Making The Pearl Passport Wallet
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
The Pearl Passport Wallet is the second in our series of "adventurous beginner" full leather sewing patterns. This wallet was designed with specific needs in mind (take a video tour of the wallet at the bottom of the page). It has two slip pockets that are perfect for carrying passports and vaccination cards, as well as two card slots that can hold an ID and a payment card - just the basics that are needed when traveling. The nice thing is, you have the option for adding a strap so you can carry your wallet without fear of putting it down and misplacing it. The strap is removable, so when you no longer need to have these documents at your fingertips, simply remove the strap and tuck the wallet away securely in your bag. Nice, right? What's even better...
This wallet can be made in two styles - one simplified version that uses a spring snap (perfect for true beginners), and another version that requires installing a magnetic snap (for the slightly more adventurous beginner). Both versions are super cute and come together really quickly. You could even do a mash-up of the two! There are so many possibilities - I betcha' can't make just one!😉
Leather: Great news! Like the Maria, the Pearl wallet can be cut entirely from a 12" x 24" leather panel - with a small bit of leather left over. In fact, if making the simplified version and omitting the straps (or using a different leather for the straps), you can cut TWO Pearl wallets (when using the suggested cutting layout in the pattern). So what weight/type of leather will you need?
I recommend using a 2-3 oz or 3-4 oz leather with a semi-firm temper for this wallet. What is temper? Temper refers to the pliability or softness of the leather. For this wallet, you want something that is not too soft and floppy - especially since you want your flap to have good structure. Can this wallet be made with other weights? Yes...but working with different leather weights can also mean making small adjustments to the pattern. However, have no fear! There are notes included in the pattern to offer some guidance on this. Also, have you seen the video included in our post titled "Choosing The Right Leather for Your Pattern"? This might also be helpful.
Straps: Included in the pattern are instructions for making a 3-piece non-adjustable strap. This type of strap was chosen so you can cut your strap from the same leather you are you are using for the wallet. Depending on the thickness and temper of the leather, you might prefer to use thicker leather for your straps. You could also consider using a webbing strap. There are free adjustable webbing strap instructions available under "PDF Sewing Patterns" on our website.
Burnishing Edges: Finishing the edges of your leather can really enhance the overall look of your project. Burnishing will leave your project with smooth and glossy edges and it can be done pretty quickly and easily. We will talk about that a bit, but first I should mention not all types of leather can be burnished. There are tons of videos out there on how to burnish various types of leather, but the best and easiest burnish typically happens on veg-tanned leather. If you have a burnishable leather, it is a great way to finish the edges on the Pearl wallet. So, what do you need to burnish your edges? There are countless methods and all sorts of gadgets to aid in this task, but it doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Simply using a a small piece of canvas, a burnishing agent (we like to use Tokonole and/or beeswax), and good old-fashioned elbow grease can produce beautiful results. You will be amazed how quickly your bags transforms. Take a peek at the short video below showing this method (the video has been sped up a bit).
Domestic Machine or Industrial? Depending on the leather used, you might need an industrial machine for this wallet. At the thickest point, you will be sewing through three layers of leather. To test your machine, try taking a few small scraps of the leather you would like to use and sewing three layers (if using a domestic, I recommend increasing your stitch length, using a new leather needle, and maybe a Teflon foot if your leather sticks). If you can successfully sew through three layers of your leather, you should have no problem sewing the Pearl wallet on your machine.
Needles & Thread: This can vary for different types of machines, but if sewing your wallet on a domestic machine, consider using heavy duty polyester thread and a new leather sewing machine needle. You should also use a longer stitch length than is typically used when sewing fabrics. We sew our Pearl wallets on an industrial machine with a size 125/20 needle and size 92 thread (I believe this is the Tex 90 equivalent). You can use other thread and needle sizes, but check the specs for your specific machine to see what is recommended.
How To Tie Off Your Threads: As an alternative to backstitching, some people prefer to pull the threads through to one side then tie them off. This is often done to avoid the appearance of backstitching in visible areas. However, at high stress points, I like to backstitch a couple times and tie my threads off. I find that it creates a much stronger seam because it prevents the stitches from unraveling. This is optional and totally up to you!
To tie the threads off…leave the threads long at the beginning and end of your stitch lines. Gently tug the thread on one side to loosen and expose the loop of the second thread. Grab the loop of the second thread and pull it through until both threads are on the same side. Tie twice to knot, cut the excess thread above the knot, then burn (a quick pass with the lighter should do) and press the melted threads down (be careful – the melted thread will be hot). Click below for a quick video showing this method..
How To Double & Glue Your Straps: If you are using a leather that is not heavy enough for straps, you might opt to double and glue your pieces. To get the cleanest edges, I recommend gluing two larger cuts of leather wrong sides together first, and then cutting your straps from the glued pieces. To view a quick demonstration, see the video below.
Take a tour of the Pearl Wallet! Just a note...the two rivets shown in the bottom corners are not included in the pattern. I somehow got a hole punched in the wrong spot on one side, and to hide it, I thought I would just punch a hole on the oppposite and add rivets there. Where there's a will, there's a way, right? 😉