the belt-up zone


Make a money belt!  A simple guide using either a machine or sewing by hand.




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You can download this complete guide as a PDF file (12 pages, with illustrations) here [330kB] download PDF money belt guide

Making a money belt - the bare-bones design

The sizes shown make a belt that will hold an EU or US size passport, credit card(s) and a fairly reasonable number of banknotes (about twenty $100 bills and $200 in local currency).

Making your own money belt is easy. If you make this belt as suggested, the costs should be less than half that of a commercial belt and - provided you sew carefully - it will last 2-5 times as long. If you are experienced in using a machine you can make it in about an hour. Double that time if you are a beginner. By hand it will take you quite a bit longer (four hours or more) because stitching in confined places around the zip is tricky and time-consuming.

When you are travelling, the belt is worn under your clothes, and comfort is obviously a major issue. Some of the belts in stores have nasty, sweat-inducing plastic materials in them and badly finished seams that will scratch and irritate you. The beauty of making your own belt is that you can choose friendly materials and fine-tune (if you like) the article to be as comfortable and utilitarian as possible. I've made five belts to this base pattern and have been happy with each.  It shouldn't take you long to discover what's right for you, but this bare-bones design is the best place to start. You can add embellishments to the pattern once you get the feel of the finished item or, if you're an experienced seamster(ess), modify it before you begin.

Pictured under is the current model of the belt design I use, a compact version which takes the EU standard passport and features two, popper-closed pouches to enable quick access to higher value local currency notes. It's not the belt you will make if you follow this pattern - those pouches on the front are extra, and you'll need more than beginners' stitching skills to get them right. I made the belt in Taslan-finish Gore-Tex, and all of the other construction follows the pattern described here. If the belt looks a bit battered in the photo that's because it is - it's been with me for eight trips lasting a total of two years! Aside from a little beeswax on the zip, it has distinguished itself by being almost ignored during two-day train rides, spells on the beach, sweaty nights in cheap hotels where I wore it to bed because the rooms' security seemed suspect, and trekking trips to the Everest region...  

Money belt design with added front pouches

Material and accessories - What will I need?

  • Base material 22cm x 21cm, plus a few scraps for testing thread tensions and masking the ends of the zip. Use whatever material you like, but bear in mind that thick stuff like denim is tougher to sew, and that thin materials quickly distort with normal wear and tear. Cotton is more skin-friendly, but has to be washed regularly - remember to take your passport out first - so it doesn't become stiff and uncomfortable.

    If you can get it, I recommend a Taslan finish, medium-weight breathable nylon, such as Gore-Tex. Then you won't need to wrap your things in plastic inside the belt to keep them from getting drenched by sweat. As an added advantage, Gore-Tex material won't fray when you sew it with simple seams as this pattern suggests (you may have to "bind" seams if you use a woven cotton fabric, for instance). However, Gore-Tex against your skin may be a little unfriendly for some people, so you may want to have a thin towel material covering the back .

    The given fabric size will allow you to fit one EU-sized passport, a few credit cards and some cash into the belt. If you plan to take something more, or use a larger passport, change the sizes to suit;

  • One 20mm Ladderloc buckle (this is the type with three or four bars, usually made of black plastic);

    ladderloc buckle

  • 1.5m of 20mm wide webbing in your choice of colour (I prefer nylon, as it won't stiffen with sweat, use 25 mm width if you like - it's more comfortable but bulkier. Obviously if you choose a different width of webbing get a matching size for the ladderloc buckle);

  • 21cm long coil zip, closed end, with slider (there's no need to buy a heavy-duty zip - a normal 6mm zip is fine and if you buy one "off the roll" you can get the length just right - otherwise buy a longer zip and cut it to size. Nylon zips wear OK, a jeans zip in metal may have a longer life, but it has a tendency to jam if you use a stretchy material for the pouch);

  • Strong polyester thread in the colour you choose;

  • Machine needles suitable for your material thickness;

  • A zip foot for your sewing machine;

  • A cigarette lighter or candle flame;

  • A few pins;

  • A good dollop of patience...


Where can I buy the materials?

Try your local haberdashery store for the bits, or if you live in Europe, visit Pennine Outdoor or Point North where you can browse online a large range of DIY sewing accessories and specialised waterproof materials. There are probably online materials suppliers in the US and Australia as well.

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