Overalls, dungarees or bib-and-brace overalls are cool and comfortable to wear, regardless of the name that you prefer to use! If you have a pair of overalls with shoulder straps that are too short, below is an easy way to extend them.
The materials and tools that you will need to extend the straps of your overalls are:
- Fabric with a thickness similar to that of your overalls, in a color that matches them*;
- Sewing thread (I recommend extra strong thread for heavy fabric);
- A sewing machine;
- An iron;
- A seam ripper;
- A tape measure;
- Sewing pins.
* If you have an old pair of jeans or another type of pants, which match you overalls, this is a great opportunity to upcycle them. Pictured here is the bottom part of one of the legs from an old pair of jeans, cut open and ready to be reused to make strap extensions.
Now let’s begin!
1. First, you need to decide the location of the seam which will connect the new strap extensions to the old straps. As shown in the image above, I recommend that you place this seam a little bit behind the shoulder line so that it is not visible from the front and is only barely visible from the back. Put on your overalls and mark the position of this seam in one of the straps with a sewing pin.
2. Next, with a tape measure, measure the distance between the sewing pin that you just placed (the yellow dot in the zoomed-in image in the photo above) and the top edge of the bib (the green dot in the photo). This distance is highlighted in pink in the photo.
Add 15 cm (6″) to that measurement; this will give you the length of each strap extension piece, including seam allowances. In my case, the distance between the yellow and green dots was 24 cm (9 1/2″). So adding 15 cm ( 6″) to that measurement made the total length of each strap extension piece to be 39 cm (15 1/2″).
3. Remove the buckles from the old straps, and carefully align them.
Then shorten the straps by cutting them, as indicated by the black dotted line in the image, 1 cm (3/8″) from the sewing pin (in the direction of the loose ends).
4. Using a seam ripper, undo approximately 4 cm (1 1/2″) of the stitches of the side edges from the cut end of each old strap.
Now you should be able to spread open the folds and see the entire width of the old strap piece, as shown in the image. (If it is too difficult to spread open the folds, undo more stitches.)
5. The width of the strap extension pieces needs to be the same as that of your old shoulder straps.
Measure the width of the end of one of the old straps, spread open (as shown in pink in the image). In my case, the old strap was 7.5 cm (3″) wide.
6. Using the length and the width calculated in the previous steps (in my case: 39 cm (15 1/2″) long and 7.5 cm (3″) wide), cut out 2 rectangular strap extension pieces.
7. Set your sewing machine to the zigzag setting. I set the stitch width to 5 mm and the stitch length to 0.5 mm (60 spi, stitches per inch).
Sew across the end of each old strap, as well as the two narrow ends of the new strap extension pieces. (This is to stop the fabric from fraying.)
8. Now set your sewing machine to the straight stitch setting, with a stitch length of 2.5 mm (10-12 spi). You will be sewing two layers of fabric together. So, especially if you are using thick fabric, I recommend that you adjust the thread tension of your machine accordingly.
As shown in the first image, align the end of one of the old straps with one end of one of the strap extensions, with their reverse sides facing out.
Sew them together across the width of the straps, approximately 1 cm (3/8″) from the edge, as shown in the second image on the left (as seen from their reverse sides). The third image shows their outer sides.
9. Set your iron to the temperature setting appropriate for the fabric you are using.
Spread open the two seam allowances of the newly made seam, and iron them flat, as shown in the image.
10. Also, make a fold 2 cm (3/4″) from the loose end of each of the strap extensions, and iron it flat.
11. Fold the sides of the strap extensions to match the folds of the old straps.
Iron the folds and hold them in place with some sewing pins.
12. Using the same straight stitch setting as before, sew the sides of the strap extensions. The important thing here to try to match your stitches to those of the old straps.
In my case, the old straps had two parallel lines of stitches along each edge. So the new straps also have two lines of stitches.
13. Put the buckles onto the ends of the newly extended shoulder straps, and you are done!!!
Now that your overalls have longer shoulder straps, it should be a lot easier to adjust their fit, depending on how tightly or loosely you’d like to wear them.
By the way, did you know that the name dungarees comes from the name of a town in India, called Dongri? According this informative site, the fabric produced in that town was mainly used to make sails, but sailors apparently reused old sail fabric to make work clothes!
Below are a few other DIY fashion projects that may also interest you:
Hurray for DIY fashion!