Introduction: Fabric Watch-strap Cover

This removable cover can be made to fit any watch, but is particularly suitable for watches with fixed metal straps. It's both pretty and practical, particularly if your skin is sensitive to metal.

I've always found that the metal strap on my watch is slightly too big and twiddles around on my wrist. (The next adjustment down is slightly too tight.) Then I developed an allergic reaction to the back of the watch itself.

After seeing a few watches with leather straps that passed behind the watch back, I decided to design a fabric strap which would fit over the original and sit between the watch and my wrist. It works well. The watch no longer twists around; the strap is more washable than leather and more comfortable than plastic.

I've had several people ask me how I made it, so here you go. As a bonus, because this is a watchstrap, you get to see in real time how long it took me to make it!

This project will work best for a watch that is slightly loose on your wrist, and that has a strap with a catch or buckle which is not much wider than the strap. However, it's not impossible to accomodate a wider buckle.

Step 1: Materials / Equipment

You need:

A watch
A piece of fabric, at least 10cm by 20cm (4" by 8")
Sewing thread
Thread in a contrasting colour for tacking (optional)
A snap fastener (preferably plastic)

Paper and pen
Coin or round object about the same diameter as your watch face
Sewing machine (optional)
Steam iron

I have always used washable cotton fabric so far, but you could use anything so long as there is something comfortable next to your wrist. If you're buying material specially for this, 10cm off a roll will be plenty.

Step 2: Making a Template

Take a piece of paper and lay your watch on it, parallel to and touching the edge. Lay your ruler against the side of the face and draw a line parallel with the edge.

Mark the length of the watchstrap, minus any overlap where it fastens. (For the strap to fit well, the watch will need to be slightly loose on your wrist when fastened.) Measure your wrist to make sure the strap will go around it with a small overlap.

My wrist is 15cm around, and my strap is 16.5cm (which sounds like a big overlap, but the cloth has thickness, so it actually overlaps by less than 10mm when made up). This is just an example, as your wrist and watch will be different sizes.

Place a round object against where you marked the ends and draw around it to round off the ends of the strip. I used a pound coin, since it's about the right width, but you don't need to be super-accurate about this.

This shape will be the basic template for your watchstrap.

Step 3: Template Part 2

When the strap cover is complete, there will be two "tunnels" of fabric into which you will insert the ends of your watchstrap. You need to decide how long you want these to be and how much of the existing strap you want to cover.

This will depend on the style of your watch. My strap is 16.5cm long and the tunnels are 4.5cm each, with a 3.5cm gap for the watch-face to sit in. This holds the watch secure, and there's a 4.5cm gap at the back for me to do up the clasp. If you line your watch up with the template it will help you to centre them around the watch face.

Mark the lengths of the tunnels on your template. Don't worry if they're not placed precisely symmetrically; you will notice that the existing strap on your watch (or the spot at which you fasten it) isn't exactly the same length, either.

Step 4: Choosing Fabric

Select the fabric you're going to use. It is a good idea to iron it before you start.

I've always used cotton for this project, because it's easy to work with and can be washed if it gets dirty. As always with sewing projects, wash your fabric beforehand if you're worried that it might shrink in future. Use woven rather than knitted fabric - you want something that won't stretch too much. T-shirt fabric is probably too stretchy, but an old cotton shirt or blouse will be fine. Heavy fabrics like denim are very tough to sew in small pieces.

Textured fabrics like seersuckers are harder to sew. A light flat cotton is easiest. Quilting fabrics would be ideal, so long as they are washable.

Think about how the fabric will look in a small area - large prints will get lost. A small all-over motif will be the most forgiving if you think your seams might turn out a bit wonky. Stripes look very good, but are tricky to match up neatly (ask me how I know!)

There's no reason not to use scraps of luxury fabrics if you want to, but you might want to use cotton for the part next to your wrist, since it won't be seen and needs to be soft and breathable.

Step 5: Cutting the Fabric

Cut out your paper template with scissors. Lay out the fabric wrong side upwards, and draw around your template. Leaving at least 5mm (1/4") seam allowance, cut out two identical pieces.

Now you'll cut the pieces for the "tunnels". This time, leave at least 1cm (1/2") seam allowance at each end of both "tunnels" and make the pieces at least 1cm wider than the main strap pieces. (All will become clear in due course.)

In the picture, you can see the "tunnels" with the finished length marked. I'm using a light fabric so you can see my lines.

With a small print like this it doesn't matter too much about matching up the pattern. If you're using a striped fabric, it looks nice to have the stripes match up on the main piece and the tunnels. In that case, cut the tunnels from a strip cut parallel to the main strap pieces (but wider) and align the stripes so that they will match when sewn in place.

Step 6: Hemming the Tunnels

Iron your "tunnel" pieces flat, and then make double-fold hems. (To do this, turn the pieces wrong side up, fold the pieces along the lines that mark the finished length and iron the creases in place. Then tuck the raw edges under and iron in place again).

Sew the hems down. I usually hand-sew these because they're only a few centimetres long, and it's almost as quick and probably neater than using the machine. If your fabric is stripy and you can follow a stripe, it's even quicker!

Use the same thread as you will be using later. You can choose a colour that blends in, or if you're brave and always machine-stitch neatly, one that contrasts.

Step 7: Put Pieces Together

Now it's time to start putting your watch-strap together.

Lay one of your main strap pieces right side up. Then position the two tunnel pieces, wrong side up, aligned with one edge. Your template may help you see where to place them along the edge, as in the picture. Match up the pattern if you are doing that.

Remove the template (without disturbing the pieces) and place the other main strap piece, wrong side up, on top of the first. Again, match the patterns if appropriate. Pin the pieces together, and then tack them together with a contrasting colour of thread. You can skip the tacking, but it will produce better results, particularly if you are using a sewing machine for the next bit.

Step 8:

Thread up your sewing machine and set it to a running stitch (which is all my ancient machine can do).

Carefully stitch along the side of the strap where the tunnel pieces are aligned (see picture). Follow the line you drew earlier. While you're at it, you can stitch around one of the curved ends, but don't do both. Be careful not to stitch as far as where the tunnel pieces stick out on the other side.

You could hand-sew this part if you don't have a machine. I only use the machine for speed.

Step 9:

Right. This is the tricky part. You should now have something that looks like the picture.

Once you have sewn the other side up and turned the strap right-side out, you need the tunnels to stick up a little from the rest of the strap, which lies flat. So you need to make sure they have a little bit of slack in them when you sew them in place.

The easiest way to do this is to push each tunnel piece in a little, so that it curves up a little from the lower main strap piece, then tack it in place. Once you've done that for both of them, squish them flat (this may involve making a tiny pleat in each piece), flatten the upper main strap piece over the top so it aligns with the lower one, and tack that in place.

You should end up with two main strap pieces whose long edges are perfectly aligned, and a slight lump in the middle of the fabric sandwich where the tunnel pieces are not quite flat.

I hope that was all comprehensible. Look at the next picture before you tack it down if it wasn't.

Step 10: Sewing Up

Using the sewing machine (or not, if you're not) stitch along the long side that you've just tacked, as you did before. Don't sew up the final rounded end.

Remove all tacking threads and turn the strap right-side out. The blunt end of a pencil or pen will come in handy for pushing the fabric into place.

You might find that the tunnels have come out wrong-side out - don't worry, you can turn them "inside out", after which they will be right-side out on the other side of the strap. (This is easier to do than describe.) Turn the raw edges inside, pin the last rounded curve in place, and slip-stitch it closed. Press the strap.

At this point, you should try the strap on with your watch to check that it's worked. As in the picture, you should have a strap with ends that overlap slightly, and tunnels that stick up slightly from the main strap. It won't hold your watch in place very well yet, but that doesn't matter.

Step 11: Fixing the Tunnels

Lay the strap cover down with your watch still in it. Centre the strap in the cover and adjust the watch's position until it is sitting as you want it when the cover is finished.

Carefully tack the tunnels down on either side of the watchstrap. Be careful not to sew it down too tightly - leave enough slack that the strap can still slide through the tunnel. If there is a buckle on the strap, you will need to leave a little more slack so that the buckle can pass through. A clasp such as you get on metal watch straps will probably not take up much more room than the strap itself, but it's worth testing.

Once all the tunnel sides are tacked, take the watch out of the cover. Machine-stitch from the very ends of the cover along the lines of your tacking, or just outside. Just keep going along the length of the cover and off the end. Do this as neatly as you can, since these stitches will be visible.

Step 12:

Try the cover on the watch, just to make sure it fits! Finish off all the hanging threads from the machine stitching.

Take the snap fastener and sew the two parts to the ends of the cover where they overlap, so you can fasten it to your wrist.

Put your watch on! You're finished.

If you've been paying attention, you'll see that it was 8.50 when I started and 10.55 when I finished. (And that includes taking photos and writing down the steps for this tutorial, so probably I can do it faster than this.)

If you like this tutorial and make a watchstrap, I would love to see it; please leave comments!