Introduction: DIY Leather Passport Wallet
I was fortunate enough to travel somewhere where I had to use my passport recently. The last time I used it, it was inside a bulky and cumbersome pouch. This time I told myself I would use something more comfortable and more functional. I looked into buying a passport wallet, but then I realized two things! First, they almost all had card slots, but they required you to fully open your wallet in order to take out a card, and if you've ever been in high touristy areas, sometimes it's not good to be advertising what you have in your wallet! Second, I received a piece of leather as a gift a few months back that I was going to use to make regular/minimalist wallets, but I hadn't gone around to making them. Duh! I had a design in mind and materials!
So, I put my own twist on the traditional passport wallet, which effortlessly allows you to both remove and replace your most used cards. Instead of having to open your wallet all the way in order to take out a card, the quick draw design allows you to slide out your card swiftly towards you with only minimal opening of the wallet. And, you don't even have to open up your wallet to slide your card in! This is especially important if you're out and about in a busy area and want to minimize the exposure of the contents in your wallet.
Alright, let's go start this!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
I've only messed around with prototyping two other wallets, so the materials and tools I have are not professional grade or may not be "the right ones" for the job. For example, I don't have a mallet, so I just use a hammer. Haha!
Self-healing cutting mat: https://amzn.to/2ZB2jNW
Stitching pony: https://amzn.to/2ZB2jNW
Leather Edge paint: https://amzn.to/2WeDqWu (different color)
Step 2: Determining Pieces and Sizes
The dimensions of a US passport are 4.9" (h) × 3.5" (l), and if you want to make a wallet for your Field Notes (FN) notebook, the dimensions for the notebook book are 5.5" (h) × 3.5" (l).
Originally, I made my passport wallet to fit my passport, not thinking that I could eventually use it for a FN notebook and use it as my every day wallet. So, I'll be providing the actual dimensions of my wallet, but if you want to make it to fit a FN notebook properly (I had to cut the back cover slightly to make it fit), you can can add half an inch (0.5") to the height I provide you.
Ok. How many pieces do you need? Uno, dos, tres, cuatro. Four pieces.
- Outer cover: 5 3/4" (h) x 8 1/4" (l)
- Left middle piece: 5 3/4" (h) x 3 1/2" (l)
- Left top piece (with quick draw cutout): 5 3/4" (h) x 3 3/8" (l)
- Right piece: 5 3/4" (h) x 3 1/2" (l)
Step 3: Tracing and Cutting the Leather
Depending on they type of leather you use, you may need to use a pencil, a pen, a scratch awl, or anything that can mark a line on the leather. Because the leather I used is a pull-up type, chrome tanned piece, I can easily scratch a line, but if you don't like where the line is, you can simple rub your finger over the line for a few seconds and it removes the scratch. A scratch awl would've been perfect to make my lines, but I don't have one, so I used a mechanical pencil with a metal tip. The other important tool I used was a metal ruler to make my lines.
There are several methods of cutting the leather. You could use a round leather knife, small hobby knife, utility knife, or even scissors. Which ever tool you use, the most important thing is to be able to cut straight lines. Cutting the pieces into the correct dimensions make for easier alignment of the pieces and minimizes waste and time trimming/sanding the edges.
Note: for the quick draw cutout, you can make this any shape you'd like. It can be round, square, a cutout in the middle, or you can keep it as a triangle. :-)
Step 4: Position Pieces and Glueing
Before you glue your pieces together, put them into position to see if they fit well.
Piece 3 goes over piece 2, and those two go on piece 1 on the left. Piece 4 goes on top of piece 1 on the right. If you'd like, you could actually place them on the opposite sides, as long as the direction of the card exit on the quick-draw is pointing out.
Now that you're happy with the placement of your pieces, apply contact cement to your pieces and per the manufacturer's instructions, wait at least 15 minutes before mating the pieces.
Note. It is important to glue and stitch pieces 2 and 3 first before gluing them to piece 1, but only stitch down the middle and the three parts where the quick-draw is located. It would be very difficult to stitch these parts if piece 1,2, and 3 were all glued at once.
Step 5: Stiching (Saddle Stitch)
The method I use for stitching is called the Saddle stitch. It's when there are two needles attached to one long thread. One needle per end. See minute 8:36 for this step . You go into one hole with one needle, then pull on both needles until you have an equal amount of thread on both sides. Once you have an equal amount of thread on both sides, feed one needle into the adjacent hole, pull the string all the way through, but leave a little bit of slack, then feed the other needle through the same hole, but from the opposite direction.
The reason for the slack from the first needle is because sometimes the holes are tight and when the second needle goes through the hole, it may end up piercing the thread that's already in there. If this happens, with the hand that is not holding the needle, you can pull on the slack to remove the thread from the second needle without having to remove the needle from the hole.
Once both needles are through the hole, you can pull all the way until there is no slack. I like to give it a nice, little, oomph right at the end.
I don't have a lot of leather projects under my belt, but I believe that the important part about the saddle stitch is to be consistent with the order of how you thread your needles through the holes and also with the tautness at the end of each pull. Consistency is key.
Step 6: Punching the Holes and Stitching
Now that pieces 2 and 3 are glued together, it's time to secure them with the thread. Use the line down the middle of piece 3 as a guide for the stitching punch. Then, for anything down an edge, I like to draw a line about 1/8th" or 1/4" away from the edge. This also goes for the other two pieces, 1 and 4. After the holes are punched, I stitch the pieces together using the saddle stitch. When I reach the end of the holes, I thread in reverse to get both needles on the side that will be hidden, tie a knot, cut the threads a 1/4" away from the knot, and then use a lighter to melt back the leftover thread towards the knot so it "weld" the knot and prevent it from untying.
Now that those pieces are stitched, I moved on to the next set. Just like the other pieces, I added the contact cement to the remaining end of piece 1 and the back part of piece 2. When these were joined together, I made a stitch line along the sides, and then I used the edge of piece 3 to make the stitch line on piece 2. I punched the holes along the stitch lines and started stitching on one of the edges near the middle of the wallet.
After the stitching is done, I flatten the stitches with a hammer. This gives it a nice, uniform look.
Step 7: Sanding and Adding Edge Paint
There are different ways to finish the edges, such as burnishing, leaving the edge unfinished, dying the edge, adding edge paint, etc. And with those finishes, there are many techniques to achieve those results. Based on the research I did, it's not very easy to burnish chrome tanned leather, so I finished the edges by using edge paint.
Edge paint is an alternative to burnishing and it mimics the fancy leather products like Hermes. :-)
There are different tools to apply the edge paint, but I already had a metal spatula (spudger) from when I used to fix iphones (these are great for prying open phones). Before adding the edge paint, I sanded the edges to remove any loose fibers and to even up any seams, rounded off the corners, then I used a beveler to bevel the edges to give the edge a nicer round edge. After this, I dip the spatula into the edge paint, invert it to point up, and allow some of the paint to drip down the spatula so it can coat it. When I'm ready to add the edge paint, I simultaneously drag the spatula to the side and pull down as if I'm using the leather to "wipe" the paint off the spatula. A trick I like to use, is to drag the tip of the spatula over the edge that's already applied to the edge so that it can break the surface tension and allow the paint to spread more evenly. Afterwards, I let it dry, sand it to smooth it out, then repeat one or two more times until a nice even finish is achieved.
Step 8: Why This Design? What Are the Advantages?
I really liked the way this passport wallet came out. I based the design off a similarly functioning wallet I made a few years ago (future Instructable!). You can see this wallet on my Insta. Like I mentioned before, this design allows for efficient removal and replacement of the card from the wallet, and it helps that you don't have to open your wallet all the way in order to remove your credit card/ID. The other nice feature is that you can put the card back into its slot without even opening your wallet!
Thanks for sticking around! Here are some other places where you can find me:
Tools I Use (Amazon Shop)
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