How to Make Tote Bag Straps

June 6, 2017

There are a few different ways to make tote bag straps but this is my favorite and it’s sturdy! You can use the same fabric as the tote but remember if you are making something out of less than sturdy fabric don’t expect it to last a really long time. This construction method is good for quilters cotton weight fabric through to a thin canvas. Heavier weight canvas might give your sewing machine a headache, it depends on the strength of your machine and if you have the guts. I admit, I go super slow on thick fabrics and sometimes wince when I think there is a chance the needle will break, it happens to the best of us!

Let’s get it started…

To start making tote bag straps, you need a straight edge on your fabric. No idea how to do that? See here for the how-to. When you have your fabric edge straightened, determine the length and width you want your strap. We need to cut a piece that is four times wider than the final width. The length is your final length needed plus your seam allowance time two plus a half  inch (this becomes a quarter inch to turn under to make the ends nice and neat). If you want the strap to be very secure, use a longer seam allowance so that you don’t sew too near the edge and have a strap that is literally hanging on by a thread.

Keep an eye on your fabric design if you want a special part of the design repeat to show. In the following images I am using a fabric that has a larger design repeat than the width of the strap’s final width. So I cut it the best I could and when I added the strap to my bag I chose the side that looked better. You’ll see…

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Warning: Math and Measuring Ahead

My fabric was only a half yard so I needed to piece together the cut size. I am making a strap to convert a short single handled purse into a cross body. (Post can be found here.)

I needed a one inch strap with a width that would go over my shoulder and then a few inches for some flexibility in the final length. So I wanted to cut this: 4 inches x 46 inches as my final size. BUT… I had to use two pieces since I had that I matched up so that my strap would be the same pattern the entire length and I used a 1/4 inch seam length to reduce bulk when I sewed the two pieces together. My goal was to make the seamed fabric a final size: 4 inches x 46 inches. 

Light blue fabric with white ginko leaves

Great Seams make Great Tote Bag Straps!

See it? It’s a little blurry but it’s really there. 1/4 inch seam

Great seams make great projects!

I like to use a thin fusible web (one side has heat activated adhesive) to create:

1) strength, especially because of my pieced together fabric

2) the feel of a more expensive bag, not flimsy

3) a crisp strap, not floppy

4) an easy to sew strap

Important TIP!

Read instructions on the fusible well, you do not want to get the adhesive on your iron. It is no fun (I can attest to this). Plus make sure your fabric will withstand the heat required to adhere the fusible.

Check your fusing, or you and your iron will be sorry

After fusing the fusible, fold under 1/4 inch on both ends and press with the iron on the appropriate setting for your fabric. This creates a nice end which will come in handy for the end purpose of this strap. If the straps are to be sewn into the top edge of a bag you do not need to make the ends look nice, they will just be hidden between the outside fabric and inner lining of the tote bag.

Fabric end folded.

Now fold the strap in half length wise to find the center. Press with your iron along the entire length of the strap.

Strap ready to be sewn.

Now open your strap so that it’s flat and fold each side down to meet at that newly pressed center line. When ironing, I like to bring the side edges of the 1/4 inch fold over down slightly. This is helpful when folding over so that the rough edges do not appear at the end of the strap.

Folding down the strap end

This is what it looks like when you don’t fold and press a little past 1/4 inch. Yuck.

Yucky ending on the strap

Ahhhhh….  Much better.

Strap end lined up

Stitch all the way around the perimeter of the strap. I like to line mine up to the inside of my clear presser foot. It’s less than 1/4 inch, probably a decent 1/8 inch. Stay close to the edge but keep it even and make sure it is catching both halves of the strap.

Close up of sewing the strap sides together

Finished product! Stay tuned for the final use for this particular strap.

Final Purse Strap

Keep sewing! Are tote bag straps in your near sewing future?

Update! Here is where the strap ends up… if you were wondering…

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