Using Webbing to Sew Handles on Bags, Totes, and Pocketbooks

Two rolls of webbing
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Many free patterns for sewing bags, totes, pocketbooks, and purses call for webbing to make the straps and handles. Since handles carry a lot of weight, webbing is used because it is stronger than regular fabric.

Webbing in ready-made items may measure less than one inch wide, but one inch is the most common size you will find in most fabric stores. If you need webbing that is less than an inch you may have to find an online source to order what you need.

Types of Webbing and Cutting

Webbing is commonly made from cotton, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. All webbing will unravel if the ends are not secured or finished in some way. When cutting a length of any trim or webbing, it is advisable to wrap the area that will be cut in tape and then cut through the tape to prevent fraying.

A natural fiber such as cotton will need to be secured with stitching, ideally a zigzag seam finish. Artificial fibers such as nylon, polyester, and polypropylene are cut with a hot knife or hot cutter in an industrial setting but in a home setting, you can mimic the results of a hot knife by slowly melting the ends with an open flame that is run across the edge of the webbing. The melted material is not sewing machine needle friendly, so be careful to avoid hitting any melted fibers with your needle while you sew.

The thickness of the webbing can vary. The thickness does not indicate the quality of the webbing as much as it does the possible uses for the particular webbing. Webbing is made for heavy-duty straps as well as sewing needs, so some webbing is stronger than others. The webbing that is used to make the seat belt in your car needs to be heavier duty than the webbing you will use for straps to make a simple tote bag.

Colors, Patterns, and Prints

Webbing comes with different weave patterns, in a variety of colors, and you can even find webbing with patterns such as paw prints or stripes woven in.

When you are looking at a large supply source, you may find webbing with ribbon additions. These are great for decorative details when you are sewing.

To Create Your Own Embellished Webbing

Don't tie yourself down to the choices that are available from a supplier––you can make your own.

  • Choose a gross-grain ribbon that is not as wide as the webbing. How much narrower your ribbon is than the webbing depends on the look you are hoping to achieve.
  • Center the ribbon on the webbing.
  • Carefully stitch the ribbon in place on both edges. Sew as close to the edge of the ribbon as possible to prevent it from curling.
  • Using a seam guide on your presser foot, combined with needle position, keep your eyes on the guide to help you sew straight.

Sewing Webbing

Webbing is usually sewn to a fabric or to itself. Webbing is woven so a sharp or universal needle should be your first choice for sewing machine needles. The needle size depends on the weight of the fabric and the thickness of the webbing. In most cases, the same needle that is sewing the project will be sufficient to sew the webbing to the fabric.

A quality thread can be used with good results. Some sources will suggest using upholstery thread. If you will be sewing something that will be pulled and tugged on, such as a dog collar, you should consider upholstery thread, but for most bags and totes, regular quality sewing thread will do the job. If you will be hand sewing the webbing, consider using button and craft thread.

When you are sewing the webbing, sew both edges to the fabric as close to the edge of the webbing as possible. To keep your stitching straight it is advisable to use a guide on the presser foot and keep your eye on the guide rather than the needle.

Rounded Handle in Webbing Straps

The simple log carrier pattern gives you full details on how to make easy to carry rounded handles in a webbing strap. This simple alteration to the strap makes a comfortable handle.