Introduction: Rubber Band Sun Print Beanies

About: Retired techie in love with crafts, cooking, and all things creative.

I'm excited to share this project that shows how to make beanie caps using fabric printed with rubber bands and fabric paint. The process uses the ancient technique of sun printing to print the shape of an object to a surface using the rays of the sun. For our purposes, we will paint fabric with high-pigment fabric paint, place rubber bands on top, and place in the sun until dry. The shape of the rubber bands will be permanently fixed to surface of the fabric. It a thrilling mix of science and art that yields serendipitous results.

Traditional or mini rubber bands are perfect for sun printing. They are readily available in quantities necessary for an interesting print. Hair rubber bands have a thicker core and a nylon coating that is perfect for making grids and motifs. I especially love that I can use pins to secure them to the fabric surface for a good print.

If you've done sun printing or other fabric surface design techniques like tie dye or stenciling before, you likely decorated the fabric before cutting the pattern pieces for your project. For this project, we'll cut the fabric first. Since our beanie pattern pieces are small, this will allow us to work small. We'll be able to use only what we need and perfectly place the rubber bands where they will look best for our finished beanie.

This first steps include instruction on how to sun print fabric. The remaining steps show how to put it together to make a beanie hat. Let's get started.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Here's what we'll need.

For the sun printing:

  • Sun. Do this project on a sunny day.
  • Fabric. 1/3 yard of pre-washed white jersey knit. I used a beautiful organic cotton jersey. This fabric is super soft and perfect for a baby. A gently used t-shirt or any other type of knit fabric will also work.
  • Dy-na-flow fabric paint. Choose bright or dark colors that have a high contrast to white.
  • Mini Rubber Bands
  • Hair Rubber Bands
  • Pins
  • Padded surface covered with plastic
  • Spray Water Bottle
  • Paint Brush
  • Iron
  • Glue gun or white glue (optional)

For the sewing

Step 2: Cut Fabric

The beanie cap pattern I used is copyrighted, so I can't provide it to you. Here's a link to the digital pattern that I used:

My pattern has only 2 pattern pieces. The band, and the base of the hat. You will cut one band and two base hat pieces (one for the front of the hat and one for the back of the hat).

My best advice for cutting knit fabric is to first determine where your fabric has the degree of greatest stretch (DOGS) before laying out your pattern pieces. Look at my picture and find the DOGS arrow. The length of the band will need to stretch to fit the head, so it should be cut along where the fabric stretches the most. For jersey fabric, this is opposite the grain line.The same is true for the base of the hat (that looks a lot like Pac Man). The mouth of Pac Man is the dart that fits the top of the head.

Step 3: Set Up to Sun Print

You can either set up outside, or prep your fabric inside and use a portable surface to bring outside. Gather your paint brush, Dy-na-flow fabric paint, a spray water bottle, and prepped rubber bands.

Spray your fabric with water so it is wet, but not soaking wet. Pin it to your work surface. Pinning will help the fabric lay flat.

Use a paint brush to brush the fabric paint onto your fabric. If desired, use two colors that blend well together. The fabric should be saturated with paint.

Lay the rubber bands on top of the wet newly painted fabric. For thicker rubber bands, pin in place. This will push it closer to the fabric for a better print. It will also prevent it from moving if it is breezy.


I made a portable work surface by stapling two layers of quilt batting, 1 layer of cotton muslin, and a sheet of plastic to plywood. The padded surface allows me to pin the fabric to the surface. In case there is wind, it won't blow away. I can also pin the rubber bands to the fabric so it will give me a better print.

Use hair rubber bands to make a motif. I hand sewed three medium-sized hair rubber bands together to make a clover shape. I also used glue to adhere the larger hair rubber bands together to make a grid pattern. This made it easier to pin to the fabric for more predictable results.

For the mini circle design, I randomly dropped the mini rubber bands to the surface and did nothing else. I was pleased with the results and was happy to see the shadows show up in the pattern.

I choose to leave the bands unpatterned for a modern painterly vibe.

Step 4: Sun Print

Let dry in the sun. For best results, choose a midday sun. Avoid a partly cloudy day. The brighter the sun, the better the results.

Remove the rubber bands and admire the colors and print. This is not a predictable process and results may vary. Heat, sun position, humidity, amount of water used, and intensity of the fabric paint will affect the results.

Step 5: Heat Set

Use a dry hot iron to heat set the paint. This is an important step so the fabric stays vibrant with the pigment of the paint after washed. Jacquard (the makers of Dy-na-flow) recommend ironing for 3 minutes. Be sure to use a dry iron on the highest setting appropriate for your fabric. Steam may cause it to fade before it it properly set.

Step 6: Sew Darts

Follow the sewing instructions for your pattern. We want to maintain the stretch of the fabric, so use your favorite stretch stitch on your sewing machine, or a serger to sew your seams.

Start by pinning the dart right sides together for both pieces. Sew with a 1/4 seam allowance. Secure with a back stitch (or weave in your threads if you are using a serger).

Step 7: Sew Front to Back

After sewing the darts, pin the 2 base pieces to together with right sides together.


Turn right side out.

The base of the beanie is now complete.

Step 8: Sew Band

Fold the band in half short sides facing and right sides together. Sew.

Fold in half wrong sides together with long sides facing.

Step 9: Sew Band to Base

Pin the folded band to the hat base with right sides together. Both are in the shape of a circle, so take care to pin evenly. Sew around the circle. Turn the band down to reveal your completed beanie.

Fold the flap up for a standard beanie, or leave it down for a slouch look.

Wash with mild detergent.

Rubber Band Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Rubber Band Speed Challenge