By Jessica Wilson
From California, to Chicago to London and beyond the reality of Fall may be actualized in all sorts of temperatures but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a bit of Autumn pretty for your noggin. Whipping up a pretty, felt fall headband is as easy as digging up a wool sweater or two. You are not going to need the whole sweater so bits and pieces are just fine, even a children’s sweater will work! This project will get you going on making all sorts of handmade pretty. Wear your headband for decoration and fun or tug it over your ears to keep ‘em warm, it’s all good. When you start, you just might not be able to stop!
At least 2 wool sweaters in contrasting colors
Sewing machine or a needle & thread
Step 1: Prep your sweaters. Technically speaking, one headband can be made from a sweater sleeve but we’re not making just any headband here, we’re going to make a fall-pretty headband and for that you will need 2-3 different pieces of sweaters in as many colors. When shopping for a sweater to cut up, make sure it is at least 80% wool. You are going to toss these lovelies into a hot wash so that they knit up upon themselves and shrink down to gnome-size. So hit your closet or the thrift to find a couple of lovely wool sweaters that have seen better days. If you find cashmere, go for it, cashmere makes for a super soft and swanky headband. Bring them home and throw them in a hot washing machine with some suds so that they can party it up. After they are washed, toss them into a hot dryer to secure their shrinkage. This is called felting. You do not have to wait until you have a whole army of sweaters to do this; I tend to toss them into any load that will be using hot water.
Step 2: Once you have your now somewhat tiny sweaters, cut them up into big pieces of felt. I cut the sleeves off first following the seams, and then I open up the sides of the sweater, etc. For a simple headband you can use one long strip from the bottom of the sweater, but like I wrote, we’re not making your average headband here so cut up those sweaters!
Step 3: Grab the tape measure and measure around your noggin from the base of your skull in the back of your head up and around (over the ears) and to the front of your head. This will be the general measurement of your headband. If you are a visual person, make a pattern by cutting out a strip of paper that is as long as your noggin measurement by three or so inches. Now, cut that pattern into two pieces not of equal length, we’re going for quirky. My noggin is about 22″ so my pieces would be about 14″ and 8″ (except I actually used three but you get the picture).
Step 4: Thread your sewing machine with a happy colored thread that preferably does NOT match your sweater pieces. The bobbin thread can even be different, go quirky and Punky Brewster it all up! Stack your two pieces on top so that their right sides (whatever they may be) are facing in and their short edges are even.
Step 5: Gently guide under your sewing machine foot and set your stitch to a zig-zag at about a 3. You do not want a tiny zig and you don’t want an enormous zag so somewhere in the middle is good. Line up your stacked edges so that they are just a smidge outside the foot. We’re going to rock the zig-zag so you want all the edges to get hugged. Do not worry about perfect stitches and such. These stitches are going to scream out loud and will want to be seen in all their wonky bits.
Step 6: Gently push down on the foot pedal of your machine and allow for a stitch or two or three then hit that reverse button and go back over those stitches. Continue in this manner all the way to the end of the pieces – three or so stitches forward, three back. If you picked out a swanky color you should see it mock you all the way down the line. This is a good thing so don’t stress if you think it looks sloppy!
Step 7: Snip and liberate your stitched pieces from the machine. Flip over and do the whole thing all over again this time going back over the bobbin side of your pieces. Don’t forget your back and forth movement, three or so stitches forward, three back. This will make sure your pieces remain stitched together and it will add a healthy does of contrasting color to the whole thing.
Step 8: You may have noticed, after stitching up the edges that the very edges on either side seem pointy. This is because the sweater stretched a bit and if you are a more knowledgeable seamstress (unlike I) you will probably know what this is called and how to remedy it, I do not so I do the following; simply trim it with your scissors. If you got crazy enough with the back stitching your stitches should not unravel. I’m still wearing a headband I made last year and it’s still holding up so….yay! Also, sometimes I will notice after stitching my two pieces together that I cut out very wonky rectangles in the first place, if this happens, I just very carefully trim, trim, trim away.
Step 9: If you have some felted pieces on hand and want to make your headband but need two use more than two pieces like I did, simply repeat the process with the next length of sweater and so on until you have enough to go around your noggin.
Step 10: Lay your length of Frankenstein felt in front of you with the bumpy seam side down. Gather up your left end of the strip and fold it over to the right end. Line up edges and hold in place and stretch them out so that you have a halved piece of franken-felt with a bumpy colorful seem looking at you on one end and two loose edges waiting to be stitched on the other.
Step 11: Repeat stitching on your new loose ends to complete the circle. Don’t forget your backstitching and don’t forget to flip it over and stitch over the bobbin seams as well. Trim threads and get ready to decorate.
Step 12: I think that this is the most difficult part; figuring out how to decorate your headband and with what colors. Here are three design ideas you can use. For the pink and orange headband I first used the machine to stitch on a small rectangle. Next up, with a quick back and forth zip through the machine I anchored on a small flower shape. The easiest way to create a flower shape is to first cut a square that you then round out to a circle. Next, make five small cuts towards the center and curve out the pieces between the cuts; you now have a flower! Once that was done, I cut a thinner strip of sweater and rolled it into flower center, kinda all smooshed up. I used a needle and thread to anchor that on leaving little legs of thread to stick out and add some flair.
Step 13: For the purple and fuchsia headband I cut out a series of small triangles and used the sewing machine to anchor them to one side of the headband. The key is to aim the colorful seam to one side of your head, a little off center then add your decoration to one side or the other. This way, your headband can be worn in a couple of ways, it’s up to you.
Step 14: And finally, for the yellow and gray headband I cut leaf shapes out of two pieces of yellowish felt and anchored them on with a needle and thread. I then went over the leaves just a smidge with sewing machine to add contrasting color. Whatever you choose to do will be unique and quite fabulous, I am certain!
About the Author:
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as ‘jek in the box’ and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.