Introduction: Minimalist Wallet

About: Naturalist, scientist, builder, and maker.

It's time for a new wallet for me and with the holiday season always just around the corner, I'm constantly looking for new and interesting projects to create. There are a lot of wallet designs out there and it is difficult to pick what works best for all occasions. In my quest to slim down my possessions and all the junk in my life I decided that it was time for an absolute minimalist wallet; two pockets, the ability to hold 3 - 4 cards and a small wad of cash. Living in the city, I often like to carry my wallet in the front pocket to make it more difficult for thieves so it needs to stay thin.

Here's what I came up with and I hope it works for you too.

Step 1: Making the Pattern

Difficulty Level - Beginner

This isn’t a complicated project and might be a good one to start with if you trying your hand at leatherworking for the first time.

It would be pretty optimistic to just dive in and start cutting out a wallet without knowing what needs to fit inside. I used a debit card for scale as there will inevitably be a couple of these in just about any modern traveler’s pocket. I didn’t need to put a lot of time into the pattern as I have made similar styles before and knew the basics of what I wanted; essentially two pockets and very little sewing. It is easy to make a wallet that is too thick so that constraint must be kept in mind during the design process.

How many layers of leather? How thick are the layers? How much should it hold?

To create two pockets, there needs to be three layers; two on the outside and one to divide. To make the cards more accessible, the outer pocket will be a “reveal” and I chose to do this the simplest way possible, by a diagonal straight line.

I ended up tightening the width and lengthening the entirety just a bit from my original estimates for a better fit. With that, the difficult part is over.

After the pattern is transferred to the card stock, it can be used many times without fuss. It is a very good idea to label your patterns before storage as they begin to look alike when you amass a large folder of them (was this a pocket, part of a shoe, a purse, some sort of handle cover?).

Step 2: Clicking - Cutting It Out

The next step is to cut out the pattern on appropriate leather. I’m using Hermann Oak 1.5 mm tooling side that was leftover from an earlier project but nearly any thin leather will do. Neatness in cutting is very important as it will affect the look of the entire piece if the cuts are even a millimeter or two off or wavering in any way. Don't worry though, this gets easier over time.

The pattern:

A rectangle 3 3/4" by 7 3/4" should serve you well. You can shorten the long measurement by about 1/16" if using very thin leather as less will be lost in the folds.

Cut it out, fold it up while slightly damp, press it flat, adjust the length if necessary before sewing.

Since most people seem to prefer dark leathers for this sort of thing I chose to dye it Medium Brown with Fiebings Leather Dye. Follow the instructions on the bottle as different brands vary somewhat.

Step 3: Stitching and Finishing

After the dye sets you’re free to move on. I started by marking and awling the stitching holes at about a 5 mm increment or a little wider if you really dislike stitching. I will admit, this was not my straightest set of stitching lines ever but this is just a prototype and it will look fine in the end.

I almost always use a double needle saddle stitch when sewing leather as it is the best and strongest choice in in almost every case. If you are unfamiliar with this technique, no fear! The lovely Jessy has a simple tutorial for you right here: Saddle Stitch Tutorial. I chose a contrasting 1 mm saddle stitch thread to give it a fine finished look but that is obviously a matter of personal opinion.

And finally, the edges were dyed again and burnished with a wooden burnishing tool to create a smooth, finished look. (Learn how to burnish here). Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the outcome. This one will be the prototype to work from and I’ll be able to take a little more care now that I have learned from this one. If I ever get around to making enough to sell, I’ll put them on my Etsy Store.

In the meantime, let us see what you come up with.

Find more projects and other bizarre parts of my handmade life on my blog: