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Knit replacement pads for your earbuds

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There are a lot of bad earbuds out there, but it seems that even the ones that are halfway decent are covered in half a micron of cheap black foam that tears at the slightest provocation.

Why not replace the foam with a well-knit cover made from good yarn? Here's how.

NOTE: this Instructable assumes that you have a basic knowledge of knitting techniques: casting on, knit, purl, and increasing.  If you don't, I recommend you spend some time perusing the Yarn section of Instructables, check out some knitting books from your library, or find some like-minded folks to help you get started.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Besides your target earbuds, you need a few other items to make this project happen.

Yarn - the finest you can get.  I used some fingering lambswool I recycled from a thrift store sweater (Great info on recycling sweaters is available here).  It's okay to use pure wool, since this won't ever get washed.  Sock yarn would be great.
Knitting Needles - smaller is better! I used my finest double-pointed set from KnitPicks: 2mm in diameter. You'll need four needles.
Sewing Needle (pictured at Step 5). This project has to be stitched shut, so a good needle is essential.  Try to find a thin one with a blunt point and large eye, usually sold as "tapestry" needles.
Crochet Hook (optional, pictured at Step 3). With such small yarn and a tiny first loop, a good small hook can be helpful for casting on.

Step 3: Cast On

These items are worked in the round, and need to be started as small as possible.  Begin by making an overhand knot, then pull up a loop onto the first needle as if knitting.  Then pull up a second loop as if to purl.

Repeat with the second and third needles.  You will have six stitches.  Everything is very loose at this point.  Don't worry, it will tighten up later.  Do be careful not to drop a needle out of your stitches, though!

Step 4: Work rounds

Work one round in plain knit stitch.  Then work an increase round.  To approximate a circle, I increased once on each needle.  Rather than subject you to more of my substandard photos, I'll direct you to a couple of good resources for learning to increase.  This site has clear drawings of each step.  I used what she calls the "Right Increase".  Scroll down to see it.  The same increase is shown in video form on this page.  Look for the "Knit Right Loop" increase.

For each needle in the first increase round, I knit one, make one (that's the increase) and then knit one more.  At the end of that round, I'll have a total of nine stitches.  Knit one round plain, then another increase round (K1, M1, K to end per needle) for 12 stitches total.

TIP: on the plain rounds, give the yarn a little tug on the second stitch on each needle.  This will compensate for the gaps that appear between needles.  It's not really necessary on this tiny project, but it's a good habit to get into.

After a few rounds, turn the work over and pull the tail in the center to tighten up the knot and bring everything together.  Work a couple more rounds and test for fit on your earbud.  When you can stretch it so all three needles are on the back side of the 'bud, that's the right fit.  For me, I got there when there were 18 stitches on my needles, but your mileage may vary.

Step 5: Bind off and stitch up

Bind off in the typical manner: knit two, pass first stitch over, knit one, pass first stitch over, and so on until the end.  Break the yarn with at least a 6" tail and pull the tail through the last stitch.

Break or snip the original tail inside of your cover.  Fit the little stocking cap over your earbud in a way that pleases you.  Thread the working tail onto  your needle, and stitch across the circle to a point about 1/3 of the way around.  Continue stitching around the raised back of the earbud, inserting your needle about two stitches back from the tail's exit point.  Then stitch around to two stitches behind stitch one.  It's complicated to explain step-by-step, but think of the way you tighten lug nuts, or how you made five-pointed stars in kindergarten.

Work around until there's nowhere else to put your needle, pulling each stitch tight as you go.  Then tie off with an overhand knot and hide your tail.  Done!
Boomfly3 years ago
Ah, I tried crocheting something like this, it came out horrible, but these seem like they'll work. I can't wait to give it a go, but the only fine yarn I have is wool sock yarn, and I'm a little uneasy about wool in my ears. The idea is even itchy, and much to warm.
yoyology (author)  Boomfly3 years ago
They don't itch, at least in my experience, and they soften with use as the wool absorbs oils and wax from your skin and becomes conditioned. As for excess warmth, they are no hotter than the synthetic foam.
Thankies, that's good to know.
Do you have a pattern for the crocheted ones?
yoyology (author)  CakadaOokamiko2 years ago
There was no pattern, really. I basically made a teeny tiny granny square and worked my way around from there.
Harvard823 years ago
Nice job...I wonder if you could make one for my gear shifter in my car? I have an aluminum shift knob that bakes in the sun and can barely shift without burning my hands in the summer.
Take a brown paper lunch bag and throw it on the shift stick before you leave your car for a long period of time.lol or put a sock over it
As great of an idea as that is because it would actually work, I was hoping for something a little more fashionable.
yoyology (author)  Harvard823 years ago
If you want something that just fits loosely, and is removable, I could probably do that. PM me if you are interested.
yoyology (author)  Harvard823 years ago
I'm sure it could be done, but unless you live in Oklahoma, or want to pay my travel expenses from here, it doesn't make much sense for me to do it. I would need to be able to work right there and test-fit as I went. You'd be better off finding a local knitter to take the project on. Google the name of your city and "LYS" or "local yarn store" to find a place where knitters gather. Walk in with the photo above and ask politely if anyone wants to try something interesting. I'll bet you have volunteers within 10 minutes. Knitters love a challenge. :-)
danielemur3 years ago
I have those same earphones and the foam piece came off on both sides! :) Great instructable.
yoyology (author)  danielemur3 years ago
Thanks! Good luck with your version. If you make a set, post a pic!
Are these not incredibly itchy? It's a funky idea, but the thought of putting wool (or yarn) in my ears is making me feel all itchy.
yoyology (author)  bad ass pope3 years ago
I've not had a problem with itchiness. Someone who has a wool allergy would obviously have trouble. To be frank, after a couple of uses, the natural oils and wax from your ear canals smooth down any protruding fibers in the yarn.
Just wondering, what on earth is your avatar a picture of?

It's the inside of my mouth. You can see the uvula hanging in the back there :-) And the teeth at the top and that big flat bit at the bottom's my tongue! Glaaaar!
jatoha3 years ago
Great idea! I want to try a crochet version!
yoyology (author)  jatoha3 years ago
Crochet is actually a bit easier to start, but it ends up bulkier because of the nature of the crochet stitch. Basically, you would use your smallest hook and make a teeny-tiny granny circle. :-)
amybmorris3 years ago
Would it be easier to not bind off and use a needle to thread the tail through the live stitches, place the cover on the ear bud, pull the tail to tighten and stitch to secure?
yoyology (author)  amybmorris3 years ago
It would certainly work. I don't know if it would be easier or harder. I'd find threading the tail through the stitches more fiddly than binding off, but that's a personal preference. I also like the way the crisscrossing stitches look on the back.
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