How to Make a Headband from an Old T-Shirt

comments (15) April 21st, 2009     

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leethal Lee Meredith, contributor
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Topstitching is an easy way to brighten up your piece and add a custom touch.
The tie design keeps this project simple to sew, and makes for a headband that fits any size.
Using a T-shirt with a picture can make for a fun, playful headband design!
Topstitching is an easy way to brighten up your piece and add a custom touch.

Topstitching is an easy way to brighten up your piece and add a custom touch.

Photo: Lee Meredith
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I am a designer and maker of hats and I wear one whenever the weather allows, which means every day for months in a row here in the Pacific northwest, so when it starts getting too warm for wool on my head, I feel naked! I need something on up there, so I break out the silk scarves and headbands. I love making these simple, recycled T-shirt headbands, made to tie in back so they're one-size-fits-all, and of course you can do whatever you want for embellishments!

You'll need:

  • A T-shirt
  • Sewing machine with zigzag stitch
  • Optional embellishment materials (different-colored thread for topstitching, fabric paint for printing, etc.)

Start out by cutting twice straight across the tee, all the way around to form a loop, double the width that you want your headband to be plus a little extra for seam allowance. The shirt can be any adult size, and the bigger the shirt, the longer your headband will be (but you can always cut it shorter if you want). This loop will have to be under the arms and above the shirt's seam, but you can choose exactly where, so if there is an image on the shirt, place it in the middle of the loop.


Cut across the tee as the orange lines show, with the distance between the cuts being double your headband width.

Next, choose where in the loop you want the ends of the headband to be, so the opposite side will be the top, the part you see on your head. Cut a V shape in the loop, which will form the pointed ends, making sure it's symmetrical.


Now your loop has become a long strip with one pointed end and one chevron end.

Fold the strip lengthwise, inside out, and start sewing a zigzag stitch from the pointed tip down the whole length of the strip, leaving the other end open.


A zigzag stitch will let the fabric stretch once it's sewn.

Use the open end to turn the whole thing right side out—if the strip is wide enough, you should be able to do this using just your hands, but if it's too narrow, you can use a safety pin to guide the closed end through.


Pull a little at a time to turn it right side out.

Now you have a long loop with one open point that should look like this:


You'll need to turn in the edges to sew that seam closed.

Turn in the edges, starting with the point, and sew across the seam.


You could sew a stitch like this on the closed end, too, to make the ends match.

Your basic headband is done! Now it's time to personalize! I added machine topstitching to this brown one, in four different thread colors, to add some pop to the plain brown base. The only important thing to keep in mind when adding topstitching to your headband is never to sew a straight stitch horizontally across the fabric, which would keep it from stretching or would break the thread if you try to stretch it. You'll need to use either a zigzag stitch or always sew diagonal angles like you see I did here:


Stitching straight stitches in big zigzag shapes lets the fabric retain its stretchiness.

When you're done embellishing, tie it on and admire your new look!


Tie it comfortably under your head, just as tight as you want.

You can style the headband either to hold all your hair back out of your face, or just keep your bangs in place, however you like. (My bangs are currently growing out and constantly in need of adjustment!)


I love using a headband to keep my hair under control in warm weather.

This green tie-dye headband was stamped with a linoleum block print before sewing the seam.


Printing is a fun way to embellish the headband, but do it before sewing so the surface is flat.

The green shirt was huge, making a superlong strip, so the ends hang long in the back when tied on normally...


This fabric is a ribbed knit, making it stretchier than normal T-shirt fabric.

...or I can double wrap it around my head for a thicker, wider headband look:


An extra-large shirt can give you more options for headband styling.

This shirt, on the other hand, had an image I wanted on the headband that was up where the arms were on the shirt, so I couldn't cut a loop. So I made a shorter headband and added buttons for closure since it was too short to tie closed.


Using the picture on a silly T-shirt can make for a fun, quirky headband!

The button closure is a good backup option if you want to use a small kid's shirt or any recycled knit fabric that's too short to make a long enough strip to tie.


I like this one for a different look.

Another option, if you want to use a T-shirt image up by the arms but you want your headband to tie, would be to cut multiple strip pieces and sew them together into a longer strip. Recycled T-shirts are such a fun material to work with—be creative and have fun with it!

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posted in: fabric, sewstylish feature, wearable, hair accessory, recycle, t-shirt, headband

Comments (15)

whimwham writes: Super cute! Love these. Great way to use up those t shirt scraps too. :)
Posted: 12:21 am on August 12th
humel writes: This is great :-) I made one for my daughter - you can see it here: http://ispeakmelsh.blogspot.com/2010/07/ahoy-there-me-hearties.html Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 8:58 am on July 17th
clothingeng writes: What a cute idea...thanks!
Posted: 10:44 am on June 30th
poodleloverdlj writes: I wanted a sweat band, not a head band. It's HOT!
Posted: 9:54 pm on June 23rd
BellaPerlaJewelry writes: i love to make things out of t-shirts, this was great
Posted: 1:12 pm on November 23rd
FriendyWendy writes: love it, love it, love it! wahoo - high five!...neighbor!
Posted: 10:17 pm on July 17th
DEBDIDIT writes: going to make one right now...THANK YOU
Posted: 5:23 pm on July 7th
hehehaha_samantha writes: WOO....VERY VERY GOOG IDEA TO RECYCLE MY VINTAGE T SHIRT,THANKS
Posted: 5:17 am on June 8th
smartstyle writes: Loven it!!
Posted: 7:02 pm on May 17th
Dora_Quevedo writes: This is great, so very practical! Thanks a bunch!
Posted: 2:45 pm on May 10th
tamdoll writes: This looks like a fun project. I don't wear them, but I'm going to forward this to my girls and see if they want me to make some for them.
Thanks!
Posted: 11:29 am on April 25th
paperrain writes: FAB!
Posted: 7:19 pm on April 22nd
doms218 writes: i LOVE headbands too! i'm cutting my tee shirts today... just have to figure out how to use my "new" sewing machine :)
Posted: 3:21 pm on April 22nd
MGgallery writes: These headbands are great, Lee. I love to repurpose old t shirts. It's always too sad to throw them out. Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 11:22 am on April 21st
sarahbcraw writes: Ooh great idea! I love headbands, so I def want to try this.
Posted: 6:30 am on April 21st
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