How to Make Vinyl Handbag Straps or Handles

Posted by Audrey Williams on

As you might have noticed from my patterns-I’m a big fan of faux fabulous leather a.k.a pleather or vinyl.  I especially love adding vinyl straps to a primarily fabric bag like I did on the Jackie Satchel below:

Jackie Satchel with Vinyl Straps

You get the look of leather at a lower cost and for those animal lovers out there-cruelty free. Leather can also be intimidating for new sewists-it requires a different set of skills.  If you’ve ever sewn anything in fabric-you’ll find sewing in vinyl is a no brainer.

There are a few special considerations when working with vinyl:

  • You want to use a Teflon or walking foot on your sewing machine. Vinyl will stick to a traditional metal foot resulting in frustration and uneven or skipped stitches. Save yourself the headache and swap out your metal foot for a Teflon or walking foot.
  • Adjust the tension on your sewing machine and use an extended stitch length. It gives that finished leather look as well as eliminating many friction/tension issues.
  • Always do a few test stitches on scrap pieces first to make sure you have the right tension and an aesthetically pleasing stitch length. While your seam ripper is definitely your friend during most sewing projects-once you make a mistake on vinyl and have to rip out your stitches those holes are permanent.  You also want to test on the same number of layers of vinyl that you’ll be sewing.  If you were sewing two layers and you switch to three on a new section of your bag-test that your machine will handle it.
  • Tie off your stitching rather than back stitching. I often get a bit of tangling on the underside of my pieces when back stitching on vinyl despite using a Teflon foot due to some amount of sticking.  Tying off your stitches rather than backstitching will eliminate this issue.

With the above rules in mind, follow this quick tutorial for making your own vinyl straps.

1) Use your pattern piece or measure from your back, over the shoulder, to the front of your body to get your strap measurement.  Then add 1 inch seam allowance.  Use this measurement to cut two strap pieces of the desired width plus seam allowance.  The strap pictured below is two inches wide which will result in a one inch wide strap. Then cut two 2x3-4 inch tab pieces.  You'll also need two one inch wide O-rings and fabric clips.

Making Vinyl Handbag Straps

2) Pull your two o-rings through one strap piece.

Making Vinyl Handbag Straps
3) Place your two strap pieces together with the rights sides of the fabric facing. Use your fabric clips to clamp the short ends of the straps in place.
how to make vinyl handbag straps
4) Sew the two short ends of your strap pieces together along the 0.5 inch seam allowance.
making vinyl handbag straps
5) Now open the two seams you just sewed and lay them flat.  Topstitch the seams down at about 1/8th of an inch from the center seam line as shown below.  You'll also want to use an extended stitch length.
making vegan leather handbag straps
6) Now place the two seams together, right sides of the fabric facing.  Pull the two o-rings to either side of the strap.  Clamp the center seams in place.
making vegan leather handbags straps
7) Now sew one long side of your strap along the 0.5 inch seam allowance.  Stop sewing about 1-1.5 inches away from the o-rings.
making vegan leather handbag straps
8) Open the strap and place the wrong side of the strap facing up.  Fold in the seam allowances so that the raw edges of the strap meet the sewn seam in the middle of the strap.
making vinyl handbag straps
9) Continue folding in the seams along the length of the strap including through the o-rings.
making vinyl handbag handles
10) Using an extended stitch length, stop stitch around the perimeter of your strap at about 1/8th of an inch from the edge.  Sew the long open seam first, then past the first o-ring as close as you can comfortably sew, then down the other long side, then past the final o-ring.
how to make vinyl straps
11) Next you'll want tabs for your strap. Get your two tab pieces.  Fold in the seam allowances on both long sides of the tabs similar to the way you made your strap.
making handbag tabs
making handbag tabs
12) Now topstitch your seams allowances down at about 1/8th of an inch from the edge and using an extended stitch length.  You can then pull your tabs through the o-rings with the unfinished sides hidden and fold in half.  You can then attach our strap to the bag.
finished handbag tabs
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial-Happy Sewing!