The generic straps that come with cameras are annoying as all get-out. They’re typically too short to wear cross-body without looking like Andre the Giant, the material is uncomfortable, and they make you look like a walking advertisement noob. Unburden yourself from the shackles of corporate sponsorship with this easy tutorial for the most comfortable camera strap I’ve ever worn!
Like so many things in life, a camera strap is an item that falls firmly into the, “I could totally make that” camp. I’ve been scheming to make a camera strap for MONTHS now, after purchasing a 60’s era (read: insanely heavy) Nikon F. The project was put on the backburner after I had been keeping a continual eye out for potential materials and nothing was cutting the mustard.
Then, one day last week, a lightbulb flicked on as I pulled an old Free People reusable shopping bag out of my closet. The construction of the bag lends itself really well to deconstructing, and the strap is the perfect (well, kinda) length for a cross body sling.
I whipped this up in a few hours with minimal fuss and supplies I already had laying around the house (and you probably do too), so bonus points for repurposing!
- Free People reusable shopping bag/tote
- Seam ripper (I used an X-Acto knife)
- Fabric shears
- Sharp needle and sturdy thread
- 2 large-ish buttons
- Scrap of leather (I repurposed the leather from an old wallet)
- 2 split rings repurposed from old keychains
- 2 clasps or hooks that will fit onto your camera’s strap loops
Begin by finding the seam connecting the strap and panels of the bag. Using your seam ripper (or X-Acto knife), cut the threads holding the strap to the main panels of the bag. This seam’s thread is also shared with the “finished edge” of the strap, so don’t panic when that unravels as well. We’re just going to leave it raw on the finished product.
At this point you’ll want to measure the strap on yourself and cut any excess off if necessary. I (of course) totally didn’t even think about measuring, and after I finished everything up and tried it on, my camera pretty much hangs around my butt. Yay.
Cut two hourglass shapes out of your leather scrap. Mine measured around 1.5 x 4″. No need to be super precise. I’m actually going to use the wrong side of the leather to achieve a less “perfect” look.
I wasn’t super thrilled with the color of the leather, so I tossed it in a diluted bleach mixture (1 tsp bleach + 1 cup water) for an hour or so to lighten it up a bit. If you go this route, it’s a good idea to test on a scrap piece of leather as bleach can be pretty unpredictable.
Attach your hooks of choice to the split rings, and thread those suckers onto the leather pieces. Then, thread the fabric strap through the back side of the split ring, and fold over to create a leathery fabric-y sandwich. Place and pin the button in place, making sure the pin pierces the top layer of leather, and the fabric layers of the sandwich. Use that pin as a guide to make the first stitch to secure our button. We’re starting the button from inside the sandwich to hide the knot and thread tail, but from the second stitch onward you’ll need to pass the needle through all layers to secure everything.
You’ll want to make 10-15 passes through the button, as this connection will serve as the primary structural integrity for the strap. When finished, make one final stitch through the top layer of leather and fabric, similar to how we started the button, and knot/break thread in the middle so as to hide your knot and tail again. If this is confusing to you, the next set of pictures will illustrate this a little more visually.
You’re in the home stretch! Next, we’ll add a couple of decorative stitches to tidy up our edges.
Again, you’ll start the stitch from the inside of the strap to hide the knot and tail. Make one half of an X (or whatever decorative pattern you’d like to do), and draw the needle all the way through both pieces of leather and fabric to secure. Continue in this fashion until your X looks satisfactory (maybe 2-3 stitches for each leg of the X), then knot/break your thread inside the strap sandwich.
I’m not a terribly experienced seamstress, so my first attempt at the little X stitches looked pretty sorry. My advice would be to make your stitches bigger than you think they’d need to be.
It was pretty difficult/time consuming to punch through two layers of leather with a leetle tiny needle, so at this point you’ll probably want to pour yourself a stiff drink. Or invest in a sewing machine.
Repeat alladat on the other side of your strap, making sure that the strap fabric isn’t twisted as you’re sewing your second button on, otherwise you’ll end up with a moebius-esque contraption that feels like a perpetually twisted purse strap.
I’m super pleased with the final result. This strap is comfy and feels like a worn-in crossbody bag vs. the usually uncomfortable (and ugly) typical nylon camera straps.
As mine is on the loooong side (this is why it pays to measure!), I tied a little haphazard knot in the strap and it now fits perfectly. And looks perfectly undone-on-purpose.