Make Your Own Retro Pro-Style Camera Strap

 

dad's camera strap finished 2

 

How to make your own camera strap, using the same hardware and webbing you’d find on one at the photography store, and practically anything you want for the strap!

When I got my new (used) camera, I just carried it around in the crook of my arm for quite a while, because I knew exactly what I wanted for a strap, and I couldn’t find it in any camera shop we visited.   The new camera is heavy (by my standards anyway) and I did not want a thin strap that would dig that weight into my neck all the time, I wanted a wide soft strap that would cup around my shoulder and hold the weight there.  I got this idea from Cat Bordhi (have I mentioned that she’s a mad genius?) specifically from knitting one of her mobius sling bags (in A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting), and it stuck with me.

 

camera strap on

 

You will need

I got the 3/8″ webbing and hardware to go with it from SewingSupplies on Etsy.  She made me a package deal like this one, which includes enough supplies to make two straps (each end of a strap takes one piece of webbing, one slider and one keeper).  I’m assuming that your camera has a ring or loop which 3/8″ webbing will fit through (most do, but some small point-and-shoots don’t.  You might be able to substitute something lighter, I would take your camera to the fabric store and see what you can find).

You will also need sturdy material for ends of the strap, where the strap meets the webbing.  I used Ultrasuede (faux suede leather) for my strap (above), and some scraps of real leather on a strap for my dad (the one at the top of the post).

If you want your strap to be adjustable, you’ll also need one slider and one loop of hardware, in a size that works with your strap material.

My strap is cut from a length of soft cotton textile woven about 2  3/4″ wide, which was in my mom’s stash.  I suspect that my parents brought it back from somewhere in their travels in the 1970’s, but neither of them remembered where, and they both said I could use it, so I did.  Dad’s strap is one his mom (my grandmother the weaver) made, which I put new ends and a slider on.  I found some similar straps by searching for “handwoven band” or “handwoven strap” on Etsy.  You could also start with a belt, or a guitar strap or anything else you like, as long as it’s sturdy enough to hold your camera and thin enough to sew through (which leather belts aren’t.  You might be able to use rivets though …).

 

Prepping the pieces

Cut pieces for the ends from faux leather or leather, a bit wider than your strap (allow extra width if your material is thick, so that it can come together and cover the edges of the strap), continuing that width for about an inch, and then tapering to an end to cover the webbing.  See below to visualize how the ends cover the strap and the webbing.  You will need two leather end pieces for each end of the strap (four total).

 

camera strap transparent

 

Cut a piece of the 3/8″ webbing about 7  1/2″ long for each end of the strap.  If you cut the ends of the webbing on a slant, it will make it easier to thread them through the slots on your camera.  I like to sear the cut edges of the webbing (to keep them from fraying) by passing them quickly through the blue part of a candle flame.

Either figure out where you would like your camera to rest on your body and cut the strap to that length (accounting for the ends and webbing) or plan to make your strap adjustable.  I knew exactly how long I wanted my strap to be (so that the camera would rest on the top of my hip), but I made Dad’s so he could adjust it (keep reading for how to do that).

If your strap fabric is prone to fraying/spreading out all over the place, you may want to stitch over the ends before putting everything together.  You can even use that stitching to gather in the end of the strap a bit, which I did for Dad’s strap.

Heavy duty stitching

Sewing the strap is actually pretty simple, it’s all about how to join two things which you really don’t want to come apart.  My camera is the second-most expensive and precious piece of equipment I own (sewing machine being #1 ) and as I said it’s kind of heavy, so I definitely want some heavy duty stitching here!  Basically you’ll do this by adding extra stitches to reinforce the critical areas.

A good way to attach straps for extra strength is to sew a rectangle-and-X pattern (I just realized I have no idea if there’s an official name for this … but here’s how to do it anyway).  Sew a rectangle just inside the edges of the strap, basically as big as you can inside the area where the strap and end overlap while catching all the layers (illustrated above).  When you get to the point where you started (this is the point with the curved arrow, where the illustrated stitches change from yellow to blue below), sew to the opposite corner.  Keep going, overlapping the stitches on one side, then diagonally back to the other side.  Overlap one side’s stitches again, to come back to where you started.

 

camera strap square and bar tack

Another way you can add stitches to an area that will get stress is to make a bar tack (that is the real name for this one) by using a wide stitch and a short stitch length.  Just keep in mind that every time you make a stitch it also makes a hole in the material, so don’t make the stitches so close together that the holes touch and make a weak place where the material could tear.

I used a mini version of the rectangle-and-X to attach the webbing to the ends.  A bar tack would work well too.  As usual, it’s a good idea to try out your planned techniques on some scraps to see what works.

Once you’ve attached the strap and webbing to the ends, I like to sew around the edge of the ends to keep everything neat.  Bury the thread ends wherever you can, and you’re done.

 

camera strap in progress

 

Leather 

I’m not a leather sewing expert, but I can give you a couple of tips if you decide to use real leather for the ends.  Although it’s more difficult to sew than the faux stuff, it’s wonderfully strong and malleable.  First, you will definitely need a leather needle.  The main difficulty is getting the machine to punch through the leather, and everything that would normally make your machine want to skip stitches (sewing over different thicknesses of materials, etc.) does so even more.  Go slowly, go over skipped stitches again or pick up the foot and go back.  Use the hand wheel if necessary, get the weight of the machine on your side.  Try switching between a regular foot and a zipper foot to sew around the edges of the ends.  I still ended up with some skipped stitches and broken/restarted threads to hide, but I was overall pleased with how my machine handled the leather and all the layers.

 

Adjustable straps

It’s not much harder to make an adjustable strap, you just have to wrap your head around how it works.

I’m such a visual learner, I need to draw it or better yet, lay out all the pieces to see how they’ll go together, as below.  One side is a simple length of strap that goes through the loop and back to the end.  The other side goes from the end, through the slider, through the loop, and back through the slider (inside the first pass).

Sew the strap end down so that there’s a short loop of strap inside the slider, covering the raw edge with the extra suede piece.  You can use the rectangle-and-X method again.

 

 

dad's camera strap layout

 

 

dad's camera strap finished 1

Special thanks to Bryan’s first 35mm camera for modeling.

A note if you’d like the strap to hug your shoulder like mine: I used two lengths of the strap fabric so that I could separate them to either side of my shoulder.  It turns out that it works even if I don’t separate them—I think as long as your strap is fairly wide and soft it will work to wear it on your shoulder.

Make any strap you want!  Nice, right?

 

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Recycled, Naturally Dyed Silk Camisoles

Plus My Favorite Method for Sewing Knit Fabric Straps, and Self-Fabric Binding with Elastic

 

pink silk cami dyed hangingThe pink top before re-purposing, hanging with other materials dyed the same day.

 

Last fall, my friend Zuni invited me over for a day of dyeing with natural materials at her house.  I have an informal craft exchange going with some of my fiber friends, and it’s fantastic to have Zuni as part of this group.  All the mess and calculations for dyeing stay at her house, and we just bring home the colorful finished products.  The day in question, one of the dye materials was indigo.  Most of the craft exchange members tend to dye yarn.  I’m pretty militant about not letting my yarn stash exceed the capacity of one big plastic bin (after, ahem, seeing what happened to my fabric stash), plus I sew more than I knit, and I’ve sewn for longer, so I tend to be the one who shows up with odds and ends of fabric or garments to re-purpose.  This time it was a silk long underwear top.  I inherited two of these from my grandma’s stash.  The fabric is really lovely, but I hardly ever wore the tops, they were kind of baggy for layering, and looked awkwardly like underwear when visible—picture your classic long undies, but maybe a bit looser.

I think I had a class that morning, because I came to the indigo day partway through, at which point we literally just dropped the top into the dye bath.  Indigo doesn’t need a mordant, but I learned something important: dyeing something without soaking it in water first leads to splotchy fabric!  Funnily enough, a slightly mottled fabric was what I pictured when I envisioned how this would come out … although maybe not quite that spotty!   I also think not wetting first may have led to some of the color not being bonded with the fibers, and then rubbing off.  This was all an experiment though, and I was just happy to have a dyed piece to work with.

My plan was to cut the top up and make something I would definitely wear: a lovely silk camisole (tank top, vest, whatever you want to call it) for a winter-time first layer.  I used the same pattern as for my summer tanks, which after many alterations, bears almost no resemblance to the starting point: Kwik Sew 3524.

Click on any of the pictures for more detail.

 

blue silk cami on form

 

A couple of things that came out really well: the straps and the elastic binding at the top.  I’ve used this method for straps on a couple of (not blogged) other tanks, and really like it.  Basically I just sew a tube of fabric, using a narrow zigzag stitch since it’s knit fabric.  I turn the tube with a wire, and then slide a piece of elastic through it, using a bodkin or a safety pin.  Then I stitch through all the layers.  The added elastic gives the straps more stretch, recovery, and sturdiness than they would have if they were just made from the fabric.  This seemed essential when working with practically transparent silk!

 

blue silk cami straps

 

For these straps, I used 1/4″ elastic, and cut the fabric strips for the straps 1″ wide.  You need a little more than the elastic measurement for the fabric tube to fit around it, especially once the seam allowances are also tucked inside, and a bit for the seam allowances themselves.  Sewing through the fabric and the elastic holds everything smoothly in place.  I roll all of the seam line to one side of the elastic before sewing, which becomes the bottom of the strap, and the top looks clean.

My favorite thing about these camis (other than the feel of the silk on my skin, or maybe the color) is the way the edging fits at the top.  I used another fabric strip, and plain 1/8″ elastic.  I didn’t stretch the elastic at all when pinning and sewing it on, and the slight negative ease in the pattern (I checked—it’s about 88% of my body measurement at the upper chest) turns out to make just exactly the amount of stretch I want at the top.  It just hugs against my skin, without gaping or digging in.

 

blue silk cami binding closeupThis dress form is a copy of my body in duct tape, and the binding fits just as nicely on me.

 

Below you can see in more detail how the pieces of the binding went together.  After sewing through all the layers, I rolled the binding strips to the inside, and sewed again just outside of the first seam.  The part at the top with the bronze colored elastic is the built-in shelf bra, which I attached at the same time, in the first seam of the elastic and binding.

 

blue silk cami inside

 

For the blue one, I cut the original top completely apart, and used as much of the width of the original hem as possible.  I didn’t want the seams to show at the bottom, so I tacked them down by hand.

Not long after I finished the blue cami, Zuni invited as over again, this time to dye cochineal and purple.  I’m not that huge a fan of pink, unless it’s cochineal, and then I’m all over it.  The particular shades that come from those little bugs really float my boat.  So, excited by my first success, and learning from mistakes, I thoroughly soaked the second top in water and brought it over.  I was also careful to stir while it was dyeing, and the result was an even, beautiful coat of color!

If I could have, I would have cut both tops wider at the bottom.  You can see a little pulling, and stretching in the fabric around the hips.  For the pink top, I decided for maximum width, to keep the hem and bottom of the original side seams intact, and taper my new seam in.  Below you can see this, as well as the construction of the shelf bra and what the binding looks like from the inside.

With this method of binding, I like sewing the straps in at the end by hand, catching just the inner layers.  That way I can try on and adjust them exactly, plus I think it’s more secure and less likely to distort the fabric than trying to catch them in the seam under the binding.

 

pink silk cami inside

 

I got some good practice sewing with delicate petals of silk making these, and it seems less intimidating now.

The other fantastic thing about this project is that, when those long undies were just sitting in my drawer, I thought that maybe someday I would dye them and make them into something useful.  In the same way that maybe someday I’ll spin enough yarn to knit with, maybe someday my studio will be completely clean and neat … things that I dream about, but may never happen.  But this one did!  I’m trying to acknowledge and appreciate this as a victory, rather than just rushing right on to the next project, as I am apt to do.

 

 

pink silk cami on form

 

Plus, I just love having these in my closet!  In fact, combined with two silk camis I already had (one is an earlier take on the recycled silk shirt idea, and one is the original I used to copy my woven tank pattern), I have just enough to wear one almost every day.  That inspired me to pack away most of my summer tanks, shirts and dresses for the first time ever.  I always carefully clean and store my winter woolens over the summer (mainly to protect them from the scourge of moths) but putting away the summer clothes never seemed that important, especially when I still used my cotton tanks as winter layers.  The silk ones are noticeably warmer though, even as thin as they are.  And I love that my summer clothes are getting a break from being on the hanger, and how much more space there is in my winter closet.

Take time to celebrate your victories, people!

 

Repairing a Backpack

 

mending backpack 1

 

This spring, when I fixed this jacket for my dad, I got an unexpected bonus.  Every time I saw him wearing it (which was quite often, it’s his favorite for cool windy days) my heart would warm with a soft fuzzy glow.  Here was my dad, who I love dearly, so pleased with his jacket and so obviously getting good use out of it, both of those all the more so since I had fixed the zipper and the tearing pockets.  It’s hard to describe actually— it seems at the same time obvious and silly— but I’m telling you, every single time I saw him in the jacket I would get a moment of happiness.

 

mending backpack 2

 

So, the obvious thing to do was to mend something else of his, and the standout candidate was this backpack.  He’s had it since, I don’t know, around the time I was born maybe?  And he still takes it out into the field on weekly basis.  (Maybe I should explain that Dad is a fairly recently retired wildlife biologist, who now gets to spend more time outside with his pet projects than he did while he was working.  Objects, which are part of his field gear and/or live in his pickup truck, do not lead an easy life.)  And I have a serious soft spot for things that have far outlasted their expected usefulness—this clearly qualified.

 

Another (non-sentimental) reason I was all up for fixing rather than replacing this pack is that the zippers still work!  I asked Dad if they did, and he said “kind of,” which turned out to mean that the only thing holding them back was the amount of frayed nylon threads stuck in the teeth.  Amazing.  The first thing I did was to turn under and sew down the raw edge of the flap covering the zipper, which had pulled out of its original stitching long ago and was the main source of the zipper-clogging threads.  I pulled the threads from the zipper using my fingers, a tweezers, and a scissors for stubborn parts, alternately zipping and unzipping it until they were just about all gone.  I also went kind of nuts zigzagging over any and all seam allowances and raw edges I could reach inside the pack with my machine, trying to keep future fraying and loose threads to an absolute minimum, since after all, this backpack has to be ready for another 30-odd years of use.

 

mending backpack 4

 

The bigger holes I patched inside and out, to reinforce them, and again to keep all raw edges inside so they wouldn’t unravel any further.  The worst hole was where one strap had pulled out of the body of the pack.  That one had allowed Dad’s not-so-small camera to fall out of the pack—that was the last straw for him to hand it over so I could fix it.  After patching that hole on both sides, I sewed a big X through the strap webbing and the new fabric, which ought to hold it.  I also reinforced the other strap with similar stitching.

 

The only part I have a doubt about, is where one strap had pulled off at the point where it’s anchored to the top of the pack.  I added new fabric on both sides of the whole area where the straps attach (the one you see on the outside is black faux suede), and stitched around the whole thing as best I could.  But, there is an old rivet in there that had pulled out.  I couldn’t stitch as close to it as I would like, and I thought pulling it off completely would weaken the strap too much.  At least I will be around to see how it holds up, and make future repairs if necessary!

 

mending backpack 3

 

Hopefully you don’t need any more encouragement than the above story to get out there and fix something for someone you love.  It doesn’t have to be sewing, use whatever skills you have.  And if you have any questions about needle-and-thread mending, let me know, I’ll be happy to help if I can.