When you wish upon a star…you might want custom Mickey ears


My friends and I are at that odd age where some of us are having babies, and some of us are sending firstborns off to college. My offspring are at that spot in the middle.  I am able to send them to bed early, yet they will eat an adult-sized entrée at Moe’s Southwest Grille.  One of those friends from high school recently contacted me to create custom Mickey ears for her daughter!

The Back Story

I was thrilled to hear from and reconnect with my high school Advanced Placement (AP) American History study partner (let’s call her “AP”).  AP’s daughter was about to graduate from high school, and had an amazing Senior Trip coming up: 5 days in Walt Disney World! AP is incredibly proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, and wanted something unique to help her celebrate.  My friend is also delighted with her daughter’s choice of friends and hence, wanted to include them in the fun she had planned.

AP had been googling and found several fun ideas for Mickey Mouse ears on Etsy. She knew I didn’t have a shop or had made ears before, but she did know of my small business and as a result, reached out.  From our high school years, she knew I was open to fun projects needing customization. Or maybe AP was having flashbacks of the years of watching me lug soft sculpture art projects into AP History?

We had to keep the conversations on the down low as the ears were a surprise, so most of it occurred via Facebook Messenger. I created and shared a Pinterest folder with her, and we pinned and shared ideas of what worked (mortarboards!) and what didn’t (sequins!). We discussed her school colors, the size of the ears for a teenage girl, and details to add (2018!).  Our best inspiration came from Cynthia Grobelny’s Etsy shop “MakeMeMinnie”.

MakeMeMinnie’s 2018 headband design on Etsy


The Construction

I needed a quality headband to base the entire design on, so I reached out to a fellow PTA mom.  Our new PTA co-President, Maggie, has an Etsy site of headbands and sells at craft shows.  Maggie of Prim and Posh Princess helped me navigate the online world of craft blanks and we found a package of 1/2″ headbands to share that would work for tween and teen heads.

Maggie hasn’t made Mickey ears yet, but she took the balance of the package off my hands!  If you would like to purchase the same blanks, check out this link on Amazon.

Blank 1/2″ headband

Then I wanted to determine the size.  Most DIY projects on Pinterest showed how to make ears for a children’s party, so the scale wasn’t right.  I experimented with cups and bowls of various diameter until I sent this photo to my friend for approval:

We went with the ear on the left…

My main concern for this project was getting the ears to be secure and to stay up properly, because I knew there was no opportunity to fix these “in the field”. On Pinterest, I found many different ways to wrap the headband, secure the ears and decorate them.  However, I also knew these ears needed to withstand transit from New Jersey to Florida, not to mention a week with teenage girls.  They needed as much structure as I could give them without making them heavy or uncomfortable.

The first attempt involved a cardboard shape with a tab and a similar shape in craft foam from Michaels, which seemed to work for rigidity. While the stand alone ear was ideal, it was less than ideal to have a tab to attach to the headband. As that would leave a lump on one side of the ear, I opened up one of the satin covers and cut the “tab” off.  Hence, back to the drawing board.

Tab version and failed first attempt.

For my second attempt, I added another layer of craft foam from another Pinterest idea, and as a result, I had a “saddle” to wrap around the headband and tuck into the satin cover. Consequently, it seemed the most secure way to go, so all of the headbands were finally constructed in this manner.  Keeping the thin cardboard shape sandwiched between the craft foam was working, so as a final result, I added a thin piece of batting for bulk in addition.

The foam “saddle” basis of a Mickey ear.
The guts of a Mickey ear.

The Design Details

Once the ears were created, it was time to decorate the side with the detail. Cue the Cricut Explore 2! It was time to cut some HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl) for the “2018” and then to cut little mortarboards out of red felt with my trusty Fiskar scissors.

Cricut at work.
Weeding the HTV vinyl

The HTV was ironed onto the felt mortarboards and I attached them to the left ears with a bit of Odif 606 Spray and Fix No-Sew Fusible Adhesive and my Black and Decker iron. Despite careful clean up, the overspray “ghosted” around the edge of the mortarboard on some, but not all.

Spray adhesive experimentation.

Frustrated, I debated hand-stitching and redoing. Being my own worst critic,  I began to procrastinate. The results I had created were not matching the image in my head. It was time to switch my focus on the core project of headband and bow.  That’s when I fired up the YouTube tutorials and followed the Pinned drawings of how to make bows and wrap headbands.

I am not a fan of video tutorials. Do not defend them to me – I completely understand the need for them.  I am indebted to several for the education they have provided me. My offspring are HUGE fans.  Sometimes, I wonder if I have a few in my Solutions future.

However, knowing that I am a reader and I learn by doing,I tried to find blogs or PDF instructions instead. I get so distracted by having to stop and start the video.  And it bugs me that I can’t ask a question in real time!  In short, I had to deal with the lack of options in “still mode” and go with the video mode, much to my offsprings’ delight.

I struck out with several videos that were sales tools for bow makers, or poorly shot, but finally found a crafter willing to show me her clean and easy method for wrapping a ½” plastic headband with a satin ribbon.

Many thanks to The Ribbon Retreat‘s Lanae Hale’s How to Wrap a Headband with Ribbon video on YouTube!  I was overthinking it and needed a few measurements to wrap them cleanly.  I really appreciated her patience and well shot video!

My hot (glue) mess!


Next, I found a blogger, Katy Leigh, who also has an Etsy site and a niece that loves hairbows.  No video!  Yay!!!  Using her photographs, I simplified the bow design and came up with a wired option that worked well with my construction plans.

The Finishing Touches on the Mickey Ears

With the headband and bows resolved, I returned to the fused felt issue and realized I had planned to add topstitching to the felt. Although the satin covers were already on the foam and cardboard shapes, it was possible but tricky. I had no concerns that the felt would come off the satin, and felt the look of the topstitching was more important for looks. Revisiting my craft room, I realized I had slick fabric paint at my disposal. A few strategic blobs of slick black paint, and the look of the topstitching was fabricated.  This was enough to add dimension and a finishing touch to the ears.

Slick paint as “topstitching” on my Mickey ears.

With excitement, I assembled the ears and posed the three ribbon options on the three sets of ears for a last photograph for AP. I was almost in the home stretch and started debating how to ship them safely. She was getting excited too and approved the red bow with white dots (our family favorite too!).

Bow options (Offray brand ribbon).

The Final Drama

So then she asked me “Did you do a fourth one?”

Oh no. Oh NO! I had misread “my daughter and 3 friends” as “3 sets of ears”!

Luckily I had reset my deadlines for other clients, and consequently there was time to create a 4th set of ears! With the design and construction methods “solved”, it came together in an afternoon! The ears were able to be mailed them in time (unfortunately using Priority Mail, but it got to her in time!). My friend was thrilled and consequently hid them to save as a surprise for the girls on the departure of their trip.

The finished product – Mickey ears in their school colors and year!
All FOUR sets of ears;)
Priority Mail and bubble wrapped within an inch of their life!

The Solution

A week or so went by and then I received a lovely photo via Messenger.  The girls LOVED their ears and posed with them on in Disney.  The best part?  If I was able to blur their faces, they agreed to let me share them with you, my readers! Don’t they look adorable?

Mickey Ears in Disney
One set of my Mickey Ears in Epcot

This was a great challenge, and is now marked…

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