This project was inspired by jessyratfink's How to Make a Leather Wallet. I hadn't done any leatherworking when I found her project earlier this year, but it looked like a lot of fun! The only problem was I didn't have all those sweet tools.
So over the past couple months, I've been working with my friend Mat to make a thin wallet kit that doesn't require specialized tools. We sourced some nice leather and made the design customizable so there's a lot of flexibility with its function and look. We also designed some new tools that make assembly easier, but are affordable enough to include with each kit.
You can also download the files for the version we make in this Instructable to make it with the tools and techniques Jessy demonstrates.
We'd love some feedback on these instructions! So much that we'll send a free kit to the first 10 people who buy a kit and post an "I Made It!" comment with a picture and feedback.
P.S. Some folks asked for a bifold version. So we made one!
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Step 1: This Version
Each version of the wallet has two customizable outer pockets for the items you use most and one inner pocket for those you need but use less.
The version we're making for most of this Instructable is the setup Mat uses. One side has a card pocket for up to 3 credit cards, the middle pocket fits the same (or a few bills or about 6 business cards) and other side has a strap to hold cash.
Step 2: Tools & Materials
Included in the kit:
- 1 Stitching pony
- 2 Stitching pins
- 1 Beeswax & polishing cloth set
- 2 English harness needles
- 1 French corded, waxed linen thread
- 4 pieces American vegetable tanned goat leather
Step 3: Optional: Applying Nikwax Surface Treatment
Note: The "naked" leather we use develops a nice patina over time, but with hard use it can become stained and discolored. So with each kit, we now include a dropper of a satin surface finish to give the wallet more protection. It does, however, slightly darken the leather.
Apply the Nikwax with the clean, dry cotton cloth included in the kit. Do this on a disposable, or easily cleaned surface (we use the back of the box the kit comes in). The goal is a thin, even application to just the smooth side of the leather. Small splotches will even out as the Nikwax dries and the leather will return to almost the same color it was before the treatment. It's not uncommon for the piece to curl a bit as it dries, but it will flatten back out as the kit is stitched.
Step 4: Coin/Key Pocket Prep (if Applicable)
If your kit includes the Coin & Key pocket option, you will go through steps 3-12 on the two short inside seams to join the two Coin & Key leather pieces, before repeating the steps on the main outer seam with all four leather pieces.
Step 5: Stitching Pin Placement
Stack the leather pieces like a sandwich with the smooth faces out and the suede faces in. Then orient the wallet vertically with the long stitching line on your left. Remove the stoppers from the stitching pins and insert the pins into the upper right-most and upper left-most stitching holes that go through all four pieces of leather.
For wallets that include the top-slide, the right pin will be four holes in. For wallets that include the cash-strap, the right pin will be seven holes in. Replace the stoppers on the stitching pins so they snugly hold the leather pieces together. The stitching holes for all four pieces are now aligned.
Step 6: Stitching Pony Assembly
Stack the two stitching pony bars with the stickers on the same side and the smooth faces out. Line up the rubber band notches on one side, and stretch a rubber band around both parts. The fit will be tight, and it helps to hold your thumb over one side of the band as you stretch the other.
Then stretch the bars open and insert the leather parts with stitching pins in the middle of the two bars, with ends of the stitching pins facing away from you. The pins should be approximate 1/4" above the top of the bars. Hold the bars together and place the second rubber band. Now place the bars in the notches on the stitching pony legs.
Step 7: Threading the Needles
Note: This is the hardest step. The linen thread fits very tightly in the needle eye, so the friction holds it in place during stitching and the stitching holes can be small and clean.
Cut one end of the thread off at an angle, removing 1/4" or less of thread. Carefully insert it into one of the needles, grabbing the thread with the finger tips of your other hand as soon as its through the needle. Pull the end approximately 3/4" past the eye of the needle and bend it back towards the rest of the thread. Repeat for the other needle.
If the end of the thread becomes frayed, cut it again at an angle, removing as little thread as possible. Threading the needles may take a few attempts.
Step 8: Saddle Stitching - Pulling the Thread Through
Note: If a stitching pin is in the right-most stitching hole, remove it before starting this step.
We use a common hand-stitching technique called the saddle stitch. It creates a robust, attractive seam.
Start by inserting one of the needles through the right-most hole and pulling it through with your other hand. The tip of the needle should go in easily, but the eye is larger and may provide some resistance. It may take a quick jerk to pull it all the way through.
Once through, pull the two ends of the thread even. Be careful not to pull the thread out of the needle.
Step 9: Saddle Stitching - This Side First
One of the stitching pony bars should be labeled "stitch this side first." Insert the needle into the second hole on that side and pull it all the way through. You will start on this side for every stitch, which will create a nice, consistent looking seam. The label helps if you lose track.
Step 10: Saddle Stitching - This Side Second and on Top
Turn the stitching pony so you are facing the "stitch this side second and on top" side. Hold the thread you just pulled through down against the stitching pony with one thumb and insert the needle connected to the other thread through the same hole. As the label notes, it should go in and come out above the first thread.
You should notice that the stitch has a slight downward angle to it, and following these labels will keep it consistent and attractive for the entire seam.
Once the second thread is through, grab both threads near the seam and pull them taut with a medium amount of pressure. Keeping the pressure consistent at this step will also give you the most consistent seam.
Step 11: Finishing the First Line
Continue stitching the first line of the seam by following these steps:
- Stitch this side first,
- This side second and on top,
- Pull taut,
Pull out remaining stitching pins as you approach them until you reach the end of the first line.
Step 12: Continuing the Seam
At the end of the first line of the seam, you will remove the leather from the stitching pony, place a stitching pin in the left-most hole on the long line of the seam, and return the leather to the stitching pony. Stitch this line and do the same for the final line, until the entire main seam has been stitched.
Step 13: Lock Stitch Thread One
Once you have finished the final stitch, pass one of the needles back through the second-to-last hole. If the thread you are using starts above the other thread in the hole, keep it above that thread. Likewise, keep it on the bottom if it starts on the bottom. This will create two parallel stitches.
Turn to the other side of the stitching pony and now pass the same thread through the next hole going backwards in the same way you did the first. You are finished with this thread.
Step 14: Lock Stitch Thread Two
Take the other thread (the one you haven't used for the lock stitch yet), and pass it backwards through two holes just as you did with the first. These final holes now have several threads going through them, so it make take some wiggling. But the friction created is what helps "lock" the stitch.
Now you will have two parallel stitches on each side of the wallet. Grab both threads and pull them taut one last time. Then use the scissors to cut the threads as close as you can to the seam without nicking the stitches.
Step 15: Sealing the Edge
The final step is to seal the edge of the leather to protect it and give it a nice burnished look.
Take the beeswax block and run the curved section along seamed edges of the wallet. Then pinch the edge with the polishing cloth and rub it back and forth quickly with light pressure. Pinching it helps keeps the pieces of leather together, and moving it quickly helps melt the wax so it can adhere. Repeat 2-3 times until the edge has a nice polish and the edges of the leather are stuck closely together.
Step 16: The Finished Product
You're done! Fill it with only what you need (file those receipts like you should or just throw them away!) and enjoy having a handsome, thin wallet.
We use "naked" leather, which means it doesn't have any coatings or finishes to crack or peel over time. Instead, it will develop a nice patina.
We made this project so anyone could make a nice wallet and have a great time doing it. Please let us know how it works for you and how we can make it better!
Devin & Mat
Participated in the