Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to turn narrow dress straps...EASILY!

Recently I have needed to make lots of narrow straps: for a girl's dress (4 straps), for a swimsuit (2 straps) & for a chiffon dress (4 straps).
Usually I do anything to avoid this step, which means I have fun using ribbons as straps instead. But it couldn't be avoided for the chiffon dress (more about this dress in another blog post - edited to add - it was the Sewaholic Saltspring dress in red chiffon). I struggled to turn the straps, really struggled, for what felt like hours, and it was making me cross that I couldn't get them to turn! Perhaps I was being extra careful because of the chiffon.
Finally, after an Internet search, I found this technique mentioned. When I tried, it worked like magic and I decided to write up a 'How-to', to save the pulling out of hair and raised blood pressures of all sewists!
This works for narrow straps, even as narrow as 0.8cm or 3/8 inch (finished measurments) rather than thicker straps which are usually easier to turn. It won't work as well for medium/heavyweight fabrics, but works for quilting weight cotton.
The technique will work for straps with closed or open ends

What you will need:
Needle & thread, scissors, strap pattern piece, fabric, sewing machine, drinking straw (Not a joke!!!)

STEP 1 Cut pattern piece as directed and sew a 1/4 inch/ 0.5cm seam (this may vary depending on the pattern you work with and whether you want flat or rounded straps). Mostly, if you sew a larger seam it will need to be trimmed.

In this example I used fabric cut on the bias, which could be pressed into much thinner spaghetti straps if you wished
If you want to make your own pattern piece, measure the strap width you want, add 1/4inch or 0.5cm seam allowance, then double the result and cut this width from your fabric, to the length you want.

STEP 2 Thread a needle, knot it securely at the end so that the thread is doubled. Sew the knot into one end of the strap, close to the edge

Pull very firmly on the thread to ensure it is secure and trim the seam allowance a cm or two for easier turning.

STEP 3 Push the needle backwards down through the strap

So far this is a common method for turning straps, but usually when the thread is pulled, it bunches at the end and is very difficult to get the end turned in ....

...... not this time!
STEP 4 Using the drinking straw, now drop the needle and thread down through the drinking straw
I used a medium-sized straw (measured .5cm across the middle)

STEP 5 Push the straw into the strap,

keeping a little pull on the thread, so the thread won't get bunched up inside.

Push the drinking straw almost to the edge, to the level of your knot.

Turning Swimsuit straps
Now for the MAGIC, (especially if you use a lightweight or stretchy fabric),
STEP 6 Keeping the straw close to the level of the knot, pull gently, but firmly on the thread, no sudden movements!
The strap end will slip easily into the straw. It works instantly for stretch fabrics, easily for lightweight fabrics, and works for quilting weight cottons, though not as quickly.

Hold the strap end (with straw inside) between your forefinger and thumb using gentle but firm pressure.
Dabbing your fingers on a damp towel will help you get a better grip on the strap
Continue pulling firmly on the thread, without allowing the fabric to bunch up where the strap is turning. If it bunches up, push the straw back in.
Keep going until the straw and strap are pulled through.

STEP 7 When it is turned, you can either cut the thread or cut the end off the strap, make sure you have allowed a little extra length to do the latter!

Press and admire a beautiful and easily turned strap!
Use as directed in your pattern. Strap ends can be finished by folding and stitching or knotting, if not sewn into the garment lining.

There it is, 'Making fabric straps the easy way' or 'How to turn fabric straps or tubes with a drinking straw' and it must be tried to be believed!

Other links:
Burdastyle have a tutorial on turning spaghetti straps, but use 2 slightly different methods (in Pic no 11) to what I described here
A similar technique can be used for turning smaller tubes for dolls or toys and is illustrated very well on Melly&me
There are sewing tools like loop turners, Turnitall and FasTurn which can also be used to turn straps.

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  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I will definitely be giving this a try.:)

    1. Cindy, you're very welcome! Do let me know how it works for you :-)

  2. Nice! This looks like a great method - it really is all about getting that first bit inside the tube neatly.

    1. Thank you :-) That't the tricky bit, if that turns, the rest usually pulls through ok.

  3. Brilliant! Sometimes the most simple ideas are the best :-)

    1. Anthea, thank you! And it is such a simple idea, but I always hated turning straps - as you can see I had to practice over & over ;-)

  4. This is great! Thanks!

    1. Thanks Lelia, I hope you get to try it :-)

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