Belts are an essential part of any wardrobe, but they’re often a rather pricey detail for such a small accessory, don’t you think? Especially in the men’s department; even though belts sold at stores boast high prices and quality, sometimes they don’t even last a whole year! That’s why I wanted to try making one myself and seeing how much of the price I could cut down. I was pleasantly surprised with the results, so I wanted to share them with all of you, too.
This DIY is applicable for all types of fabrics or materials used for making belts, so whether you use a leather material like I did or even something like canvas or cotton, this tutorial will be good for you!
Here’s a list of what I used:
- 1/2 yd of Midnight Bottega Basketwoven Cow Leather (or alternately, basketweave vinyl)
- Any belt buckle
- 279 Dark Midnight 100m Gutermann Sew All Thread
- Mood Brand Lia Sewing Machine
- Dritz Grommet Plier Kit or Dritz Tapered Awl
- Dritz Tailor’s Chalk
- Dritz Size 3/9 Sharp Needles
- Leather Binder or Rubber Cement
- Piece of soft scrap fabric
- Style 2026 100/16 Singer Pins & Needles (good if using thick fabric/material)
Making a belt is surprisingly easy. Don’t be too intimidated by how long the page might seem; I think seeing will be easier than trying to just write the steps out, so there are lots of pictures with my notes! You can use the fabric that I listed in the materials list, but you can apply these tutorial instructions to pretty much any fabric you’d like! Once you have the basic idea down, sewing a belt together is a quick job!
The first thing you should do is determine what buckle you want to use! Buckles range in all different sizes, styles, and widths, and whatever buckle you use will be crucial to deciding what size your belt will be. The buckle I used is the bronze one in the picture above, so any measurements I talk about specifically are designed for that one.
Since you should have more than enough extra fabric to work with from your 1/4 yard of material, cut a couple of pieces off in the direction of the grain your fabric will be in for your final product and measure out how wide your belt will be. Don’t just go by the width of the buckle’s right side; your belt needs to be able to slide comfortably over the side where the clasp will rest on the left side. Sometimes the left side width is smaller than the right side because of rounded edges, so keep this in mind!
Take your test pieces and try them out. In the top buckle, 1.5″ in. fit comfortably while the bottom one need an 1″ in. width. It’s very useful to test out the widths before attaching your buckles!
After this, you should test to see what length you need for your strip of fabric. Take a tape measure and determine the width of your hips, or wherever your belt will be sitting when you wear it. Whatever number you come up with, add about 8-10″ in. This should be the length of the fabric for your belt altogether! Keep this number in mind when you go to cut your fabric. I wanted a belt that was a little longer, and so I went with a 45″ in. length and a 1″ in. width.
Once you know how long and wide you need your belt to be, get to cutting! If your fabric is thick enough, you should only need one cut, but if you have a thinner fabric, you may want to double up or even add some thick interlining between the layers. A belt doesn’t need to be incredibly thick, but it should be durable! You want your belts to last a long time. This fabric has a backing and is thick enough with just one layer, so I only needed to cut one piece for the belt.
Just a note to add: the piece I cut here isn’t the piece I used for my final product–it’s wider. I wanted to make sure it would be big enough to see the differences. I trimmed this piece down further to the 1″ in. measurement I needed for my bronze buckle after initially cutting this piece.
If your fabric has a pretty obvious grain, you may need to go back and trim the edges. With this leather fabric, I wanted to trim the sides so the edges lined up nicely with the squares of the basketwoven strips.
After you’ve trimmed your fabric down, you should trim the tail ends of your fabric strip! At least one tail end should be cut straight so that it has cornered edges. The other tail end you could be squared off as well, or you could round it off like I did here:
For this tutorial, the squared off end will be hidden and the rounded edge will be visible when worn! Depending on the shape you cut it into, it can change the entire look of your belt, so have fun and experiment!
You should also take the time to double-check that your strip of fabric for your belt will fit now that it’s trimmed down. Remember, the extra 8-11″ in. will the be extra tail end of your belt that slips away in the belt loops of your pants when you wear it. You don’t want this to be too long or too short; too long, and the belt will look too big, but too short, and the belt will look too small for you!
Once you have your piece shaped how you like it, go ahead and top-stitch your fabric . Make sure your bobbin as well as your spool of thread on top are full enough that you can stitch all around the border of your belt in one go! While this isn’t mandatory, if will look best if you only have to back-stitch on the first squared end since it’ll be hidden away later on! Work slowly and carefully–this top stitch will keep your belt together, but it will also look beautifully decorated if it’s done well!
For my belt, I did a top-stitch very close to the edge so that it was centered on the strips of the basketweave. If you’re using a different fabric, feel free to guide to a 5/8″ or 1/4″ in. seam allowance. Start on the bottom corner of the tail end (where you can see I left the threads on the left side), go down the end, and then pivot at the corner to turn and continue all the way down the length of your belt.
Once you get to the other end, top-stitch according to whatever shape you made your other end into. Try to make sure this looks clean! Continue back down to the other end where you started again, back-stitch once your reach your the starting point, and trim your loose threads.
When you’re done top-stitch, it should look nice and pretty!
Once your belt piece is done, put it to the side. We need to make a stay-loop for the belt now! Cut a small strip of your fabric that you’re using. It should be thinner than the width you used for your belt and long enough to wrap around the width of your belt with a little extra to overlap with. Keep the edges squared. Make sure it’s trimmed and nice, and then top-stitch it in the same way that you did your belt piece.
Next, you need to hand-sew your loop together. It shouldn’t take much thread, but be extra careful if you’re working with a thicker fabric. Invest in a thimble for hand-sewing with thicker fabrics–it’ll save you a world of hurt!
When your loop is complete, slip it onto your belt!
For the next step, we need to cut a hole for where the arm of the buckle will go through. Measure about 1.5″ in. on the end of the squared tail end of your belt and mark this spot in the center of the belt’s width and then use your grommet hole cutter to punch a hole into the spot you marked. At this point, you could use your leather binder (if you’re using leather like I did) or rubber cement to coat the raw edges of this hole you just punched to keep the fabric from coming apart. It’s not completely necessary, but I recommend it if you’re worried about the fabric fraying!
You should now be able to slip the arm of your buckle through and fold the tail end to wrap around and behind the back of the buckle.
Use some Wonder Clips to hold the tail end in place and sew along the tail end to secure your buckle.
And last but not least, we need to punch in holds for securing your belt when you wear it!
Try on your belt and slip it through your now-installed buckle. Find where you need the belt to be tightened to so it sits comfortably where you’ll be wearing it and mark this point with your tailor’s chalk. Remove your belt and use a tape measure to mark where the other holes need to be. I marked two on each side of the first marking I made about 1″ in. apart each. This will allow you to use your belt regardless if you need it to be looser or tighter!
When you have your markings where you’d like them, take your grommet hole punch again and get to work punching holes over your markings. Here’s a little tip: use a napkin or scrap piece of softer fabric to hold against the front when you punch the holes to keep the front of your fabric from coming out messy!
Clean buckle holes for your belt! Again, use your leather binder or rubber cement to seal these.
And now you should be done! Slip it on and try out your new fashion-forward belt you made for half the cost of what you see in stores. If you need to buy the tools, making a belt can be a little extra money, but once you have the tools to use, you can easily make more for a small fraction of the cost!