If you are learning how to make a leotard or swimwear, sooner or later you are going to want to sew some strappy styles. Here I will show you how to make Spandex Straps in 3 different ways to get the exact look you are after.
Once you are confident in how to sew spandex straps you can add single and double straps, cross over your straps and make all kinds of custom leotards and swimwear. Look at your local dance school or skating arena and you will find all kinds of unique strappy designs as inspiration.
How to Make Spandex Straps
In all my photos I used a contrast thread so you could easily see my stitching. If you use a matching thread your stitching will be almost invisible and look much more professional.
Don't forget your stretch needle to prevent skipped stitches and a teflon foot to prevent the fabric from feeding through the machine unevenly.
Further Reading: How to sew Lycra and Spandex with a regular machine.
These straps all use ⅜" (1cm) swimwear elastic. Swimwear elastic is tightly woven and won't rot with sweat or chlorine. Never use cheap elastic for your leotards or swimwear. All your hard work can be ruined by stretched out elastic that won't hold its shape.
Further Reading: How to sew elastic in leotards
Cutting Binding for spandex straps
Cut a piece of Spandex 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) in width and the length indicated in the pattern.
If you don't have a pattern to follow for the strap length, simply use your tape measure to work out roughly what you will need and then add a couple of inches for safety. It is easy to cut off any excess strap at the end.
Sewing Spandex Straps
Method 1: Wrap Around Zig-Zag
This is the easiest and fastest method for making spandex straps and is great for beginners.
Step 1: Cut the ⅜ inch (1cm) wide elastic 95% of the length of the binding (the maths: length x 0.95). This means that your elastic will be stretched out slightly giving better tension in your final strap.
Step 2: Using a wide zig-zag, stitch the elastic along the wrong side of the binding stretching it slightly to fit the length of the binding.
If you have a really long strap you should mark the center of the elastic and the center of the binding. Pin the center and ends and stretch the in-between sections to get a nice even tension.
The zig-zag will be right on the edge and go off the fabric. Try a width of 6.0 and a length of 3.0.
You could use a serger but I generally find the results are more consistent using a zig-zag. Sometimes a serger stretches the elastic out. Do a test first!
Step 3: Fold the elastic edge over once on the wrong side of the binding.
Step 4: Turn over the edge again. The previous stitching will now be completely hidden. Try and wrap as tightly as you can.
For your first time put a few pins in vertically to hold it in place. As you get more experienced you will be able to turn twice and sew all in one motion without using pins.
Step 5: On the top side of the strap, stitch with a zig-zag stitch through the center.
The width is your personal preference but I generally reduce it slightly and use a width of 4.0 and a length of 2.5
Step 6: Turn over your strap to the back and carefully trim the excess fabric. I find it easiest with a small pair of sharp scissors to get closest to the stitching.
All finished and ready to sew on to your leotard!
Method 2: Folded with Twin Needle
The next method I'd like to show you gives a professional-looking strap similar to what you will see in a lot of store-bought costumes.
Step 1: Start the strap the same as the zig-zag method up to step 5.
Step 2: Instead of using a zig-zag on the top of the strap, use a twin needle. It is important you sew on the top of the strap as the underneath will look like a little zig-zag. If you are new to using a twin needle read how to sew with a twin needle.
Step 3: Trim the excess fabric from the back just like step 6 of the zig-zag method above.
Method 3: How to Make Spandex Straps by Turning
The advantage of the turning method of making spandex straps is that there is no visible stitching along the strap. This makes for a very clean and professional strap. They do take a little longer to make than the above 2 methods however and are not suitable for really long straps as they are too hard to turn.
Step 1: Once again you will use binding 1 ½ inches wide (3.8cm) wide and a few inches longer than you will need. Cut your ⅜" (1cm) elastic the same length this time with no reduction.
Step 2: Fold your binding in half lengthwise with right sides together.
Step 2: Attach the elastic to the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch. Use a wide zig-zag of 6.0 wide and 3.0 length.
You can use a serger instead but it may stretch out the elastic. Counteract that by shortening the elastic length slightly or stretching it as you sew. Experiment a little to get the tension right with a serger.
Step 4: Now for the tricky part. Turn your tube right way out. I generally use a small safety pin but you can use a tube turner or bobby pin.
All finished and ready for attaching. Look how clean the top looks.
So now you know 3 ways how to make spandex straps! Leave a comment below on your favorite method. Mine is the zig-zag as it is the fastest. Using a matching thread you can hardly see the stitching.
Here are some of my bestselling leotard patterns you can use as a base for your unique customized costume.