Monday, January 25, 2016

Sew Many Straps: A crafty compendium

There are so many reasons to add or modify straps on a top or dress, and over my career as an Unfashionista, I think I've tried them all. Here's a comprehensive listing of all the ways I've worked with straps, including a few more projects I've done in recent months.

One of my most frequent problems with straps is that they just don't exist in the first place. A disaster waiting to happen, the strapless dress tops my list of things I'd rather not wear. But there are so many beautiful dresses out there whose only flaw is a dearth of straps...and that's easily fixed. Here are a few ways to add straps from scratch!

Making spaghetti straps

Last summer, I shared the story of how I used Paracord and pockets to make straps for a strapless dress. Shortly after that, I added straps to my green eyelet dress, this time using a different strategy.

This dress also happens to have pockets, so I was able to harvest some fabric from them to turn into the straps.  I had to sew two strips of pocket together to get a long enough strip to make a strap. But this time the fabric wasn't as stretchy, so I didn't bother wrapping it around another cord first. Instead, I painstakingly ironed creases into each side and sewed the raw edges safely inside. It took forever. I should have just gone with Paracord and glue! 

But when I was done, it became the perfect base for my excessively thematic "Field of butterflies" outfit!

Making retro halter straps

My next strap-adding project was my jade and gold dress, which I shared quite recently.

Adding removable straps

If you're not quite ready to make a permanent alteration to a strapless dress, you can add small hidden tubes to the inside top edge (as in convertible bras), and use the straps from a convertible bra to hold the dress up. This is especially cool if you have straps in many different colors—you can always change them up for a completely new look!

Shortening straps

Shortening straps is such a simple process, and I do it with a good third of the strappy garments that come my way. I have two basic strap-tegies (couldn't resist!) for this task.
If they are skinny straps, I loop them at the bottom, where they hit the top part of the back of the dress, and reattach them with a few stitches and knots.

If they are wider straps, I usually shorten them at the top by looping the strap inwards, stitching the join closed, and then sewing down the loose part of the loop on the underside of the strap. In the picture above, the strap is folded terribly off-center, the better to show you how there are actually three layers once all is sewn and done.

Lengthening straps

Lengthening a strap is a little more tricky, because it will require either transplanting cloth from elsewhere on the garment, or finding a complementing fabric to add on. I've only tried this once, and I used the latter method to lengthen the straps of my sequined green and black party dress.

Hiding straps out of sight

If you wear a lot of wide-neck tops, you are surely plagued by peeking bra straps. To keep straps under wraps, I made a couple of clips that usually do the trick. 

I glued a small piece of Velcro (the hooks, not the loops) to a piece of old credit card that I had bent (I heated it up in a toaster oven first) into the shape of an exaggerated "C". The bra straps can be worked into the C and then the Velcro attaches to your shirt. This works especially well on sweaters, but can be a little unpredictable on smoother fabrics.
I hope some Unfashionistas out there find this helpful! Do you know of any other tips and tricks that you can do with straps?

1 comment:

  1. A great collection of tips - thank you for putting them together.

    I've seen another solution for keeping bra straps in place; maybe you've already run into it? It's a little more time-consuming. For each shoulder strap, make a small rectangular tab (it doesn't have to match the top); stitch one end to the underside of the strap and fasten the other end with a bit of velcro or a snap stitched into place. I think you'd need to try on the top and mark where to put the tab to line up with the bra straps.

    And now that I think about it, I have a couple of tops that need this done!