art. I have seen some very nice roaches and outfits out there, and I have seen some that I wouldnt let my dog wear. Keep up the good work.

  5. Hi, im looking for a roach. long hair, full, white with some black deer tail and no longer than 18″. its for a fancy dancer. how much would you charge and how long would it take to get it. thanks


  6. Hey Reznjun,

    do u have plenty of 10″ guard hair yet 4 a mens 3 or 4 row rainbow, let me know whats up, thank u, this is tony w.

  7. Good Day,

    I have two porcupine hides and I was wondering if you could suggest a method for removing the hairs that are used in roachs?

    Thank you,

  8. patricia sorry i didnt get back to you sooner. was checking out a pow wow. anyway…..if the hide is green you just start plucking the hair out. just grasp the very tip of the hair between your index finger and thumb and tug. no need to get near the quills. if the hides have dried, you will have to soak them a few days so the hide gets soft again. then you pluck the hair out like above. i saved the quills from hides i cleaned too. the hides will get greasier than a piece of pow wow frybread though.

  9. “the hides will get greasier than a piece of pow wow fry-bread”
    that is Funny… when I was a Kid I do not remember the Fry-Bread being as Greasy as the last few I had…

    I have a couple of Questions
    #1 What can be made with the Shorter than 5″ Hair?
    I have made Rosettes with mine.

    #2 Have you Found that Different Style Dancers Like Different over all Lengths of Roaches? I have seen little 8″long ones and some over 20″.

    #3 Were the old ones in the Museums Shorter than now Days?

  10. dean rosettes are one of the few things to do with shorter hair. i have made miniature roaches that hang from rear view mirror for friends but couldnt sell them for a fair price. too labor extensive for a few bucks. and yeah everyone likes different lengths with many wanting over 10 inch hair. i have said it takes several pounds of hair to make a long haired roach. i only do it for people i know. the ones i seen in museums are shorter. even the front hair. i guess it is a matter of personal taste. i think there is such a thing as too long. like the ones made with african porky hair. it just dont look natural. but some want those.

  11. If I wanted to make a roach for a reenactment of late 1800’s
    what would you Suggest the Base Length and Base Color Should be??
    those old Black and White Photos are hard to tell.

    BTW I am going to go to Yarn place this week and I will ask what is a good replacement for Aunt Lidia’s 3 ply rug yarn.

    Thanks for your Info on the Base I always wanted to make my own

  12. dean..i really dont know on the length etc. of the later 1800s. i could only guess by pictures i have seen. they look shorter. pictures are in b/w so who knows on color. i am not an expert on the old days. i do know that instead of yarn they used deer or elk hair in making the mat. it is tied the same as the porky hair then sewn. also some tribes used turkey beard in place of porky hair.

  13. hello

    can someone help me make or understand how to make a head roach for my mans grass outfit please.

    thanks audi

  14. audi i applaud your resolve to make a roach yourself. i encourage you to try. having said that i will tell you that it took me years and years to get my roachmaking to an artform. if it was easy you wouldnt see so many lame roaches on the pow wow circuit. there are some real good ones out there. probably made by artists that perfected their art. other roaches are simply made to sell commercially and they look like it. there are books and videos on making roaches. i can give you pointers but at this time i am not willing to teach my craft to others. it is tough to keep my business going.

  15. I am getting ready to make my first roach i am buying a cheap kit to lea
    rn do you have any pointers for me to start out with

    Thanks walter

  16. you would be better off buying several ounces of porky hair then sorting it yourself. you will get a better roach. for the money the hair in kits aint that good. you can buy roach bases from any of the supply houses for 5 bucks. or make them yourself. practice tying with the hair you reject. after you master the technique then make your roach.

  17. Thanks for the great advice. I am getting better now with making roaches. I am trying to perfect the mammer of separating and sorting the hair. I am collecting a pile of blonde porky hair and odd lots of hair.

    My question is how to efffectively tie the string of porky hair and outer layer on the base. My strings seem to start out even and end up jagged irregular around the edges of the base. So do you have any techniques to help solve this problem?

  18. Eddie Joe if you got any pictures of how to sew the final strings on the roach base send them to me via email. And I was thinking of collecting the blonde hair and making a roach for my clown dancer friends. So if you got a pile you don’t wamt let me know.

    Have a good one and go Kansas

  19. d. i sort out more piles than just the blond hair. i also sort out all black. then hair with too much white on the bottom that wont be covered by the deertail trim. then i sort out the ones with the orange tips that are too long. i want even rows of all black and then the orange tips. and i am not sure of your problem with an irregular edge. i think i may. i sew the first row of inner deer trim lined up with the edge of the mat. then i line up the porky hair row off that. then the outer trim in line with that. dont know if i answered your question. if not send me a picture to my email.

  20. hi reznun lol if you run out of porky hair the other alternative is the imitation hair located in crazycrow. its not that fiber stuff but more realistic looking. it sells at $4.89 i think for an oz. p.s. i love your work. i make roachs but only one year experience.

  21. hey albert I haven’t seen the imitation hair but not sure if i would use it. I have been stock piling porky hair the last few years. i should be set for a few years. i will run out eventually but i have been lucky enough to buy it every winter. my suppliers are good to me.

  22. o ya thats good lol crazy crow was kinda unfair with my order of hair so i went onto lol and the order was fair in price still lol $34 for 3 oz’s of imitation hair lol it looks like very nice hair. if you look at the website with the imitation hair it’ll show a pic with a roach with imitation hair. looks good

  23. yeah I haven’t dealt with any of the supply houses for years. I got tired of paying their prices. that’s why I buy my hair direct from trappers.

  24. Hi..I found a dead porky in a tree it got its hind leg wedged somehow..It is a grandaddy of a P.pine an I have decided to get it down which will be a task as it is nearly 30 feet above ground. At any rate, my question is: will I have enough hair to make one roach from one porcupine?

  25. Hi,
    on march 25, 2011 you offered one guy to send a picture of how you sew the deer/porky hair rows to the base.
    Could you please send this picture to me? This step is still not clear for me.
    I just do my first roach.
    A big thank you from Germany,

  26. Hi Eddie my name is Richard I have a 18″ roach that needs to be re-tie it has white deer tail inside and outside can you give me a price to redo it if you have time??????

  27. Hello, what size would I make my 18 month old baby? What is the base size? I have no clue but am so eager to learn. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.