Belt-making

This is my first tutorial tutoriallish post, and it’s all about my button belt. It was kinda easy for me, because I used techniques that I’ve used many times before in making my dance costumes, but since these might not be so familiar to people who are used to more straightforward dress-making, I thought it might be helpful to explain what I did. Apologies that I didn’t take enough “in process” photos. It’s really hard to remember to stop mid-make to take pictures.

Inspiration

This belt, posted on flickr but found on pinterest was my starting point. I loved this idea, and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make something similar for myself.

Picture taken from Pinterest, but the original is from Kristi on Flickr

 

Materials

  • a shedload of buttons – I bought four packs of 100g mixed buttons for crafting, and I used three of them. Someone more slender than I am, or making a narrower belt would need less fewer than I did. I got the button packs on ebay for about £4 each.
  • thread to match the buttons
  • heavy interfacing – the heaviest I can get, the one that’s like stiff felt. I don’t think I’d recommend using actual felt, because I doubt it’s stable enough to withstand being pulled around. I suppose denim would work- I know a lot of dancers who use it as a costume base fabric.  I’ve got friends who swear by Pellon for a sturdy costume base, but I confess, I’m not entirely sure what Pellon is, and for all I know, it might be exactly the same as my thick interfacing.
  • scraps of knit fabric, to cover the belt
  • scraps of knit fabric, to line the belt
  • skirt/trouser hooks & bars – I used two
  • patience, lots and lots of patience
  • a willingness to hand-sew

 

What I did

I started out by making the belt base.

I wanted two layers of heavy interfacing, but the interfacing I had wasn’t wide enough for my waist, so I cut out three strips, 10cm wide, attached them together and made two strips that were long enough. I made the belt strips long enough to go round my waist (snugly, I didn’t want to add too much ease) and added 5 or 6cm of overlap, where the belt would hook at the back.

Using my shoes as weights!

Using my shoes as weights!

I sewed the two layers together with four lines of single stitching, along the length of the strips, so that they were firmly attached to each other and the two layers of interfacing would stay solid. Essentially I was quilting the two layers together!

I then cut my strip of reinforced interfacing into shape. My belt was going to fasten at the back. I wanted to make a belt that was more shaped, making it wider at the front. So I marked a basic 6cm width and extended it at the centre to the 10cm width.

Poor drawing of how I shaped the belt

Poor drawing of how I shaped the belt

 

Next I covered the belt base.

Buttons are generally round and I knew there would be some gaps in between them, so I needed to cover my belt base with fabric that I wouldn’t mind showing through in the gaps. I had opted for a black/white/grey colour theme for my buttons, so I fished out my scrap bag, and found a bit of black & white floral knit (left over from trimming the hem on one of my circle skirts). I like knit fabrics for covering odd shapes, because they’re so forgiving!

Now you can see the shaping properly

Now you can see the shaping properly

I pinned the fabric into place, stretching it slightly to make sure the curved shape was kept very clear, and sewed it on. I didn’t mind that the thread was showing, because the buttons would cover it.

Although I was working with the same colour of belt covering as buttons, I can see that you could make a super dramatic version, where you make the fabric contrast with the buttons, say a magenta satin base with black jet buttons, or black velvet with pearl buttons.

 

Then I was ready for the fun part- sewing on the buttons!

My buttons were in a range of sizes, I think the biggest are about 3cm across, and the smallest only 5mm. I started with the big ones first, and then I gradually filled in with medium and smaller sized buttons. You’ll have seen the In Progress photos. I used white thread for the white buttons, black for the black buttons and grey for the grey and greyish buttons. I tried to keep needles threaded in all three colours at any given time, so that I could sew any button on at any time. I usually tried to do a few at a time with the same thread, knotting each button as I finished it, so the back of the belt at this stage was looking like some weird map of star constellations! Since none of these buttons were going to be functional, I just sewed them on with a cross stitch, and knotted, there was no need to worry about shanks.

Button Close-Up

Button Close-Up

I wanted my buttons to overlap the sides of the belt a little, so some of the buttons were sewn close to the edge. I also wanted to make the coverage as thick and encrusted with buttons as I possibly could, so I included quite a few overlapping buttons. I realised this might make the belt a bit less flexible, but in practice this doesn’t seem to have been too much of an issue. Any curvature would be the right way round- I don’t need the belt to curve outwards.

I tried to be conscious of where buttonholes might show through, and put white buttons on the white sections of the fabric, black buttons on the black bits, but wasn’t overly worried if I couldn’t do it exactly. I had a lot more dark buttons than white ones. On one of the larger buttons I added a smaller button sewn on top through the original buttonhole, for interest. But that turned out to be quite hard to do, so I didn’t do it again! I like that it’s a little secret “find the special double button” puzzle.

I had made sure that I left one end unbuttoned, because that was going to be the overlap where I hooked the belt to close. I didn’t want to try and sew hook bars over buttons, and *nobody* needs that sort of bulk around the waist.

The unbuttoned end, for ease of doing up the belt.

The unbuttoned end, for ease of doing up the belt

 

The finishing

The back of the belt was a hot mess! Sewing a million buttons will do that.

Thread constellations!

Thread constellations!

I’ve always used cotton jersey to line my dance costumes, because (not wanting to gross anyone out!) dancing is hot work, and you want something absorbent next to the skin, that you can rip out & replace when it gets too grubby. And again, it’s good for slightly odd shapes because it eases well. So out of habit I used a cotton knit for lining this belt. I cut a long thin rectangle of the knit fabric, to line it, cutting it a bit bigger than my belt, using the belt as a template. I sewed the lining in by hand, folding over the raw edge of the lining fabric and whip-stitching it to the covering fabric. I did one edge first, so that I could then make sure I pulled the other edge good & taut while I was sewing it, to avoid any risk of the lining showing if the belt shifted in use. This part of the project took longer than I thought (the end stages always seem to), and it was slightly tricky because the belt was now fairly stiff, especially where there were big buttons. But it’s all on the inside, and I’m not that much of a perfectionist, so I don’t mind that my whip stitches are sometimes a bit large and uneven!

Stitching the lining in

Stitching the lining in

Finally, I sewed on two trouser/skirt hooks, to close the belt at the back. Actually, as you can see above, I’d sewn the bars on before I sealed up the lining, so that the stitches wouldn’t show through. But the hooks are absolutely the last thing sewn on. I used two, because I wanted to make sure the belt would stay fastened straight, and not pivot around on one single fastening. Also, I figure two will share the pressure/strain better than one. The bars are on the unbuttoned side, the hooks are on the underneath of the fully buttoned end. In theory I can wear this belt either way up, so it might hook from the right or the left.

The finishings

The finishings

And voila!

DSCF2174

The finished article, all ready to wear

Which looks just as nice on the inside

Secret cherries in the lining

Secret cherries in the lining

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11 thoughts on “Belt-making

  1. Bea , thanks for this! It looks fabulous! I love the idea of hot pink background with black buttons or the black with pearl! I love pearls!! I am putting on my wish list!

  2. This is so brilliant, thanks Bea for taking the time to do a tutorial. It looks like so much fun! I am obsessed with buttons (and beads and sequins) and can’t resist buying those craft packs… now I know what to do with them! Must admit I’m also quite drawn to the idea of using a bright contrasting fabric for the belt. (‘Cos, y’know, me and BRIGHT COLOURS!) I’m LOVING the Button Belt!

    • It’s definitely a fun make!

      I’ve got a ridiculously large stash of beads and sequins, and I’m desperately trying to think of ways of bringing them into my everyday wardrobe. I think the beads can *almost* be worn everyday, but sequins are definitely partywear, and I just don’t have enough parties to justify wardrobe space for a ton of blingy dresses.

    • I’d need some more LBDs for that first!

      But now I’m thinking about more beaded belts- I’ve got LOADS of coloured pearls, and other beads. I’m sure I could make more variations on this theme.

    • Go for it – I’d love to see your collection in belt form! It was a bit of a long-term project for me, as I didn’t work on it very often. If I’d worked on it more consistently it wouldn’t have taken very long.

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