You've seen them at festivals, burns, faires, all kinds of events: a fabric-based utility belt with pockets and D-rings so you don't have to carry a bag, and can have everything you need in a comfortable belt around your waist. I've examined a lot of these, both made commercially and by friends, and believe mine to be one of the more solid designs I've seen. My belt won't sag, fray or come apart in the wash. With this tutorial, you can make your own, using fabrics and colors you like, and adapt as necessary to suit your needs. Please note suggested dimensions and materials quantities will make a belt up to ladies' XL or mens' Large. This belt adjusts both at front and back, featuring one flat zippered pocket and one cargo-type pocket.
Skills required: measuring, drawing, cutting, machine- and hand-sewing, setting grommets, inserting zippers
Thanks for taking a look! Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way. :)
Step 1: What You Will Need
Pen or pencil
Piece of chalk
Roll of wrapping or butcher paper
Denim machine needles
Iron and ironing board
Approx. 1 yd woven cotton fabric for outside and inside (shell)
Approx. 1/2 yd duck cloth/canvas for belt and pocket lining
Approx. 1/2 yd 100% cotton heavy denim for belt lining
One pkg narrow double-fold bias tape (1/4", 4 yds)
Approx. 1/2 yd sew-in hook-and-eye tape
One 7" polyester zipper
8, 1" metal D-rings
2 yds 1" wide polyester webbing
One plastic snap-together adjustable 1" buckle
8 sets 1/4" grommets, and tools
One 45" shoelace
Step 2: Wash and Pre-shrink Your Fabric
This is really important to prevent shrinkage AFTER your belt is completed. If you want to be able to wash your belt in the machine, I recommend using 100% cotton woven fabric for the shell. Quilting fabrics are perfect and come in a variety of colors and designs. You will also need to wash and pre-shrink the cotton denim that will form the base of your belt. In all honesty, it is possible to use the legs of old jeans, as long as the pieces are wide enough and the denim does NOT have any stretch. The duck cloth does not need to be washed or pre-shrunk.
For the belt illustrated in this tutorial, I used three fabric quarters rather than a large cut of cotton for the shell.
Iron your cotton shell fabric after washing and drying.
Step 3: Make Your Pattern- Belt Base
Butcher paper can be expensive if you use a lot of it, so I make my own patterns on the back of wrapping paper. Sometimes you can even find paper with a grid on the back, which is oh-so-helpful. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will give examples based on my own measurements and preferences.
First, measure your waist where you want the belt to sit, over clothes. Most people prefer to have the belt sit lower on their hips rather than higher at their natural waist. Divide this measurement by two, as the belt will have two pieces that join at front and back centers. Subtract 1.5-2" from the new measurement to allow for belt adjustment at the buckle in front. (Bear in mind this belt adjusts in two places: at the back with grommets and lacing, and at the front with a buckle.)
Now decide how wide you want the belt to be, aside from pockets. My preferred width is 4".
These two measurements will give you a basic rectangle. In my case, my base pattern will be a rectangle 4" wide and 20" long (view A).
Next, choose one short end and give it a slight angle; this will be the back of the belt where you will put the grommets and lacing (view B).
Round off all four sharp corners (view C).
Decide where your pockets will sit, and how far down they will extend. I prefer my pockets to sit on my hips, in the middle of each belt piece. Draw out the pocket extensions and round off the bottom corners (view D). This will be your belt base pattern. Cut it out of the paper using your paper scissors.
Note: do NOT add any seam allowance to this pattern piece.
Step 4: Make Your Pattern- Pockets and Flaps
This design includes a gusseted pocket on one side and a zippered pocket on the other; both are covered by flaps. I suggest putting the zippered pocket on your dominant side as it will be flatter than the gusseted pocket.
First, draw out your base pocket pattern based on the measurements in your belt base (view A). Add 1/2" seam allowance to both vertical and the bottom horizontal sides (view B). Cut out the pattern piece.
Draw out the pocket flap piece using the pocket piece as a base. It should be at least 3" long and as wide as the pocket piece including seam allowance (view C). Cut out the pattern piece.
Draw out the gusset piece. I recommend a width of 2.5"; to determine the length, add the width of the pocket piece plus two times the length of the pocket piece, plus 2" (view D). Cut out the pattern piece.
Step 5: Cut Your Fabric
From both the duck cloth and denim cut two pieces of the belt base, one for each side.
Cut four pieces of the belt base out of the cotton shell fabric, two for each side, outer and inner layers.
Cut two pieces of the pocket flaps from both duck cloth and cotton shell fabric.
Cut two pocket pieces from both duck cloth and cotton shell fabric.
Cut one pocket gusset piece from both duck cloth and cotton shell fabric.
Step 6: Start Sewing!
Sew the outer cotton shell pieces for the belt base to the corresponding denim pieces (view A). Stitch as close to the edges as possible.
Sew the inner cotton shell pieces for the belt base to the corresponding duck cloth pieces (view B). Stitch as close to the edges as possible.
Sew the inner and outer belt base pieces together (view C). Stitch as close to the edges as possible. Note: you are now sewing four layers of fabric together. I recommend use of a denim needle from this point forwards.
Sew the cotton gusset piece to the duck cloth gusset piece (view D). Stitch as close to the edges as possible.
Step 7: Apply Bias Tape to Belt Bases
Take your belt base pieces and trim up the edges, cutting as close to stitching as possible without cutting through it (view A).
Open up a package of bias tape. You'll notice that one fold of fabric extends out slightly further than the other. Place the longer fold on the bottom of the belt piece edge and pin carefully into place around the entire belt piece (view B). Using a straight stitch, sew bias tape to belt piece. Sew down bias tape a second time using a fairly tight zigzag stitch (view C). Flip belt piece over and make sure all raw edges on both sides have been encased with bias tape. Zigzag again if necessary.
Repeat with second belt base piece.
Step 8: Apply Webbing, D-rings and Buckle
Cut your length of webbing in half. Fold over tails of webbing and pin to belt bases as illustrated (view A). You want the webbing to rest no more than one inch from the top of the belt, and you need to leave room for grommets at the back of the belt.
Slide your D-rings into position on the webbing. Keep in mind the position of your pockets. In my case, the pockets are in the middle of the belt pieces, so I will put two D-rings in the front of each belt piece, and two in the back (view B).
Stitch down webbing as illustrated (view C). Reinforce stitching as much as you feel necessary. Basically, I triple-stitch the vertical lines next to each D-ring, and stitch down the rest of the webbing in a box pattern.
Attach buckle to webbing and front center of belt per package instructions. My buckle only adjusts on one side (view D).
Step 9: Sew Up Pocket Flaps
Unlike all the other pieces we've dealt with thus far, the pocket flaps are constructed to be turned inside out, with 1/2" seam allowance. Sew cotton shell fabric to duck cloth, stitching around three sides (view A). Turn the pocket flap inside out and top stitch along three sides (view B). Repeat for second pocket flap.
Step 10: Add Zippered Pocket
Take one of your pocket flaps and sew a piece of hook-and-eye tape to the bottom edge on the backside of the flap (view A).
Next, sew that pocket flap to the belt, at the top of the pocket area (view B). Zigzag the raw edge that meets the webbing.
Choose a pocket piece (cotton shell and duck cloth) and round off the corners at the bottom, as well as trimming 1/2" off the vertical sides (view C).
Sew a piece of bias tape around three sides of the pocket piece, and pin it to the belt base, matching bias tape at the bottom (view D).
Pull the pocket flap down and line it up with the pocket to determine where to place the matching piece of hook-and-eye tape, and how much you'll need to fold down in order to position the zipper (view E).
Unpin the pocket from the belt base and sew on hook-and-eye tape (view F).
If your zipper is longer than the width of your pocket, determine the correct length, whip stitch at the end with a hand needle (over the zipper teeth), and then trim down the zipper (view G).
Stitch the bottom half of the zipper to the top of the pocket (view H). Now is probably a good time to trade your presser foot out for a zipper foot if you have one.
Pin the pocket piece to the belt base and stitch to belt base along bias tape, first with a straight stitch, then with a zigzag stitch. Stitch top of zipper to belt base, taking care not to catch the pocket flap (view I).
Step 11: Add Pocket With Gusset
Take your remaining pocket flap and sew a piece of hook-and-eye tape to the bottom edge on the backside of the flap (view A).
Next, sew that pocket flap to the other piece of the belt, at the top of the pocket area (view B). Reinforce your straight stitch with zigzag on top.
Apply bias tape to one long edge of the gusset piece (view C). Pin your gusset piece to the remaining pocket piece (cotton shell and duck cloth) as shown (view D). Stitch the pieces together, using 1/2" seam allowance. If the gusset piece extends past the pocket piece, trim it before turning the top edge down 1/2" and sewing across the top (view E).
Cut a matching piece of hook-and-eye tape and sew it to the top of the pocket piece (view F).
Pin pocket to belt base, sew down on bias tape, first with a straight stitch, then zigzag for reinforcement (view G).
Step 12: Insert Grommets and Lace Belt
Mark four holes with chalk on the back end of each belt piece, evenly spaced (view A). Using fabric scissors, cut a teeny hole at each chalk mark, through all four layers of fabric, just big enough to push a grommet into (view B).
Get out your super glue, and one at a time, apply super glue around each hole on the top layer of fabric, then immediately push the top piece of the grommet into the hole (view C).
Take your belt pieces, super glue, grommet backs, grommet tools and hammer and find a reasonably clean area of concrete. To set the grommet, flip the belt piece onto its back, apply super glue around a grommet, slide the grommet back on top (view D). Place the anvil (little black disc) on the concrete, position the belt so that the grommet is centered on the anvil, place the grommet punch on top of that (view E). Now, take the hammer and give the punch a few good wallops on top. This should set your grommet; repeat until all eight grommets are firmly set.
Last, use the shoelace to lace up the back pieces of the belt (view F).
Step 13: Variations and Embellishments
Here are a couple of more pics of the same style belt, but in different fabrics and with novel embellishments. Let your imagination run wild!
DuganMoore made it!