One day at the office I was shifting around in my chair and realized just how uncomfortable it is to sit on a chunky wallet in one back pocket and my business card holder in the other. If only they made a combination the two for a slim, front pocket wallet hybrid…
When I got home, I whipped up a design based on the most essential parts of the two. The outside pockets can hold up to 4 credit cards each, and on the inside you can double up on business cards, keep more credit cards, or stash away a little cash.
I’ve attached a AI of my design, but feel free to alter it to better suit your needs. The pictures here are of the original prototype, however since I've made several variations, including replacing one of the outside pockets with a money clip.
The natural tan version can pretty easily be knocked out in an afternoon, and the others just take a little bit longer because of drying time.
Step 1: Materials Needed
These are the materials that I used, however there are a lot of options available based on styles or desired outcome.
Leather – I’d recommend 2 to 3 oz or 3 to 4 oz vegetable tanned leather. Any thicker and it may make the wallet too bulky.
Utility Knife and/or Leather Shears
Metal Ruler (if using Utility Knife)
Wax Thread – Available in several colors
Stitching Tools – There are quite a few different ways to prepare leather for sewing (check out jesseratfink’s instructable “How To Prepare Leather For Sewing”). I use a stitching chisel, however it’s up to you what is most comfortable.
Edge Beveler (optional)
Decorative Fabric (optional)
Leather Weld Adhesive (if using decorative fabric)
Desired Dying Products - There are a lot of options for dying or staining, but my favorite is using an antique gel. It brings out some of the natural flaws in the leather and looks a little rugged. Tandy has a pretty handy leather coloring guide available on their blog.
Step 2: Step 1: Trace Design on Leather and Cut
To start out, you'll want to pick a desirable spot on the leather. If you're wanting a very clean look, try to find the most flawless part of the leather. If you are okay with (or prefer) it to be more rugged, you can use any part of the leather and let the natural scarring be part of the design.
When using a pattern on leather, you can either print it on paper or transfer the paper pattern on to something a little bit sturdier like cardboard, bag stiffener, or a sturdy thermoplastic. This makes it easier to transfer the pattern on to the leather and holds up through multiple uses.
To begin the wallet, you’ll want to cut out all of your pieces from the leather. To do this, dampen the leather with clean water and trace the design in with a stylus or anything that will make a light yet visible imprint (but not a mark).
After tracing the pattern in to the leather, cut out the pieces with either a utility/box knife or leather shears. If you are doing some pretty regular leather work, picking up a pair of leather shears will make your life infinantely easier.
Make sure all of the pieces line up the way you want them before proceeding. Refer to the above picture to see the layout.
Note: There will be a gap between the outside pockets. This allows for enough room for the wallet to fold properly.
Optional: On my wallets, I like to cut a hole in one of the front pockets to make it easier to slide out my ID’s.
Step 3: Step 2.1: Preparing the Pieces – Beveling the Edges (optional)
This step is not needed for the wallet to function, but it does help give a clean, finished edge.
Beveling is a process in which an edge beveling tool is used to remove the corners on the outside edges of the leather to prepare them for be polished in a later step.
Thinner leather can be a bit more difficult to bevel, so I'd recommend practicing on a few of the scraps left over from cutting out your leather. You may experience the beveler seeming to make small skips along the edge. Don’t panic as this will most likely polish out when burnishing.
Using the Edge Beveler, run the groove along any of the outside edges of your leather.
Step 4: Step 2.2: Preparing the Pieces - Coloring (optional)
If you stick with the natural leather, it can develop a beautiful natural patina over time. If you are wanting something a bit more custom, there are a variety of different colors available for leather in dyes, antiques, paints and stains.
You can learn more about these different options in a Leather Coloring 101 article available here:
I usually choose to go with an antique gel stain to highlight the natural character of the leather.
To do this, I applied the stain to the sponge and then evenly worked it in to the grain side (front) of each piece of leather in a circular motion. I also put some on the edges, however not on the back side (as it is difficult to seal the color on the rough texture). Once it is pretty even, you can buff it with a clean rag to further even it out and pick up any excess pigment.
After that has dried, seal it with a coat or two of Super Shene so that the color won't rub off on clothes, etc.
Step 5: Step 2.3: Preparing the Pieces - Backing/Edges (optional)
This step is a great way to stylize your piece.
In the picture above, my roommate decided to sacrifice the sleeves from what he referred to as his "Persian Nightclub Shirt" to be the inside lining of his wallet. (In case you were wondering, yes, he still wears this shirt sleeveless.) Since then, we've picked up 1 square yard sample pieces at fabric shops or thrifted for gaudy shirts to demolish for the interiors.
This can go on the back side of the leather of the inside piece that will go under the interior card sleeves (see images above).
After cutting it the same size as the interior piece (or may just slightly smaller to minimizing fraying), attach it with a very light coat of Leather Weld. To do this, spread it around on the leather lightly and then lay out the fabric on top before smoothing it by hand. If you use a little too much Leather Weld or if the fabric is this, you may feel some come through the fabric, however it tends to dry clear.
If you do not want a fabric lining, but you do want something a little bit more polished, you can use Gum Tragacanth. For this, you spread it on a slicker (or some other flat surface) and run it back and forth along the back, creating enough friction to give a glossy finish. You can also do this on the back of your card pockets.
If you beveled your edges in a previous step, apply Gum Tragacanth to the edges with a back and forth motion with the slicker. Check out the "Multi-Size Wood Slicker" video for a better explanation of how to complete this step.
Step 6: Step 3 - Sewing It All Together
This is probably the most time consuming step, but the very last one!
There are many methods of preparing leather for sewing, so I'll skip the tutorial and link you to the instructable "How To Prepare Leather For Sewing" or George Hurst's "Fine Hand Stitching on Leather"
I usually use an Adjustable Groover to create a guide for my holes 1/8th inch from the edge of the leather. It can also give the lace a groove to lay down in so it takes less wear over time.
As far as methods for lacing, I used the Single Needle Stitching method, however you can learn other methods in the "Hand Stitching" video.