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Create Boning with Heavy-Duty Zip Ties

Recently, I purchased fabric for a spring jacket from Mood Fabrics. After making the jacket, I had some left over, so I decided to make a new gym bag for spring. I’ve made this bag before in other fabrics, and my complaint was that it drooped in the bag’s middle. Since I didn’t add any structure to it, the bag hung from the straps and caved in. I wanted to give this bag more shape.

In a previous post, I shared a creative use for heavy-duty zip ties I discovered while making myself corsets. Now, I’ll show you how I added boning to this bag with zip ties.

Here’s a detail photo of the inside, which is where I’ll begin the tutorial.

The front edge and where the flap folds over the opening needed boning. However, since this was what I call a throwaway bag, I didn’t want to burn through my supply of flat steel boning. Also, the flat steel is a little too stiff. I wanted some structure but not too much. Feather boning is too light.

Enter our friend the zip tie. The size I prefer to use is 121.92, and it can be purchased at your local hardware store.

When you use this as boning, cut it to length, and then melt the ends a bit with a match to smooth off the rough ends caused by cutting.

Cut leather strips 1-1/4-inches wide, press them in half lengthwise, and bind the front edge of the bag. The stitch line was 1/2 inch away from the leather strip’s folded edge. This gives just enough room to slip the zip tie bone into that edge.

Cut the bone 3/8 inch shorter on each end, so when the sides are bound to…

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  1. Laharet | | #1

    Thank you Kenneth for the reminder that we can step outside the box when creating garments.
    An unconventional material I used on a Mid-Victorian gown was half round basket reed. The over-skirt was made of petal shaped panels with bands set in-between them, they would not stay open and lay flat so I slipped the reed in the banding. What else would you use at 2 am with a deadline while digging through the attic when you are also a basket weaver :) Here are a couple of pictures of the gown so it makes sense.



  2. Lynnelle | | #2

    Thanks for the tip. I am considering making a strapless dress and this post could not have been timed more perfectly. I have a very full bust (36g). Will the zip ties provide enough support or should I go with steel boning? Thank you again.

  3. User avater
    kennethdking | | #3

    To Laharet: Charles James used the same kind of basket reed to make some of those shaped skirts on his ball gowns, so you're on firm ground here. I also applaud these kinds of solutions when under the gun--I worked in window display years ago, and we understood done was better than perfect, so whatever product got the results, we used.

    To Lynnelle: This boning provides quite a bit of support, but for the bust you mention, I'd go with flat steel--it has the needed strength. If you don't have access or are in a time crunch, double rows of the zip ties would give a good support. It really is amazingly stiff.

  4. linnydesigns | | #4

    Kenneth - you have such a knack for problem solving - love the gym bag, but looks like evening wear to me!

  5. user-1035281 | | #5

    This is so doggone cool! I just made a food cover with fiberglass screening and pre-wrapped boning and although it turned out fine, I couldn't help thinking it would have looked so much nicer with narrower boning...and the long length of the zip ties (which I didn't even know existed) opens up soooo many possibilities. You got my mind buzzing with ideas! Thanks so much!


  6. GMterrie | | #6

    I love it!

    For years I have been using the tough plastic packing strips used to wrap large packages. We usually get these through mail-ordered items. They are about 1/2" to 5/8" in width and very thin and rigid; impossible to crease. I have used a couple of them at a time as boning for bodices and they are perfect. Light-weight, comfortable, and dependable. There is no sagging with these.

    Thank you for using everyday items. Sewers are so clever.

  7. User avater
    howdah | | #7

    This is a great idea. I used packing straps, the kind that often reinforce heavy boxes, for similar use, but that is hard to find when you want it and hard to store. The zip ties would be easy to store and remain visible. I did not know they were available in these sizes.

  8. sewmagical | | #8

    I havw also used the packing straps that come on large items. (I saved them when we had to buy 3 new airconditioners during the same summer.)

    I used a short length of the strap to re-inforce the strap of a shoulder bag. It gives the strap extra body and makes it easier to grab.

  9. User avater
    kennethdking | | #9

    To Lillydesigns: It proved to be a little too fancy (read: non-durable) to use as a gym bag. The fabric (which I quilted to a black cotton duck) snags a bit, so I retired it as a gym bag.....

    In regards to those thin packing strips you all are referring to: When I worked in window display, and we needed to upholster a wall, I used the stripping (instead of cardboard strips) to "seam" the fabric selvedge to selvedge. (We had a bolt of it in the shipping department on the dock.) You can use it as a stand-in for cardboard stripping that you usually use in upholstery.

    After you staple the first length of fabric to the wall on the selvedges, put the second length right-sides together with the first, lining up the selvedges--run a length of the plastic stripping along one selvedge and staple through all of the layers. You can then fold the second length of fabric over the strip, wrong side to the wall, and staple the opposite selvedge to the wall. The strip makes a sharp edge that looks like a seam, and enables you to put enough tension on the fabric by pulling the opposite selvedge and stapling, to get a smooth surface.

    I encourage my students at FIT to not only know about sewing, but other kinds of handy work--solutions come from these other disciplines, and exposure to materials from other disciplines can be used in sewing! As you all have proved.

  10. Bobbie1 | | #10

    This is timely - not 15 minutes ago I was testing sewing the casing of plastic boning onto the seam allowances for a bag! But since there isn't much casing to sew to, neither a zipper foot nor a piping foot worked very well. Inserting the plastic boning into a binding is a much better technique that I will try tomorrow! And I will hit the hardware store for zip ties! Thanks so much for the technique.

  11. user-2099260 | | #11

    As well as dressmaking I am an embroiderer, and I make dolls house pieces in 1/12 scale. I was struggling for something to stiffen the hoop petticoat for a Tudor period doll, and eventually hit on strimmer cord: the 2mm plastic cord used for grass cutting machine! It's flexible, but springs back if crushed. It works a treat.

    Cut it long enough for about 3/4 inch overlap if you need a full circle. I've also used it to stiffen the edge of a sewing tidy to put thread ends by my machine.

  12. Inawillis | | #12

    I am trying to work out how to make some screening for our conservatory, just to take the glare away, this may be an idea for this task. Thanks for the idea.

  13. User avater
    Sewista | | #13

    Your brilliance rises to the occasion once again! Thanks for this tutorial.

  14. brooksleann | | #14

    I sometimes used plastic jugs and cut them into thin strips. The plastic jugs vinegar comes in or milk jugs work well. Just cut the size strip you need and wash well. I've used them for the tip of baby nursing covers and clothes pins bags, to make a stiff edge that keeps them open.

  15. shaydaisy | | #15

    For those of you looking for packing strips, Uline catalog has everything you might wish for! I have also used the plastic from powder creamer jar as the base for a bridal veil headpiece. The curve of the container had the perfect curve for the clasp. I covered it with satin and lace and embellished it with pearls. I attached the veil and added the clip. I used an lace edging with picots along the edge of the clip so the headpiece could be further secured with bobby pins. It was a bit stiffer than buckram but worked perfectly.

  16. user-1125726 | | #16

    On the subject of using non-specific materials: I use those $-store plastic cutting boards or place mats for adding shaping to purses. They can be encased in fabric or even 'punched' with the sewing machine and tacked into place. They are easy to cut, add almost on bulk and survive the washing machine. What more can you ask!

  17. User avater
    kennethdking | | #17

    I marvel at the inventiveness of our readers!

    Good ideas all...

    And thanks, Shaydaisy, for that resource!

  18. User avater
    LuvThreadsMagazine | | #18

    Senor King,

    Of structure and stiffness, information and inventiveness, you educate as you elucidate.

    A raving fan!

  19. kimsidlehands | | #19

    I had to make a costume for Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka. I had to figure out how to make her blow up like a blueberry. I ended up using a hula hoop and some cable wire to make her a nice round blueberry shaped costume. It was well accepted. Really made me think!

  20. OrahLee | | #20

    I love, LOve, LOVE the brilliance of Kenneth King !!!!

  21. LadyA1953 | | #21

    I once used PVC pipe to make really LARGE "welt" for the bottom edge of a window valance. The fabric a large busy tropical floral, and the welt was a solid color. The hard part was cutting the pipe correctly to make the return to the wall on both ends. Turned out really well, I thought. On the other end of the spectrum, I used covered weighted "chain" (such as is sewn into the weighted hems of custom window sheers) as welting on my fashion doll bed covers to make them fall gracefully down, instead of sticking out like fabrics tend to do in small scale. It was the perfect size for the doll bedding!

  22. User avater
    kennethdking | | #22

    I'm not the only one here who's inventive--I've learned a few tricks just reading these posts!

  23. e2hinman | | #23

    Loved the idea. I started using the smallest zip ties for boning when sewing for my fashion dolls, works great.

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