Intro: Easy to Make, Easy to Swap, Adjustable Camera Straps
Most SLR/DSLR cameras (and even some high end point-and-shoot models) are made to be used with a neck strap. It's an easy way to carry a camera, but the strap that is included when you buy your camera may not be the most comfortable, and it certainly won't be the most stylish.
I found that making your own camera straps is easy and cheap! And you're able to change straps in a matter of seconds - make a strap for every mood or situation. Follow along to find out just how easy it is!
If you have any questions, comments, or praise, I'd love to hear it!
Step 1: Materials You Need
Depending on what you have in your crafting scraps, this project could end up costing less than $5, or even be free! Any measurements I give are approximate - I did the whole project by eyeballing everything, but I know some people appreciate numbers.
What you Need
> Fabric that you want to be the strap, 28" by 4". (I recommend nothing stretchy or shiny)
> Black unbacked vinyl, enough to make 4 2.25"x2.25" squares per strap.
> Heavy upholstery fabric, 28" by 2" per strap. Pattern doesn't matter, as it won't be visible.
> Scrap fleece, 9" by 4". This also won't be visible.
> Needle and thread, in matching or contrasting colors.
> Seam ripper
> Fusible webbing (optional)
> Iron and ironing board
> Sewing machine
> Small breed dog collars. One, plus one for every strap you want to make.
Important notes about the collars!!
Do not use the buckles from cat collars! They are made with "break-away" buckles, that will pull apart under enough tug. You don't want to take the chance that your camera will fall.
You can find small dog collars at any large store like Walmart or Target, for about $2.50 each. Make sure you do a thorough inspection of the ones you buy, especially of the snaps. I found that even when buying collars of the same brand, sometimes the two sides of the snaps don't fit tightly with those of other collars. Make sure the ones you buy all fit tightly with each other! Also make sure the webbing is the same width, and close to the same weight as your existing camera strap. You may get some odd looks if you test them while standing in the store, but it's better than getting them home and ending up with a bunch of hardware you can't use.
If you have an especially heavy camera, you may want to buy two toy breed dog leashes with the snaps on the ends, instead of the plastic clips. Using these with sets of metal D-rings will be much more secure, but will also be much heavier and more bulky than the plastic clips. My camera is just over 21 oz. and I never had a problem with the buckles slipping apart, even while pulling on them or bouncing my camera. But if you're worried about your camera falling, go with the heavier option!!
Step 2: Making the Connectors
The first thing to do is to make the short, adjustable straps that attach to the body of your camera. Take two collars and carefully pick out the stitches that are holding the buckle on. (I've seen some that are just heat-pressed together. If you have those, just cut off the buckle on each end, and trim off the melted bits of webbing.) You should end up with two long strips of webbing, two buckles, two sliding adjusters, two metal D-rings, and two plastic thingies. Set aside the metal D-rings for a different project, save the rest.
Use a lighter to melt the ends of the webbing, to make sure it doesn't unravel. Take one of the buckles and unsnap it. Take the male end - the one with the three prongs - and thread it onto a piece of the webbing. Take careful note of the buckle - it will have a slight curve. Adjust the webbing so there is a very short tail on the underside of the curve, and the long end extending over the top. Using matching thread, stitch the webbing together. Make sure this is very tight - I recommend going over it a lot. After you finishing sewing, you can also run a lighter over it, to slightly fuse it together for added strength. Follow the same process using the second piece of webbing and the female connector.
Trim the webbing on the other side of the connectors. Because one side of my camera is higher than the other, I made them 6" and 6.5", respectively. The longer you leave the webbing, the more adjustability you will have.
Step 3: Attaching the Connectors to the Camera
Take one of the sliding adjusters and slide it onto one of the straps. Note that it also has a slightly bowed shape - slide it onto the strap in the same orientation as the connector - so the arched side is pointing up (away from the side with the folded-over tab.) Slide one of the plastic thingies on after it.
Now, thread the webbing into one of the slots on the camera. Again, make sure it's pointing in the right direction - curving towards the center of the camera, with the folded over tab on the inside.) Thread the webbing back up through the plastic thingy, then through the sliding adjuster. Tighten things up, and you have two connectors for your straps. Snap on, snap off!
Step 4: Starting the Strap
Start with the piece of upholstery fabric. This provides the support for your strap, so you want the thickest, stiffest fabric you can find. The remnants table at your local fabric shop is a great place to look for this! Lay it flat, and cut out a strip the width you want your strap you want to be, and slightly shorter (the clips at the end will add the final length). The actual measurements are a personal preference; I measured against the strap my camera came with, and decided on a piece about 2 feet long, and an inch and a half wide. Make sure you keep your cuts as straight as possible.
Take your scraps of fleece and cut two pieces the same width as your upholstery strip, one about 9". the other about 6.5", Again, just eyeball things. :) These will provide a bit of padding at the back of your neck.
If you have fusible webbing, now is the time to use it. Fuse the larger strip of fleece in the exact center of your strip, and the other piece centered on top of it. If you don't have webbing, I recommend using a couple of hand-stitches to make sure it doesn't slide out of place.
Step 5: Adding the Outer Fabric
Lay your outer fabric (what you want your strap to look like) wrong side up. Iron it to make sure there are no wrinkles. I did this whole step on an ironing board, since you need to iron a lot, to make sure everything stays perfectly flat.
Lay the inner core on your fabric, making sure it's straight along the grain. If your fabric has a pattern, consider what is right beneath this strap; this is what is going to show on the outside of the strap. Fold over one side of the outer fabric to about the middle of the strip and iron it to keep the fold in place. Fold the inner core over, so it's now encased in fabric, and cut out the piece, leaving about a quarter inch extra on the width, and no extra length. Once it's cut out, fold over the raw edge about a quarter inch and iron it.
Now, starting in the center of the strap, take the edge with the short fold and bring it over to the other side, making sure the fabric is tight around the core and the edges are exactly even. You can tug at the inner fabric to make sure of this. You don't want any wrinkles in something that will be laying against your neck. Pin from the center to one end, then from the center to the other. Don't worry if the ends aren't quite even, as they're going to be covered.
Once the strap is pinned together, run the iron over it one final time. Now it's time to sew!
Step 6: Sewing Things Together
Pick thread that either matches or contrasts your fabric. If you can't sew straight lines, you might want to pick thread that blends in with your fabric. Otherwise, get as creative as you want!
Start on the edge you pinned, and sew from one side to the other. Sew as close as you can to the edge, making sure you catch both sides of the fabric. If you pinned things evenly in the previous step, this should be easy! Once you sew the first side, turn the strap around and sew down the other edge, again as close to the fold as you can. I also recommend sewing 2-3 lines down the middle of the strap, to help keep the fabric flat. Just make sure you keep everything running parallel!
Step 7: Adding the Ends
Take the other connector you still have from the first part of the project. Attach the ends to some webbing just like you did with the straps on the camera. The tails you leave on don't need to be more than two inches long, as they will just be attached to the neckstrap.
This is the part that requires the most planning in the whole project. It helps to have your camera in front of you, to line things up correctly. Curve the strap so the padded area is on the inside. If the strap you made has a pattern, make sure it is right-side up. Now, take the two connectors you made, and pin them to the ends of the strap. Make sure they are aligned so they can hook up to the camera once they're attached - matching male-to-female, and both curved the correct way. Once you have them pinned in place, sew them down, either by hand, or machine.
Step 8: Finishing
Cut four squares of the vinyl, approximately 2.25" by 2.25". Make sure they are slightly wider than the neck strap, and cover from the buckle to at least a half inch over the cloth. Depending on the look you want, you can leave more or less webbing showing.
Put one square on each side of the strap, making a sandwich. You can try pin them together, but I found they slipped around a lot, and it was easier just to line them up and hold them down with the sewing machine's foot. Again, you can use matching or contrasting thread. Sew in whatever pattern you like, as long as it is reinforced, and sew around all the edges. I like to have it taper to the end with the webbing and buckle, as this gives it a more professional look.
Once you're done sewing, carefully trim the edges of the vinyl, leaving a tiny bit extra beyond your sewing lines. Take a lighter and run in against the edges, pressing the warm vinyl together with your fingers. Depending on the type of vinyl, it may or may not melt together, but either way, this helps the edge look smoother.
Step 9: The End
And that's all there is to it - you now have a finished camera strap. Snap it to the buckles on your camera, and you're set to go. Now all you need to do is make some more choices. Longer straps for over your shoulder, perhaps? Straps with more padding for longer days? Fat ones, skinny ones, professional or crazy, your choices are now endless! You can even clip the two holders on your camera together for a convenient handle when you're using it around home - for shooting instructables, perhaps?
Now go enjoy your new look!