How to Make a Custom Shemagh

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Shemaghs can be a soldier’s, modern military reenactor’s, paintball player’s or airsoft enthusiast’s best friend. Shemaghs are cotton squares of cloth that U.S. and British soldiers stationed in desert environments use to keep sand and dust out of their mouths and faces as well as to mop up sweat. Shemaghs can be found in military-appropriate colors like olive, khaki, sand and camouflage. They were adapted from the traditional black-and-white check-patterned scarves called kaffiyeh that Arab men wear. Kaffiyehs are also fashionable among many men and women in the West. You can customize your shemagh for a unique look on game battlefields or even to wear on the street.

Choose a cotton fabric with a pattern you like. Or choose a white cotton if you would rather paint on your own design. Opt for a soft cotton fabric as shemaghs are wrapped around your face.

Decide how big you want your shemagh to be. Consider 42 inches by 42 inches for a smaller shemagh and 47 inches by 47 inches for a larger shemagh. Decide if you want your shemagh to be plain or if you would like fringe on it. Add 1 or 2 inches to each edge for fringe. For example, a larger shemagh with 2 inches of fringe would measure 51 inches by 51 inches.

Lay your fabric on a large clean table. Measure the size of your shemagh with a yardstick. Mark the outside square with a pencil, pen or tailor’s chalk. Cut out the square. If you want fringe, measure the line where the fringe starts (the original shemagh square size) and mark with tailor’s chalk or only very small and light lines with a pencil or pen.

Paint the designs on the fabric with the paintbrush and fabric paint if you have chosen to do so. Let dry completely.

Cut a series of small, uniform lines from the edge of the cloth to the original shemagh square. If you want to measure each line for greater accuracy and mark them with a pencil, you can.