As for me it’s always been the hardest (and most boring) bit – to make a shoulder strap or handles for my denim bags. For sure anyone of us knows how and is able to sew some simple straps, but we all are looking for easier and better looking options.
I would like to share some of my experience of how to make some fun and simple straps for your handbag project. This photo tutorial contains easy instructions and clever tips too.
1. Use a belt!
Yeah, how simple and fast that is! Fasten the belt and cut giving enough length for the buckle to be not too far away from the bag and not too close to it either. Cut exactly like on the picture below to get it right!
Another great thing about this strap is that it is adjustable!
But do choose a belt that is rather soft, so that it is comfortable on your shoulder.
If the belt you have chosen for your handle is made of strands braided together, don’t hurry to cut it! The strands will fall apart and make it very hard work to incert into the bag! There is a simple trick – sew across the belt in two places (where you will cut after) to hold it together and then cut between the stitches!
Where to cut if the belt has no buckle but two rings instead?
It is also possible to make an adjustable belt with it, but it requires a bit more thinking.
On the picture take a note where the rings are and which direction the loose end is pointing.
Fasten the belt to its biggest size. Place the belt on your shoulder in such way so that the rings are not right on top of your shoulder (it will not be comfy to wear after).
Now your cutting point is at the very bottom, and the freedom of movement of the loose end – is your adjustment possibility.
When choosing a belt for your strap, make sure it is long enough. Of course if it’s a shoulder bag – any belt length will do, if it’s too long it can be cut shorter.
But if you are aiming for a cross-body bag, the strap must be long enough. It all depends, but for those slouchy that I make, the belt must be minimum of 100cm/40″ (for a smaller person).
2. Make it out of jeans leg
This is most common way. If you have enough denim, this is a great approach to match the strap to the bag exactly.
Cut two long pieces out of jeans leg. Keep parallel with the grain on the denim (texture lines). The length depends on your needs and denim availability. For the bag above I had 55-60cm for the length. For the width of the strap – keep in mind that you will have to turn it right side out after it’s sewn, so the wider it is – the easier it will be to turn out. I find it good enough 4-5 cm wide strap, to which you will add some seam allowance.
When sewing along the long side – sew only in the same direction. During experience of sewing you’d notice that the sewing machine always stretches the top layer of fabric. So sewing in the same direction on both sides of the handle will prevent the diagonal creases or lumps.
Now turn inside out using your fingers. Yeah, it takes a while 🙂
Another way to help to turn the handle right side out is to sew a string to one end before sewing up the whole thing. I have tried that too and I would say that both ways are a bit tricky with the heavier denim and both ways are good enough.
Now push the seams out and top stitch the long sides. I always stitch twice at each side, I like the way it looks on denim! Don’t forget, again, all the top-stitching should be done in the same direction! You can use a contrasting thread for a wow effect!
Top-stitching along the sides of the strap in the same direction is quite important especially with thin and stretchy fabrics. Look at the picture below – we don’t want our bag strap to look like this 🙂
3. Use the jeans waist band
Easy and great looking with all the washed effect, but not every waist band makes a good strap!
First of all – the waist shape! For the straight strap it has to be a straight waist. Those usually come in men’s jeans. Curved waists will make a curved handle and we don’t want that!
Second problem that might appear – is the inner labels and ebroidery. Some are ok, but when they are bold and weird colors, it will not look good.
Once you have a straight, clear and wide enough waist, let’s get on with it.
First, remove the loops from the top of the waist band, don’t bother with the other end of the loops, save your energy 🙂
Now remove the stitches which hold the waist to the rest of jeans. I have found out that there is magic happens sometimes. Pork the seam-ripper through few stitches and pull the inner thread. You will be amazed if it will work on your jeans! Just pull and all the thread comes off!
Check out this video lesson I have made for this magical way of removing the waist band:
Don’t be thinking that you are useless if this will not work – some jeans stitches are made different. So if it doesnt work, just do it the harder way – rip the thread up with the seam-ripper all the way.
Voila! All what’s left to do is to sew up the open side. It’s good to iron the strap before sewing.
4. Two handles
These handles look awesome! And they are very easy to make. You just need to be lucky with the jeans and a very strong sewing machine.
For the handles like this you will need one very very large size waist band or two smaller ones but very very matching in color and width.
Do everything as for the strap above (idea N3), but make two identical straps. Cut to the required length. Then measure and mark where you will have the unfold of the handle (this depends on how deep you are planning to insert the handles into the bag). Fold along in half and secure.
Sew along starting and finishing at the markings. Secure the thread by going back and forth a few times.
And this is it! Beautifull looking denim handles with naturally washed effect. Ready to insert into your beautifull handbag.
You have probably noticed within the bags shown on this page, that I always try to keep the best of jeans features and work around jeans’ natural character. This is what I also want to share with you!
5. Plain denim two handles
When you don’t have enough of the waist band to make two handles as described in #4, let’s make plain handles.
You will need four pieces of denim 5-6 x 55-60 cm.
Iron each strap folded in the middle.
Place one on top of another, hold in place by clips and stitch along at both sides. You can even go twice at each side leaving a 3-5 mm gap between the stitching lines, so that you will have 4 lines in total). If you use a contrasting and thick thread you can make it looking even better! But if you are a beginner and not so familiar with top-stitching, keep it safe and use a matching color thread.
Here we go – some durable plain denim handles for your tote bag are finished.
You can see that the ends are left raw. This is because the handles are inserted into a bag in such way that the ends are hidden between the layers of the bag’s body, usually at the top. If you need the handles to be sewn ON (not IN), you can try making it this way – iron the ends inwards before top-stitching. However, denim is quite tough fabric and having so many folds might make it impossible to sew through. So think about it while designing and planning the denim bag.
I will be happy to hear from you if you’ve tried any of the handles above or if you have more ideas to make easy straps and handles for denim bags. I hope I was helpful 🙂 Check out more lessons about using old jeans >>> here >>>
And take a tour through some project ideas of what you can >>> make >>>