Introduction: Fabric Belts (Stiff Enough to Hang Things From)

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Fabric belts are pretty easy to make, and I'll show you how to make them stiff enough to support bags, knives, mugs, or whatever else you can think of.  Want to make interchangeable bags to hang from your belt?  I've got you covered:

You will need:

Fabric for the shell of the belt (can be two different colours; then it's reversible!)
Fabric for interlining (you may omit this if your shell fabric is heavy and stiff)
Ultra-stiff sew-in interfacing/stabilizer (you may omit this if you don't need your belt to bear weight)
Something to secure your belt - a clasp, a large D-ring, etc.
Optional: 1-inch D-rings

If you are going to use a normal belt buckle, you will also need:
A leather punch
A belt buckle of the appropriate width

Note: If you buy things from Jo-Ann Fabrics, always use the coupons!  I never pay full price there.

Plus normal sewing things: thread, scissors, pins, measuring tape or ruler, pen/pencil/chalk, etc.

For inserting the interfacing, you will also need a hand-sewing needle and a cork, rubber eraser, or similar item.

Step 1: Cutting the Fabric

Measure around your waist or hips where you plan to wear the belt, including any overlap you will need.  Cut a strip of your fabric as long and as wide as you require, adding one inch to the length and to the width for your seam allowance.  If you are going to use a normal belt buckle as your closure, add another 1.5 inches to the length.

If you are tapering one (or more) end, as I am doing, sketch the taper shape on the wrong side of the fabric with a coloured pencil or chalk.  To ensure it is symmetrical, just sketch one half of it on the fold.  Also sketch 1/2" in from your cut line, to ensure it will look right after taking into account seam allowances.  Fold your fabric in half lengthwise, then trim your shape.

Cut a second strip of your shell fabric, and two strips of your interlining (if you're using it).  If you've tapered one end, it is helpful to trace your original strip to ensure an exact match.  I also like to trace a mark at each end of the long straight sides, and then use a yardstick to get a perfectly straight line.

Stitch each interlining piece to the wrong side of a shell piece, with a smaller seam allowance than normal.  Since we're using a 1/2" seam allowance for the rest of the sewing, we use a 3/8" seam allowance for this step.  This ensures the stitching from this step will be fully hidden within the final seam allowances.  Trim the interlining a bit.

Step 2: Making the D-ring Tabs

(If you don't want D-rings on your belt, skip this step.)

For each D-ring you want, cut a 2x4" strip of fabric.  This fabric doesn't have to match your belt if you don't want.

Fold 1/2" inward from each edge and press, trimming any corners that poke out.  Thread a D-ring onto the strip, then fold in half widthwise and pin.  You should have a 1x1.5" tab with a D-ring on it.

Stitch around the tab in a rectangle to secure it.  I recommend starting with the D-ring on the presser foot side, so you can see how close you can get without messing up the presser foot.

Step 3: Attaching the D-ring Tabs and Sewing the Belt

If you want beading, embroidery, or applique, do it before proceeding to this step, and treat the front and back pieces as separate.

(If you don't want D-rings, skip to the last two paragraphs.)

Hold one of the belt pieces up to your body where you want it, wrong side out.  Use a pencil to mark where you want your D-rings.

Lay the belt pieces down, right sides together.  Start pinning.  At each mark you made for the D-rings, place a D-ring tab in between the layers, with the D-ring facing the inside of the belt, and the end of the tab lined up with the edges of the belt pieces.

If you want fringe or beading sticking out the bottom, the process is the same - pin it so that the bit you want to stick out is facing the inside of the belt.

Stitch with 1/2" seam allowances, leaving one end of the belt open.  Do not stitch all the way to the open end on the long sides, but rather leave about an inch un-stitched.  Go over the D-ring tabs several times to reinforce the stitching.

Turn the belt right-side out, as if you were inverting a tube sock.

Step 4: Inserting the Interfacing

If you don't need your belt to support weight, skip this step.  If you do, this step is crucial!

Lay your belt onto the ultra-stiff sew-in stabilizer, and trace it.  I use a yardstick to get my sides straight, once I've marked the beginning and end.

Cut out your stabilizer about 1/8" inside of your trace lines.

Insert your stabilizer into your belt.  If your inner fabric is smooth and it slides right in, great!  If not, read on for a helpful trick.

Cut a piece of thread more than twice as long as your belt.  Thread it through a hand-sewing needle, and knot the ends.  Stitch it through the tip of the stabilizer a few times to secure it.

Stab the needle into a cork, rubber eraser, or similar object, but don't push the needle all the way through.  Squeeze the edges of the belt to make it bow into a tube, and drop the cork down into the tip.

Now the tricky part.  By feel, pull the needle out of the cork and maintain your grip on it.  Let the cork fall back out of the belt.  Move the needle the last inch or so into the tip, and poke the needle out through the center of the tip of the belt.

Now the easy part.  Pull the thread to pull the stabilizer into the belt.  Be careful not to break the thread (that's why we doubled it).  When the stabilizer is all the way inside, trim the thread as closely as possible.

At the open end, trim the stabilizer (if necessary), tuck the shell fabric in, and topstitch to close.

Step 5: Installing the Closure (Clasp-Style)

This step will vary depending on what style of closure you are using.  In these pictures, I used a clasp-style that is stitched onto each end of the belt.

First, mark the belt's overlap and the position of the clasp pieces on the belt with chalk.  Then make fabric tabs for the clasp pieces, using the same technique as the D-ring tabs.  Finally, stitch the tabs into place.

Step 6: Installing the Closure (Buckle-Style)

Somehow, like an idiot, I managed to forget to take in-progress photos.  T_T  Forgive me!  But here are shots of the finished product, and I will explain as best I can.

Thread the buckle onto the end of the belt (the non-tapered end) and mark where the prong(s) will need to go.  Take the buckle off.  Use a leather punch of the appropriate size to make a hole.  If you managed to find eyelets the right size (install one in a piece of scrap fabric and test the buckle in it first!), install an eyelet following the package directions.  If not, sew the eyelet by hand.  This just means do a wrap stitch (also called a spiral stitch) all the way around the hole.

Once you've made your eyelet, put the buckle on with the prong through the hole (make sure it's going the right way) and stitch the belt end in place.

You may wish to make a belt-keeper (not sure if that's the correct term) next to the buckle to keep the belt tip from sticking out.  Cut and edge-finish a little strap of fabric.  I recommend edge-finishing by serging or zig-zag stitching all the way around; if you try to fold the edges in it will be way too thick.  When calculating the length of the strap, be sure to consider the thickness of the belt end, which has to fit through.  Then stitch the strap onto the belt.  For the first end you may machine-stitch, but you must hand-sew the second end.

Try the belt on and mark, on the wrong side, where you will need eyelets for the buckle prong.  I like to make at least two holes, one for pre-eating and one for post-eating.  :)

Make your eyelets in the same manner as you made the first.

Step 7: Other Closure Ideas

You could sew a large D-ring to one end of your belt, and simply thread the other end through and tie shut.

You could have a loop of ribbon or elastic poking out the tip of one end (to do this, pin and stitch it between the layers facing inwards, and then when you turn the belt right side out it will poke out of the tip), and fasten it to a button on the side of the belt.  Put a button on each side of the belt to make it reversible!

You could use a simple set of hooks and eyes, or frogs, or any other closure or clasp you can think of!

If I make another belt using any of these closures, I'll take photos and update accordingly.  :)

Thanks for reading, and if you use this instructable to make a belt of your own, I'd love to see it!  ^_^  As always, please ask if anything is unclear.

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