Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade Christmas

Some of us are still reeling from the aftermath of Black Friday—headaches from being caught in dense traffic during peak shopping hours, lost sleep when we went to stores with the sun to get the sale. But years past have proved that this madness will continue right until Christmas morning. If you’re tired of stressing while shopping, we’re here to offer you some hope.
We’ve enlisted our friend Lisa (Schwabauer) Poblenz ’02 of Ipswich, MA, to help us out this year with Christmas gifts—the old-fashioned way. She has been making crafts and gifts for as long as she can remember and has some great ideas for homemade presents. “I love finding the perfect gift,” she said. “But one that I’ve made is an offering of time and love, too.” It will also save you money, save you from the glaring florescent lights in the mall, and, more importantly, help your friends and family see that they’re worth more than a sale.
This week’s gift idea is cloth belts, and we’ll be posting directions for more of Lisa’s gifts in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Below are directions on how to make Lisa’s cute cloth belts.

Cloth Belt
I made this belt after looking around at all the great cloth and ribbon belts on the market. They seemed so expensive to buy yet simple to make, so I decided to give it a try myself.

• 1 belt buckle—mine was approximately 2 ½ inches x 2 ¾ inches with a 1 ½ inch shaft in the middle
• Scrap fabric of three types: one for the front, one for the back, and heavy duty fabric such as canvas for extra stability in the middle (this will be unseen); ¼ yd. of each should be more than enough. I used pieces from a vintage quilt that was too frayed for repair, part of a vintage pillow case, and off-white canvas. I also made sure I liked my front and back fabrics, so that I could make the belt reversible.
• Thread in whatever colors you like—matching or contrasting
• Sewing machine (recommended) or sewing needle
• Scissors sharp enough to cut fabric and/or thread or a rotary cutter, self-healing mat, and clear ruler
• Measuring tape or ruler
• Iron and ironing board
• Straight pins


• Wash and dry your fabric, but do not use a fabric softener sheet (if you need to fuse something to the fabric at a later time, the fabric softener sheet will prevent this)
• Determine the length and width of your belt: measure the bar on the inside of the belt buckle that you will be attaching the belt to for width, and measure your own waist or, if you can, the waist of the person you are making this for. I measured my own waist and estimated sizes for those I was making belts for—this doesn’t have to be exact—it’s ok to have extra length. Write down these two measurements.
• Now for some addition: add ½ inch to the width and about 9 inches to the length. The extra width gives you your seam allowances on the sides and the length gives you that as well as length to go around the shaft of the buckle and to actually put through the buckle when you put it on.
• Cut the front and back fabric. You will want to use the measurements you wrote down to cut strips of the front and back fabric. I cut my own fabric in strips 2 inches wide, and just cut as many as I could from my limited supply since I was making several belts. Your strips will not be the length you are going for—just cut the width you need and you will sew the strips into the proper length later.
• Cut the middle (heavier) fabric. This layer will be slightly different to cut down on the number of fabric layers you have to sew through. The middle fabric layer should be the width of the belt without the added seam allowance (in the case of my belt, it was 1 ½ inches) and the length that you wrote down minus ½ inch. I made my belt 51 inches long, so my middle layer would have been 50 ½ inches in length.
• Sew the strips together. Taking two front fabric strips, put right sides together and line them up at one end. Sew across, width-wise, in about ¼ inch. Continue to do this until you have the length you need. Repeat with the back fabric and the middle fabric. After you have sewn your strips together, iron the seams open on the wrong side.
• Secure the middle fabric to the back fabric. Lay your middle fabric onto the wrong side of your back fabric and fold the edges of your back fabric over onto the middle fabric (this will be that extra ¼ inch of fabric on each side that you have for a seam allowance), ironing it down as you go. Pin the seam allowances down so they stay put.
• Sew the back and middle fabrics together. Using a straight stitch on your sewing machine or with your needle and thread, sew the fold you just made as close to the edge as possible, catching the middle fabric between the layers of your back fabric.
• Iron the seam allowances down for your front fabric. Lay your front fabric on your ironing board with the wrong side up. All the way around, as you did with your back fabric (but without having to work with a middle fabric), iron ¼ inch of fabric in toward the middle of your front fabric and pin.
• Sew the seam allowance for the front fabric down. You should now have a long strip of front fabric and a long strip of back fabric with a stabilizing (middle) layer sewn into it.
• Sew the two strips together. Pin wrong sides together and sew all the way around the belt, keeping close to the edge of the belt. You should now have one large strip of fabric that is your assembled belt minus the buckle.
• Optional step: At this point, you may want to quilt your belt by sewing lines in any pattern over the whole thing. I sewed in a free motion pattern all over my belt because my top fabric, from an old quilt, was already quite frayed.
• Sew your belt onto your buckle. Fold about 2 or 2 ½ inches over your belt buckle, keeping the back fabric on the outside of the fold. Then sew across the width of the belt to secure the end to the main part of the belt.

That’s it! At this point you should have a finished belt that is reversible and also machine washable as long as your buckle and fabric are not too delicate. Enjoy!

Like this and want more ideas? Visit or email Lisa at


Heidi said...

Look at you! You're famous!

I LOVE the idea of homemade gifts and always love your style and creativity.

Would it be too much to ask for pictures of each step in the process? For us super-visual people? :)

Looking forward to future ideas and tutorials!

Patricia said...

Lisa, maybe in video form? ;)

Braveon said...

Brilliant! My wife made something like this once, but it wasn't as cool as the one that you've described here.

Sue said...

Lisa.....I love this and am thankful to have been one of the recipients of your belts. I love it!!!!

Heidi said...

I second Patricia's comment: VIDEOS!!!