Introduction: DIY Leather Origami Pouch

About: Tinkerer with a garage, tools, and time to kill...

This instructable will outline the process for making a unique leather pouch that can be used to carry coins, bills, or other trinkets. The pouch is based off an Origami fold called the square twist -- the unique motion and look of the pouch as you open and close it are sure to get noticed. This is not just another leather pouch!

The steps are relatively simple and don't require much in the way of tools. You will need:

1) Sewing machine

2) Awl

3) Roller Blade

4) Putty Knife

5) Straight-edge/ruler

The material list is even easier: All you need is leather and a small elastic band

OK let's get started

Step 1: Sew Leather Panels Together and Cut to Size

I started with three leather panels and sewed them together to make the full sheet.

NOTE FROM PRESENT ME:I have mixed feelings on this choice... I don't think it added a whole lot or took away from the design so you could go either way in deciding to do this or just use a full sheet of leather and cut it to the right size. I did notice that the folding went a little easier with the sewed seams but it wasn't significantly better so... your choice here on what to do. OK back to past me.

When sewing the panels together, it is REALLY IMPORTANT, that the panels are sewn with a butt-joint (no overlap of material). Folding will be MUCH harder if there are bulges/overlaps at each of the seams.

Also, make sure that at least the middle panel is sized appropriately for the fold pattern. What does that mean? Well, let's take a quick MATH BREAK to explain that:

The origami fold pattern being used is called a square twist. That is because the center shape is a square (see the fold pattern in the attached images). You can size the square to whatever you want it to be, but I chose a square with side lengths of 3.5". That means that the diagonal length of the square (corner to opposing corner) must be 5". This is what I mean by making the center strip sized appropriately THE WIDTH OF THE PANEL SHOULD BE EQUAL TO THE DIAGONAL LENGTH OF THE CENTER SQUARE. Mathematically that length is 1.414 x (side length of square)

Ok sorry for springing that on you. I promise, no more math -- just leather folding ;)

With the panels sewn, use a straight-edge and rolling knife to cut the leather so you have a large square piece. I went with an 11.5" square so I had room to trim at the end. If you're not sure about the size you want now just remember: I have yet to find an Instructable on trimming anything so it gets LONGER .... until that gets published it'll probably just be easier to trim the overall size shorter during the finishing steps.

Step 2: Tracing the Fold Pattern

Ok, now you have the leather you are going to work with. Now you need to prep it for folding.

You want to start out by finding and marking the center of the sheet. I used a straight-edge to lay a strip of tape along the middle and then marked the middle of that tape piece with another piece of tape (so that the point at which their edges intersected represented the sheet's center point).

Now, you need to orient the origami fold pattern on the leather sheet. You'll see in the associated images that the fold pattern is oriented so the points of the center square point towards the straight edges of the leather sheet (so that the center square is "twisted" 45 degrees from the overall square sheet)

Two of the corners of the center square should lie on, or very near) the seam between the center and side panels. Using the awl, mark those two corners of the center square. Then, measuring up half the diagonal length of the square (in our case 2.5") from the center point of the sheet (as well as 2.5" down from it), mark the remaining two points of the center square with an awl.

SURPRISE POP QUIZ! What is the diagonal length? [1.414 x (square side length)]

Using a straight-edge and the awl, scribe a line connecting the 4 corners on the leather. (I actually used a craft trimming tool to lightly scratch the surface with the razor as shown in the images -- but as long as you get a line you can see clearly then it doesn't much matter how)

Now, using a straight-edge and awl, scribe the rest of the lines of the fold pattern. Refer to the fold pattern in the images for clarity. First, there are straight lines extending out from the 4 corners of the center square to the edge of the leather sheet and then 4 additional lines beginning at the corners(of the center square) and going out at 90 degrees from the first lines to the outer sheet edges.

Ok, now you have the fold pattern traced and you are ready to get folding.

Step 3: Prepping the Leather to Fold

With the pattern traced, use the awl and go around the leather punching holes into each point where fold lines intersect. (This only occurs at the corners of the center square). When folding, the leather will bunch up at these vertices as it is basically being made to fold in multiple directions at once, to make it smoother you need to remove material at each vertex. The larger the hole the easier folding will be, however, if it is too large the effectiveness of the pouch may be compromised. Personally, I think I erred on the side of being too small with the holes I made but even then it wasn't so bad because I was working with a relatively thin leather.

Finally, just before folding, allow the leather to soak in water -- this will make it more pliable and help simplify the folding.

Ok, time to fold!

Step 4: Folding the Leather: Creating the Valley Folds

Ok real quick. You'll want to keep the folding reference handy. You'll notice that origami fold notation assigns two different types of lines for the two different types of folds: valley or mountain.


Valley Fold: term for a fold made so that the crease is at the bottom (away from the folder) as the two pieces being folded come together (like a VALLEY between two mountains)

Mountain Fold: term for a fold made so that the crease is at the top (towards the folder) as the two pieces being folded come together (opposite of the VALLEY fold just discussed)

Ok back to the instructions.

In the fold pattern shown here, the valley folds are all marked with the heavier dashed line (the one with long dashes separated by a dot). Mountain folds are indicated with a lighter, standard dashed line.

You need to crease the leather along each of the valley fold lines. That means we'll be working on the lines that form the center square as well as the 4 lines going straight out from the square's corner to the sheet edge.

Creating the creases:

I used a metal putty knife to do this. Basically, I worked along the valley-fold lines that had been scratched into the leather and pressed the putty knife into the leather as I folded the leather together around it. I kept doing this until I had a good crease along each of the valley-fold lines

Step 5: Folding the Leather: Creating the Mountain Folds

You should only have 4 lines at this pint left to crease and they will be mountain folds. Use a similar method as before but this time wrap the leather around the other way on the putty knife.

Ok, now we actually fold the pouch into the final shape...

Step 6: Rough-folding the Square Twist

Ok, This is going to be a little messy if you aren't totally used to origami folding -- especially with non-paper materials -- but don't give up! You'll get there

Again, refer to the fold patter for direction. However, for those who don't read oriagmi fold patterns so well I've included a video if me folding the square twist in paper. That way you can see clearly what you are trying to do with the leather. If the leather is fighting you too much you may go back and re-set the creases harder to help guide the fold better.

The idea is that you will pinch the mountain folds together and bring their creases to line up with the center of the middle square. You will need to reach in to the center square's corners to support the fold there (and keep it from wandering off while folding). Once you do that for one mountain fold you rotate the sheet and repeat the motion again for the next mountain fold. You will need to allow the previously folded flap to move out of the way slightly to finish the fold.

Step 7: Grooming and Setting the Final Folded Shape

Once you get all the mountain folds folded you'll have the general shape of the square twist. You will probably need to go back with the putty knife and re-set and re-define the creases (trying to disturb the folded shape as little as possible)

If panels are un-even or askew you can re-open the fold and re-crease locally and try to re-fold. You are working on setting the final look of the pouch so you can be a little picky here. Slowly you'll see the shape morph into something a bit more smooth/flat/clean looking.

When you're happy with it you can set the creases

1) Re-moisten the leather

2) Place the folded leather (in the folded shape) under weights and leave it to dry overnight. This will allow the leather to dry and harden into the new folded shape so that when opening and closing it wants to return back to this shape without having to fight it.

Step 8: [OPTIONAL] Trimming

I mentioned earlier that the overall sheet size I used was 11.5" x 11.5". In this step the sheet can be trimmed to take away any excess or overhang of the outer (visible) panels. I looked at 10" and 9" squares. I settled on the 9" size but you can trim to whatever size you like.

The 10" version removed some of the overhang of the 11.5" square and had a clean, square look when folded.

The 9" version had a more "ninja-star" unique look to it. Plus, being able to see both finished and rough leather at once was appealing to me. You can trim to a shape that you like. Just remember, trim gradually and check the folded shape each time -- and make sure to trim off even amounts from all the sides of the leather sheet so the center square stays in the center of the sheet.

Step 9: Using the Origami Pouch

The pouch is now ready for use! I've attached clips of them being opened and closed and how they can be used to hold coins, bills, and other trinkets.


The sharp eye'd observer may notice a problem with this pouch....I never turn it upside down because the contents will fall out! Oopsie!

...Well crap....

That's ok past me...I saw that and found a simple solution! Check it out in the (for real) last step

Step 10: Finishing the Pouch

To fix the problem of the contents spilling out, just open up the folded pouch, punch a hole in the center with the awl, and feed a loop of elastic through it. You can tie a knot in the elastic to keep it from pulling through the hole entirely.

To secure the pouch contents simply pull the elastic up through the center of the outer flaps and loop it around to hold them down. All fixed!

The video shows the elastic band in action

Hope you all enjoy! Thanks for checking this out and hopefully I didn't lose you along the way. Feel free to shoot me any question you have and I'll try to help you out best I can.

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