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How to Make Adjustable Straps

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Want to know the long and the short of this classic technique?! Making an adjustable strap can seem like a magic rope trick with all the weaving and threading this way and that. But, it’s really quite easy and makes the strap so much more useful. Lengthen to wear cross body, shorten for a shoulder strap or to hand carry. The technique also works great for instrument straps. We show you the all the steps, using handy Dritz hardware.

In the steps below, our strap ends are stitched in place. Another option, which can also add a unique look as well as a very secure seal, would be to rivet the ends in place.

Don’t assume webbing is your only choice for straps. We’ve used interfaced fabric of all types – from cottons to canvas, twill tape, even ribbon.


Yoga Mat Strap Wrap


Fold Over Backpack

Gather your materials. Our hardware is all from Dritz®. You need a slider (sometimes called a slide adjuster, adjustable slide buckle or a tri-glide) – we selected a Dritz® Slide Buckle with an adjustable center bar, but that isn’t mandatory. You can also use a slider with a solid center bar. Using one rather than another is mostly a matter of personal preference, but in talking with our friends at Dritz, they told us the main difference is the fact that it's easier to insert the strap if you have flexibility to move the center bar out of the way. When that center bar is fixed, it can be more difficult to weave the strap through, and may be nearly impossible if the strap material is quite thick.

You’ll also need to determine the rings or clips for either end of the strap. We used two Dritz Rectangle Rings, showing how these can then attach to Dritz Swivel Hooks that could be sewn into your project. You could also use just swivel hooks with an appropriately sized base loop. It mostly depends on whether you want your strap to be permanently built into your project or to be removable.

For our demonstration here, we are concentrating on the strap itself so are showing it as a removable unit. However, many of our projects that feature adjustable straps have the loops already sewn to the project with tabs, as seen on our Slim Mustang Messenger Bag and our Messenger Style Brief Bag.


Messenger Style Brief Bag


Finally, you need the strap material itself. As described above, this can be webbing, fabric, ribbon, or whatever you’d like to create. For this tutorial, we used cotton webbing with a fabric accent strip on the front. This allows you to more easily tell the right side from the wrong side as the webbing weaves through the hardware.


Big and Beautiful Diaper Bag

We cut our webbing to a rather short length in order to be able to capture the entire strap in the frame of the photos. In general, for a strap that you want to go from cross body to shoulder strap length, 54” - 60” is a good starting measurement for an average adult.


Compact Messenger Bag with Inset Zipper

1” is the most common width for the hardware, although ½” and ¾” options are available as are 1¼” to 1½” on the larger end of the spectrum. Make sure you have all the needed hardware in the same size. In addition, make sure this size will allow the strap itself to snugly yet still easily pass through the hardware. We used 1”.

  1. If following our accent-fabric-over-webbing sample, cut a fabric strip to match your webbing and allow for a ⅛” reveal to either side of the accent. For our 1” webbing, we cut a 1¼” strip then folded back both long sides ¼” – the ends can remain raw. Center the strip on your webbing and pin in place.

  2. Stitch in place along each long folded edge and across each end. If desired, you can add a line of seam sealant, such as Dritz Fray Check along the cut ends of the webbing.

  3. The first step is to thread one raw end of the strap through the center bar of the slider.
  4. Flip over the strap so it is wrong side up, and feed the end through the slider.

  5. Loop the end around the center bar then pull the end all the way through. As you can see in the photo below, the end of the strap is now right side up against the back of the strap. Pull this end through about 1” and pin in place.

  6. Stitch the end in place through both layers. We recommend stitching across twice or even three times for a strong seam, however, this seam will be visible from the back of the strap when finished, so keep your stitching neat with one line of stitching directly on top of the next.

  7. With the strap once again wrong side up, find the opposite raw end and collect one of the rings. Remember, this may be a ring or a swivel hook, and in either case, may already be attached with a tab to your project.

  8. Feed the raw end through the ring.

  9. Then, thread that raw end back through the slider.

  10. Go up and over the center bar, passing over the end you sewed in place.

  11. This is what creates the adjustability of the strap. You can see in the photo below that you’ve created a circle with your strap.
  12. Continue pulling the raw end through the slider.

  13. You want enough length to easily work with.

  14. Find the remaining ring. Remember, this “ring” may be a swivel hook and/or may already be attached to your project. Feed the free raw end through the ring. Pin in place.

  15. As you did above with the slider, you should pull this end through about 1” so it sits wrong sides together against the back of the strap.
  16. Stitch the raw end in place. As above, we recommend several lines of stitching, but be neat… you’ll see this seam from both the front and back of the strap.

    NOTE: Because the back of this end is particularly visible, if you are using a thinner material than webbing, you may want to consider folding under the end for a smoother finish. You could also use a tight zig zag across the end with or without a line of seam sealant.
  17. Clip the swivel hooks in place if creating a removable strap as we did. If your strap is permanently secured to the project, your work is done with the final seam securing the second ring.

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