The Ambience Enhancer




Introduction: The Ambience Enhancer

"This handy little device can take the most boring and dull locale and turn it into whatever sort of emotive resonance you prefer! You simply load it with "Wave Files" or their less complicated cousins the "Musical Programme Type Threes (or "MP3" for those who enjoy abbreviations) and then activate the device to change the ambience around you! Astounding!"

The Ambience Enhancer project that I am going to share with you is a basic but beautiful looking retro-futuristic style cover for anything you'd like it be, although I built mine as an MP3 Player Cover, you could build a watch, a cellphone cover, or even a PDA into it. Its totally up to you! Use your imagination...

This device was blogged by Wired, Boing Boing (thanks Cory!), Tekzilla, Make, Gizmodo, Engadget, and some others, and now you will be able to see how exactly how its made!

My goal here is to inspire people by showing them just how easy it can be to make something unique and wonderful to use in their daily lives. I take this everywhere I go, and find its a great conversation starter! I will give ideas for different ways to make this project your own, and I plan on eventually taking this design a lot further, so I'd love to others run with it as well!

The headphones shown in the picture are another project all together, and I will be sharing it on a Jake VonSlatt's website The Steampunk Workshop in early January, so please visit his site and check it out, his stuff puts mine to shame!

My name is Molly, and I'm a 32 year old self employed artist. I mostly make things like this for fun, but I also sell things. If you'd like to see what I have been up to, come on by and check out my Deviant Art page:

I have more strange fashion and jewelry than you can shake two or three sticks at (warning: your stick mileage may vary). Have a great holiday season with your most treasured loved ones, and take care all!

Step 1: The Plan

So, you'll need to gather your materials and decide what you are going to make the cover for. I used faux leather due to our household's view on using products from an animal, but you could make this out of just about anything. Thick and durable materials will be better suited to this particular project, like canvas for a more military look, or thicker vinyl if you want a more industrial look. For my MP3 player cover, I used 2 different colors of faux leather because I wanted to match it to my dieselpunk leather aviator's cap that is brown and black, but there's no reason to follow that exactly, choose your color to make it look however you want!

Here's what I used in my project:

Brown Faux Leather - I bought half a yard of it, but this project uses much less than that
Black Faux Leather - Same here, half a yard is more than enough!
1 Brass D Ring
1 Brass Rectangular 'Ring'
2 Brass Lynch Pins
1 Large Brass Grommet
1 Small Brass Grommet
1 Inch Wide Elastic Band - about 8 inches is good.
Threads - I used upholstery thread because its strong, although quilting thread is fine as well. I used black for most of the construction of the cover, and white thread for the pictures on the buttons.

and of course, the MP3 player... mine is a Sansa and has a distinctive shape, I will be showing you the patterns I made, but remember that you'll want to adjust your design to fit whatever it is you're building a cover for. I will try to explain it in a way that will help you do that.

When I was coming up with ideas for this project, I found it amazingly inspiring to look at the work of other people who build retrofuture devices. My favorite gallery is here:

If that fantastic stuff doesn't give you ideas, nothing will!

Grab a paper and pen, lets get working on step 2!

Step 2: Trace the Object

set your item of choice down on the paper and carefully trace around it. Add the sides to it, so that when you cut it out, it will fold around the object to form an open-bottomed cover. This is the first part of the pattern. Note any buttons or ports you want to interact with on the pattern.

Step 3: Transfer the Pattern.

So, grab the appropriate fabric and transfer the pattern to the 'wrong side'. If you are a sewing virgin, the 'right side' is the side you will be seeing in the final project, and the 'wrong side' is the side you won't see. Leave a little space around it, at least half an inch is enough.

NOTE: Make sure to flip the pattern over, so that when you finish sewing this piece and turn it inside-out the buttons will line up properly!

Step 4: Finish the Transfer

So, you will want to add the overlaps to the pattern. Just add a little flap to each border all the way around the pattern. I cut all my corners at about 45 degrees.

Step 5: Design the Plate and Buffers

Okay this step is a bit esoteric and really left open to personal taste. There is a curved metal plate and a layer of fauz leather that rests under it to protect your skin or jacket from wear. I find a good way to work this out is to set all the parts you know you want to use down on paper. Move them around until they are where you'd like them to be.

I knew I wanted to have a D ring and Lynch Pins as the notions, so once I figured out where I thought they looked best, I drew an outline to represent the metal plate. Then I drew another line about 1/2 inch outside of that to represent the buffer. then I figured out where the straps and such attach.

I only made half of the pattern.

Step 6: Cut Out the Difference

Now that you have defined the outline for the metal plate and the padding that goes under it, cut out the space between the two. It will probably be a thin curvy shape like this, but doesn't necessarily have to be. Be sure to save the parts on either side of it, as those are what we are going to use to trace shapes onto the fabric.

Step 7: Tace the Padding

Grab your padding material and place it facing wrong side up. Take the outer piece of paper and trace the padding shape. Do draw the line that will form the centerline of the shape as that will make it easier to trace the other side and it comes in handy later. When you trace the other side, just flip it over and trace it again like I am doing in the picture.

Step 8: Finish the Padding Pattern

Like we did with the first shape, trace border around the padding about half an inch or so away. The divots in the line are because this is a thick material that doesn't stretch well, and when you fold it under, it will pull on any tight curves you have drawn if you don't allow it a little give here and there. If you are confident in your sewing, make the border closer to the padding outline as this will also circumvent any pulling.

Also, on your centerline, place the first bit of pattern we made for the object. Fold the sides up and just trace the basic outline of the object. Then, draw lines at a 45 degree angle going inward from the corners of this shape. and connect them to make another overlap border. This will be the hole that we can use to insert or remove the object at will.

Step 9: Trace the Metal Form

Set the padding aside for a moment, and grab the other piece of paper from step 6. Trace it on to the metal of your choice much as we did the padding. Be careful to make the centerlines on the outside of this pattern, as you don't want to mark up your metal unnecessarily.

For metals, you can go to almost any good hobby or hardware store and find craft materials that will work. Metals over a thickness of .15 might be a little too much for most people. I think I used a .10 thick sheet of brass for the original Ambience Enhancer.

For this one, I didn't have any brass laying around big enough, so I figured I would use a piece of steel from my recovery bin. This particular piece of metal is from a computer case I found laying in a dumpster about 2 weeks ago. I'm not sure at all how the holes are going to effect the final outcome, but I figure why not give it a shot?

Step 10: Cut Out the Patterns

So, just follow the outer most edge of all the patterns and cut them out. For the metal, a pair of strong snips will be needed, as any metal thin enough to be cut with scissors won't be thick enough for this project.

Be sure to cut out the centers from the pieces and cut the 45 degree lines where the overlaps meet on the corners.

Step 11: Trace the Padding

Take the piece of padding you just cut out and put it down on some of the material you used to make it. We are tracing the outside of the padding, don't even bother with the other line. You don't need to leave any room around this one, as we are going to cut this line. Then, trace the hole in the center and draw the 45 degree lines and outline the box as shown below.

Step 12: Pin the Pattern Together

Take both pieces of padding and pin them together with right sides facing.

Pin the corners of the object holder together, also with right sides facing.

Step 13: Sew the Object Case Corners

While it is still inside-out, sew the corners together. Just follow the line that runs up the side of each corner, and be sure to double stitch as that will be stronger and more appealing to the eye in the finished project.

Once you are done, flip the object case right side out and pin the overlaps to the inside walls, so they aren't pointing inward, as this will interfere with how the object sits inside this case.

Sew up the overlaps to lock them in place.

Step 14: Turn the Object Case Inside Out

Just take a moment and inspect it. The object case should look something like this. Note the placement of both lines of sewing on the corners. One is directly on the corner, and the other is just a little bit offset from that to lock the overlap down.

Step 15: Pin the Window

If you have a window in your object case, fold the overlap of the window back and pin it down.

Step 16: Sew the Window

Carefully put a line around the whole box, even the areas where the overlap isn't in the corners. This will keep the window stronger and make it look more finished. Notice that everything is double stitched, consider this a given when making something like this.

Step 17: Locate Plugs

Turn the object case right side out again and locate any places where wires or plugs are going to be entering the case. MP3 players obviously need to have headphone wires, so cut a small hole corresponding to the hole as best as you can. You can use your sense of touch to best locate the exact placement.

Step 18: Place the Grommet

Get a medium sized grommet, checking to make sure it will fit whatever is going to be put in the plug, and place it on the hole you just made. There are inexpensive starter kits you can get that have a perfectly workable grommet punch and some grommets, but I think most DIY people should have one of these handy grommet tools, it gets used a lot on sewing/crafting projects, and works with multiple sizes.

Step 19: Trim the Case

This step is very much open to personal taste.

If you want a simpler looking case, you don't even have to do any more to it, but I think it looks nice to add something as a protective border around the window. This is a part from a purse strap I found at a thrift shop, but it could be anything you like. On the Ambience Enhancer, I used a rectangle of brass I found in the notions at Joann's, also intended for purse building. If you have a circular window, maybe try an old watch case front or a key ring. If you're not sure what you want, you can always skip this step and add on something later if you find it.

I also added another grommet to the center of the buttons on the front of the Sansa. Again, this will change depending on the object and your personal taste.

If you want to add rivets or any other kind of trim, now might be the best time. Remember to leave a space for the straps to be added on the sides of the case.

Step 20: Sew the Padding

Set the object case aside for a moment and sew the padding up.

If you have a machine, this is a good step to use it, as double stitching around this sucker will get tedious. Be careful around the curves, as this seam will be the outside border of the material. If this seam isn't smooth it will effect the look of the whole project more than any other seam.

Don't sew the center hole, just the outside border.

Step 21: Pin the Padding Overlap

Flip the padding right side out and pin down the overlap all the way around.

Step 22: Mock Up the Project

When ever you are making something you've never made before, its a good idea to gather your parts every so often and put them together to see how its going to look.

Earlier, I changed the type of metal used to steel, and I also changed the trim to fit it.

When I got to this point, I realized I didn't like how the steel trim matched the brown padding, so I decided to change the padding to a different color. I had some red, green, and some white laying around, so I chose white. I won't repeat the steps showing how I made the white padding as I did it the same way as the brown, but from this point on we will all pretend the padding was *always* white and speak of this no more! _

Step 23: Sew the Padding Overlap

Sew the overlap to flatten the padding and make it look cleaner. Just add a seam about halfway between the outside of the padding and the inside of the overlap, so about a quarter inch.

Step 24: Sew the Port

Pin the overlap of the underside access port inside and sew it up to lock it down, the same way we did the window on the object case. Only do one side of the padding right now.

The picture shows the seam about halfway done, which is why it looks like a dotted line. If you are not familiar with sewing, in order to finish this line, I will go around one more time and fill in the spaces to make it a continuous seam. This is called a Holbein, or double running stitch.

We are going to leave this line unfinished for now and come back to it in a later step.

Step 25: Pin the Case to the Padding

With both pieces right side out, insert the overlap of the object case into the access port and pin the overlaps of the padding to it, right sides together.

LOL this might be the most erotic sewing step ever! Sorry about that image : P

Step 26: Turn It Over

I know the last step might be hard to understand exactly what we are doing. Just turn the project over, and if it looks like this, then you did it right. Check the corners to make sure everything lines up and there are no holes or folds.

When you think its pinned together correctly, continue.

Step 27: Sew the Overlaps Together

Put a seam on the box where the two pieces meet. Its hard to see in this picture, but its just underneath the dotted line, inside the access port.

Step 28: Sew the Port Up

Now we are going to finish that seam we left in step 24. Just follow around it with another full Holbein stitch, so that it looks like this from the other side. Make sure the overlaps from the two pieces are inside the padding, and not sticking out into the access port.

Step 29: Prepare the Metal Plate

Cut a hole in the center of the plate to match the access port. Then bend the plate by hand as evenly and smoothly as you can into a curve. The exact angle of the curve is up to you of course, but it should loosely fit around the part of your arm that you want to wear this on.

Step 30: Place the Plate on the Padding

Slip the object case through the plate hole and push the metal all the way down onto the padding.

If you like how it looks, move on to the straps.

If you think something needs changing, go back and redo it to your liking.

If you'd like to use your magic sword to defeat the Red Dragon, turn to page 75.

Step 31: Begin the Straps

On the material you want to use to make the straps, draw an inch wide rectangle with half inch wide borders on either side of it.

Step 32: Cut the Straps

Measure two pieces to be about 4 inches long or less and one piece to be about 2 1/2 inches long.

For the sides, if you want them longer, leave it at 4 inches, if you want it closer to the case make them 3 or 2 1/2 inches long. The best way to figure out what looks best is to find your D rings and loop the strapping around them and place them on the project to see what they look like in different places or lengths.

Step 33: Pin the Straps

fold the sides over and pin them down.

Step 34: Begin Sewing the Straps

Run a seam around the outside of the strap, and after you've done that, fold over one end and stitch it down as shown.

Step 35: Loop Strap Around D Ring

Loop the flat end of the strap through the straight side of the D ring, until the ends of the strap meet and form a closed looking loop. Begin sewing the loose end down to trap the D ring as shown

Step 36: Finish Sewing the Strap

Continue the seam around the strap and go right up against the outside of the D Ring so that the strap is snug up against the side of it.

Repeat these steps with the other long strap to make the another one. These will go on the sides of the project.

Step 37: Pin Straps to Case

Line up the straps where you'd like them to be and pin them down

Step 38: Make the Top Strap

Repeat the process used on the side straps to make the top strap. This is the 2 1/2 inch long piece.

Step 39: Attach the Top Strap

Remove the plate and sew the strap to the padding. One of the seams follows the border that goes around the padding, and one is placed between that border and the border around the case.

Step 40: Sew on the 'Buttons'

To make it easier to use, obviously it will help if you can see what buttons you're going to push.

I simply sew on little symbols right over where the buttons are. I have a few different angles shown below so you can see all the buttons clearly. If you want to make it more unusual, maybe try doing runes, alchemy symbols, or arcane occult symbols. You could also try adding something else instead of sewn symbols, like actual buttons, rivets, or even sewing little charms onto it. You imagination is the only limit here.

Step 41: Armband

Last part is the armband. This will wrap around and keep the thing on your arm. This is another place to try different ideas.

You could use part of an old belt from a thrift shop or found laying around the house. You could use a chain of some sort, or a few chains wrapped together. You might want to try a strap like those found on helmets, with 2 D rings on one end and a loose strap on the other.

But the simplest way to do it is an elastic band. A bit of a stylistic cop out, but more faster and more convenient in everyday use than the other options. If you only want to wear it as a costume piece once in a while you may want to make it one of the fancier ways.

I will be demonstrating the elastic band, as you can use what you've learned so far to make the other variations.

Cut a strip of 1 inch wide elastic to about 6 - 8 inches long.

Step 42: Wrap the End

Loop the elastic around the loose end of the side D rings, so that it wraps inward. You want to fold over the end of the elastic a couple times so that the fringe is totally encased by elastic. Sorry the picture is a little blurry, I added a drawing to show you a side view of the elastic wrapping around itself to make it clearer.

Step 43: Sew the Band

Add a seam over the wrapped area, to lock the D ring inside the elastic and keep the elastic from unraveling. Go over this seam at least 3 or 4 times, as it will be a primary wear spot on the project.

Step 44: Pin the Other Side

Loop the elastic through the other D ring and pull it as tight as you'd like it. Once you are comfortable with it, slip a pin in there to hold the place while you take it off.

Step 45: Finish the Band

Once you have it off, note where the pin is and then rewrap the elastic around the D ring the same way we did the other side.

Step 46: And That's It!

Unless you want to add anything to it, or give it a paint job, the project is done! Hope you had a good time making it, and if something is unclear feel free to ask me about it. If you do make something inspired by my design, please send me a picture, as I'd love to see what people do with it!

The top D ring is for attaching it to jackets, just use a buckle of some sort. Or maybe instead of a D ring, put the buckle at the top so that you can hang this from a belt loop or something when you're not wearing it.

Thanks for your time, have a great 2008!

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    Question 2 years ago

    can this be made for the right hand?


    2 years ago



    2 years ago



    Question 2 years ago

    is this for sale (without mp3 player)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I have a Sansa m240 (mp3 player used) however the head phone jack is broken and I'm not sure is this abled to be modified to work with another?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I have a Sansa m240 (mp3 player used) however the head phone jack is broken and I'm not sure is this abled to be modified to work with another?


    13 years ago on Introduction

    The term MP3 is actually a reference shortened from the official M(oving) P(icture) E(xperts) G(roup) -1 Audio Layer 3 nomenclature for this lossy digital audio encoding format.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    maybe in your world... lol I still like my definition better XD


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, Porkshanks. Sweet "Ambience Enhancer" I'm turning my IPod Nano(old one) into one

    Long may Steampunk Live:)


    12 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great project. I'll be modifying it a bit for a Evo 4G phone for a steampunk wrist computer, and I'll see if I can figure out how to add a steampunk bluetooth headset into it so when someone calls I can separate the headset and answer the calls. Again, excellent work!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    you should try selling this on ebay title it as "Ambience Enhancer'


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Selling this item under that title could lead to trading standards troubles... after all, it doesn't enhance anything - it's just an MP3 player covered in brass and junk.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    if you put up a picture, everyone would know what you mean


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Why not title it as Steampunk Style Mp3 Player Armband! The more keywords the more chance of your search showing up. Plus theres a high demand for steampunk lately, more than ever as the fashions growing. In the last month ive seen at least two people wearing FULL steampunk at my local shopping centre. And not the same person either! Steampunk is awesome!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    No way, two whole people? Watch out everyone, it's an epidemic!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    hahahahaha! yes, its clearly taking over...