Tutorial: How to make an Obi Belt

A friend of mine asked me to explain how exactly I refashioned my dad’s ties into Obi Belts. Luckily I took pictures of the process so that I could share them with my sister.  I was about to write my friend an e-mail with the photos and step by step instructions but it occurred to me that I could post a tutorial** on the blog instead, so here we go.

To make one belt you will need:

  • The Obi Wrap Belt Pattern from BurdaStyle, or draft your own based on a RTW belt.
  • A men’s tie for the front of the belt, or you could use ¼ yard of fabric instead.
  • ¼ yard of fabric for the back of the belt. This can be in a coordinating or contrasting print. I used quilting cotton but any stable fabric will do.
  • Medium weight interfacing. Make sure the interfacing is nice and sturdy (you don’t want your belt to wrinkle or fold over every time you sit down) but not so stiff that it restricts your movements. I used fusible fleece and it worked fine.
  • About two yards of grosgrain, petersham or any other kind of ribbon.  You could also make ½” double folded bias tape from one of your fashion fabrics and topstitch the open edge shut to make your own “ribbon” for the ties.
  • Coordinating thread

A tie, interfacing, backing fabric and ribbon

Step One – Print the pattern, measure it and measure your waist, and then decide if you need to extend or reduce the length of the paper pattern so that the belt will fit your own waist the way you want it to. When altering the pattern make sure to grade the end so that the opening will be slightly wider than your ribbon.  My opening was a total of ½” wider than my ribbon to account for the ¼” inch seam allowance on either side.

Step Two – If using a tie, unstitch it (not as labour intensive as it sounds… the stitching in ties is very far apart and loosely stitched), remove the interfacing and press the fabric flat.  Ties are cut on the bias so be sure not to stretch it too much when pressing. If using fashion fabric, press your fabric.

Step Three – Cut your ribbon into two equal pieces (about 1 yard each).

Step Four – Using the paper pattern you just altered, cut one from each of the front and back fabric (Note that the pattern is cut on the fold).  You should also cut one from the interfacing. To avoid unnecessary bulk at the seams, cut the interfacing piece ¼” smaller than the pattern piece.

Cut pattern on fold. You should have three pieces (front, back and interfacing)

Step Five – Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse your interfacing to the backing fabric.

Step Six – Pin the ribbon to front fabric at each edge, making sure the excess ribbon is tied well away from edges.  To avoid sewing over the excess ribbon, I folded and pinned it towards the centre of the belt, away from the seams.

Pin each piece of ribbon to an edge but make sure the excess is away from the edges

Step Seven – With right sides together, place backing fabric on top of front fabric, sandwiching the ribbon in between the two layers, being careful not to catch the excess ribbon in the seam lines. Pin the sandwich all around.

There’s your sandwich all pinned in place

Step Eight – Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch around the sandwich, being careful to leave a 3” opening at what will be the bottom of the belt. Reinforce the sides seams were the ribbon is attached by stitching over a couple of times. Clip your corners.

Stitch around sandwich leaving a 3″ opening at the bottom; Clip corners

Step Nine – Flip the belt right side out.  Smooth the edges with your fingers and use a point turner to smooth the ends.  Press the belt making sure to turn under and press the 3” opening you left at the bottom.

Turn right side out. Use a point turner and your fingers to smooth all seams. Press.

Step Ten – Once the belt is nice and pressed and looking just like you want it to, using a 1/8” seam topstitch all around the belt making sure you close shut the bottom opening. For the topstitching you can use a coordinating or contrasting thread colour depending on the style you’re going for.

Press and pin opening in place. Topstitch 1/8″ from belt edge, closing opening.

Step Eleven – Press again to set the stitches.  Try on the belt and adjust the ribbon length to a length that pleases you. Cut excess ribbon, if any.

Step Twelve – Pat yourself on the back and let out a “hooray” – you’re done.

Et voilà, you’re all done.

These belts can be quite versatile: dress them up with silk fabric to wear with an evening dress (and make a matching clutch to go with it while you’re at it); use quilting cotton to wear with t-shirts and summer skirts; make it wider or thinner; instead of using grosgrain ribbon, make the ties out of coordinating fabric. Let your imagination fly!

If you make your own Obi Belt following this tutorial, please let me know.  I would love to see a picture of it!

** Disclaimer: I’m not a teacher and have never written out a tutorial. Also, my brain works in mysterious ways so while these instructions make perfect sense to me, they may not make any sense to you at all. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at stitchparade at gmail dot com

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