Infest the Waters: A Blog About Design, Life and Making Stuff

Sewing Sunday: February Edition – A new wallet!

Open Wallet

I’m excited to tell you that I have managed to successfully complete my second Sewing Sunday project.  For those of you who missed my announcement last month, this year I’ve decided to challenge myself to complete one sewing project a month, and I’m trying to set aside one Sunday each month to do it, with the understanding that some projects may take longer than one day to complete and sometimes I may have to sew on a different day than Sunday.

This month I decided to sew myself a new wallet.  Admittedly, I may have been a little more ambitious than necessary in my second month of this sewing experiment, but I desperately needed a new wallet, and I really wasn’t diggin’ the ones I could find online.  I have some specific requirements when it comes to wallets.  (I suppose some would say that I’m picky, but I’m gonna go with “discerning.”)  I don’t particularly like the clutch-type wallets that fit a checkbook because they’re so big, and I generally favor the trifold kind that have an easily accessible change purse on the back side of the closed wallet.  Unfortunately, the pickin’s are slim when it comes to trifold wallets for women, and men’s wallets work just fine if the most exciting style you’re interested in is dark brown (and possibly snakeskin).  So I decided to make my own.

I’ve had this awesome fabric with snails on it that I inherited when my grandmother passed away six years ago, and my mother, aunt and I cleaned out her sewing closet.  I’ve been trying to find something to make from it, but it’s been tough, as I didn’t have a lot of the material, and it’s kind of unique.  Seeing as how my last wallet, which, sadly, was stolen last September, had butterflies on it, it seemed only fitting that my new wallet would have snails.

As I contemplated the project, I thought I might be able to find a pattern online to work from.  No dice.  All the patterns I found had some elements that I wanted, but I couldn’t find one with the whole package.  I soon realized that I was going to have to design my own from scratch.  It seemed like a good challenge for an engineer and designer.  (That’s me.)

Wallet InstructionsSo last Saturday I set to work with pencil, paper and a ruler to determine the various sizes of fabric I would need.  (See picture at left.)  Then I worked out the order of assembly.  It was a bit like a playing a game of chess, as I had to think several moves in advance to ensure that I didn’t inadvertently sew something shut that would later need to be open.  It was kind of fun, and it took about 2 hours to work out the instructions.

Next I decided that it would be prudent to make a prototype just to make sure I had correctly calculated everything.  (Seam allowances are tricky things, and my inability to correctly plan for them gets me more often than I’d care to admit.)  So I cut out all the pieces from some muslin I had on hand and made myself a prototype.  Much to my surprise, everything worked out pretty well.  The seam allowance did trip me up yet again in a couple of spots, but I had the order of assembly correct, and I was confident I was ready to move on to the real fabric (with a few fabric measurement adjustments).

Wallet prototypeWhen I pulled out the snail fabric, I was reminded that it wasn’t nearly as stiff as the muslin, which was going to make it tricky to create a wallet that held its shape.  I briefly considered abandoning the snails for a stiffer fabric, but they were just so damn cute that I couldn’t do it.  Instead, I decided to shore up the fabric with some interfacing I had on hand to make it a little more rigid.

I cut the snail fabric, interfacing and coin purse lining to size and went to work sewing.

Cut out wallet pieces

Sewing the walletSomething wacky has been going on with my thread tension.  I can’t figure out if it’s because I’ve been sewing through multiple layers of material (making it very thick) or if there’s something else going on, but I had to rip out more than a few seams and sew them again.  Eventually I got them all to the point where they were acceptable, although there may have been a lot of cursing involved.  One of the trickier parts was adding the coin purse, as I hadn’t done that on the prototype.  It took a couple tries, and I had to turn the wallet inside out several times to fix some problems, but in the end it all worked out.  I added a snap closure and finally had myself a new wallet. Ta-da!

Closed wallet  Wallet pocket

Open Wallet

Overall, I’m pretty happy with it.  I’ve only ever had leather wallets, so we’ll see how this one holds up.  If I were to do it again, I probably would use a stiffer material and save on having to use the interfacing, which proved to be a bit of a pain, and I would definitely add something inside the front flap to make it a little heavier and more rigid.  But I figure it’s not so bad for my first attempt at making a wallet from the first pattern I ever made myself.  Plus, now I have a wallet with snails on it.  Life is good.

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