I got myself the right size of crochet hook... teeny tiny... and have been watching youtube videos on maintenance so that I can do so on my own. I have since tightened up all of my roots and it's working really well. In my youtube searches, I ran across a good number of videos on how to make permanent dreadlock extensions out of real hair and am excited to try it. The hair itself costs very little and I'll make them gradually as I have spare moments. This way I can have longer locks that I can pull back more easily and style creatively.
In all, it's been a great process and I get compliments from strangers almost every time I go out to run errands. I was fully prepared for a lot of negative feedback, so I've been pleasantly surprised at that! I'll be sure to post periodic updates as they mature.