Introduction: Make a Coffee Bag Wallet & Friends for Free

Picture of Make a Coffee Bag Wallet & Friends for Free

I lost my wallet in San Francisco a few months ago and have not wanted to buy a new one. As I was throwing a coffee bag away the other day, I thought it was good material for something or other so I saved it. While saving the 4 th bag, it shone in a glossy attractive way and I realized it could be my next wallet with a little folding and sewing.

Over 3 mornings of coffee, I designed a billfold that holds credit card and plenty of cash.  

Great thing about this is it is camoflaged as trash so when you leave it at the counter of the In N' Out, people leave it alone thinking it's your trash, so when you go back later to find it because you forgot it, it will still be there! 

I've sold several of these to people who want to give them as gifts to their friends who are hard to buy for... friends who don't like being bought for, so give them the gift of a handcrafted useful item made of shiny colorful trash that smells great and helps them make friends of the curious people attracted to their interesting money carriers.   

1. open the bag
2. remove the vacuum belly button
3. practice folding to make sure you like how it'll look
4. sew (or duct tape) the hem
5. measure and sew the middle separator
6. measure and sew (or duct tape) the ends
7. attach velcro closure (optional)
8. fill with monies, calling cards
9. make friends with the curious admirers of your wallet!

1. coffee bag, at least 10" wide when opened
2. sewing machine (or duct tape + needle/thread)
3. duct tape
4. measuring device
5. velcro (optional)

Negative $7 (I've sold 6 of these, and one person offered me $10, but I would only take $7)

40 minutes for the first one, 15-20 minutes once you've made a few

This instructable has pics from making 3 different wallets...

Step 1: A Foot of Bag

Picture of A Foot of Bag

Undo the main vertical seam and open the bag to be flat. If you have a Newnan's own bag, those have 4 seams and aren't great for this project, but you can experiment.  Dunkin Donuts bags are easy to open the main vertical seam, others not so easy you may have to cut open.

Measure the bag dimensions. Carefully cut the bag to be 12" wide (as you are reading bag text).

The Dunkin Donuts bags are already exactly 12" wide.

You should have at least 9" in the other direction (don't need to cut down to 9 inches, the excess gets cut off later).

Step 2: Belly Button Excision

Picture of Belly Button Excision

Coffee bags have those vacuum sealing belly buttons, you can

1. get lucky and easily pry it off with a knife (safey first!) or fingernails. By trying to prying it off, you might tear a big hole. (If you do, try to replace the torn material and duct tape the laceration.)

2. or take a small saw, and cut around the outside edge 360 degrees and get most of it cut off so it only creates a small lump in the finished wallet.  Sort of gives it an authentic feel!  Be careful here, you could cut your finger, or scratch up, slice open the bag, so go slow and easy.

These pics show examples of 3 different bags and how I removed their belly buttons.

Step 3: Fold Hems, Practice Wallets Fold 1 and 2

Picture of Fold Hems, Practice Wallets Fold 1 and 2

Fold Edges

You have a 12" wide piece of material.

Fold one edge 3/4" over, and the other 1/2" over as shown. One foldover should be toward the back of the bag (Hem#1), one should be toward the printed side (Hem#2) (see pic).  

Practice the 2 Folds before sewing

Different coffee bags have vacuum seals in different locations. Once in a while I end up trying to fold a wallet and the belly button remaining ring ends up where I want to fold it, so I have to change direction of folding...

Only do this part if you have a hard belly button ring left. If you ripped the whole thing off, you can skip this:

Do Fold #1: Fold Hem#1 edge toward Hem#2 fold leaving 7/8" (see pic)

Fold #2 = Fold bottom of that to the back and up so that fold is peeking up about 1/4" - The wallet is best when the whole thing is 3" wide (in this pic it's only 2 and 3/4")

So if there are no belly button rings on the folds, you have your folding plan! But if there was a belly button remainder ring in the way of the folds, you will need to fold the original 2 hems in opposite directions...

Step 4: Fold N Sew (or Tape) Edge Hems

Picture of Fold N Sew (or Tape) Edge Hems

Fold and Bone Edges

After determining the right hems to fold in previous step, make sure it is a straight fold (measure from your planned fold to the other planned) and run a heavy smooth item on the fold to crease it - Tim Anderson told me this is called  "boning."  You are boning the bag!

Sew the Hems

Use a sewing machine or duct tape to make hems. You will be sewing on the side opposite  the foldover so stay close to the edge.

Choose a cool thread color. I used green. Sew all the way down the bag on each hem.

Sewing Tips:
1. Don't use a stitch that is too small or it will perforate the plastic and cause a rip.
2. Help the plastic bag move during stitching; the slippery bag material will slide on the lower teeth that are designed to keep fabric moving forward under the foot, and then you'll get a bunch of tiny stitches close together thus cutting the bag apart.

Step 5: Fold #1, Then Crease

Picture of Fold #1, Then Crease

Fold #1
Fold the colorful finished hem up to the silver finished hem.  There should be 3/4" plus 1/8" (=7/8") of silver peeking out.  This is where the credit cards are going later. Measure well!

Put small temporary duct tape pieces to hold colored hem to silver hem, but don't put tape near the middle.

Fold the wallet in half (opposite dimension from the first fold) and make a crease (you don't have to bone this time). The crease will go in the same direction as the text on the bag.

Step 6: Sew Middle Seam

Picture of Sew Middle Seam

1. Start sewing at the top of the colored edge, about 1/8" to the left of the crease. Go back over 2 stitches to secure, then sew all the way to the bottom edge, stopping 1/8" before the edge.  

2. Back stitch 2 stitches and go forward 2 stitches again. Cut thread...
2. Do that again 1/8" away from the middle crease on the other side.

Another option is to sew just one seam down the middle on the crease. I made 2 seams thinking it might make room for more bills in the billfold area.

You can also opt to sew forward without backstitching on 2 stithes at beginning and end, and just sew one straight seam, turn the wallet around 180 degrees, and sew back over it one time.

If you don't have a sewing machine, you can sew this easily by hand.

Step 7: Fold #2

Picture of Fold #2

Fold #2
Fold the bottom up so there is 1/4" of colorful side peeking up above the silver edge. Wallet should be 3" wide.

Put in bills and credit cards to see how the spacing is working! Adjust to your taste.

Duct tape the layers in place to get ready to sew.

Step 8: Sew (or Tape) Ends

Picture of Sew (or Tape) Ends

Sew seam 1/8" or a tad more away (maybe 1/4" depending on how many cards you want to stuff in there) from credit card edge.

Stop sewing before reaching the bottom edge, leaving needle down in the bag. Lift the foot of the sewing machine, turn wallet around, put foot back down and sew slowly back over seam a second time.

Repeat on the other side of the wallet. Don't cut off ends yet.

If you are using duct tape: go ahead and cut 4-1/4" from the middle seam, put in some credit cards, and seal end with thin strip of duct tape. Repeat on other side

Step 9: Velcro and Trim Ends

Picture of Velcro and Trim Ends

You're done with all the sewing.

Select a velcro closure that is not too massive, or it will be hard to open the wallet (or make loud noise when using).

Adhere one half of the sticky velcro pair inside one side of the wallet.  Then put the velcro mate onto that velcro so they are vecroed together and a sticky side is exposed.

Fold wallet so it folds on the seam you sewed in the middle lining up edges so it closes symmetrically and the other wallet side sticks to the exposed velcro sticky side.

Now you can trim the ends and have even sides of the wallet!

You can also use a piece of duct tape to hold the wallet closed for a while...

Step 10: Give the Wallet As a Gift With Ways for Them to Make New Friends As Another Gift!

Picture of Give the Wallet As a Gift With Ways for Them to Make New Friends As Another Gift!

Give the wallet as an ideal Holiday Gift. Before giving the gift, make cool cards with your friend's contact info, and put those in the wallet.  They will have a good reason to pull the wallet out a lot without having to buy stuff.

They can also strike up a conversation like: "Hey you want to see my cool coffeebag wallet?"  Then they'll make new friends, use the cool wallet you gave them, maybe tell folks about instructables, and not buy more stuff.

It will be their favorite gift!


bitabiti made it! (author)2017-03-24

Thank you for the instruction. I've tried it. I can understand now, why the velcro is needed. :)

builder927589452 made it! (author)2016-02-19

Did one today
Won't stay the only one
Only thing that would be cool: a folding scheme had to turn mine several times until it fitted:)

Pepe Silvia made it! (author)2016-01-10

Great project and great instructions. Fun to make and I learned to sew, too!

gurrz made it! (author)2015-09-14

Have tried it today before I go to bigger projects with Coffeebags. :-) Thx

duncangallimore (author)2013-09-27

Love this - made one and using it now. Stupidly tried to iron it (doh!) but the damage can be covered up quite easily (thought I might sew a photo over it). Anyway, I'm hooked so will be making more. How did you get yours flat? Mine had creases I wanted to get out.
Thanks - this i'ble is now a favourite.

uasmmx (author)2013-03-21

This is the first time I use the sewing machine!!, thanks to my mother who teach me, I'm very happy!

curiousmonk (author)2012-12-19

Made one of these last night - pretty happy with the first-try results, especially since it's been about fifteen years since I used a sewing machine!

Thanks for a great instructable. I'm looking forward to making a few more :)

alo1 (author)2011-05-19

Can you post a video too?

katmckee (author)alo12012-06-19

I should be sewing a bunch in July, and i just bought a vid camera, so... yeah, maybe! I have been doing more applique work, people love them.

teresa0 (author)katmckee2012-07-07

Thank you! I am looking forward to the video.

bryandhispup (author)alo12011-07-05

I agree!

napalm2 (author)2011-08-10

sorry but what are these coffee bags?? i live in the uk and havnt a clue what they are

katmckee (author)napalm22012-06-19

sorry for so long a time to answer! Coffee bags are what coffee comes in when you buy coffee in food stores. 10oz, 12oz or 16oz bags.

Sokol (author)2011-01-09

I made another wallet. Keyth here, again, the one who lost his original account, drat it! Anyway, I made another wallet. I tell you these things are long-lasting, and the one I made (shown above) was only starting to show signs of wear at the top and bottom middle where the fold is. But I wanted to make one where the design really showed better, so I had to modify this a bit.
First, I sewed two bags together to make a larger fabric from which to cut the pattern.
Secondly, despite numerous attempts to use a practice sheet of paper, I could not figure out how to get the design where I wanted it on the finished piece. So, I constructed this backward. That is, I folded the design where I wanted it to be on the finished wallet, and then I folded the top, bottom and insides. Here is the wallet. If you have any questions, let me know, and I'll make an instructable.

katmckee (author)Sokol2012-06-19

wow, that one is really gorgeous! !

katmckee (author)Sokol2011-04-21

I have also sewn multiple bags together for cool design!

katmckee (author)Sokol2011-04-21

wow, these are beautiful! I've been making some, I should post pics. thanks for sharing!

napalm2 (author)2011-08-09

what are these coffee bags may i ask, i live in the uk and do not quite understand the product, but i understand most of the tutorial.

girlcousin (author)2011-06-28

LOVE it! I keep cranking out drink pouch business card holders, and people are nuts for them (once they realize I didn't give them a pack of Kool-aid!)

lafnbear (author)2011-05-19

Love the juxtaposition of sewing (a stereotypically feminine task) with the use of a manly carpenter's tape measure!

croqzine (author)2011-05-17

Cool! I'm linking to your project on Dollar Store Crafts tomorrow:

rogerrabbit321 (author)2011-04-02

Well done! When i was sewing the credit card sections, i didn't pull it tight enough and now theres some wrinkles when i close it, but that's ok. I bought my Rwanda bag at Costco and it turned out really cool! Thanks for my new (waterproof!) wallet!

craftyv (author)2011-02-21

The difference between Boning and Burnishing is this.
Boning is to use a smooth implement to make a strong crease on your paper, coffee bag, card, etc.
Burnishing is to rub a smooth implement onto an image to 'shine" or polish the image.
Love these wallets however I must admit I find the written directions a bit complicated and have referred to the pictures for my instructions.

blodefood (author)2010-05-22

Great idea, but you would have to make it larger for Canadian or UK notes.

katmckee (author)blodefood2010-12-06

yes! my friend wanted to take some to her friends in Germany and were testing out some Euro billls, some were not fitting!

katmckee (author)blodefood2010-07-18

mm. good point! folks who tend to like these billfold wallets want really small wallets in their pocket so I made these the size of our bills with little room for bigger stuff... I did make a few bigger ones for people that like to keep receipts and lotto tickets that might work for other notes.

D Robinson (author)2010-04-28

I think you mean "burnishing" when you say "boning."

craftyv (author)D Robinson2010-09-25

There is a tool used in Origami or scrap-booking called a "boning tool". It is a piece of hard polished agate held in a handle. It's used for rubbing along paper folds to make an extremely sharp crease, so would seem to fit the usage described here. I think any smooth object can be used such as a plastic rulers edge or the smooth handle of a pair of scissors. So long as you don't tear or stretch the material being used. Great Instructable.

katmckee (author)craftyv2010-12-06

thanks for that great interesting info, craftyv!

far2_gr8 (author)2010-09-30

I cannot wait to make this! My lovely keyboard insert wallet is looking kinda rough, but we have Kick A** coffee here that I am SO going to use for this...I will post when done.

katmckee (author)far2_gr82010-12-06

hey, did you make the wallet? can you post a pic?

Puzzledd (author)2010-10-23

Great idea- dirt cheap, clearly explained, really interesting appearance -and re-using trash! I love it!

Keyth (author)2010-02-15

This is great.  I made a quick one out of the first coffeebag I had, but I have my eyes on a silver bag beaing sold at Starbuck's right now, or a more colorful Dunkin Donuts one, too.
But this has worked out great.  I needed a wallet and this was a handy one to  make quickly.  Plus it is durable and smells fantastic!

I zigzag stitched my edges and then cut close to the stitching.  I wanted something a bit more finished looking than the simple cut edges.

And you're right.  It draws attention.  I got a lot of comments from the folks at Starbucks. 

katmckee (author)Keyth2010-07-18

I just made a wallet today out of this very same bag!

katmckee (author)Keyth2010-03-31

Hey, I love seeing someone else's coffeebagwallet!  Thanks for posting!

Tessab (author)2010-07-11

Those are so cute, i want to make one for my boyfriend haha. What brand of coffee was the purple one you made? If you dont mind me asking, the picture is awesome :D

katmckee (author)Tessab2010-07-18

that is from a coffee roaster in Seattle. next time I make a wallet with that brand I'll post it! thanks!

sufairlie (author)2010-02-04

looks awesome and I am trying to do it right now, but I am having trouble following the directions. do you have a video that I can follow?  I don't understand where to fold... please help!

katmckee (author)sufairlie2010-02-08

sorry it's confusing! the video is a great idea. I'll make a quick one showing just the folds, not the sewing, this week.

yfghzu (author)2010-01-23

Eto polnay Hyinay!!

katmckee (author)2010-01-14

Well you might want people to buy coffee so they will give you their coffee bags.

nightcreep20 (author)2010-01-05

I want to make one out of burlap covered cardboard.

Vspec (author)2010-01-03

Nice, the foil lining may also be able to block rfid tags as well which is a plus.

=SMART= (author)2009-12-30

Haha i love keeping various materials and objects just incase they are useful in the future :)
Great work

noahw (author)2009-12-30

Nice job!

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