Introduction: Make a Coffee Bag Wallet & Friends for Free

About: I am a DIY person on small scale... fixing things, painting, creating simple solutions... I've been offline for a while, regrouping in my career, going into social work and trauma healing. I teach NVC so will …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

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