Making Braided Belts

Design Idea E724 Belt

by Dan, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

What's not to like about braided belts? They can look cool and rugged, or can be dressed up. Either way they provide lots of visual interest and texture. Braiding is the interlacing of several strands of flexible material into a long and narrow overlapping pattern.

Braided belts can be made from a variety of durable, yet flexible materials--including leather, nylon, fabric, canvas, cotton, faux leather and more. They go great with a wide variety of clothes and accessories, such as denim, linen, earth-toned and floral long and flowing natural fiber gowns and dresses as well as leather purses, just to name a few.

We'll point you in the right direction for materials and techniques you can use to start creating simple, but fashionable braided belts.

Essentially, any material you can lay out in long strips is ripe for braiding. Some materials will be easier to braid than others.

Cord comes in a variety of materials including satin, leather, cotton, plastic, nylon, hemp, suede and silk. You also have a complete rainbow of colors to choose from: basic colors to pink, gold, lavender and peach. Cord is most commonly available on spools anywhere from 5 to 100 yards.
By far, the most popular material for belts is leather, and this includes braided belts. Made from tanned animal rawhide and skin using a variety of processes, leather is durable and flexible, making it ideal for belts.
Leather Components and Cord
Fabric Ribbon
Fabric ribbon is available in silk, organza, velvet, nylon and more in 15- or 33-yard spools as well as 34-inch lengths. Most of these types of fabric ribbon are soft and supple, but will gain strength when strands are braided together. Still, rugged outdoor use is probably best left for sturdier materials such as leather.
Fabric Ribbon

Belt Styles

Wraparound braided belt
Belts have been around as long humans have been wearing clothing with braiding going back about 30,000 years. The wraparound style of belt will give you the most design flexibility and be the easiest to start with. It is worn around the midriff to gather in dresses, robes, long vests, tunics and other loose clothing--which makes this type of belt ideal for historical clothing styles such as ancient Roman, medieval, Celtic, Native American and Bohemian.

Quite simply, the wraparound belt consists of three or more sections of braiding joined in the front by a focal. The loose ends are tied together in the back, front, or most typically, side by the wearer.

Braiding pattern
Attach the three strips of material to a sketch board, the legs of a table or anything secure enough to resist pulling. Start by crossing the left over the center strip, and then the right strip over what is now the new center strip. Repeat that pattern of left-over-center, right-over-center until you've braided the entire strip.

For illustrations that show the step-by-step braiding instructions see ''The Braided Look: 3-Strand Bracelet''.

The simple beaded belt in the image below demonstrates the wraparound style.

Making Braided Belts
Because it is generally smooth and thin so it doesn't have to be aligned like strips, most beginners find it easy to braid with cord. Two long sections (or halves) can be braided with one end of each attached to a focal (or other component) leaving the other ends to be tied together when worn. The ends can be finished just like a necklace with terminators, crimps, knots, wireworking, etc.

Leather Sheets
The leather sheets we sell typically come in 9-1/4 by 3-1/2 inch rectangles. These can be cut into several strips that can be braided into 9-inch sections. These sections can then be connected in any number of ways with jewelry components such as focals.

Fabric Ribbon
As you will be cutting the ribbon into strips--unless you're making a belt for a small waist--you'll probably want to buy ribbon in spools instead of 34-inch lengths.

Other braiding techniques

Kumihimo Flat-Braided Belt
Kumihimo braiding using a plate or disc allows for many strands to be braided, which means more varied and intricate braids. Kumihimo braiding can be achieved with several different types of thread. For a fine braid, consider using hemp or silk and silk-like threads. For a thicker braid, consider using satin cord such as Satinique™ or imitation silk cording; for a very thick braid, ribbons and silk cord are wonderful to weave together.

Learn more about ''Using the Kumihimo Plate to Create Flat Braids'' in the FREE Jewelry-Making Instructions section of our website.

Spiral Kumihimo Braided Belt
A spiral braid adds even more visual interest to your belt. Learn ''How to Make a Spiral Kumihimo Braid'' here.

Shop Kumihimo Materials Kumihimo Resources

Once the basic braided belt has been completed, look for embellishment opportunities. And here, your options are almost limitless. You can add beads, rivets, tassels, pom-poms--as long as you don't have to worry about belt loops, just about any jewelry-making component is fair game. Have fun making belts that not only hold clothes together but gather curious onlookers together.

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