They're a go-to solution for yoga class, running, or just when it's a bad hair day – you've seen these awesome headbands everywhere. Now you can make your own. It's super easy, so easy in fact, we did two styles: one is accordion-pleated so you can wear it wide or narrow, the other is a turban style with a classic front knot. We tried both styles with a thin woven cotton as well as a lightweight knit. Both worked well during construction and looked great when done.
We used a sewing machine for all the steps of each style, however, this would also be a good serger project. A finished seam allowance is important for seams that get a lot of use, such as stretching and twisting, and a serger would make quick work of the seams on these headbands.
Our headbands are "one-size-fits-all" and based on sizing for similar headbands available at retail outlets. The elastic stretches from its cut length of 7" to approximately 11". If you traditionally find you need a looser or tighter fit (or are making one for a child), you can easily adjust the elastic.
If you often need a tighter fit, try on the headband prior to stitching the final casing seam. You can trim away a bit of the elastic to shorten, re-pin in place, then stitch your seam. If you often need a looser fit, cut the elastic 1-2" longer than indicated below. Again, try on the headband prior to stitching the final casing seam. Adjust the elastic for your desired fit, trim away any excess elastic, re-pin in place, then stitch your seam.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supplies shown are for ONE headband of either style; depending on the width of your fabric, you may be able to cut more than one headband from the amount shown.
- ½ yard of very lightweight woven fabric or a lightweight cotton or jersey knit fabric; we used a jersey knit and an Indian weave 100% cotton – both purchased locally
- ¼ yard of ⅞" - 1" no-roll elastic; we used ⅞" Lightweight, No-Roll Elastic by Dritz®
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Cut ONE 15" wide x 13" high rectangle
- Cut ONE 13" wide x 4" high rectangle
NOTE: Since we used a striped fabric, we decided to cut the two rectangles with the stripes going in opposite directions. For the main rectangle (15" x 13"), we cut with the stripes running horizontally. For the casing (13" x 4"), we cut with the stripes running vertically.
Knotted Turban Headband
- Cut TWO 15" wide x 10" high rectangles
- Cut ONE 13" wide x 4" high rectangle
For each headband, cut ONE 7" length of elastic.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Hemming and pleating the main panel
- Along both 15" raw edges of the main panel, make a ¼" double-turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼" and press, then fold back an additional ¼" and press again. With such a narrow hem and lightweight fabric, it is often easiest to first fold back the raw edge ½" and press to set a crease.
- Then fold the raw edge in on itself so it touches the ½" crease and is hidden between the folds. You can lightly pin the hem in place, or simply hold it in place with your fingers as your sew. Again, with tiny, lightweight hems, less is more. Stitch the top and bottom hems in place, staying close to the inner fold. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to keep an even seam.
NOTE: If your machine comes with a Rolled Hem foot/feet, you could also make rolled hems top and bottom. For more on this technique, see our Machine Sewn Rolled Hems tutorial.
- Place the hemmed panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Along both sides, measure and mark for accordion pleats. To do this, measure 1½" intervals from top to bottom. You can mark your divisions with a fabric pen/pencil or pins. We used pins.
- Starting at the bottom, match the first mark to the second mark, folding up the fabric in between. Continue this pleating all the way up to the topmost pin. You are accordion folding, as if you were making a paper fan, which means the pleats are created in horizontal lines across the width of the panel.
- When you're finished with the pleats, the band should measure 1½" wide. Pin the raw ends together on each side. If your fabric is hard to handle, you could hand baste the raw ends in place.
- Find the 13" x 4" casing panel. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 13" x 2". Pin along the 13" side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 13" side, creating a tube.
- Press the seam allowance. We recommend finishing the seam allowance since the constant stretching can make the fabric more prone to raveling. Run your finishing stitch close to the main seam, then trim away the excess fabric so you have only about ¼" of finished allowance remaining. Select your favorite finishing technique or see our multi-part tutorial series on Machine Seam Finishes for additional ideas.
- Turn the casing tube right side out. Roll the seam to the center back and press flat. You now have a plain front side of the tube and a seamed back side of the tube.
- Fold in the raw edges of both ends ½" to create a single fold hem.
- If you haven't done so already, cut a 7" length of elastic (see the sizing notes above; you may want a slightly longer or shorter length).
- Slip the elastic into the casing.
- Tuck one end of the elastic under one end of the tube's back folded hem (remember, the back is the side with the seam).
- Re-fold the end over the elastic and pin in place. Machine or hand baste the elastic in place – you are tacking the elastic in place only against the back of the casing tube. The top section of the single-fold hem is free.
- Grasp the free end of the elastic and stretch it until it can be positioned under the opposite single-fold hem (again, you are working with the back side of the casing tube). Just as above, pin and stitch this end of the elastic in place. The stretching of the elastic through the tube will gather up the fabric of the tube.
- Find the main pleated panel. Slip an end into one side of the casing tube.
- Slide it into the tube about ½" and pin in place from both the front and the back to make sure the pleated end is super secure. Make sure the single-fold hem is flat all around and the casing's opening is aligned front to back so you are sure to evenly catch both sides with your final seam.
NOTE: Be careful to keep track of the front and back of both the main pleated panel and the casing. Remember, you are creating a circle. When it sits flat, the wrong side of the pleated panel will face the wrong side of the casing tube, so it is right side out all around the exterio of the circle.
- Edgestitch across the end of the casing tube through ALL the layers. This is quite a bit of thickness. Do not try to start and/or stop your seam at the very edge. Instead, start and stop about an eighth to a sixteenth of an inch in. Drop your needle so it starts stitching in the fabric, and go slowly.
NOTE: We had no trouble with this thick seam, and we have that great Janome feeding system to thank for it. If you've had trouble stitching through multiple layers in the past, build up a similar thickness with scraps and test first. If you still feel like swearing, take a break and test drive a new Janome machine.
- Repeat to insert the opposite pleated end into the remaining open end of the casing.
Knotted turban headband
- Find the two 15" x 10" panels. Fold both panels in half, right sides together, so they are now 15" x 5". Pin along the 15" side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 15" side, creating two tubes.
NOTE: As noted above, we recommend finishing your seam allowance. When working with the knit fabric, you'll also want to make sure you are using an appropriate stretch stitch. For more information, see our tutorial on Working with Knits. As mentioned above, for more on seam finishes, check out our four-part series on the topic.
- Turn the tubes right side out and roll each seam to the center back. You now have a plain front side of each tube and a seamed back side of each tube. Pin all the raw ends together.
- Fold the tubes in half and loop them together at their centers. This is what forms the look of a front knot.
- On each side, bring together the two raw ends of each looped tube, creating two continuous linked circles. The ends should be back sides together so you can align the center seams. Pin together through all the layers. Run one or two lines of machine gathering stitch through all the layers. Pull the gathering tight so the raw ends are cinched down to about 1½".
- Following the exact same steps as above for the pleated headband, create this headband's casing. Insert one gathered loop end into each open end of the casing tube.
- Securely pin from both the front and back, and edge stitch in place, again following the same steps as above.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild