Guest post: Book strap tutorial

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to share a guest tutorial today from Lorraine (LiEr) Teigland of Ikat Bag. She's a former physics teacher, which speaks volumes about the smart projects her creative brain concocts. (Her pig and chicken patterns kill me.)

Today's project is a book strap. I must admit I sheepishly had to ask Lorraine how to use this fancy item: does one grab the long end of the strap and use it like a handle, so the book stack dangles from it like a dog on a leash? Or does one cradle the books in the crook of the elbow with the strap hanging free? Lorraine replied that both techniques are acceptable and suggests the dog-leash method can be "useful for fending off would-be assailants. Just swing and smash." Most excellent. For a book strap in use, look here. And with that, here's Lorraine.

Hello all! I am thrilled to be here on Jess's blog today to share a tutorial on making book straps. Book straps were very popular back in the 80s when I was in school in Singapore. Ours were all plastic and multicolored webbing, but we were teens and lurid was cool. And they kept our books from spilling all over the bus floor because we were staring at boys and tripped over our own feet. Years later, these are still cool but not as widely used here as in Asia and Europe. So I thought I'd start an old trend and teach you to make the grown-up faux-leather version with vinyl and Jess's incredible Outside Oslo fabric.

This is a simple and quick project but if you are unfamiliar with working with vinyl, I've included some tips at the end of the tutorial. Some dimensions are left unstated because they depend on the print of your fabric and the size of your metal loops. And now, let's get started!

First, make the strap, using your favorite strap-making method and whatever width works with the print of your fabric and the hardware you have. My finished strap was 60" long and 2" wide. Add as much (or no) interfacing as you like. I used craft-weight fusible interfacing without seam allowances,

sewing along one long edge and around both ends, leaving most of the second long edge open to turn them right side out.

Then top-stitch all around to complete the strap.

Next, make the buckle. You will need:
• The pattern (click here to download)
• A piece of vinyl cut to the shape of the pattern
• Another piece of vinyl cut a little bigger than the pattern
• A piece of plastic canvas cut a little smaller than the pattern
• Three loops that will fit your strap
• Smaller pieces of vinyl to fold over the metal loops

Transfer the welt (the narrow slot) outline to the wrong side of the vinyl piece that is the same size as the pattern. Place this on the slightly bigger vinyl piece, right sides together. Do not use pins because they leave permanent holes—use paper clips if you must.

Sew all around the welt outline and cut a slit down the middle of the welt, snipping at the curved ends.

Push one of the vinyl pieces through the hole

so that the right sides are now facing out.

Top-stitch around the edge of the welt.

Lay the piece of plastic canvas on top of the vinyl ensemble. Trim the edges and the welt of the plastic canvas piece so that there is a border of about 1/8" of vinyl visible around them. This is to avoid stitching the plastic canvas itself when you are sewing the two vinyl layers together later. You may need to trim the welt further in the next step so that everything sits flat without bunching.

Pull the top layer of vinyl up through the welt in the plastic canvas so that the plastic canvas is now sandwiched between the two layers of vinyl. Set this aside.

Make vinyl loops to attach the metal loops. You can do this the simple way without edging:

or cut the vinyl pieces a little wider than the metal loop, fold in the sides and top-stitch them.

Fold these vinyl pieces over to secure the metal loops (one metal loop on top and two metal loops at the side) and insert them between the layers of vinyl in the main buckle. These should be centered on either side of the midpoints X and Y (see template). Hold them in place and top-stitch all around the edge to secure them in position. A layer of tissue paper between the vinyl and the throat plate of the sewing machine prevents the vinyl from dragging as you sew.

Carefully trim away the excess vinyl from the bigger piece (and tear away the tissue paper). The buckle is finished!

Wrap one end of the completed strap around the single metal loop.

Sew a rectangle to secure it.

Ta-da! Finished!

Ready to corral some books? Here's how to use it:

Did you know you can make them right-handed:

or left-handed? Never lose a book again!

Tips to help you work with vinyl:

• Vinyl won't fray, but poorer-quality vinyl gets thready around the edges if they are not cut straight. Use a rotary cutter wherever possible. And buy upholstery-grade vinyl.

• Pins will leave permanent holes in vinyl, so either hold the pieces together by hand or use paperclips.

• Use a denim/jeans needle if you can, especially through many layers of vinyl. The denim needles are sharper and stronger than the universal ones.

• Use a non-stick (Teflon) or roller foot if you have one. I don't, so I use a layer of tissue paper between the vinyl and the throat plate of the sewing machine to prevent sticking and dragging.

• Use regular sewing thread, or top-stitching thread on top and regular sewing thread in the bobbin. If you are using top-stitching thread, use a top-stitching needle which has a longer eye to accommodate the thicker thread and prevent skipped stitches.

• If you have a walking foot, use it because it helps feed both layers of vinyl evenly together under the presser foot.

• If your sewing machine is having a bad day and your stitches are skipping, oil your machine, particularly the moving parts around the bobbin case.

• If your sewing machine is having a particularly bad day, sew by hand. It's easier than it sounds. Completely unthread your sewing machine and sew, threadless, to make holes in your vinyl. Then sew alternating running stitches by hand with two needles—the holes will give you evenly-spaced stitches. If you can do lacing cards, you can sew vinyl by hand!

Thank you, Jess, for having me here!
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