One of the most popular travel accessories at the moment is the travel belt. It’s a strap to secure a tote or backpack on top of a rolling suitcase. You may have seen ads popping up all across social media. We certainly spotted them, and we decided they were deserving of a “S4H Spin.”
The majority of belts we saw for sale had a pull-to-tighten closure, which meant there was always one loose end that could flap about, snag on something, or – worse yet, begin to slowly loosen since it’s only the friction of the pull holding the belt tight.
Our design is a fully adjustable loop that, once cinched to fit using a traditional slide buckle, stays put – locked at the front of the tote with a side-release metal buckle.There’s no loose end to worry about or Finish with a Hem, overcast or end cap. Easier and more secure. That sounds like a travel win-win.
We have new Janome machines in the S4H studios, which is always a happy experience. This time around, we received some entry-level models we’ll be able to showcase now and then. It gives us a chance to demonstrate how Janome power and precision isn’t something you’ll only find on their top-of-the-line models. You can be confident all the machines in the Janome line have the same attention to quality and reliability.
We chose the Janome Loft 100 for this project, because we felt it was a good example of how an entry level model can handle thick layers. Using just its standard presser foot and a Universal needle, we powered through all the steps with ease. The machine features 100 stitches (wow!), a built-in Needle threader, start/stop button, lock stitch, free arm, and more.
Our belt samples are both 1½” in width, which is an easy to find size for both webbing and hardware. Links are included below for our sources. The finished belts are fully adjustable from approximately 33“ to 40”. As described within the step-by-step instructions below, you can and should test the length on your own rolling case with the tote you wish to secure. You can then determine if you want your starting length to be shorter or longer.
We recommend using a polyester webbing for a number of reasons: it’s weather-resistant, the cut ends can be sealed with heat from a flame so there’s no need for any hemming, and the colors and patterns available in polyester webbing are much more varied than cotton.
The belt is quite simple to make and very easy to use. Roll it up and Stash it in your rolling case or tote. When you arrive at your destination, unfurl the belt. There’s a hidden elastic loop at the back. Slip the loop over the case’s extended handle. Set the tote on top of the case and wrap the belt around it, adjusting the fit as needed with the adjustable slide – it should be a snug cinch. Clip the buckle closed, and off you go. The tote stays put as you roll. No more worries about it toppling off or pulling over the case.
Even if you’ve never created an adjustable strap, you can do it by following our detailed steps and photos. Once mastered, it’s a technique you can use over and over again. As with any new endeavor, it never hurts to practice first. Webbing is fairly inexpensive; get enough so you can try out the steps. If you’re like us, sometimes you just have to go through something with your own two hands in order to wrap your brain around a process. Then, the lightbulb goes on and you’re an adjustable strap master!
Out thanks to Janome America for their support of this project and many of our other popular projects. If you’re shopping for an entry level machine for yourself or someone you’re teaching to sew, visit a local dealer for an in-person test stitch on the Janome Loft 100 or any number of the frustration-free Janome machines. To find out more, visit their website, and follow them on social media.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Jeans/Denim Needle; optional for working with the thick layers; we were able to use a standard Universal needle throughout our samples thanks to the power of our Janome studio machine: the Loft 100
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTES: Ingredients shown are for ONE travel belt. As mentioned above, we tested in-studio with our own rolling case and filled-to-the-brim totes. We also searched online to review the sizes offered at retail. This is how we determined our suggested width and length. We recommend you measure your own luggage to confirm what is best for you. Fill up the tote you wish to secure, set it on top of your own rolling case, and using a standard measuring tape, wrap around the tote and the bag’s handle. Cinch it up snuggly and check the length. If it is in the range of 33” – 40”, you should be safe following our same measurements. If not, you can cut your webbing’s starting length shorter or longer. The 1½” width was the easiest to find from webbing and hardware retailers in-store and online. We wouldn’t suggest going narrower as that could impact the wraparound stability, but you could certainly go up to 1¾” or 2”. In addition, measure the width of your rolling case’s handle. Ours was 6”, which is pretty standard; a substantially narrower or wider handle may require adjusting the length of the elastic.
- 1⅓ yards of 1½” – 2” wide polyester webbing; click for our sources for the black and white webbing and/or the orange and tan webbing
NOTE: As mentioned above, consider getting extra webbing to practice with if you are new to making an adjustable strap. In addition, we do strongly recommend polyester over cotton webbing. It will be weather-resistant, and it is easier to Finish the raw ends by melting rather than with a Hem.
- No-roll, heavy elastic to match the width of your webbing; we used 1½” Dritz Heavy Stretch Waistband Elastic
- Thread to best match your webbing and elastic; although an all-purpose Thread can certainly work, we recommend a heavier Thread for strength and coverage – we used Coats Dual Duty XP Heavy Thread
- ONE adjustable slide buckle to match the width of your webbing; we used a Dritz 1½” adjustable slide buckle in black
- ONE tactical belt buckle – metal with side quick-release; we used black, click for our source
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins or clips
- Lighter to seal the raw ends of the polyester webbing
- From the webbing, cut ONE 48” length.
- From the elastic, cut ONE 7½” length.
NOTE: As mentioned above, take the time to double-check the Sizing of your rolling case as well as the tote you wish to secure. Our recommended lengths should accommodate the majority of situations, but testing to confirm is never a bad idea.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Creating the adjustable loop
- As mentioned above, we are recommending polyester webbing not only for its water-resistant capabilities, but also because the cut ends can be finished and sealed by carefully melting with a lighter or match. With the thicker layers that occur when making an adjustable loop, you certainly don’t need to add any extra bulk with a Hem to Finish ends! Just pass the cut ends through a small flame a couple times; it doesn’t take much to melt and seal.
- Seal both ends of your length of webbing.
- Collect all your elements: webbing, tactical buckle, adjustable slide buckle. One note about the tactical buckles we shopped for and finally settled on: in nearly all cases there was writing on the front of the buckles. This is correct. The easiest way to tell front from back is to look at the rivets: they will be smooth on the front, open on the back.
- The first step is to Thread one end of the webbing through the center bar of the adjustable slide buckle. With the webbing Wrong side up, feed the end under the center bar of the slide.
- Wrap the end up and over the center bar, then pull the end all the way through. The end is now Right side up against the back of the webbing. In other words, the two layers are wrong sides together.
- Adjust the end so the pull-through is about 2” and pin in place.
- We are using the Janome Loft 100 with the standard presser foot and a new Universal needle. You could also choose to switch to a jeans/denim Needle. Thanks to the power of the Loft 100, we didn’t find it necessary, but do make sure you have a new Needle.
- The machine should be threaded with Thread to best match your webbing in the top and Bobbin. As mentioned above, we used a heavy Thread. Slide the webbing layers under the presser foot, adjusting the position so your Seam will fall about ⅛” in from the cut end.
- Stitch the end in place through all the layers. We recommend stitching across twice or even three times for a strong seam.
- Find the tactical buckle and take it apart into two pieces. You will work first with the male end as shown in the photo below. This end has a center bar similar to the adjustable slide buckle.
- Feed the opposite free end of the webbing through the bottom portion of the center bar.
- Then Thread it up and over the bar.
- As with the slider, this means the Right side of the webbing is facing up.
- Keep pulling on that raw end so you have a good chunk to work with.
- Thread the raw end back through the slider. Go up and over the center bar, passing over the end you sewed in place around the adjustable slide buckle. The layers are one on top of the OTHER – wrong sides together.
- This layering is what creates the adjustability of the strap. Take a look along the length of the webbing and make sure there are no twists. If there are, straighten and re-Thread through the adjustable slide buckle again.
- You still have the one raw/free end. Find the female side of the tactical buckle. It has just a single slot opening. Feed the raw end through that opening.
- As you did above with the adjustable slider, pull the raw end through so it is Right side up against the back of the strap – the two layers wrong sides together. Pull through about 3”. This more generous pull-through is needed in order to have enough space for the finishing X Box. Pin in place.
- Stitch a 2” X Box through both layers to secure them together and around the female side of the tactical buckle. Start the top of the box as close as possible to the buckle.
- Create the full X Box.
- End, once again, as close as possible to the buckle. If you are brand new to this technique, check out our full tutorial: How to Sew and X Box to Secure Straps, Reinforce Stress Points + More.
Measuring for elastic placement
- For the surest fit and the best centering of the buckle, we recommend measuring with the actual tote you hope to secure. Find this tote and fill it up – even if you’re just filling it up with some bath towels for now. You want to simulate the girth of the tote when traveling.
- Wrap the finished adjustable strap around the tote, fitting it across the back of the tote and adjusting the slider as need be.
- Continue to adjust and cinch the belt until is it nice and snug with the buckle centered on the tote’s front panel.
- With this done, turn the tote around and mark the exact center point on the belt where it sits at the center of the tote’s back panel.
- Find your length of elastic. Fold it in half to find its center point and mark this point with a pin.
- Take the belt off the tote and place it Wrong side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the elastic on top of the belt, aligning the two center pin points.
- Pin the elastic to the webbing.
NOTE: As mentioned above, the 7½” length of elastic we specified above is based on the 6” width of our rolling case handle. This is a pretty common width, but if the handle on your case is a lot narrower or wider, you may want to adjust the length of the elastic. The length we chose allowed just a bit of give, allowing the belt to easily slip over the handle into position. It needn’t be a super tight fit.
Stitching the elastic band in place
- Baste each end of the elastic in place.
- Re-Thread the machine, keeping Thread to best match the webbing in the top but switching out the Thread in the Bobbin to best match the elastic.
- Flip the belt so it is Right side up and re-set the machine for a dense Satin stitch. We set our Stitch width at 7mm and our length at .8mm. As always, never assume – test first on scraps to make sure your machine settings will give you the look you want.
- Slowly stitch across, through the webbing and elastic, across one end of the elastic (remember, you can follow your original basting line to confirm where those ends are) …
- … and then across the opposite end.
- You’re ready to travel in style!
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild