Introduction: Running Belt With Pockets

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This is how to make a fastener-free, 3″ (7.5cm) wide belt that will hold a few essentials safely while you are running or undertaking any other type of exercise involving pocketless clothing. It’s suitable for men or women and can be worn around the waist or hips, as you wish. You just pull it over your head to put it on. The stretchy fabric means the belt lies snugly against the body and the contents don’t bounce around. It’s very comfortable to wear.

The whole belt is two big pockets (or it can be divided up further, if you prefer) with several openings, both front and back. It’s easy to customise the number, location and size of both pockets and openings. Flaps inside the belt help to keep the contents secure yet easily accessible and there’s also a piece of tape or elastic inside (with an optional clip) to which keys or anything else vital can be attached. It’s unlikely that anything could fall out as long as you tuck items under the flaps, but the risk can be reduced to zero by wearing the belt with the openings on the inside.

NB The belt isn’t waterproof. If it’s raining then you’ll probably be wearing a jacket (with pockets) anyway, but anything that could be damaged by close proximity to a sweaty body ought to be put into a plastic bag before it goes into the belt.

Materials and tools

  • ¼ yd (23cm) of Lycra/Spandex swimsuit fabric (see below)
  • Fine polyester thread
  • An overlocker/serger or an ordinary sewing machine (ideally with a walking foot) that is capable of sewing high stretch fabrics
  • A new, fine, ballpoint machine needle
  • A small dog lead-type clip (optional)
  • A short length (at least 6-8″ / 20cm) of narrow nylon or polyester tape or ribbon, or elastic
  • A few paperclips
  • Dressmaking scissors, pins, etc.

You’ll need a Lycra/Spandex jersey (ie knitted) fabric that will stretch in both directions, and by at least 25% in one of them. If the fabric is stretchier in one direction than the other, it’s usually across the width, which is good because the stretchier direction needs to be parallel with the long edges for this project.

If you like this belt, please vote for it in the Patterns contest.

Step 1: Making a Paper Pattern

Belt width

The belt can be as wide as you like, but 3″ (7.5cm) is a good width for most adults. You'll be making a rectangular paper pattern that is double the finished width, plus 2" (5cm) for seam allowances, so 8" (20cm) wide for a 3" belt.

Belt length

Fold the fabric with the long edges together. Try it around your body over your normal sports clothing and see if you can come to any conclusions as to approximately where you will wear the belt and therefore how long it needs to be. It should be slightly stretched to fit quite snugly around your waist, hips or somewhere between, or it will tend to slip in use. But if you are female and possessed of an hourglass figure, a belt that sits on your waist may be too small to get on and off without a struggle.

It’s easy to make holes and runs in jersey fabric with pins, so avoid pinning it if you can. You could perhaps use bulldog clips to hold the ends together instead, for trying-on purposes, or just hold them. If you must use pins, keep them in the seam allowances, ie near the edges of the fabric.

If in any doubt as to wear you will wear the belt, work on the basis that it needs to be about the same length as your hip measurement. You can always shorten it later if need be.

Drawing the pattern

Draw a rectangle of the required width (8" / 20cm or thereabouts) and length, allowing an extra inch (2.5cm) in the length for a ½" seam allowance at each end.

Draw in the centre line and put a notch in each long edge at that point. This is to indicate the centre front. (The join will be at the centre back, but actually you can wear the belt any way round you like.)

Label the pattern "running belt" and write on it that it includes 1" (2.5cm) seam allowances along the long edges, to make life easier if you ever make another belt.

Step 2: Cutting Out

Lay the fabric on the table as a single layer and place the paper pattern on it. The short ends of the pattern should be parallel with the selvedges. Avoid using pins if you can, use paperclips and/or small weights instead (paperback books are good) to hold the pattern in place.

Cut out the fabric, moving the paperclips as you go. Don't forget to cut out the notches or snip at that point.

Step 3: Pocket Openings

Decide where you want the pocket openings and how large they should be. Two openings at the front and one or two at the back seems about right, spaced either side of the centre front and centre back but not too close to the sides. Don’t position the rear ones near to the ends either because you need to leave room for the seam (and any length adjustments). As for size, think about what you want to put into the belt. My phone is 2.5″ wide and the fabric is very stretchy, so I made my largest opening just over 2″ (5cm) long. That’s also a suitable size to take a credit card or a pair of sunglasses. The other openings in my belt are smaller to accommodate keys, tissues, an MP3 player, a few coins, etc. You don’t need to worry about how to divide the belt up into separate pockets at this stage.

Fold the fabric lengthwise (long edges together) with the right sides inwards. Use paperclips instead of pins to hold the edges together. Mark where the stitching needs to stop and start to create the openings you want, using a ballpoint pen in the seam allowances. Try out the stretch stitch you plan to use on a scrap of fabric and check that the fabric still stretches by the same amount afterwards. Then sew the long seam taking a 1″ (2.5cm) seam allowance (which forms the flaps), stopping and starting to create the pocket openings. If you have a walking foot, using it will help to stop the two layers moving in relation to each other. Once you’ve checked that your phone and other important items will fit through the relevant openings, finish off all the thread ends securely. There’s no need to oversew or otherwise neaten the raw edges, swimsuit fabric doesn’t fray.

Press the seam allowances open with a cool iron, then trim one of them to half an inch (13mm). If your fabric has a directional design on it, this is the seam allowance that will be pointing upwards on the finished belt. Now turn the belt right side out, taking care to keep the seam allowances open, and reinforce each end of every opening by stitching with a short zigzag stitch. It won’t be easy to do this without catching in the opposite side of the belt, but it is possible with care. Finish off these thread ends. It’s not necessary to topstitch around the edges of each opening to hold the seam allowances in place, but you can if you want.

Step 4: Joining the Belt

Try the belt on again, holding the ends together, and make your final decision as to how much of a seam allowance to take when sewing the centre back seam. While you remember, adjust the length of the paper pattern if necessary by shortening each end equally, but leaving a ½” seam allowance included. Your pattern will then be an accurate representation of the belt you have made, for future reference.

At this stage, the belt is a tube with open ends and several openings in the long seam. Slide the tube onto your arm (right side out), grip one end in your hand while pulling the other end back over your arm to turn the tube back on itself, as if you were turning it inside out, but stop half way with the raw edges together. Take it off your arm and line up the two ends with no twisting of the long seam and the seam allowances open and lying flat. Then sew the centre back seam, all the way around the circumference of the tube. Don't forget to take a larger-than-normal seam allowance if you've decided the belt needs shortening.

Trim the seam allowance to about ½” and press the seam open. Turn the belt to the right side through one of the pocket openings.

Step 5: The Side Seams and Finishing

Position the long seam so that it’s ½” below the top edge of the belt – in other words, so that the fold line runs along the edge of the seam allowance that was trimmed. At this point you could stop, but it’s advisable to divide the belt into two pockets by stitching through both layers at the sides. This helps to keep the seam allowances/flaps in the right position and also provides an opportunity to attach a tape loop, or a dog lead clip on a piece of tape or elastic, to secure small items such as keys inside the belt. I didn’t think I'd need this very often and I didn’t want a hard clip against my body, so I opted for a simple loop made from about 6″ of ribbon sewn into a side seam at each end. I can slip a lanyard through this loop if needed, or clip a keyring to it.

Work out where the sides are by positioning the centre back seam in the middle. Poke around inside each opening to make sure the seam allowances are lying flat, then sew one side seam. Before you do the second one, slip one end (or both) of your piece of tape, ribbon or elastic through an opening so that it will be caught in the seam when you stitch it. If you’re just attaching it by one end, you can decide how long this tape or elastic needs to be when you attach the dog lead clip to the free end later.

You may want to stitch additional vertical seams around the belt to divide it up into more pockets, but check that you are leaving at least one opening for every one!

Also take care not to catch the tape or elastic in any subsequent stitching.

If you are going to use a dog lead clip to secure valuables, try the belt on before deciding whether to shorten the tape that's going to hold it. For example, if you are planning to clip your house key to your belt, you'll want to be able to reach the keyhole when you get back from a run without having to undo the clip. Attach the clip either by sewing or just knotting it onto the tape.

Step 6: Wearing the Belt

To use the belt, put it on with the opening slots on the outside and at the top of the belt. When you put things into it, push them along the pocket, away from the opening, and tuck the larger and heavier things (like a phone) under the edge of the downwards-pointing seam allowance/flap so that they are held there and can’t fall out. Any excess length in the earphone cable from your MP3 player or phone can be tucked inside the pocket to stop it flapping about when you run.

If you want to be absolutely sure that nothing will fall out, then put the belt on the other way up, with the opening slots at the bottom. Once you’ve put everything into it, roll it over so that the openings are now at the top and on the inside, against your body.

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