Simple Leather Wallet: Layout and Trace

Introduction: Simple Leather Wallet: Layout and Trace

Picture of Simple Leather Wallet: Layout and Trace

Now it's time to get our hands dirty, and work with some of this leather we've been talking about. We're going to be applying the skills we learn by making a simple no-sew leather wallet. Constructing this wallet will show you just how easy it can be to create simple leather projects. For this design, I have chosen a stiff 4 oz latigo leather in a warm brown. This is a good leather for this project because it holds its structure but isn't too thick.

In this lesson I'll show you how to transfer a paper pattern onto leather. Before we get started, assemble the tools and materials you need on your work surface and get comfortable. Print out your wallet pattern on paper and cut it out with scissors. Make sure when you print out the pattern, you have it scaled to 100% so it will be the right size. Also, If you can, print it on cardstock or thick paper, this will make it easier to trace the pattern onto leather.

In this lesson I'll be using:

  • Leather for the wallet
  • Scrap leather for testing
  • Wallet pattern printed and cut out
  • Scotch tape
  • Metal ruler
  • Awl

  • The Design

    Picture of The Design

    The wallet we'll be making is a simple but practical design. It is made entirely from one piece of leather with a bill compartment formed by two folded flaps, and two card slots that are just slits cut in the leather. The whole thing is held together by only 6 rivets, making it ridiculously easy to construct. I've also added a flap that snaps the wallet shut to help all my various cards stay where they belong.

    A simple design like this is really defined by the leather and hardware you choose. The more attractive your leather, the nicer your project will look, so choose something you like :)


    The Two Sides of Leather

    Picture of The Two Sides of Leather

    Before we start transferring our pattern to leather, we have to make sure we're marking on the correct side of the leather. Most leather, except suede, has two distinct sides, the grain side and the flesh side.

    The grain side is the smoother, shinier and generally nicer looking side. This is the top of the leather, almost always used as the visible side or outside of a leather project. It is the side I'm touching with my left hand in the photo above.

    In contrast, the flesh side is usually fuzzier, rougher and less finished looking. Sometimes on leather that is dyed or finished a certain way, the flesh side may even be a very different color than the grain side. The flesh side is almost always used as the underside or inside of a leather project, as it is usually less attractive. On a lot of leather, the flesh side is also softer than the grain side, making it better as the inside of wearable pieces where it will be touching your skin.

    I'm folding the leather over to reveal the flesh side with my right hand in the photo above.

    If you sew, you know that you usually cut and mark fabric from the reverse side, but when you're working with leather, you often mark on the grain side. This is mostly because you mark by making a scratch on the surface of the leather, and you can see this type of mark better on the grain side. It's also best to cut leather from the grain side to get the cleanest cut, and this means you need to make visible guide-lines on the side you're cutting.


    Transfer the Pattern Onto Leather

    Picture of Transfer the Pattern Onto Leather

    Now let's trace our wallet pattern onto leather. This is almost always the first step in creating any leather project from a pattern.

    First lay your leather out on a flat surface with the grain side facing up. If you have a large piece of leather, you might want to weigh it down with something to keep it from shifting around. Place the pattern piece on your leather, somewhere close to the edge so you are making the most efficient use of your material.

    You don't want to pin down your pattern piece here as you would with a sewing pattern on fabric. Any hole you make in leather will remain visible forever after, so pins are not a good idea. (Also, it's very difficult to stick pins into leather). As an alternative, I usually use a few small pieces of scotch tape to hold my pattern pieces down. Just two on a pattern piece is usually enough to hold it in place as you trace.

    The tape will leave marks on the leather, so only stick it in areas that won't be part of another pattern piece. If you've cut your pattern out of cardstock or oak tag, you can sometimes get away without using tape and just holding your pattern piece in place, but I still think a little tape is a good idea.

    Now take your awl and trace around the edge of your pattern piece while holding it down with your other hand. You don't need to press down too hard with the awl, just hard enough to make a visible mark on your leather. Having your pattern in thicker paper comes in handy here too because your awl has a firm edge to follow. When you have traced all the external lines, use the tip of your awl to mark the center of the rivet and snap holes marked with black circles on the pattern, and the black internal cut lines for the card slots. Don't mark the fold lines that are shown in red, we will mark those later.

    Now, remove the pattern from your leather, checking that you haven't missed any lines. To get perfectly straight lines on straight edges, I also sometimes just mark the corners, and then trace the lines with a ruler after removing the pattern.

    Here's a video to show you exactly how to do all this:


    Leather Marking Quiz

    {
        "id": "quiz-1",
        "question": "What is the top, or front, side of a piece of leather called?",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "the grain side",
                "correct": true
            },
            {
                "title": "the glaze side",
                "correct": false
            },
      	{
                "title": "the flesh side",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Great job!",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope. Take another guess."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-2",
        "question": "True or False: You should always trace patterns onto leather from the flesh side.",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "true",
                "correct": false
            },
      	{
                "title": "false",
                "correct": true
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "That's right!  Most of the time it is best to trace patterns onto the grain, or front side.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope.  Try again."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-3",
        "question": "The best way to secure a pattern onto leather while you trace is:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "pins",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "tape",
                "correct": true
            },
      	{
                "title": "glue",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes! A few small pieces of tape are a good way keep a pattern in place.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope. Give it another try."
    }
    

    What We Learned

    Picture of What We Learned

    In this lesson we took the first step in creating a leather design from a paper pattern. When you are constructing more complex projects with multiple pattern pieces, this can be a much more time consuming process. Transferring a pattern correctly will help ensure that the rest of your project comes together smoothly.

    Next we'll learn about leather cutting techniques, and follow the guidelines we've traced to cut out our wallet pattern!

    CLASS PROJECT

    Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

    Nice work! You've completed the class project