Skip Navigation Website Accessibility

How To Make a Detachable Shoulder Strap For Your Bag



By now you have surely seen the new guitar type purse straps, right? They weren’t really on my radar until early this year when I read an article in the NY Times. Since then, I haven’t been able to get this detachable strap out of my mind. Suddenly it seemed as if each bag I own needed to have its own wardrobe. ( And now, they do. ) I began to imagine the countless options and reinterpretations.

I love the fun of dressing up a bag with a different strap, and watching the transformation. These shoulder straps allows you to instantly add a personal touch to your bag. The first bag that I tried to pair it with was a crossbody style. The new contrasting strap made it so much more fun and interesting. Then I tried it with a belt bag- now that “belt” bag has three different options. It can be worn on the belt, with a crossbody strap and now, it has a new leather top handle. Same bag, three carrying options. Friends, isn’t that reason enough to pull out your sewing machine?

Today I am going to share with you at a shoulder strap tutorial so that you too can make a detachable shoulder strap that speaks to you, fits you and stands apart from the rest of your bag.

The Ultimate Hook-up: Make a detachable shoulder strap for your bag



Sewing Machine with a walking foot

Leather scraps, (8 inch square should be enough)

Two 3/8” x 1 1/2” Swivel Snap Hook for the rounded cap; Two 1 1/2” x 1 3/4” for the squared off version.

1 1/4 Yards of Cotton Webbing Mine is 38mm (roughly 1.5”) wide and 44” long

Mid-weight polyester thread to match leather

Scissors or Rotary cutter

Rubber Cement

Chalk or water soluble fabric marking pen

Leather End Cap Pattern


Finished dimensions are approximately: 2”x 47”


See previous blog posts on sewing with leather, determining the best strap length and using an adjustable slider .

The leather used in this tutorial is from Leather, Suede, Skins, Inc. in NYC

For best results when sewing with leather, the stitch length should be set to about 7-10 stitches per inch depending on the thickness of the leather. Stitches that are too short make too many holes in the leather which decreases stability.

You can adjust the length of the stitch by testing on a scrap of leather. Does the leather feed evenly? Are there any skipped stitches? How is the tension? Are both the top and bottom threads flat and even?


Please read through the entire pattern before beginning your bag.


If you haven’t used a PDF Pattern before, here is a quick tutorial on printing and assembly: PDF Pattern

Assembly Tutorial.

For more information on working with patterns, see pages 14-18 in my book, Sew Bags: The Practical

Guide to Making Purses, Totes, Clutches & More; 13 Skill-Building Projects C&T Publishing, 2019


There are two end cap styles to choose from. Please be sure that you select the appropriate sized hardware and webbing to fit. For this tutorial, I am using the more rounded off shape to cap my strap.

Trace the End Cap pattern onto the back side of the leather piece. Repeat for the second piece.


Carefully cut around the traced line.

Measure and cut the webbing to your desired length. Here is a recent article that may help guide you- or you can just measure a strap that you already own and that fits comfortably.


Slide the leather piece into the bottom ring of the snap hook. I find it is easier to fold the leather in half, lengthwise (like a hotdog) and thread it through the ring. Once it is centered, unfold and flatten.

In a well- ventilated area, apply a generous glop of rubber cement to the center of the inside of the leather. Let it sit a moment to get tacky. Place the end of the webbed strap centered on the leather- making sure that the webbing is completely inside the leather. Press to help the rubber cement to adhere.

Add another bit of rubber cement to the top of the strap and press the leather to seal. Allow to dry for a few minutes.

Repeat for the opposite side of the strap end.


Take a piece of chalk or a water soluble pen and mark the stitching line on the outside of the leather.


Edgestitch around the end cap. You will be sewing a box that is about one and a half inches square. If you would prefer, feel free to round out your stitching instead (like I did) by just sewing 1/4” from the edge of the leather. It is easier to sew a box shape and get it right the first time. Whichever shape you choose, just try to sew slowly. You can even “walk” your machine if you need to.


Instead of back stitching, I generally recommend leaving long tails and hand knotting the ends, as backstitching can cut the leather. To hide the tails, tie in a double knot as close to the stitch as possible. Thread both ends of the thread onto a hand sewing needle. Insert the needle into the back of the strap of the underside of the seam. Pull through. Tie once again and snip.

Pictures of this method and more details are available here.

I added a rivet to this strap to both dress it up and to provide some additional reinforcement.

My next strap is all laid out and ready to go!

This accessory strap can be used with any bag that has a removable strap. Simply unhook the original, and swap it out for the new and improved.

With this fully customized option, you can breathe new life into old bags. Whether you wear it messenger or standard shoulder style, it is sure to give each outfit some unique style appeal. How will you wear yours? Please share using the hashtags #sewbags #sewbagsthebook #littlestitchstudio

For more bag patterns and sewing techniques, be sure to check out my new book! Sew Bags: The Practical Guide to Making Purses, Totes, Clutches & More; 13 Skill-Building Projects

XOXO, Hilarie