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Saturday, 18 March 2017

2 Ways to Fix it and Feature it!

We've all been there...
Oh, oh! You're merrily cutting or sewing along and it suddenly occurs to you that you've made a big blunder.

How many times has that happened to you?

Not even once? Well, maybe you're lucky or maybe you just don't want to admit it.

For the rest of us — who have felt that sudden outbreak of sweat and that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach — this post is about fixing a couple of common sewing mistakes and making the most of that old adage of, "if you can't fix it, feature it".

Actually, I've always had an issue with that saying. It should be if you need to fix it, feature it!

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In all fairness, sewing is actually quite forgiving of mistakes; most everyday boo-boos can be fixed. As I once said to someone who wrote and asked me all manners of detailed questions about how to sew up my Crafty Cosmetics Caddy, sewing is not like laying concrete.

The old stitch ripper probably resolves the vast majority of our issues. The only times when we really want to hit the panic button is when we make a mistake with our fabric allocation — or somehow damage it — and then find out that we have no more of said fabric; or, we are too far along into a project to consider redoing it.

First thing I would suggest to anyone in the situation of realizing a drastic mistake is to stop and take a deep breath. Put down all your sharp tools and walk away. Unless you truly want to tear the thing apart and destroy it, that's probably the wisest thing to do in the moment. (And here is where I truly hope that your mistake doesn't come with a deadline to fix!)

So far in my renewed sewing adventure, my biggest oopsie was cutting the fabric too narrow for my messenger bag. (For one of my test projects from a couple of weeks ago, I actually cut the fabric too wide, but that's essentially an easy fix, although it does waste fabric.) The situation had all the earmarks of a disaster, since the fabric was a remnant and there was no option to re-cut. What's more, the mistake affected three separate pieces!

Customized messenger bag by eSheep Designs
The nifty black band down the middle was an accident!

My solution — and this will probably be your solution too if you're ever faced with the same mistake — was to slice the fabric in half vertically and add a contrasting strip between the two halves to make up the difference.

This technique also works if you end up not cutting something on the fold when you were supposed to. Depending on what it is, inserting a contrasting strip of fabric may be a good style choice in many such situations.

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Or — if you don't choose to do it in the middle — you can also add strips to the sides.

My pattern tester Verna had an issue with the side panels of her Diva Envelope Clutch and decided to fix the problem by adding some extra slices of contrasting leather.

Diva Envelope Clutch by Verna Groger
The little extra that was added to the side panels of Verna's Diva Envelope Clutch...

Worked out great and no one would ever know that it wasn't done intentionally.

An accent of contrasting fabric is also the solution that Pam over at Threading My Way applied to a dress made from a pattern named for something close to my heart: Pride & Prejudice.

Such a sweet dress and the bottom band looks like it was meant to be there!

Pam has also written up a few blog posts of her own that deal with other oopsie remedies. Check out this one in particular that I had a laugh over.

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Daryl at Patchouli Moon Studio shares the following with us.

"I was making an appliqué wall quilt of a vase with poppies. I fused and blanket stitched around the appliqué shapes. I don’t recall when I noticed this but there was a leaf that had a slash in the fabric! Oh no! I couldn’t rip it out and redo without making it worse with holes showing, so I got creative and sewed a butterfly button over the cut fabric on the leaf, but first I applied some Fray Check so the slash wouldn't get any larger or fray. That was an easy creative fix."

Quilt by Daryl (Patchouli Moon Studio)
Daryl's fanciful fix is so not noticeable in her finished quilt!

If your fabric imperfections are larger than this, appliqués or similar add-on embellishments may be your solution.

Find something that fits in with whatever you are making — like a bead or lace flower for a prom dress — and attach it. Even if you're forced into adding a few more of whatever it is in order to balance out the effect, the end result can still be amazing. And no one will know that it wasn't meant to be there from the beginning.

For some more (horror) stories, take a look at this post from Threads Magazine. And if you've got your own story — and solution, of course — let's hear it in the comments below!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Why Design Your Own Fabric?

Healthy, Hopeful & Happy (3H-1 Tiled Negative) fabric by eSheep Designs
Newest addition to my Inspiration fabric collection...
Because if you sew, there's only one thing more satisfying than taking some fabric and turning it into something beautiful and useful: taking some fabric of your own design and turning it into something beautiful and useful.

In my personal experience of coming back to sewing in 2012 and having this amazing journey that I've been blogging about for the past few years, the accomplishment that's been most thrilling is seeing my own fabrics come to life.

If you're still sitting on the fence as to why you should dabble in fabric design, I've got some ideas from Spoonflower to share today that might make you jump off that fence. In between, I'll share with you the most recent additions to my Inspiration fabric collection.

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Who doesn't love a one-of-a-kind item that no one else will ever have? Well, that's the result you can achieve when you make things with fabric that you design yourself.

This first one is a pashmina made out of custom fabric that tells the wearer's story (in this case, her business history to date). How cool — and simple — is that?

pashmina made from custom Spoonflower fabric
image courtesy of Spoonflower blog...

Don't you think this would be a great gift idea for someone's retirement? I especially like this idea because the fabric is all about text and words. (Can you tell I have a thing for fabric featuring text and words??) Read all about the project here.

In the same vein, here is another unique retirement gift...

DIY Silk Scarf made from custom Spoonflower fabric
image courtesy of Spoonflower blog...

This one was made out of scanned images from newspaper clippings. Clippings of this sort will likely go by the wayside as the years pass, but I definitely have saved copies of old newspapers in my possession that could be put to use in this fashion. I can see something like this becoming a family heirloom.

My latest design may also end up on a scarf at some point.

Healthy, Hopeful & Happy (3H-1) fabric by eSheep Designs
Sage advice to be healthy, hopeful and happy on my newest fabric designs...

The phrase is "keep a healthy body, a hopeful mind, and a happy [heart]". The above is one of the versions in a fat quarter view; the negative, repeating version at the top of this post is an 8" x 8" swatch.

Here is another variation in a fat quarter view. This one is bi-directional so that it can be read from the top or bottom.

Healthy, Hopeful & Happy (3H-2) fabric by eSheep Designs
This version is bi-directional...

This next project doesn't require sewing but may kick your home décor efforts up a notch. Take your kids' artistic creations and turn them into canvas art!

Canvas art made out of Spoonflower fabric
image courtesy of Spoonflower blog...

If you don't have kids — or if your honest opinion of your kids' artwork is that it shouldn't be committed to anything permanent — you can do this with your own drawings or doodles.

Or, how about mixing up the above ideas? The newspaper clipping project would be a unique piece of canvas wall art. And maybe your child's artwork would be more appropriately turned into a silk scarf?

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Similar to my P&P pillow project, your own fabrics can easily become conversation pieces when you feature them on sofa or bed cushions. They don't require a lot of fabric, so the cost of the projects is quite reasonable.

Spoonflower custom pillow projects
images courtesy of Spoonflower blog...

Above are just two ideas, one for the holiday season and one for weddings.

Here's another project that's destined to be handed down the generations. Recipe tea towels! Scan handwritten family recipes and turn them into fabric.

Recipe tea towels made with Spoonflower fabric
image courtesy of Spoonflower...

I would probably just turn them into wall hangings, but I love the source.

By the way, the use of handwritten source materials makes me think of using letters — you know, the old fashioned kind that no one really writes anymore? If you have special letters from your past, "collaging" them into fabric would be a unique way to save them forever.

Looking for a smaller idea to start? This next one is also a "no sew" project. How about making personalized coasters for your family?

Custom coasters made out of Spoonflower fabric
image courtesy of Spoonflower...

You can size these to fit an 8" x 8" swatch and have them cost next to nothing. (Although — lazy crafter that I am sometimes — I would suggest printing them out as wallpaper so that you can just peel and stick them on the tiles!)

Finally, here's one more version of my new fabric. This one looks more like a pattern than text at first glance, but it's the same phrase repeated and reversed (mirrored).

Healthy, Hopeful & Happy (3H-2 Neg Mirrored) fabric by eSheep Designs
The design uses the mirroring repeat method to get the interesting pattern...

I'm still playing with this design and may wind up with still other variations.

So have I given you some inspiration to start designing your own fabric? Still need that extra push?

Well, there's this. I don't generally like to draw specific attention to the ads in my posts, but Creativebug is really pulling out all the stops to try and gain membership. (What might that mean in terms of its viability? I honestly don't know. From a business standpoint, it's always a concern to see steep price cuts.)

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The offer you see here is for a one month membership for $1 that gives you access to everything on their site, allows you to keep one class of your choice, and gives you a 30% discount offer at Jo-Ann's (which, FYI, is only useful to those who live in the US).

As for the class to keep, they have a five part, nine and a half hour How to Design Fabric class that's taught by three talented ladies and that gives you a peek inside the operations at Spoonflower. If you were wishing for a little bit of encouragement and some extra help to get you started on fabric design, what more economical way to get all that and more than spending — literally — a buck??

That kind of offer doesn't come around everyday, y'know!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Free Pattern/Tutorial: Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase by eSheep Designs
A laptop case that can be filled with "all that other stuff" too...
When we purchased the Acer Switch One for hubby last December, I also ordered a folio case for it from Amazon, for everyday protection.

Eventually, however, he was packing it up for one of his quick trips out of town and asked, "What can I put this in? And this? And this?" I found something temporary for him that day, but decided then and there to craft a custom carrying case for future use.

Did you ever notice that most patterns for DIY laptop cases are designed to hold just the computers themselves? As in, no room for the charger, cord, mouse or anything else that might go along with the unit? (Even when one of my testers upsized my Diva Envelope Clutch to turn it into a laptop case, I wondered how effective it might be for carrying those other important accessories.)

neoprene case for a netbook
Too small...
To me — no matter how sleek looking it might be — a laptop case is not entirely useful unless it can also carry everything I need to run that laptop.

We have a neoprene case that was custom made for our first Acer netbook. The  the "slow as molasses" computer that hubby recently ditched could also be stuffed into it, but it's too small for our current model.

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Therefore, today's project is my contribution to the pile of sewing patterns and tutorials for DIY-ing a laptop case. This is a vertical case with a sleeve for the laptop and an expandable bellows pocket to accommodate the charger cord and mouse.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase by eSheep Designs
This case accommodates a laptop vertically...

It's not meant to be a bag, so it doesn't have straps. I envision this thing being tossed inside something, rather than being the sole means to tote around your computer.

The underlying "wrap around" design was inspired by one of my first freebie tutorials, the iPod/mp3 player carrying case. The construction method is really quite simple and can be managed by a beginner.

You will, however, need to measure your particular laptop and do some calculations to arrive at the proper dimensions for your fabric.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase by eSheep Designs
... with a roomy bellows pocket to hold accessories...

I made two of them as test projects; the one shown thus far is for the recently ditched computer.

Materials Required

Here is what you'll need for this laptop case:
  • Non-directional exterior fabric for Main Body Exterior (amount/size as determined below)
  • Fabric for Main Body Lining (preferably non-directional; amount/size as determined below)
  • Matching/coordinating fabric for Bellows Pocket Exterior and Lining (both 8.5" long x 10" wide, or 21.6cm long x 25.5cm wide) — note that this pocket is sized so as to fit a case made for even the smallest laptop; you may wish to increase the width by an inch or so if your laptop is 15" or bigger
  • Medium weight fusible interfacing for Main Body Lining (cut 1/2" shorter and 1" narrower than Main Body Lining fabric piece)
  • Medium weight fusible interfacing for Bellows Pocket Exterior (8" long x 9.5" wide, or about 20.5cm long x 24cm wide) — adjust appropriately if you widened the pocket pieces
  • Twist lock set* 
  • Regular (low loft) fusible fleece for Main Body Exterior (cut 1/2" shorter and 1" narrower than Main Body Exterior fabric piece)
  • Thread, bowl and mug for tracing a curve, fading marker, pins & clips, ruler, rotary cutter and mat, iron, etc.
*Try to get a twist lock set where the top pieces are secured via prongs. Some of the more expensive sets use super tiny screws. These tend to be heavier, and not the best choice for this application.

Note that the final fit is meant to be snug with minimal bulk at the seams. Be prepared to sew with seam allowances of about 1/8" (3mm) and 1/4" (6mm).

Determine Fabric Requirements

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Measure around each axis to get total fabric requirements...
To find out how much fabric to cut, you'll need to measure your laptop all the way around on both axes.

In jotting down my results for one of my test projects, I got all turned around by the words length and width and how they apply to the laptop versus the case. (No need to go into any further details; let's just say it was an "oops" moment.) For clarity, I will simply refer to those measurements by calling them A and B.

As in, the measurement indicated by the red arrow in the above picture — measuring around the longer axis — will be referred to as A. The measurement relating to the shorter axis (the one with the measuring tape) will be referred to as B.

Establishing the Size of the Main Body Exterior & Lining Pieces

Once you have the measurements for A and B, take out your pencil and prepare to do some math. (Unavoidable, since each laptop is different. Note that I'm going to go into a bit of detail here, to provide a working example of how to create a pattern from scratch.)

The Main Body Exterior and Lining pieces are the same size, each needing to accommodate the following: 1) entire wrap-around measurement of the laptop along the A axis, 2) half of the wrap-around measurement of the laptop along the B axis, 3) length of the flap, 4) top and bottom seam allowances, and 5) left and right seam allowances.

I decided that the flap needs to be about 5" in order to look good and close well. The top and bottom seam allowances are 1/4" each. This means that the required length of fabric is A + 5" + 1/4" + 1/4".

The width of the fabric is half of B plus the left and right seam allowances of 1/4". However, in order to create the slip pocket for the laptop, the left and right sides have to be sewn together from the outside, which will further reduce the finished width by about 1/4" on each side again. Therefore, the required width of fabric is (B/2) + 1/4" + 1/4" + 1/4" + 1/4".

Put more simply, each piece of fabric for the Main Body Exterior and Lining is:

(A + 5.5)" long by ((B/2) + 1)" wide 
or, in metric terms:
(A + 14)cm long by ((B/2) + 2.5)cm wide

Need an example? Suppose your measuring resulted in an A value of 22.5" and a B value of 16". Your two main pieces of fabric will therefore need to be 22.5 + 5.5 = 28" long by 16 / 2 = 8 + 1 = 9" wide.

TIP: Add up to a half inch or one centimetre to the fabric width for wiggle room if you're worried about straying from the tight seam allowances. 

Prepare Fabric

Note that all interfacing pieces are cut smaller to keep them out of the seam allowances. Center them on your fabric when fusing into place.

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Round off Flap & Bellows Pocket

Grab yourself a bowl, about 5" (13cm) in diameter. Use it to round off the top corners of both the Main Body Exterior and Main Body Lining pieces. This will be the flap.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Round off the top corners of the main body pieces; i.e., the flap...

Note that if your lining fabric is directional, ensure that you round off the top of your fabric and not the bottom.

Next, grab a mug and use it in the same way to round off the bottom corners of both the Bellows Pocket Exterior and Lining pieces.

Make Bellows Pocket

We're still not sewing yet, because you need to install the bottom part of the twist lock set first.

Find the middle point of the Bellows Pocket Exterior piece by folding it in half vertically. Then measure and make a mark 2" (5cm) down from the top edge of the fabric. The bottom edge of your twist lock hardware should be situated right above this mark.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Install the bottom half of your twist lock...

I'm not going to go into the details of how to install a twist lock, since it should be fairly self evident. The bottom half (the part that turns) consists of a pronged piece and a backing template. In all cases, I would recommend that you add some fabric scraps under the backing template to increase the holding power.

Now take the Bellows Pocket Lining piece and pin it — right sides together — against the Bellows Pocket Exterior. Sew all around using a 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance, leaving a 4" (10cm) gap at the bottom for turning.

Trim the corners and notch the curved edges before turning right side out. Press well, particularly around the turning gap. Topstitch around the entire pocket piece just over 1/8" (3mm), closing up the turning gap as you go.

Next, you'll create a couple of pleats to make the pocket expandable.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Guide lines for creating pleats...

If your twist lock is properly centered, use the middle of it as a starting point and measure 1.75" (4.25cm) to both the left and right. Fold under and press. Then measure another 0.5" (13mm) out from each of those newly created creases and fold the opposite way to create a pleat.

Use pins or clips to help you hold the pleats in place.

Retrieve the Main Body Exterior piece and put it right side up, with the straight edge in front of you. Measure 1.5" (3.8cm) down and align the top of your pocket piece there, centering it from side to side. Pin in place.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Pinning the pocket in place...  

Secure the pocket, sewing on top of the previous topstitching line. Reinforce the top corners with extra stitches.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Completed bellows pocket!

Okay, you're halfway there!

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Create Laptop Sleeve

Take the two Main Body pieces and pin them right sides together.

Choose a starting point near the middle of one of the long edges and begin sewing with a 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance. Work your way around, stopping 4" (10cm)  short of your starting point; this will be your turning gap.

Trim the corners and notch the curves as you did with the pocket piece.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
The turning process is always so interesting to photograph...

Turn right side out, poking out the corners carefully. Press well. Pin (or baste) the turning gap closed for now.

In my test project here, I jumped the gun and topstitched around the entire perimeter right away. For aesthetic reasons, don't do that. Topstitch only along the short straight edge; i.e., the edge right above the pocket.

The next thing is to sew a couple of lines to mark the bottom of the case and the start of the flap. Whatever the "length" (actually the width; i.e., the longest side) of your computer, subtract half an inch (13mm) and use that measurement to mark the location of the bottom line.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Shown from the lining side, this row of stitching will mark the bottom of the laptop case...

For example, my little netbook is 10.5" "long"; therefore the line of stitching is 10" away from the edge.

Next, sew another line to mark the fold of the flap. This line is 5.5" (14cm) down from the top of the curved edge.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
This row of stitching will mark the beginning of the flap...

Once you have these two lines of stitching completed, fold the assembly at those locations.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Clip or pin the sides together in preparation for sewing...

Clips are your friends here; use them to secure the sides of the sleeve area. Start your sewing at one of the bottom corners, ensuring that you make multiple stitches to reinforce. If you did not allow yourself an extra half inch of fabric along the width, stay as close as you can to a 1/8" (3mm) seam allowance!

When you get to the top corner of the sleeve, make multiple stitches back and forth again to reinforce. Continue stitching around the flap and all the way back down again, reinforcing at the other corner of the sleeve opening and then also at the bottom.

Finish Installing Hardware

Put your laptop inside the sleeve and your accessories inside the bellows pocket.

Bring the flap down on top and feel around with your fingers to decide where best to install the top half of your twist lock. (Did you think there would be some sort of science to this??)

Again, I'm not offering detailed instructions regarding twist lock installation, but it involves cutting a hole (yes, cutting into your nicely finished fabric, so use the template wisely to draw around the opening once you decide where the opening should be) and then trying on the top "ring" for size.

It may take a couple of tries since you don't want to cut the opening too big, but it also needs to be big enough so that your fabric won't show around the inside edge of the hardware.

By the way, an old fashioned "button with button hole" solution can also be used here if you can't find a twist lock set at all.

Load-it-Up Laptop Slipcase by eSheep Designs
All done!

And there you have it! Hopefully this will be an easy to make project and useful to boot. If you end up making this for you and yours, I'd love to see it.

If you're wondering about my usual PDF download for this, I am planning a release of a paid version of this pattern/tutorial. It will include sizing charts — to save you from doing the math — in both metric & imperial, more photos and extra features for the slipcase itself, so I'm hoping it'll be worth a couple of bucks. ;-)

Interested in Testing?

Anyone interested in testing the paid version of this pattern/tutorial can contact me via the form on the left sidebar. You must be able to finish the whole project within a week of receiving the pattern (which will be available by this Monday), commit to making it exactly as written (more or less as you see above, with the addition of three other features), and share results with us via some publicly accessible social media platform at a later date. Note that you'll need a standard 6" zipper for one of the additional features.

In the meantime, enjoy the freebie!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Repurposing and Upcycling... Ear Warmer Headband

MaryMarthaMama's fleece ear warmer headband crafted by eSheep Designs
Fleece ear warmer headband...
I'm never going to outdo Jill (of Creating My Way to Success) in terms of turning what she has into what she needs — and doing it with style and panache — but I do try to keep her philosophy in mind as much as I can.

So when I saw a nifty project via AllFreeSewing for a fleece ear warmer, I immediately dug up an old sweatshirt that I had been thinking of tossing out to source the material. It's old; the screen print on the front is flaking off and the seam around the collar was starting to separate. It wasn't even good enough to be donated.

While the fleece is much less fleece-y than when the garment was new, I figured it would still be good enough for this upcycle.

Before I go any further, let me get the credit stuff out of the way. The ear warmer headband pattern and tutorial is the creation of Cat from MaryMarthaMama.com — full link at the end of this post.

By the way, I'm hoping this will be the last of my "cold weather" projects for awhile!

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Here is the sweatshirt that I recycled.

recycling an old sweatshirt
Old sweatshirt that has seen better days...

It occurred to me that the trim across the bottom looked like the perfect location to harvest the fleece that I needed for the ear warmer.

Using the pattern that Cat provides, I fussy-cut the piece from the front and then took a piece from the back and had my little ear warmer sewn up in no time at all.

recycling an old sweatshirt
Ta da! New ear warmer from old sweatshirt!

It's a simple sew: with right sides together, stitch the top and bottom edges, then turn the whole thing right side out and sew together the ends at the back.

As you can see, the process leaves a visible seam on the inside. No real biggie, since it's located at the back of the head when worn.

recycling an old sweatshirt
Side view of the ear warmer...

But — fan of reversibility that I am — I wanted to make one that could be used on both sides, with no visible seams. However, that's for another day and another post. ;-)

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In the meantime, in the spirit of repurposing and upcycling, here are some other ideas for how you can make your own ear warmer headband if you don't have an old sweatshirt (or sweatpants) at the ready.

Remember when I posted about my scarf upcycling ideas? Well, this project is perfect for those extra fleece scarves that no one wants to wear.

ideas for upcycling unwanted fleece scarves
A fleece scarf that no one is wearing anymore can be made into several ear warmer headbands...

Or... how many of us have many extra fleece blankets that aren't being used? You can make many, many, many headbands out of a blanket.

ideas for upcycling unwanted fleece blankets
I even have a fleece blanket that is still in its wrapper...

It doesn't even have to be fleece... how about flannel? (Scarves? Pajamas? Or lumberjack shirts that are often quilted?)

ideas for upcycling flannel
Flannel would work well for this ear warmer headband too...

Or maybe even old terry towels? I'm sure you get the picture.

Every year, our city calls out for donations of winter accessories for our homeless population. These headbands would be great for making and donating, a charity sewing idea I'm going to consider seriously for next winter.

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image courtesy of MaryMarthaMama.com...
As I love to take concepts and switch them up to make them somewhat my own, I have plans for making my own version of this headband and will post about it when I'm done. (My other half saw this five minutes after I had made it and immediately put in a request for his own.)

One caveat about this pattern: it's one size only and I know for a fact that we don't all have the same size heads. So when I turn out my own version, I'll add some way to size it.

In the meantime, thanks again to Cat for this project; the full link to her tutorial is here.