Cheap Skate: DIY Roller Derby Number Armbands

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Roller derby is the greatest sport ever invented. It is incredibly fun to watch, and even more fun to play. Though I am a lowly Fresh Meat, I am lucky enough to skate with one of the best ranked roller derby leagues in the world, the Atlanta Rollergirls. In fact, they are on their way to the WFTDA Championships as I write this.

I fell in love with roller derby about two years ago. I had been obsessed with running for the prior two years, and I had just finished a marathon, my ultimate running goal. I decided my body could use a rest after all that running, but I still wanted to stay active. I’d never been much of an athlete in my younger years, but I’d always loved to roller skate. I heard that Atlanta had a roller derby team, so I looked them up. There was a training workshop the following week!

I very nervously walked into the rink on a Saturday morning. I left that workshop completely addicted. I wasn’t immediately good at any of the things the rollergirls showed us, but I was willing to work hard. I tried out for Fresh Meat (this means there are a series of assessments before you are eligible to be drafted onto a team) in Fall 2011. Right around the time of taking the last assessment, I found out I was pregnant with Emmie. I was so excited to be having a baby, but so sad to have to leave skating behind.

While I was pregnant with Emmie, the Atlanta Rollergirls obtained their own practice space and began a Rec League. As soon as I was able, I hopped back on my skates and joined until I could try out again in August. Two days before Emmie’s first birthday, I found out that I had made Fresh Meat again. I am so grateful and happy to strap on my skates at every practice. Anyone who has been involved with roller derby will tell you how amazing the experience is. It’s even better this time than it was before!

That huge digression brings me to this project, DIY roller derby number armbands. In order to scrimmage, numbers have to be visible on both arms for the referees to call penalties, etc. You can write the numbers in Sharpie on your arm, but then you end up looking like this the next day.

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I guess it’s an easy way to explain the bruises so people don’t think you’re being beaten against your will, but it isn’t very practical for daily life. So, for many girls, number armbands are the way to go. Your number is highly visible, and you don’t have to mess with the Sharpie. Now I, being my cheap self, did not want to pay the cost of ordering armbands online. Especially since there is no guarantee that I’ll progress to being drafted. I decided to create number armbands on my own. I couldn’t find any tutorials online, so I decided to post one here. I’m sure there are other cheapskates (get it?) out there like me. The set you’ll see here was made for one of my fellow meats.

For one set of armbands you’ll need about 2/3 yard of wide elastic. The numbers are required to be at least 2 inches high, so 3 inch wide elastic is ideal. My elastic came from a thrifted skirt waistband. I cut it from the skirt without much difficulty. It’s pretty cheap to buy elastic at the fabric store too, for the record.

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Next, you’ll need to create number patterns. I made mine in Word. I used a font called Gunplay from dafont.com at a size of 200. This made numbers that were slightly larger than 2 inches and easy to cut out.

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Now pin the numbers to a double layer of felt, as you’ll be creating two sets of numbers. Don’t you love my pincushion?

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Some numbers are more difficult than others. Small scissors are helpful.

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Make sure your numbers are at least 2 inches high.

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12 inches of elastic should be a good starting estimate. You might need a little more or less depending on your arm size.

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Fold your elastic in half and mark the mid-point.

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Now you can place your numbers using the mid-point as a guide. I had three numbers, so it worked perfectly to place my middle number right in the center.

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Pin on the remaining numbers. You want them to be fairly close together so they can be seen easily on the front part of your arm.

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Now, carefully stitch close to the edges of each number. This just takes time and patience.

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Here’s a close up.

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Here they are, all stitched.

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Fit the band to your arm to see where your seam allowance needs to be. Then, with right sides together, stitch the raw edges of the elastic several times. These things are probably going to take a beating, as all your gear does.

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Done! Now you’re all ready to hit the track!

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2 thoughts on “Cheap Skate: DIY Roller Derby Number Armbands

    • They have been doing great as far as the stretching. I haven’t been as happy with the felt for the numbers, however. It tends to pill. I’m experimenting with a pair right now that I painted with a stencil. They seem to be doing okay after a few weeks. Happy skating!

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