Living in the modern world, everybody needs a wallet to hold identification, money, and bits of plastic. A wallet is a fairly simple leather working project that involves a fair amount of design and a tiny bit of sewing. Many materials can be used to build a wallet, as seen around the Instructables site, including many plastics, cloth, or duct tape. We chose vegetable-tanned leather (from Hermann Oak) in a 2/3 oz. weight as it is nice, traditional, and in this case, environmentally friendly. There are many designs to choose from but we went with the bi-fold to keep it thin and hold everything we need.
Step 1: The Pattern
The pattern is very simple, and is based off many popular store bought wallets. One great thing about designing a wallet is that it is essentially a very simple origami project that can be made with a piece of copy paper or two and maybe a little tape to hold it together during research. If you design your own, the basic instruction here should cover construction of most designs. Once a plan is made, transfer the design to thin cardboard or Bristol board so it can be used again. The basic plan for our wallet is a rectangle 8 1/4" by 9 7/8" (about 21 by 25 cm) with a couple tabs about 3/8" wide that will hold the whole thing together when sewn.
After cutting out the main form, you can cut out a window for ID and slits for pockets, if desired. The dark brown wallet in the photos has several slits to separate cards. The arced cut was created by the age-old tradition of tracing around a coffee can and cutting with a sharp X-acto knife.
Step 2: Leather and Cutting
Cut out the leather using either a sharp scissors, knife, or razor. Any fuzzy edges from dull tools can be singed off over a candle (being careful not to burn yourself or the house down) as well as being careful not to burn the leather.
Step 3: Dying and Adding the Window (optional)
The ID window can be either just a nice neat hole as the window or you can fill it with a piece of plastic that will provide a covering for the card beneath. Sturdy clear plastic can be found on numerous packages, especially toys. Any will due as long as it is fairly strong, which most plastics of this nature are. Cut a piece of plastic a little larger than the rectangular hole. At this point you can either glue it to the inside of the hole or use an awl to poke holes for stitching in the plastic then sew the plastic to the inside of the leather so that when it is folded and finished the raw edges of the plastic won't be visible.
Dying leather can be a great way to personalize your wallet to the color of your choice, or you can leave the leather its natural color which looks great too. We used dark brown Fiebing's Leather Dye for the wallet pictured below in the second picture. It is quite safe (as long as you don't try to drink it or pour it over your eyes), and it can be cleaned from skin easily with rubbing alcohol. To dye, you can either use a wool dauber from your local craft store or just a clean cotton rag to coat the leather in dye. Then allow it to dry. Don't worry if the dye is not completely even, it will even out as it soaks into the leather as it dries. If it is still uneven in color you can touch it up with a second coat.
Step 4: Folding
Now to fold the leather and create the wallet.
To make a nice fold, moisten the leather along the fold lines, (see second pic.) and gently use a smooth hammer to make a good crease. This is best done on a hard smooth surface to prevent damage to the leather. Also, there is no need to hammer very hard. After it dries, the leather will remain neatly folded.
Step 5: Sewing
Sewing the ends holds the whole thing together. To sew the ends, fold tab over the layers at the end. Then use a good sharp awl to poke holes through all four layers (tab, front, middle and back). It looks better if you punch the holes in a straight line and a uniform distance apart. The stitches pictured below are about 4 mm (or maybe 3/16") apart. Now, using a sturdy thread (like button thread) for durability, sew the end closed using the holes you just created. Repeat with the other end.
Step 6: Finishing
The final step is protecting the leather from dirt and stains and moisture. One of the best options is neutral shoe polish, which is a long lasting protective agent, as well as adding that finished sheen. You can also use Neatsfoot oil or beeswax to finish and protect your wallet.
Now fill it with cash and credit cards, and head out on the town to show off your new, hand-crafted wallet.
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