Introduction: Creating Leather Belts

Picture of Creating Leather Belts

In this lesson I'm going show you some techniques for creating different styles of leather belts. Then, if you like, you can choose one version and use it to complete your bag. If this isn't what you had in mind for your finished design, stay tuned for the next lesson where I'll show you some strap options so you can make a purse or shoulder holster. In this lesson, I'll also go over how to use grommets, which can be a very useful tool for creating attachment points on belts and straps, among other things.

In this lesson I'll be using:

  • x-acto knife
  • awl
  • stitching chisels
  • mallet
  • quartz slab and poundo board
  • cutting mat
  • cutting wheel
  • rotary punch
  • stitching pony
  • double sided tape
  • metal and clear plastic ruler
  • cloth tape measure
  • oak tag for making mock-ups
  • pencils and paper or computer and printer
  • strong sharp scissors
  • rapid rivets
  • snaps and snap setter
  • one 1 1/4" heel bar buckle one 1" center bar buckle
  • grommets and grommet setter
  • thick waxed thread
  • thin and thick leather
  • your finished bag or purse
  • Step 1: Using Grommets

    Picture of Using Grommets

    Before we talk about belts directly, we're going to learn how to use one more piece of hardware that can be useful in belt and strap connections: grommets.

    Grommets are two part metal rings that make a reinforced hole in leather. They are often used to create attachment points for other hardware, or small holes for lacing up a wearable leather piece like a corset, shoe or arm bracer. They can also hold two or more pieces of leather together like rivets with a hole through the center. You can even use them purely for decoration, like I did on my Millennium Falcon Bag. Grommets are a good tool to have in your leather skills arsenal.

    Grommets come in all different sizes and each size needs a different setting tool, which can be annoying. The setting tools have two parts like a snap setter. A concave base that holds the top of the grommet and a shaft with a shaped end that you use to hammer the two pieces together.

    To set a grommet you first need to cut a hole the right size, which is often bigger than standard leather hole punch sizes. Grommet setting kits sometimes come with punches the right size, or you can buy them separately. You can also just use your largest existing hole punch and punch several times to create a large enough, if slightly misshapen, hole.

    Once you have a big enough hole punched, push the larger top piece of the grommet through from the grain side and slide the smaller bottom ring over the central stem on the flesh side.

    Use the setting shaft and a mallet to hammer the two halves together. It can take a bit of force to set them properly.

    Step 2: Single Layer Belts

    Picture of Single Layer Belts

    When you want to create a belt out of single layer of leather, you need to use leather that is thick and strong enough that it won't stretch or break. You should choose a leather that is at least 7-10 oz and not stretchy. A lot of belts are made from thick veg tanned leather, but in the chrome tanned leather world, a thick latigo, or even a stiff stamped leather can be a good choice for a single layer belt.

    If you want to make a belt that is intended to go through standard belt loops, it generally needs to be less than 1 3/4" wide. To get the length of the belt, the best way is to measure a belt that is already worn by the person you are making it for. Everyone wears belts at different heights and levels of tightness, so using a standard waist measurement can be problematic. If you don't have a belt for reference, measure around the person's waist where they are going to wear the belt. Add at least 2" to one end for the buckle, and about 6" to the other end for adjustable holes.

    Cut the belt out with a cutting wheel or strap cutter, and attach a buckle of your choice as we did in the previous lesson.

    If you are using a heel bar buckle you need to add a keeper loop, so make one if you need one. Heel bar buckles are the standard choice for belts, but there are other options as well.

    If you can, mark the position of the holes by having the person who is going to wear the belt try it on before you punch them.

    Step 3: Double Layer Belts

    Picture of Double Layer Belts

    If you don't have leather that is thick enough to be used as a single layer belt, you can reinforce thinner leather by sewing two layers together. This can be fairly time consuming when you are hand sewing, but it does create a nice finished look with the grain of the leather facing out on both sides.

    To create this kind of belt, design your pattern basically the same way you did for the single layer belt, but add a sewing line about 1/8" from the edge of the pattern. In this case, I'm creating a shaped belt that will attach to one of our small bags and turn it into a hip bag. This belt will be two sections that rivet together over one hip, and buckle over the other. I made a mock-up of the belt first in oaktag, then scanned it and traced it in Illustrator.

    To get perfectly matching edges on the two layers of leather on each piece of the belt, I usually don't make my final edge cuts until I have sewn the two layers together. To do this, cut out a piece of leather at least 1/4" bigger than your pattern on all sides. Then glue, or double sided tape, this piece of leather to another piece, flesh sides together, and cut the second piece to the same size as the first.

    Now trace the sewing lines of your pattern onto the leather (I cut my paper pattern pieces out along the sewing lines instead of the cutting lines, and then just traced around the edges). Punch sewing holes along these lines with a stitch chisel or an awl.

    Sew around the leather, attaching the two layers of the strap or belt with a saddle stitch.

    Now, with scissors, or an X-Acto knife, carefully cut 1/8" out from the sewing line to create a clean edge.

    Add a buckle, snap or other closure to your strap or belt in the same way you would if it was a single layer. Just be sure to never punch through your stitch lines when you are adding hardware.

    Step 4: Belts Quiz

    {
        "id": "quiz-1",
        "question": "Which weight of leather is a good choice for a single layer belt?",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "3 oz",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "10 oz",
                "correct": true
            },
    	{
                "title": "9 pounds",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes! Belts need to be made with thick strong leather.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope, take another guess."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-2",
        "question": "If you are creating a double layer belt, how do you make sure the edges are even?",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "cut the two layers out seperately",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "use a skiver on the edges after you sew",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{
                "title": "glue and sew the two layers together, then cut them out",
                "correct": true
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes!",
        "incorrectNotice": "Not quite, try again."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-3",
        "question": "What's the best way to get the right length for a belt?",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "measure a belt that is already worn by the person you're creating it for",
                "correct": true
            },
            {
                "title": "use a standard waist measurement",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{
                "title": "guess and make alterations later",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes!",
        "incorrectNotice": "No, try again."
    }
    

    Step 5: Two Ways to Turn Your Small Bag Into a Pocket Belt

    Picture of Two Ways to Turn Your Small Bag Into a Pocket Belt

    To turn the small bag we created into a pocket belt, you could just thread a belt through the strap loop in the back of the pouch. But if you want to turn it into more of a low hanging hip bag, you need to create attachment points on the belt where you can hang the bag.

    One way to do this is to attach swivel snaps instead of D rings to the riveted strap loops of the bag. Then you can use these to clip and unclip the bag to an attachment point on the belt. I did this here by setting two grommets into the belt where the bag can attach.

    As another option, I designed the double layer belt I made with built in straps that loop around the D rings of one of the small bags. I set snaps into the straps so the bag could attach and detach.

    Step 6: Show Us Your Version!

    I've shown you a couple of simple options for creating a leather belt that can attach to your bag, and I'm sure you can imagine a lot more designs from here! You could try different shapes for the shaped leather belt, use different hardware, even incorporate another a smaller pocket into the belt itself. If you made two identical small bags, you could create a similar belt with bags on both sides! Etsy is a great place to look for leather pocket belt inspiration.

    If you've chosen to create a pocket belt, show us what you've made by posting a photo in the Class Project section!

    Comments

    speedit made it! (author)2017-05-20

    Thank you and your class. I made a small version belt for my son with your design.

    deluges made it! (author)2017-05-15

    The belts I made were to attach a saddlebag and tool roll to my bike

    Phardenburg made it! (author)2017-03-20

    I loved your class. I will be making many more leather projects. Thank you for teaching this class!

    Truds876 made it! (author)2017-01-04

    This is my finished bag. I can't wait to try it out. Thanks again!

    MikaelaHolmes (author)Truds8762017-01-04

    Oh wow!!!! it looks so good!!!! I really hope you like it because I think it turned out just beautiful :) Thank you for sharing.

    Suzana 1 made it! (author)2016-10-13

    You can laugh! It is too easy for you!

    MikaelaHolmes (author)Suzana 12016-10-13

    Not at all! It looks awesome. I like your use of eyelets to create the holes for the drawstring :)

    Suzana 1 (author)MikaelaHolmes2016-10-17

    It was the only idea that crossed my mind, before blowing! :D
    You are very kind with your students! Thank you again, for your class!
    Really amazing!

    About This Instructable

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    Bio: Costume and experimental fashion designer and artist. Maker of clothing and accessories for time traveling cyborg superheroes, and lucid dreamers. Interested in fusing couture design ... More »
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