Bag straps are the backbone of any fashion handbag. They are often the first element you think about when you begin to design. Ask yourself if you will carry the bag over your shoulder, across your chest, in the crook of your arm, or in your hand.
Do consider how sturdy and resilient the handles need to be, whether there will be one or two straps, if they will be made from the same fabric as the bag, whether they will be structured or soft, and if they will incorporate a chain or other hardware.
Your design decisions will influence how and where the straps attach to the bag. Strap styles vary greatly. They can be part of the bag body, as in a hobo style, or made separately out of self-fabric, leather, Lucite®, bangles, beaded strands, simple utilitarian nylon webbing, or basic chains in everything from ordinary metals to more ornate and precious ones. Strap lengths can vary widely, and they can be adjustable. They can attach side to side, as in an east-west formation, or you can have double straps with one attached to the front and one to the back. Be sure to consider comfort when deciding on a strap style. For example, a metal chain can be a beautiful choice, but it’s neither comfortable nor practical to use on a bag that will hang from your shoulder all day. Try to create options in how the strapping is configured to your bag design to further enhance its versatility. Design at least two strap choices for every handbag so that you have the option of carrying the bag in several ways, such as integrating the first strap into the overall design concept and make the second one, inconspicuous and perhaps detachable.

Cut two strips of thin leather in 2-inch and 1-inch widths to the desired length. Set aside the 1-inch strip, which will become the facing (the brown piece shown in the photo). Working on the wrong side of the 2-inch strip, lightly brush with leather rubber cement. Wait a few minutes, until the cement becomes tacky to the touch. Fold both long edges so they meet at the center. Press firmly. Place the strap on a hard surface (granite works best) and roll flat using a seam brayer. Next, add the facing to the strap. Spread the cement on the backs of the facing strip and strap. After it becomes cloudy and tacky, align the long edges and press the strips together. Roll the strapping flat with a seam brayer. Let the glue settle and dry, then topstitch the strap with parallel rows of stitching. To hide the thread ends, use a hand needle to draw the loose ends into the layers and trim. Use a leather hole punch to pierce holes for connecting bag hardware.


Fuse the narrower strip to the wider turned edged strip for a clean finish and topstitch

Using the correct needle size makes all the difference. When sewing heavy canvas-type fabrics use a size 16 or 18 needle. Use a denim needle when sewing denim and a wedge leather needle for leathers. To allow for the extra thickness of fabric, you should also lengthen your stitch length to between 3 and 4. You need a longer stitch to accommodate the thicker fabric; using a smaller-sized needle and a shorter stitch may cause your machine to jam or the needle to break.

When shopping for glue to attach the back facing to the strapping, check the label on the bottle or tube to make certain that the product you purchase works well on a variety of handbag materials including fabric, metal, and plastics.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Techniques

9 responses to “BAG STRAP MAKING

  1. Jacqueline

    Wonderful information and post – thank you so much! Good handles really ‘make’ a bag (and a shoddy version detracts completely) – a major reason that I have been reluctant to tackle anything beyond a simple clutch. I look forward to trying your technique for leather straps, then venturing to a more challenging tote style bag to “celebrate”!

  2. murni

    Thank you for this useful tutorial…

  3. Thx and I’m using your Info about straps with my crocheted bag I’m making. T will be a duo purpose bag. Project/travel/shopping. It’s zippered and I want one strap. I’m thinking of the length of shoulder to hip.
    Does that sound about the right length?

  4. Great post. Thank you! I wish I had known this a few years ago. I’ve thrown away perfectly good bags that the straps were worn out…

  5. Gene Donofrio

    As always, your tips on tools and technique are invaluable for that professional, not-home-made look! Thank you so much. I still refer to your BagMaking Craftsy class when doing up leather bags. Skiving opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me! Keep up the aawesome work, Don.

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