Intro: Bike Helmet Padding - for Life!
First, thank you for viewing my Instructable. I hope it's of use to you. Finding supplies is the most difficult and time consuming part of this tutorial. After that it's about 10-20 minutes of your time. This tutorial will work for bike helmets that have the padding attached via Velcro - Hook/Loop only. The reason why I've created this tutorial is because I was so tired of having my bike helmets padding fall apart after only a short time of use. The fabric separates from the foam and just doesn't work the way it should. Turning itself into more of a nuisance than comfort.
Step 1: Gathering Supplies and Materials (the Hardest Part)
2) Spacer Mesh
4) Hand Sewing Needle & Thread
5) Pencil & Paper or Chalk
6) Velcro - Hook & Loop Tape
7) Sewing Machine
Here is a breakdown of the list of the supplies you'll need:
1) A bike helmet you'd like to make replacement padding for: You'll definitely need a bike helmet for this project. If the original padding is still available, hold onto it if you're wanting to make an exact pattern copy. It doesn't matter if it's not in optimal condition. You'll only be using it to re-create the pattern anyways. If you don't have the original padding, don't worry, you can just eye ball a new pattern of your own design.
2) Waffle Knit 2 - 4 mm thick (aka Spacer Mesh, Waffle Mesh, Air Mesh): Waffle Knit. It's a light weight fabric that is often used to provide an extra bit of cushion when constructing sporting equipment, back packs and more. You'll need the thickness to be at least 2mm thick, but 4 mm would be perfect. You'll need about 1/4th a yard or meter of fabric per helmet. This should honestly be more than plenty. You may be lucky and able to find this locally at your general fabric store, if not you'll definitely be able to find it online. If ordering online just be sure of the thickness of the fabric. The color is entirely up to your preference or accessibility. No one but you is really going to see it anyways. I've chosen this fabric because it's breathable, soft, and provides the same cushion feel as the original padding found in helmets with one great exception - the fabric wont separate due to perspiration, rubbing, or general wear and tear. They're also machine washable but hang dry.
3) Fabric scissors: You'll want scissors sharp enough that can cut fabric. I wouldn't suggest using an Exacto knife/utility knife for this fabric as it's not a stiff fabric and you'd likely just end up with a mess in the end.
4) A needle & polyester thread *required for 2mm thick fabric only: Fairly straight forward, you'll need a straight hand held sewing needle and some polyester thread. We'll be using polyester thread because it's stronger than cotton and has a bit of stretch to it. It also wont shrink when washed which could causing potential warping of our end padding.
It is possible to make this on a sewing machine, however it may cause a decrease in the padding volume over all and may cause a stiffer feel rather than a soft bouncy one we're looking for.
5) Pen/Pencil , Paper to trace pattern onto, Coloring Markers, or Chalk: For one method you'll only need one of the 4 of these. You can likely get by with just coloring markers or chalk, but if you're looking for a more uniform look to your padding you'll want at least the pen/pencil and paper to trace your pattern onto (we'll be using the original bike helmet padding to copy the pattern) and markers or chalk depending upon the color of the fabric you've selected (for black or darker colours, chalk works best, for lighter colours markers are preferable). The markers or chalk can really be any type. For markers either washable or non washable are fine. For chalk either tailors or the classic school style chalk works fine as well. So long as it transfers easily to your fabric and is easily seen you're good to go.
6) Velcro hook and/or loop tape: Look inside your helmet with the padding removed. Figure out which type of the Velcro is attached to the actual helmet, the soft portion is called the loop, the rough portion is called the hook. You'll also generally be able to find this locally or online. You'll want non adhesive (no sticky or glue) backed version. The glue version will gum up whatever needle method you're using to attach it. If you attach it just with the adhesive already being used it won't stick for long unless you don't move or adjust your helmet padding. If you have the soft portion already attached to your bike helmet, you're going to need a bit of the hook portion to sew onto the new padding you're creating. If you have the rough portion already attached to your bike helmet, you're doing to need a bit of the loop portion to sew onto your new parring you're creating. The reason why Velcro is optional is because the padding used already connects really well to the helmet, provided you have the hook portion already attached to your bike helmet. When I first made my own set of custom padding I was concerned it wouldn't stay in place. I've been riding almost every day for a few weeks and haven't had any issues, so you should be ok too.
7) Sewing machine: as mentioned above, it is possible to create your new padding with a sewing machine. The results may not end up as full in volume as hand stitching, and does require basic skills and knowledge of how to use a sewing machine. If you opt for the sewing machine method, you'll also need some sewing pins. If you're going full on with Velcro too, you can also use your sewing machine to attach it all in one.
Now that you've collected all your supplies it's time to get crafting!
Step 2: Creating Your Pattern & Padding.
When I told you the hardest part was going to be collecting the
supplies, I really wasn't lying. There are a few different methods of making your new pattern. I'll be explaining them fastest and easiest to hardest.
Notes about the fabric and terminology: The Waffle Knit Fabric has 2 sides to it. There is a 'solid' side, and a
side that looks like that looks like it was in a "waffle" iron. The solid side will be referred to as the "right side" and the waffle side will be referred to as the "wrong side".
Option 1) For this option you'll really only need 2 supplies. The Waffle Knit fabric and scissors. The first step is to just cut a strip of your fabric in a rectangle as long, or a little bit longer than what you feel you'd need (better for making simply adjustments, you can always cut it shorter but not longer). Grab your helmet and check the fit. If it's too long simply trim the fabric down until it fits in place. Once you've trimmed the pattern into the shape and size you'd like, attach the waffle wide (the wrong side) of the fabric to the helmet. It should stick no problem. If you're having issues you may be trying to attach the "right side", flip the fabric over and see if that solves the issue.
If you're using 2 mm thick fabric, it may feel a little this but will still do the trick so long as your helmet still fits snug on your head. If you like you can try to get creative with your shapes but in the end, that's all up to esthetics.If you're using 4 mm thick fabric, you should be good to go.
Option 2) If you're using 2 mm thick fabric you can make it thicker by doubling the fabric up. You'll need to grab the needle and thread mentioned in the supplies list as well as the other supplies mentioned in option 1. For hand stitching you'll just need a simple basting stitch. I'd suggest doing this over the edges. If you're attaching Velcro or Hook - Loop tape you can do this at the same time. Follow the same cutting method in option 1, but do this twice. You're going to want to check that the length and shape you've opted for fit correctly within the helmet before starting to stitch the pieces together. Once you're satisfied with the shape, you'll want to line the pieces up. You're going to want to place one wrong side together with one write side. If done correctly it should look like one right side (the smooth solid side) and one wrong side (the waffle looking side) are showing. So like a regular piece but larger.
thread your needle in a way that there is equal amounts of thread on either side of the needle. Tie a not at the end of the thread. To secure the thread at the start of stitching, make one pass with the needle through both layers of fabric, it doesn't matter if you pass through the wrong or the right side first, make sure not to let the knot at the end of the thread pass through the fabric. You'll want to open the thread just above the knot and pass the needle and thread back through itself. When you pull tight it should create a self enclosed knot. Now you can simply base stitch all along the edge, making sure to pass through both pieces of fabric each time, until you reach the end. Once you've based the entire piece together you can then knot the thread back onto itself again and you're done!
To attach the Velcro - Hook and Loop you follow the same instructions as above but make sure your stitches pass through the Velcro - Hook and Loop tape itself.
Option 3) if you're wanting to get a little more fancy with your designs, here's where you'll need the Pen or Pencil and paper, chalk or a marker, scissors as well as your hold helmet padding if you're wanting an exact design copy. To get a rough idea of the size you'll need if you don't have the original padding, simply insert the paper inside your helmet and mold it to the curve as best you can, then with your pencil, mark where you'd like the padding to star and stop, as well as how wide you'd like it to be. These will be your guide lines for drafting your own design. Once you've decided upon the design you want cut it out of the paper. If you're copying the design of your original padding, just place the padding on the paper and trace around it. Make sure your piece of paper is large enough. You can use an old news paper or flyer to avoid having to use tape or taking any extra steps. Once you're satisfied with your pattern you'll want to grab you chalk or marker and the fabric. Place your pattern on the fabric and trace around it with either the chalk or the marker, whichever will show up on the color fabric you've selected. If you're wanting double layer because you're using 2mm thick, just trace the pattern again. Use your scissors to cut out (both) your piece(s). If you opted for a single layer you can simply place the fabric in your helmet as instructed in option 1. If you're doing a double layer you can simply follow option 2's sewing instructions (for both the Velcro version or the non Velcro version) and once done place the padding with your helmet.
Option 4) Double layer sewing machine option. Follow all the steps to design your pattern in option 1 or 3, whichever your preference. Set up your sewing machine with corresponding thread to fabric. You can either pin the fabric together in advance or simply line it up with your hands. Place the pieces together under your sewing foot and lower it into place. You'll want the stitches no less than 1/2 an inch from the edges. Using a straight stitch, stitch all the way around your two pieces (removing the pins as you go if you decided to use them). You'll be done in a flash. Once stitched together This method would not work for a Velcro - Hook and Loop version as the Velcro itself is very thick and difficult for your sewing needle and thread to properly pass through.
Congratulations! You now have brand new helmet padding that won't let you down! Ride on in comfort and style. Thanks again, Emily