A couple days ago the holes in my wallet’s coin pocket were getting big enough to risk losing dimes again, and while I had it out for mending, I thought I would take some pictures, write up a pattern and post it. I made this wallet about four years ago now, and carry it in my back jeans pocket just about every time I leave the house, so I am pleased with its durability despite the occasional patching it needs. It’s funny: I made the wallet in cheap vinyl as a practice run before investing in leather, and the practice piece just refuses to die so I still haven’t made the leather version.
Now, people’s tastes in wallets vary all over the place. I belong to the minimalist school, but not so minimalist that I want a card clip and separate coin storage. I carry a half-dozen cards, a dozen or so bills, and as few coins as I can manage, and I want a wallet that will contain all of that without adding a lot of bulk. I made this one based on one that I got as a promotional gift from my school’s alumni association, which I just loved and could not find in stores (although to be fair I did not look long).
You will need:
- Scraps of leather, vinyl, or similar strong non-fraying material: 2 pieces big enough for a 4.25″ by 6″ rectangle each. Check the remnants bin for home-decor vinyl, or look for leather scraps in with the feathers, mirrors and other odds’n’ends in most craft stores.
- Scrap of any kind of fabric for the coin purse, 4.75″ by 2.75″; I used a light-brown patterned quilting cotton
- 4″ or longer zipper (the shortest most places sell is 7″, but it’s easy to cut zippers down)
- Thread: I used ordinary, somewhat heavy-duty sewing thread; if you want a seriously durable wallet you may want to upgrade to heavier threads or even dental floss
Pattern: walletpattern is a PDF pattern; you will need to set your printer to “borderless” or unscaled mode; check that the long side of the main wallet piece is 6″. Note that this is sized for US currency (bills folded in half), the cards I happen to carry (standard cards in the US, not sure if they vary internationally) and for a 1/8″ seam allowance for the heavy material and 3/8″-ish (1/4″ fold, 1/8″ blanket-stitch) for the cotton. Note also that the instructions listed on that sheet are an abbreviated version of those given below, including omitting a couple steps, so the numbers don’t match up.
- Almost all of the stitching is done with the blanket stitch, which is an easy decorative stitch. In this case, I chose the blanket stitch because it runs a line of thread down the outside edge of the material, which helps to prevent stretching of the material. To start the blanket stitch, tie a starting knot, put the needle through the material from front to back (or through only the back layer of the material, to hide the knot), 1/8″ from the edge, and pull tight. Wrapping the thread around the edge, put the needle through (all layers) from front to back in close to the same spot; while pulling the thread through, put the needle through the loop of thread, and pull tight. For all subsequent stitches, insert the needle from front to back, 1/8″ from the edge and 1/8″ from the previous stitch, and put the needle through the loop of thread as you are pulling it tight. Be careful to keep the loop untwisted and put the needle through the loop from back to front. See photo, and if you haven’t done any blanket stitch before I recommend trying it on scraps before tackling your main piece, just to get the hang of it.
Whip stitch: I attach the zipper tape to the main wallet piece using whip stitch, which in general is just like the blanket stitch but without putting the needle through the loop of thread. In this case, you want to hold the zipper flat against the vinyl, insert the needle into the vinyl close to the edge of the zipper tape, up into the edge of the zipper tape, again and again and again.
- Saddle stitch: optional for this project, as I understand it this is the recommended stitch for doing just about anything with leather. Make by making two lines of running stitches, on opposite sides of the material, going through the material at the same points (using the same holes).
- Cut out two 4.25″ by 6″ rectangles of your heavy non-fraying material—vinyl, leather, whatever—see pattern. In one of the rectangles, cut out a 3/4″ squarish window, 1/2″ from one of the short sides and centered in the other dimension. The cutout lets you pull the top card out of the outside pocket of the wallet just with your thumb, which is handy for bus passes or your primary ID.
- Blanket stitch around the cutout to prevent stretching; in all of the blanket-stitching pull the thread tight enough that it starts to bite down on the material and is quite tight along the outside edge.
Blanket stitch along each short end of the piece with the cutout, again to prevent stretching.
- Fold the piece with the cutout in half, right side out, and wrap it around one short end of the other piece, such that the right side of the other piece shows through the cutout. This makes two card/bill pockets, one on the inside and one on the outside of the wallet.
- Blanket-stitch along the sides of the card pockets, being sure to catch all three layers of material. I used just under a 1/8″ blanket stitch, which is kind of pushing things—the wallet pattern as written will tolerate anything up to a 1/4″ seam allowance, and the wider your seam the more durable it will be. If while you are stitching you notice tearing start to occur, go back and make the stitches deeper into the fabric. On the other hand, the narrower seam allows me to shove more cards and such into the pocket, and as I mentioned above the one I made has lasted several years, so strike your own balance.
- Optional: if you want bonus durability, saddle-stitch along the line of the blanket-stitching you just did, using the same holes.
- Cut down the zipper: trim the loose ends at the top of the zipper tape to 1/4″ or so. 4″ from this trimmed end, sew tightly around the zipper teeth several times to make a new zipper stop. Cut the tape 1/4″ below the new stop you just made, so that the total length of the zipper is the width of the wallet. If you want, pull out the last couple of teeth below the zipper stop with pliers; standard plastic sewing zipper teeth are made with a continuous ribbon of hard plastic that will unwind itself and be irritating if you don’t.
- Cut out a piece of fabric 2.75″ by 4.75″ for the coin pocket.
- Right sides together, sew the zipper tape to the coin pocket piece with a 1/4″ seam; the long side of the coin pocket piece should overhang the trimmed-down zipper tape by 1/4″ on either end.
- Press the seam towards the fabric (keep the zipper tape flat) and press a 1/4″ seam allowance wrong-side to wrong-side all around the fabric piece.
- Place the coin pocket piece on the remaining wrong-side piece of the main wallet material, across from the card pockets, with the zipper close to the center fold and the pressed seam allowances hidden between the fabric and the vinyl/leather.
- For materials like vinyl with a fabric layer on the wrong side, whip-stitch the zipper tape to the vinyl, catching only the threads of this fabric layer; for others, use a running stitch, chain stitch, backstitch or saddle stitch, passing all the way through the leather/other material.
- Blanket-stitch the three remaining sides of the coin purse, catching both the wallet material and the fabric; saddle-stitch over the blanket stitching if you like.
Variants: if you would rather not have a coin pocket, feel free to cut an extra piece of the leather/vinyl and make both sides of the wallet card folds, or really make whatever modifications you like. Just make sure that all the raw edges are stitched, or the material will stretch out on you.
Zipper pull: my zipper came with a metal pull tab that I managed to mangle somewhat sometime along the way; part of it had broken off and it was a little stabby. One of the repairs I made in this round of patching was to remove the zipper pull with a pair of wire snips and replace it with macrame (friendship bracelet stuff). I am pretty please with the result; it’s just a six-strand chevron pattern, with a three-strand braid going through the loop of the zipper thing.
If you are wondering about the patching, the photo above shows two rounds of patches, one in grey thread and one in dark brown. I do this kind of patching fairly frequently, but don’t know a name for it; it doesn’t use any extra fabric, and isn’t quite darning because I don’t do any weaving of the thread. I just stitch back and forth across the tear, being careful with tension, and this “zips” up the tear. It does run the risk of introducing new tears at the ends of the thread, but this is mitigated just by being gentle with it. The fabric is getting pretty worn, though, as well as discolored, so the next time holes develop I will probably replace at least the coin pocket with new fabric, possibly even getting around to buying leather and making the “real” version.