Upgrade your daily shopping style with a custom wallet. This chic accessory carries credit cards, business cards, cash, and more! Make it for yourself or give it as the perfect holiday gift.
Our Leather: Wallet Workshop is a great place to start. In these instructions, we will walk you through making a handmade leather wallet using the CraftJam kit. If you’re making this project outside of our workshops without a kit, you can find all the materials you’ll need at your local craft store or online.
What You’ll Learn from This Instructions
- What materials to use
- How to create an envelope style leather wallet
- How to work with a Hobby Knife (also known as an X-Acto Knife)
- About other ways to further your creativity
Introduction to Leather Making Tools and Supplies.
In order to create your leather wallet, you will need the following supplies. These are included in the CraftJam kit for your workshop.
- Screwback head button: This is the closing mechanism used for the wallet.
- Wallet pattern (various sizes)
- Cotton Swabs
- Super Glue
- Tack Hammers
- Tailor’s Chalk/Chalco Liner
- Cutting Mat
- Hobby Knife aka an X-Acto Knife
- Metal rulers
- Assorted Leather
Using a Hobby Knife
Before beginning your wallet project, it’s good to review a couple of basic safety precautions when using a sharp hobby or X Acto knife.
- Exercise caution when using your hobby knife. The blade is sharp. Keep the cover over the blade when not in use.
- Hold it in your dominant hand as you would a writing instrument.
- The side of the blade that is angled is the side you should use for cutting.
- Always make your cuts with your project on the work surface. Do not hold your project in the air to make any cuts.
- Over time, and especially when you cut leather, the blade of your hobby knife will become dull and need replacing. To do this, twist the thumbscrew near the blade of the hobby knife until the blade becomes loose. Carefully pull the dull blade out. In most areas, this blade can be added to your metal recycling bin. A safe way to recycle them is by putting them into another recyclable container such as an aluminum can. Insert the new blade in the same orientation, with the rectangular end fitting into the hobby knife handle. Tighten the thumbscrew until the blade is firmly in place. The blade should not wiggle or move independently of the handle.
Now that you have all the supplies, it’s time to begin your project! Follow these steps to create your wallet.
Prep Your Leather
- Lay your leather out with the grain side facing down. The grain side is the smooth side that will eventually be outside your wallet. The softer, suede-like side should be facing up and will be inside your wallet.
- Choose between the small or medium wallet pattern. We’ll follow the same steps for either size.
- Put the wallet pattern all the way to one side and corner of your leather. This will help you to get the most wallets and use out of your leather.
- We’re using triangle chalk which is a tool very popular with tailors. Any markings that are left at the end can easily be brushed off to remove them. You’ll mark your leather using the edge of the triangle chalk.
- You don’t need to apply too much pressure; only enough for the chalk to be visible. But, since we’re marking the inside of our wallet, any markings will also be hidden.
- Trace around your entire wallet pattern. Hold your pattern with your non-dominant hand to keep it in place.
- Slightly turning the triangle chalk as you trace can help for there to always be a fresh edge to mark with. We don’t need the precise and crisp lines a tailor would, but if you ever need to sharpen or refresh your triangle chalk, use a vegetable peeler or the blade of a pair of scissors to carefully shave off part of the edge.
- Pay careful attention to marking the inside corners clearly. This will be harder to see when you are cutting.
- You can also trace past the corners on the wallet pattern to make overlapping ‘x’ marks. This will help you see the edges when you cut them in the next step.
- Put the template aside.
Cut Your Wallet
- Always make cuts with your hobby knife while your leather is on your cutting mat.
- Remember the safety tips for using a hobby knife.
- A different amount of pressure needs to be applied depending on if you are using vegan leather or real leather. Take a moment to get used to the pressure you need by slicing a corner off your larger piece of leather. Choose an area that isn’t included in your chalk outline. Try making a few cuts to practice.
- When you’re ready to cut your wallet, take your time with each cut.
- Use the metal ruler to keep your lines straight.
- You’ll want to hold the leather and ruler down with your non-dominant hand. Never cut towards your non-dominant hand. If you notice that you are, adjust how you are holding your leather.
- Especially for your first few cuts, check that you applied enough pressure to cut through the leather before you move the ruler. If you need to go over the line more than once, it is better to not move your ruler.
- If you are pressing firmly and still having trouble cutting the leather on the first slice, your blade may need to be changed.
- For the vegan leather especially, if your blade is dull, it will be much harder to cut.
- When cutting the inside corners of the pattern, start in the corner and pull out. This will help you to have crisp clean corners.
- You will need to move your leather throughout to make sure it is always on your cutting mat. Make sure a line is fully on your cutting mat before you begin that cut.
Finish Your Wallet Edges
- Take a look over your cut-out wallet pattern. Clean up any areas that need it. Again, use your ruler to achieve a straight edge to your wallet.
- Use the suede side of a scrap to brush off any chalk lines that are left on your wallet.
- If using real leather, the edges don’t actually need further finishing. Unfinished edges will offer a rustic and worn look to your finished project. Even still, there is an optional step for sealing real leather edges coming up.
- Optional step: If using vegan leather, you can choose if you would like to further finish your edge with a faux burnish.
- Burnishing is the process of rubbing and polishing the edge of leather after adding beeswax or a similar sealing agent. We can mimic this effect with vegan leather and a candle.
- Light a candle. You’ll be using the heat of the candle to lightly melt your edge. You can practice this process with a scrap first to both see how it will look and perfect the technique.
- Make sure to do this in an area where the air is still. Do not do this in a breezy area where the flame can change directions.
- Hold your leather about 3 millimeters away from the flame and slowly turn your wallet to expose each edge to the heat of the candle. Do not put the vegan leather into the candle flame. It should only be close and never inserted into the flame.
- Repeat this process with any edges that were missed.
- Do not attempt this with real leather.
Prepare Your Wallet for Hardware and Glue
- You will want to prepare your wallet for hardware before you add the glue. This will also help you to have it centered on your final wallet.
- On the cardstock template, fold the flaps in with the pointed flap at the top, fold in the left and right sides, then the bottom side, and finally the pointed top.
- Still on the template, find the center point where all the folds overlap and mark all four flaps. This is where the hardware will be placed. If you have a single hole punch handy, punch a hole on the template where the hardware should be inserted. The exacto knife will work for this as well.
- You can also do this by using your ruler to find the center of your wallet.
- Place the template back on top of your leather and mark your leather for hardware placement.
- On the cutting mat, use the hobby blade to cut a slit in the center. This slit should be small, about 3-5 mm. It is okay to go through all layers of the pattern, you’ll need a mark on all four flaps. Make sure you press hard enough to achieve this before moving on.
- Unfold your pattern and place it back over your leather on your cutting mat. Use your hobby knife to cut those slits in your leather flaps. Do not cut a slit in the center of your wallet.
- Remember it is okay for these slits to be small. You’ll be able to adjust the size later if they aren’t big enough, but you won’t be able to make them smaller after they’ve been cut.
- When using real leather, cutting across (+) usually produces easier results for the next step.
Add Your Head Button Hardware (part 1)
- There are two pieces to this hardware: the front button which has a round bulb on the top and the back screw that fits inside the front. Separate these pieces if they were not already. You should be able to do this with your fingers.
- Insert the back screw through the slits on the left flap, then the right flap on top. The screw threads should be facing outward and the flat back inside your wallet.
- The hole you created might be a snug fit. A snug fit is better than a loose fit where the backing can be pulled through.
- If the hole you created is not big enough to insert the head screw, lay that flap back onto your cutting mat, locate the slit and make it a bit longer. Work slowly to increase the size of the slit.
Glue Your Wallet (Part 1)
- This step is especially helpful for ensuring that whatever is put inside can’t easily slip out of these seams.
- Your super glue will be sealed, use the cap to puncture the top of the tube. You may need to remove the lid and tip to access the top of the tube. Avoid squeezing the tube when puncturing it.
- Use the super glue sparingly and avoid contact with your fingers.
- Use the tip of the super glue tube to distribute the glue.
- Add a small amount of super glue between the left and right flaps. Pinch tightly between your fingers for 15-30 seconds to allow the super glue to bond.
- The head button will hold everything together, but the glue will make sure things stay inside.
Add Your Head Button Hardware (Part 2)
- Bring the bottom flap up and put the back of the head button through your slit.
- Like before, if the hole you created is not big enough to insert the head screw, lay that flap onto your cutting mat, locate the slit and make it a bit longer. Work slowly to increase the size of the slit.
- Remove the bottom flap from the head button screw to glue it.
- This step is to make sure the slit is the correct size before we have glue added.
Glue Your Wallet (Part 2)
- Add super glue to the bottom flap along the edge only.
- Remember to use your super glue sparingly.
- Fold it upwards and pinch it again for about 30 seconds for the super glue to begin to set.
- Pinching at the corners will help it to find the correct shape.
- Be careful to not use so much super glue that it spills out. Your Qtips can be moistened with a little water to clean up small areas.
- An optional step if using real leather, you can also seal your edges by using the Qtip dipped in glue. Very gently rub this along just the edges to seal them. Do not try this with the vegan leather, it will leave a white residue.
- Make sure to cap your super glue now that you are done with it.
Finish Your Head Button Hardware
- If using real leather especially, you might need to remove the excess leather before the front of your head button will screw on. Do this by pressing your hobby knife against the back screw and carefully rotating your hobby knife to cut the excess away. Do this with your leather wallet laying on your work surface. Be aware of your non-dominant hand holding your wallet and try to keep that hand away from the hobby knife.
- Screw the head button to the back. You can likely screw this on with only your fingers. However, if the screw back spins while you tighten the front, use your metal ruler to hold the screw back in place. For a flathead screw back (with one straight line), use the edge of your ruler to hold the back in place while you tighten the head. For a Phillips head screw back (with a cross), use the corner of your ruler to hold it in place.
Finish Your Wallet Closure
- Now you are ready to close your wallet. Pull the top flap down and push the head button through your remaining slit or cross cut.
- If it doesn’t pull over the head button, lay it down on your cutting mat and widen just one of your slits, not both. Try again and work slowly until your wallet closes. You’ll want this to remain very snug so your wallet stays secure.
- Over time and use, this slit will naturally stretch and become easy to close.
Super Glue Clean Up
- Let your glue have enough time to fully dry and cure before you add whatever you need to keep close. This should take 12-24 hours for most super glues.
- If you did get super glue on your fingers during these steps, soak your finger with acetone nail polish remover and gently peel off the dried glue. If this isn’t available, water will wear it off within a few days. Lotion may help it to peel off as well.
- If you are concerned that you may have used more glue than is necessary and that the inside of your wallet may get glued together, there are some common household objects you can insert in while it dries:
- An empty plastic milk jug or smoothie bottle is commonly made of high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, which does not bind to superglue. Clean the bottle out and use kitchen shears to remove a flat panel.
- Use a piece of aluminum foil with the shinier side facing the glue.
It’s Time to Revel in a Job Well Done!
- Take a moment to enjoy that you have handcrafted an everyday object! It can serve as a regular reminder to take time out for yourself and to craft with others!
- This may be your starting point to keep honing your leather working skills. If you have a regular time set apart for crafting, you might explore your creativity through some simple leather work. If you don’t have a time set apart, hopefully this will encourage you to start!
- Here’s some inspiration for how you can build on this craft:
- Use super glue to create a pattern with studs, sequins, or other decorations. (example: Envelope Bags)
- Embroider a word, pattern, or simple design on your wallet. (example: Envelope Bags) This is best done before your wallet is assembled or only on the top flap of an assembled wallet. Draw your idea out on a piece of paper and tape it to your wallet. Use a thumbtack to make the evenly spaced holes in your wallet that will be your guide for stitching. Depending on your design, you might use your chalk to draw it on the inside instead. This may be an ambitious craft project for some!
- Use acrylic paint or a permanent marker (depending on the color of your leather) to decorate and customize your wallet. If doing a pattern like polka dots, you can use the ruler from your kit to keep everything evenly spaced. (example: Envelope Bags)
- While we focused on straight lines, you can use your hobby knife to create scalloped edges on your top flap. Similarly, you can recreate a classic eyelet fabric by cutting small shapes out of the wallet. Either will give your wallet a soft romantic feel. (example: Leather Cut-Out Clutch)
Crafting is even better when it is shared! Here are a few ideas for how to share your awesome talents:
- Turn a gift card into a deeply thoughtful and personalized present with a leather wallet.
- When giving a wallet or purse, there are many traditions that it should be given with a little money inside (so the recipient will have good luck). Try adding a coin with extra meaning: choose international coins or a US state quarter that represents a special location between you and the person the wallet is for.
- Make a wallet for a particular change in someone’s life: a new driver’s license, new business cards or work ID, or photos of new family members.
Don’t forget to tag us in your project pictures on Instagram @CraftJam.co.