After being unable to find anything that met with her needs, a friend asked me to make a bespoke folio that she could use for business presentations.
She had certain requirements, and the challenge was making a case that met all of them, and still retained a character all its own.
This Instructable shows how i approached the project, and breaks down the steps i took to build it. If you're brave, have a go yourself!
Step 1: The Brief
The requirements i was given were :-
1. Hold an iPad 2 (make sure to check the actual dimensions, as they are all slightly different!)
2. Hold a Blackberry phone
3. Have somewhere to store loose leaf pages and a writing pad (A4 size)
4. A pocket for business cards.
and it was to be made of leather.
I was shown a typical faux leather business folder as an example, and immediately knew there was a much better solution to be found.
The next step was to quiz Rachel about how she used her current folder, how she prefered to use the ipad and what she hoped to achieve with this new product. Another question that proved to be vital in ensuring the case was right for the task was whether she was right or left handed.
This then informed the layout of the case, right down to putting a pen holder on the left side of the case rather than the right.
Watching Rachel hold the iPad and use it as she would in a presentation showed that it needed to be in landscape mode, and that it would be best located on the left of the case, with the phone off to the right.
With these points in mind, i then did nothing for a few days!
I find that i get a much better overall idea and design if i let my subconscious work on the details for a while. I mentally check in on the design every so often, but tend to leave it to mature on its own. Then when its progressed i find the idea jumps to the fore and i can examine and refine it before sending it back for more subconscious work. I know how mad that sounds, but it really does work!
Step 2: Refine the Design
My first thoughts were about the layout of the tech - and this really didn't need much thought. Knowing how Rachel used them, told me where to put them....simple.
The rest of the design was a little more considered.
A eureka moment came when i realised that even though she wanted a paper/pad section, it was really just storage and not a writing surface that was required. This meant i could forget the double folder design that i had been shown, and instead design a pocket that sat behind the ipad with enough room to hold papers, and rigid enough to support the face mounted tech.
Then i played with the idea of using the front cover to double up as a support, much like Apples magnetic iPad cover. I made cardboard templates and worked out a way to achieve a similar effect, using two layers of leather with a plastic layer sandwiched between to create the flap. But it just didnt feel right...it was too over engineered and would have been too bulky, heavy and awkward to use.
But I still liked the idea of the cover providing support at the back to angle the ipad for use whilst on a desk. I don't remember how the idea of the roll popped into my head (it was the subconscious earning its keep again)...but the instant i did, i knew it was the right solution.
Step 3: A Few Details More...
How would the rolled up cover stay in place?
That was next the question, and the answer was straps! Positioned just right, i could have the straps unobtrusively add a little detail to the case when not in use, but then when needed, they would pop into action and clip over the roll and held it in place.
I had yet to decide on the fastening mechanism for the case, but trusting that the idea would come along when it was ready...I began construction.
Step 4: Wet Molding
Knowing that i was going to make corner tabs to hold the ipad in place, i made a small wooden forming jig. Essentially it was a wooden plug the same thickness as the iPad, with the corners rounded to a similar radius as the iPad. This was attached to a plywood board, and a second plywood board was used, with a cutout a few millimetres larger than the size of the plug.
Using veg-tan leather allows you to wet mold...so i dunked it in water to saturate the leather, left it a few minutes to let it soak in, then placed it on the leather plug, pushed the second plywood plate over the two and forced the leather to mold to the shape of the plug. I held the combo together with strong clamps for 24hours and left it all in a warm place to dry out.
I also used the same method to create a wet mold for the blackberry phone holder.
Step 5: Wet Mold Inspiration
To make a pen holder to go on the side of the case, i needed to mold another piece of leather. Rather than faff about making another mold i used something lying around in my room - a shelf bracket !
It was the perfect size to push over the top of some wet leather and a pencil. This gave the basic pocket shape, and was held in place with clamps whilst it dried. Simple and very quick to do.
Step 6: Cut Outs
Then i marked out the corner tabs and the phone pocket using cardboard templates, then carefully cut them out ensuring i left enough spare leather on the edges to stitch through.
A Pricking Iron was used to mark out the stitch holes.
Step 7: Mark-up
Cardboard templates were cut out and stapled along stitch lines so i could check they were going to work.
I find this method is quick and easy, the staples act like the stitching would, and can be quickly unpicked leaving the cardboard as a cutting template.
I was using 2mm thick veg-tan leather for the carcass of the case, and before marking it up for cutting, i used a few coats of Fiebings "British Tan" leather dye to colour it. Then it was marked up with a scratch awl, literally scratching the cut lines into the leather.
Then using a very sharp Saddlers Round Knife, cut out the pieces I would need.
Step 8: Layout
To ensure that the tabs would be in the right place i needed to use the iPad to markp the tab positions. Again, the positions were lightly marked into the leather with an awl so i would not lose the marks or add unsightly ink stains.
I also found that the phone pocket was slightly to loose to hold the Blackberry securely, so i planned on adding a suede inner to the pocket. This would need gluing in place before the pocket was stitched on.
Step 9: Stitching
I decided on this job that it would be easiest if i glued the tabs into position before stitching, so applied some contact adhesive to each surface and carefully located each tab. Then left it to dry before stitching.
I use the saddle stitch technique, which requires the use of two needles (one at each end of the thread) with each needle passing through every hole in opposite directions to its counterpart. This is not easy if you cannot hold the leather vertically, so i usually use a homemade Stitching Pony to clamp the work between my knees.
This time, the leather was too big so i jerry-rigged a frame with a clamp hanging down from above my head to hold onto the leather and stop it from getting in my way.
Its important to plan out the steps you need in the precise order you need to do them, otherwise you can easily find yourself in trouble. If i had not fastened the corner tabs at this stage, i would not be able to stitch them later on, when the sides and rear had been stitched. Also , they needed attaching before the suede lining was added to prevent the stitch lines spoiling the rear pocket lining. Just like i needed to attached the pen holder to one side before that side was attached.
Step 10: Back Up There...
The rear side of the leather was pretty ugly, and as this was going to be a premium product i wanted to line it with some lovely Paprika coloured suede.
It was cut to size then glued into place with contact adhesive...being careful not to get glue on the front of the suede, or to get air bubbles when bringing the pieces together. Once in place, it was all trimmed to fit flush .
I did not apply the suede to the rear section of the case yet...i needed to make and attach the cover before i could add that piece.
Step 11: Cover Story
The cover was made from two pieces of suede glued back to back. Then a strip of leather was cut to fold around the leading edge. This was skived to thin it out, dyed to match the case and then it was glued in position.
When the glue was dry, i stitched all around the front and sides to ensure it was not going to separate. Before attaching it to the main body, one final trick was to use a Red Sharpie pen to colour the edge of the suede. Some leathers do not get coloured right through when they are made, and this one had an ugly white band running through the centre of the suede. The sharpie cured that !
Step 12: More Stitching
This photo shows the cover after it was stitched to the rear part of the bag.
I had positioned it so there was enough space to have a business car pocket on the back, and so that the stitch line would be in the perfect position to provide the right angle of support for the case when used in its "desktop" mode.
Then i could glue the final piece of suede to the inside of the case. The large sheet of card seen here is to prevent me from spilling glue onto the cover piece.
Step 13: Straps
These were simply two strips of leather with a popper at one end, and stitched to the body at the other end.
I used two studs for each popper, one on the rear panel of the case to hold the strap in place when the cover was rolled up, and a second on the cover itself to hold the strap secure when it was not in use.
Step 14: Put It All Together
During the final construction, first job was to attach the sides to the front face.
I did this because the rear face is tapered to allow the case to sit better on the desk. The front face has the longer straight edge, so makes sense to use that to start from. The edge was glued in place and firmly clamped.
When dry i could start stitching.
The second image here illustrates why you need a sharp awl...i am pushing through 4-5 layers of leather, with a combined thickness of approx 1cm. Every stitch hole needs making before the needles can go through, and there are 7 holes per inch...so thats a lot of tough holes to make.
Once the front is attached, then the rear gets stitched onto the side pieces. I didnt bother with glue on the rear side, as the pieces were already firmly held in place and i needed to push and pull a bit to be sure the edge lined up as i stitched.
Step 15: Shut It
The last step was to make the toggles that would hold the case closed.
I laminated a couple of strips of pig leather, sanded them into cylinders, then burnished them to give a lovely almost wooden look. A couple of holes were drilled in each to allow a thong to pass through.
The thong was long enough to wrap right around the case, with enough spare that it could be pulled tight through the second toggle hereby holding it securely, but also easy enought to loosen and release.
A couple of leather tabs were stitched to the case through which the thong passes to stop it from falling off.
Step 16: Finished
Just a few images of the finished item.
My client was very happy, and i'm very proud of it too.
Hope this inspires someone to have a go themselves.