wallet tutorial

All right!  Another post within the month!!  Whatever...  So, my friend had her birthday party the other night, and I decided to make her a wallet as a gift out of some cute comic strip fabric that I snagged from my mom...according to her, a friend gave it to her when my older brother was born - wow, that stuff is old.  Well sort of.  Anyway, this would be a great project for a tiny amount of some cool fabric, or just fabric that couldn't possibly be much else  (comic strip canvas shorts, anyone?)  and the outside is also plain enough that you could easily do some cool stuff with stencils, applique, embroidery - the possibilities are endless!!!  So, yeah... I can't wait to try some other things with it myself.

Features of this fabulous wallet include: 
  1. customizable exterior
  2. top zipper
  3. two inner patch pockets, sized appropriately for a checkbook or cash
  4. an inner zippered pocket for change or other things
  5. six credit card-sized pockets
  6. very roomy main compartment
You could also add an exterior zippered pocket on the back, but I didn't in this case

  • roughly two square feet of fabric - canvas or wool or some other bottom weight fabric is best
  • one square foot or so lining - cotton shirting is easier to work with than regular lining fabric
  • two eight or nine inch zippers
I am using  recycled zippers, since I tear apart enough old clothes to have zippers for a lifetime - not really actually, they hardly ever match, but I use them when I can, or just don't have new ones sitting around, like now...
All of the pieces are just rectangles, so it's pretty easy to cut everything out:

  • Outside: large rectangle (upper right corner) - 11"x6", x2 fabric, x2 lining
  • Inside pockets: smaller rectangle (upper left corner) - 9"x5", x2 fabric, x2 lining
  • Card pockets: smallest rectangle (above zippers) - 9"x3", x3 fabric
  • 2" square (not shown) - x1 fabric
  • a length of 1 1/4" fabric for double-folded tape, maybe about 12-14" or so
Sew the 2" square to the bottom end of zipper (the one intended for the top) double-folded like a piece of binding:

Press top of card pocket pieces under 1/2" and sew.

Pin one to one of the fabric pocket pieces (smaller rectangle) roughly halfway down.  Using a card as a guide, pin where the bottom should be stitched.  Sew straight across.

Sew the other two so that they are evenly spaced down the front, and the uppermost one's bottom edge lines up with the edge of the large piece:

Sew from top card pocket down to bottom edge right in the center (backstitch top):


 Now lay one of the lining pocket pieces face down over the thing just completed (face up).  Sew around, leaving a 4" or so opening at the top.  Trim and turn.  (Yeah, I made my opening too small so it took me like 20 minutes just to turn it)

Press.  Pin across top and topstitch (just top), closing the opening.  Pin in the center of the large lining outer piece and sew around sides and bottom, backstitching tops.

Now the small zipper pocket.  Some of you may know how to  insert a zipper, but I used to find it really confusing, so I'll attempt to explain it...Hopefully I won't make it more confusing!

Carefully mark a long skinny rectangle on the back of the other fabric pocket piece that is one and a half inches from the top and sides, and is 1/2 inch wide.  Baste along these lines, carefully and exactly, and then slash it open as shown.

Look at the zipper and note where 1/4" from center is - measure how far from the edge that is.  If you have a one inch wide zipper, you know that you need to sew 1/4" in from edge.  Since the slash is 1/4 inch wide, I can just line them up and sew along basting.  If it's a little more or less, just make sure that place where it's 1/4" from center lines up with the basting stitches in next step.

Lay zipper face down over slashed opening and pin - I somehow didn't take a picture of this, so I'll try to explain the best I can - you have the fabric piece face up with the slashed opening on the top.  Hold the zipper so that it is face down.  Place so that the lower edge of the face-down zipper lines up with the slashed edge of the opening, which is pointing downward from the top.  Pin in place, making sure they are exactly straight, and turn over and sew directly over the basting stitches, but only on the one straight line, and backstitching at each end.  Pull zipper through to back.  It should look like this:

Pull the other slashed thing (you can see it in the picture above) over the other side of the zipper and pin:

Sew along the basting stitches again, making sure everything is perfectly straight and in line.  You can do the same thing you just did with the little triangles on the short sides, which you would do if you didn't want to have topstitching on the front.  Since I'm going to topstitch, I'll skip this step.  Just pin everything in place, making sure the little triangles are tucked neatly under and topstitch through all layers.

Sew the lining to this right sides together leaving an opening, turn, sew the top, then sew sides and bottom onto large lining piece, backstitching top edges, just as you did with the other pocket.

Okay, so here I kinda messed up the order of how this sort of thing goes together.  I sewed the bottoms of the outside together and then did the zipper.  Basically, if you want to topstitch along the bottom, as I did, do it this way, but topstitching along the top will be a lot harder and will probably be messy, as mine was, a little.  So I'm going to show it the other way, zipper first, then the bottom, because the zipper topstitching is more important and you can just press the bottom.

Pin the zipper face down to the top of one of the outside fabric pieces as shown.  I have it here 1 1/2" from each side and 1/2" from top, but in retrospect I think it would be better to have more like 1 1/4" or even just 1" from the sides and 3/8" from the top.  If you want it to look exactly like mine, by all means do it the other way, but I had to sew over a 1" seam allowance on the sides because I put the zipper too far in.  Pin the other end in a curve as shown.

Lay the lining piece face down over this, lining up the edge with the edge of the fabric piece;  if you're crazy about doing everything perfectly without any shortcuts, you can baste the zipper first, but I didn't.  I would just suggest that you don't take the pins holding the zipper on out when you pin the lining on, and you HAVE to make sure that the zipper is a specific distance from the edge, and that you sew a larger amount - so in my case, I had 1/2" space, and I sewed 5/8".  That was cutting it really close though, so that's why I think it would be better to have 3/8 and 5/8.

Sew through all layers 5/8", turn, and topstitch.

Do the same thing with the other side.  You should end up with two sides - each with their lining, fabric, and pockets - separated by the zipper.  With the outside of the wallet facing up, lift each fabric section up till they meet and pin - they'll be right sides together.  Sew straight across the bottom.  Repeat for the lining.

The result will look kinda weird, like it might not turn right side out properly, but that's fine:

Work with it a little until you have turned it inside out, just like the finished wallet would be turned inside out but with open sides - it will be easier if you have it unzipped.

Pin the sides together, carefully matching tops, and sew through all layers.  Trim and apply a strip of double folded fabric tape to finish - I just made my own with the lining fabric.  All you do is cut a strip about 3/4 of an inch longer than the sides, and 1 1/4" wide, press in half, then press each side in half towards center so that there is no raw edges showing.  Pin it around the raw edges of the side seam, fold excess down, and sew through all thicknesses.

So there it is!  Enjoy.  And I am working on the tutorial for the shirt like I promised!  It is sitting in pieces waiting to be sewn as we speak...


  1. Madam, that wallet is fantastic! It looks really professional and that. I really want to try this design out now!

  2. I miss your posts! I'm looking forward to your next tutorial. I was awarded the Liebster blog award and I wanted to pass it on to you. There's an explanation of it here if you want to accept: http://reverseclothing.blogspot.com/2012/05/my-first-blog-award-can-i-get-hell-yeah.html

  3. I'll have to try this one!!! Love all those pockets included. Thank you so much for the tutorial.

  4. This is great. I have been trying to figure out something to make that I could put all my silly store cards in. Perfect.
    Thanks for the tute.