As I continue to learn and practice photography, I felt like my camera strap needed an update. Looking around I see tons of adorable camera straps that are handmade and stitched to perfection (Made with Love by Gabriela Koopmans are definitely swoon-worthy). Those same camera straps run upwards of $60, and I am just not ready to drop that much money on one. So, I set out on a little DIY project hunt. I searched all over the great internet, looking for ideas and inspiration. I combined a couple different tutorials to create the one I am going to show you here. Before I show you what I did and how I did it, a few things I learned.
- • Leather is a pain to work with. A huge pain. I had to use a seam ripper multiple times in the beginning because I couldn’t get my darn sewing machine to advance. AND, this was my second strap attempt. Oh well, problem solving, patience, and a few tricks will get you through.
- • Good pictures are hard to come by as you work through a project like this. I took a few pictures throughout, but as I began the actual sewing process, I was so focused on making sure I was advancing on the leather that the pictures got left behind.
- • DIY and “hand-crafted”equals rough around the edges. My product is imperfect. I had to trim up some edges, fix some stitches, and yet, there are still spots that if you look too closely you can see five stitches on top of each other or a crooked seam, BUT that’s what makes them great! I love the imperfections because in the end, it’s still made by me. Also, it ensures that I will most likely never make these to sell, which is great because … well, see bullet point #1. Seriously.
Scarf (you can also use regular fabric about 1.25 yards) // $14 Dottie Couture
Scraps of leather (enough for 4 x 3inch squares) // $5 Hobby Lobby
Old camera strap (for the black cords)
Dark thread // $2
Leather sewing needle // $5 Hancock Fabrics
TOTAL COST: $26
** You could also use an old scarf to make this even cheaper!
**Pictures are in order at the end.
- Hang your scarf or fabric around your neck to find your preferred length of strap. I started with about 47 inches (120 cm) but ended up shrinking that to 45 inches (1.25 yards or 115 cm). (Remember, you will have cords added at the end, as well as the leather.) Be sure to keep that in mind when you decide on length. I wanted to make sure I had space/room to have it around my neck and shoulders and shoot at the same time. If I were to make another one, I would probably go a bit shorter. Mine is a bit long.
- Now, Lay out your scarf or fabric with your measuring tape over top. Find your preferred length and cut. The great news here is that you don’t need to be precise in cutting a straight line. These edges will be concealed in the leather. The ever-difficult task of getting that line straight need not stress you out! High fives all around.
- Next, you need to make yourself a pattern for your leather. On a piece of paper, measure out and draw a 2-in. x 2-in. square. Find the center on one side and measure up 1 in. and make a small mark. At that mark, draw a 5/8-in. log line to make a flat edge instead of a point. Then, connect the end of that shorter line to the corners of the square. Confused yet? Look at the picture below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
- Now, on the raw side of the leather (or hidden side) trace the outline of your pattern. Cut out four identical pieces from your scrap leather.
- Cut the black cords off the end of your old camera strap. I cut right at the end so I have the longest possible strap to use.
- Sewing time! If you haven’t already, change out your normal needle for a leather needle (examples here). Make sure you buy needles that are intended for leather and fit your machine. Once you change out your needle, thread your machine with a dark thread to semi-match your leather. I used navy. I debated using a lighter thread to liven things up, but was a bit nervous about that showing too many imperfections.
- Take one set of your leather pieces and one cord. Place your cord on top of one of the leather pieces making sure it enters the short side and goes almost all the way to the start of your 2-in. square. Place the other leather piece on top. Now, sew across the short end of the leather. I don’t pin this because it is short and leather is hard enough to deal with without throwing in the pins. [**Tip: Wedge the back of your presser foot to help move your sewing machine forward. I am usually a “hold on and go” kind of operator, but with this, slow and steady is best. Give your machine some help and a tug from the back to move it forward. Also, keep a seam-ripper handy!]
- Next, sew the diagonal lines as close to the edge as you can get. We are talking 1/4-in. seam or smaller. When finished, trim off the excess to make your seams and lines a bit cleaner.
- Finish off the cord end, by sewing across the diagonals sealing the squared end off by itself. You should now have the cord sticking out of the end with a triangle sewed into your leather.
- Repeat steps 7-9 with your second set of leather pieces.
- Grab the end of your scarf and fold it up like an accordion. The length of the folds shouldn’t exceed your 2-in. square. Keep them about 1 1/2 in. long.
- Place your accordion folded end inside the 2-in. square section of one of your pieces. Make sure it goes as close to the sewn seam as possible. Now comes the hard part. This is where my machine got angry. Start with the bottom edge of your 2-in. square to secure your scarf. Sew across that side using a wedge to help you get your machine going. I also chose to start in the middle of that side. It helped having something to pull on the back and also, not having to ramp up on to the scarf seemed to help. Just don’t forget to finish the other half! Now, you should have a triangle sewed in the leather with the cord sticking out and a scarf sealed up on the other side.
- We are on the home stretch! Sew up the sides of your 2-in. square completing the four sides.
- Sew an X through the middle of the square. This makes it look a bit more finished and provides insurance on holding your camera tight.
- Trim off excess ends of the leather and clean up edges. Scissors help fix imperfections in sewing and seam allowances. Don’t neglect your threads either!
- Repeat steps 11-15 for the other end of your strap.
- You’re done! Now, spend a few minutes admiring your DIY/handcrafted loveliness.
- Strap on your camera, and give it a test run.