DY(S)G: Guest Tutorial- Teach Your Girl to Sew a Headband

Please welcome Heather from Fiberosity! She is here to help you teach your girls to sew their own headband. How fun!

Dress your school girl
Hi! My name is Heather. I’ll warn you now, I love to laugh and have a sarcastic sense of humor, so if you read anything below that you find odd just laugh and nod. My sewing obsession began when I was about 4 and would happily grasp at scraps from my mother’s sewing. I’ve been collecting fabric (also called “sewing”) ever since. My first priority as a mother of three girls (Ellie, age 14, Izzy, age 12 and Alex, age 9) is to corrupt them with a love of making crafty messes. I’ve convinced my husband that they each need their own “power tool” (aka sewing machine… I talk in his language sometimes).

In the picture below, Alex is wearing another headband that she made at her sewing birthday party. It’s the same pattern as below, without the bow. 6073613566_dcc208b690 

I am a glutton for punishment.  Having taught to both small classes and large seminars since my youngest was born, I decided to quit my “day job” and teach sewing in the evenings so I could be home with my kids as they were growing up. I've hosted school holiday sewing parties at my house as well as taught 4-H sewing. This last summer I hosted small sewing camps in my home sewing studio. In short, I don’t mind having herds of children in my sewing space. 6073613278_4af9b29d0f

Children are so proud of their creations. Minor problems, imperfections, mistakes, questionable construction do not deter children. Children also listen and follow directions so much better than adults. They have no concept of what they cannot do. It's a wonderful experience to teach children how to sew. <insert sparkly hearts and unicorns>

But, I've learned a few things.

1. The projects need to be simple and quick. Children want the finished product. For first projects, chose one that is simple, with room for errors. Now is not the time to teach perfect sewing skills.  Sewing with me includes complimentary seam ripping, bobbin winding and machine threading. But only if you are under 5 ft. Everyone else *might* get a sad look from me as I hand them a seam ripper.

2. Safety is important. The biggest dangers in the sewing room are the iron and the rotary cutter. Lower the ironing table, if you can, and use a spray bottle with water instead of the steam setting on the iron. The steam setting scares children and then they jump and then the accidentally touch the iron, then they freak out and touch it more….not that I have seen this scenario. I avoid the rotary cutter until they are older, usually about 10, and then invest in a protective glove. There are also many different finger guards for machines. I do own the Pfaff system, which appealed to me the most. After having hundreds of children sewing with me, I have yet to have an issue with the needle. The iron, however, is a danger zone.

3. No matter if it is the ugliest fabric you have ever laid eyes on, they should chose their own fabric. This is my personal challenge. “Really? You want to use that?” (just keep smiling) Also, children love decorative stitches on the sewing machine and will use them whenever possible. Seriously. Whenever. Possible.

4. Younger children have a really hard time with seam allowances. I've found that around the age of 8 or 9, the dexterity is there to actually have a fairly accurate seam allowance. With younger children I will sit beside them and help them guide the fabric to avoid the 1” seam allowances.

5. They are short. Unless you have shorter tables, put the "gas pedal" on a stack of phone books or risers. If it's slipping, put a piece of no-slip sink liner under the pedal. I use the term of a "gas pedal" when teaching kids. I also tell them that they are in the driver's seat and they are in charge of how fast everything is going. If they get scared pull their feet and hands up and everything will stop. I also tell them that putting the presser foot down is like starting the car and you have to do that to step on the gas. This is mainly for my sanity because I have removed so many “bird nests” from the bobbin area. I still try and smile when I do it.  6073072917_b55c859b63 

Headbands are one of my favorite first projects. There are lots of options out there for patterns, but I prefer to base mine upon a pattern that an internet friend in the Seattle area, Snugbug, showed to me. I’ve made some changes to it over the years, but it’s a great basic pattern.  6073073467_f5856fda92 

Supply List:
1 fat quarter of fabric (more if doing another color in the bow as in the example below)
1/2" or 5/8" elastic 
Matching thread
Button for the center of the bow (optional)
Large safety pin
Sewing pins
Scissors (both sewing and paper)
Piece of paper
Marking pen (sharpie will even work)


1 – 4"x16" strip

1 – 2.5"x10" strip

2 – trapezoids (4" top, 9" bottom, 7" height)

1 – 6" elastic


I made a paper template for the trapezoid and let the child help me with the math. I mark all the pieces on the fabric with sharpie and let the child cut the pieces out with scissors.

All seam allowances are 1/4”. I like to use the edge of the presser foot as a guide for most kid projects. Fold each strip in half, matching long edges, right sides together (or, as I call it when sewing with children, “pretty side kissing pretty side”). Sew along the one long side of both strips.

Notice the hand placement here: away from the needle and in control, achieved after many hours of practice (and lots of grey hair for me). I’m so proud, and ready to reward her with a small treat. There is room for uneven seam allowances in this pattern, so if the 1/4” turns into 3/8”, it’s okay.

As a side note, I love to use the larger head pins with kids. They are easier to handle and if they happen to drop on the floor (okay, not if, when they drop) I can spot them easier. A word of wisdom…if you happen to have only 5 butterfly head pins, hide them before hosting a bunch of elementary school girls for a sewing afternoon. Just saying… it avoids drama.  6073613868_5fde9e754e 

Using the safety pin method,  turn each tube right side out. I call this the “wiggly worm” technique.  If you have another favorite way to turn a tube, please feel free to free style during this step.

Press each tube flat with the seam in the center of the tube. Perfection is not required.


Put the two trapezoids pretty side kissing pretty side. Sew around the edge, leaving 3” unsewn at the bottom of the trapezoid for turning. Mark this with a pen so that a child knows when to start and stop. In this example we are using two different fabrics so that the headband is reversible.

Sewing along a whole side and then turning and doing the next side is easier than pivoting for most children.

Clip the corners, turn right side out and press. No need to close the opening or topstitch unless you really want to.

Using the safety pin, thread the elastic through the small tube, pinning at both ends to secure the elastic.

Place the elastic tube on top of the larger tube, matching edges and centering. The non-seam sides should be together.  Wrap the larger tube around the smaller tube and pin. Zig zag through all layers and the elastic. Zig zag again (and again if you wish). Clip threads before photographing. Repeat for the other end. Pull the headband tube out so that the zig zag is hidden in the seam allowance.


Lay the trapezoid down and accordion fold it; I used about 1” as the starting size. Matching the center of the folded trapezoid to the center of the headband without the elastic in it, pin. Sew through all layers, down the center. Sew a button on, if the child desires it (she didn’t).


Comb hair. Put in headband. Smile!


If your child has a smaller head, change the dimensions of the headband as follows:


4”x14” strip, 2.5”x9” strip, 5” elastic, 3.75”x8.5”x7”h trapezoid (18.5” headband unstretched)


4”x12” strip, 2.5”x8” strip, 4” elastic, 3.5”x8”x7”h trapezoid (15.5” headband unstretched)

Thanks Heather! What a great way to introduce sewing to girls!

Don't forget to check out the Flickr group and add your photos of things you've sewn for your school aged boys and girls!

Other Dress Your (School) Girl posts:

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