the wallet saga

so I had this wallet that I loved. I bought it in the sales for a tenner.

I think most people are kind of particular about how they like to carry thier money around, we all know what works for us. And this wallet was just right for me – the right number of compartments without anything superflous, not so small it got lost in my complete midden of a handbag, and large enough that I could shove my mobile phone inside and dispense with the handbag entirely in security concious museums and galleries.

The fact that it was pink with kitties on was just a bonus
wallet 1

I even liked the plasticyness. I know I love natural fibres and handmade things, but sometimes there is also a childsih joy to be found in the kitsch and tacky (and also, kitties!!!). But then the plastic has it flaws, and as you can see it started to split.

wallet 2

I saw a wallet I really liked two years ago but couldn’t afford it because it was £90, it had cut out panels of gilded leather. I almost stretched to it, but then didn’t because although I liked the idea, I didn’t love the actual designs that were cut out.

I’ve been meaning to have a go at my own version for months now, and that crack was getting really bad, so I allowed myself one day to do something that was actaully for me.

However, this meant sacrificing my old wallet and dismembering it so I had a template. That proved to be quite tough and difficult to neatly dissect – especially for something that appeared to be falling apart!

wallet 3


I was looking for a new supplier of gilded leather, so I ordered a scrap packet. They had red metallic leather and I have a complete perve for all sorts of red leather (seriously, my ex once almost lifted me up and dragged me out of fenwick in newcastle cos I was getting a bit too excited on a big red leather sofa) I didn’t use the red yet, but I decided it would be fun to use all the different colours and textures for the inside of the wallet. Gareth rolled his eyes and said it was very me in that disparagng way he has that implies he thinks I have the taste of a toddler (I may have blown a big raspberry in his general direction).

I started with the side pocket because that looked like the easiest step

I did all the stitching in red because nothing was going to match everything. This may have been a mistake because my stitching wasn’t that neat. The reallly big mistake was buying topstitching thread adn not realising that it was polyester. All polyester thread is the work of beelzebub.

however I got both sides done and they didn’t look too bad

wallet 6


Then I glued the cardboard onto the interior. I recently discovered gluedots and I’m converted. I used them a lot on this in place of pins – you can’t really pin leather because it scars, but with this needing a fair amount of precision I needed to hold things still.

Next came the central change pocket – it was at this point I was really glad for the ritual sacrifice of the old wallet, otherwise I would never have realised the flappy bits are actaully asymetrical in order to make the pocket sit neatly inside the zip

wallet 8

wallet 9

The outer too a lot of thought. I considered dragons, but in the end decided to stick with tradition and go for kitties. Then is took me all afternoon to draw kitty silhouettes – an operation complicated because opbviously they had to be recogniseably maine coon kitty otherwise branny would be deeply hurt.

So I eventually cut them out and sewed the gold leather underneath – again using gluedots to hold the leather together whilst sewing

wallet 10

wallet 11

wallet 12

Then I spent what felt like forever carefully glueing the zip around the edge, making sure it worked ok, and glueing the outer over the zip.

Then I machine sewed the whole thing together.

It was a total mess, the stitching was all over the place and had scarred the leather horribly. I had to discard the whole outer layer with it’s carefully cut and sewn kitties and start all over again.

I was pretty pissed off.

Also I didn’t have time to do it all again right there and then, so I carried everything around in a pencil case for a week.

Last night O got back to it, and this time I handsewed the last stage

wallet 13

wallet 14

Ok, so it’s a long way from perfect- the stitching is all over the place (leather is hard, even soft leather), and I wouldn’t be happy to give this one as a gift, but I finally have a functional wallet again.

I want to have another go, but I think I’ll be asking santa for a better machine for Christmas (am using an ikea one at the moment due to long indecision over what I want to replace the big machine with. poor little thing is a tropper but I dont think it was quite up to this). I also really want to have a go at a metallic leather/tweed version.

~ by opusanglicanum on September 8, 2014.

19 Responses to “the wallet saga”

  1. You have just convinced me that thinking about sewing leather is a bad, bad idea. If *you* are having trouble, I hate to think what I’d do with it!

  2. What a charming purse. Oh how I wish I could have been there to help you! I have made all those mistakes over the years and overcome them. There are may simple things you can do to help even the most humble machine accomplish such a task. That said, you want a work horse straight sewer? One word – Singer. I have a Singer 491 D300 GA. I have made three Getelds with it. I can also roll hem chiffon with it. The feet and attachments are cheap and it is a pet to use. (No, Singer don’t pay me).
    I love your blog, it has reminded me that I don’t sew nearly enough these days.
    Off to check the post for a green dragon now.

    • My mum had a singer and I never got along with it. THe main chore was the handsewing, I did drill the holes first because the outer leather, although not thick, was thicvker than the metallic (when I say pre drill I machine sewed it with no thread in the needle to make the holes) but then I had to trim the final side and so lost all my holes

      • Mine is an industrial straight sewer, I know that Singer domestic machines are temperamental. You need a triangular leather needle on your machine and use pieces of cardboard to adjust unevenness under the presses foot. Silicone spray and good quality machine twist. Not too much tension and loosen off the presser foot pressure. Sew test pieces first.

      • Ah now you see half way though working on the interior I decided I needed leather needles and laid the thing aside for two days so I could waste half a day going into town to fetch some. then I spent several hours swearing at the machine because it suddenly wouldn’t sew three sttiches wihtout snapping.

        Turns out the problem was that I was being really stupid and tryng to sew leather with an actaul leather needle – once I went back to the normal sewing needle I sailed through. So, not buying those again!

        I did use glovers needles for the handsewing part though

  3. You are far braver than I am.

  4. I can understand your “childish joy” with some things that are kitsch, and I share it.
    Cograts for dismantling your old purse and making a new one modeled after the other. I think you did great, even if your stitches are not as even as they theoretically could be.

    • I think I need to try again to get it right

      • If you try again the next version will be wonderful. But I admit, as long as I like the first result and can live with its flaws I wouldn’t start the next try so soon.

      • I think the main flaw is that I actaully sewed the zip in too tight – I think next time I need to be careful and sew the very outer edge of the zip to allow more ease of use. Its a little stiff at the mo, which may ease off but I think its could also be a construction problem

  5. I love those cut-out kitties. I’d never even think of trying to make a leather wallet or bag for myself, however much I struggle to find one with the right features each time I have to replace one.

  6. Full marks for perseverance! It’s a shame that we can’t take sewing machines ‘on approval’ so that we can test them to the limit. What fun that would be!

  7. Love the bag! May I suggest something? I’ve sewn leather garments as well as made bags on a regular machine and the one thing I find is that depending on the thickness of the leather, one either needs to use a leather needle or not. Much of the time, though, the problem is the feed dogs. I drop the feed dogs on my machine (or the industrial Juki’s we use at school) and just run with it. Also, when doing an applique piece on something, I use binder clips to hold it in place, spacing them appropriately so i can stitch without fighting with it. Also, a light application of rubber cement to hold it in place while helps with what I’m doing. (I made a small 2-ring notebook applying the ginormous lips of the Rolling Stones Logo as well as a snowman wearing a Rasta hat.) I do NOT recommend using Magna-Tak glue; it dries hard and just doesn’t work as well.

  8. […] years ago a made myself a  wallet. It wasn’t bad for a first attempt, but wasn’t brilliant either – more functional […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: