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Project Six: The Perfect Fabric Wallet (with tutorial)

January 22, 2011

Today is the 21st January, and my little brother’s 19th birthday. As a birthday present he asked me to make him a wallet that was small enough to fit in his pocket and had plenty of compartments, including a zippered compartment for coins. I had never made a wallet before, and ended up with lots of scribbled drawings and notes as well as two prototypes that went wrong before I finally came up with the perfect pattern. Thankfully he loved it!

The Michael Miller Paisley fabric

My brother chose a dark paisley Micheal Miller fabric and we bought 2 yards of it on Ebay. He wanted the outside of the wallet to be black cord, so I cut up an old pair of the boy’s black cord trousers (the holes in the knees were too worn to pass on to anyone else). It took a while to decide what colour zip and zipper pocket lining to use, I was torn between a maroon colour and a bright blue.

The boy’s Holey Cords

Men’s cotton shirts  from charity shops are a great source of cheap fabric for sewing projects. It’s great to go into charity shops viewing everything as potential fabric to use, suddenly the men’s section becomes interesting!

Anyway, I am digressing. In the end I chose the light turquoise colour as my brother is into bright colours. The maroon was a bit dull and serious.

Right, let’s get on with the tutorial. I promise this is a seriously simple wallet to make, and I designed it so there weren’t too many bulky seams to try to sew through.

This is what you’ll need:

A. Outside fabric measuring 9.5″ by 5″, interfaced.

B. Inside fabric measuring 9.5″ by 4.5″, interfaced.

C. Note pocket fabric, measuring 9.5″ by 8.5″, interfaced.

D. Card slot fabric, measuring 18″ by 4.5″.

E. Zip pocket lining, measuring 4″ by 8″.

F. Side pocket fabric, measuring 6.5″ by 4.5″.

G. Coordinating zip, measuring at least 4.5″. I just use whatever I have and cut it down once it is sewn in place.

H. Magnetic clasp.

I. Coordinating thread.

J. Cutting mat, quilter’s ruler and rotary cutter, or scissors.

Things to consider: All my seams are a quarter of an inch, that is what I work with, if you feel you need a bigger seam allowance add it to the measurements. Some of the photos of the methods used are from the prototypes, so not all the photos show the same fabric!

Step one:

Cut all your pieces to size, using the rotary cutter and ruler, or by making patterns out of brown paper and pinning to the fabric and cutting using scissors. For simple things like rectangles I tend to just cut the fabric without a paper pattern, but there is no right way to do this.

Iron your interfacing onto pieces A, B and C. I cut my interfacing about an inch smaller than the piece it is for, to reduce bulked up seams.

Step Two:

Press in your folds. While you still have the iron on from the interfacing, fold the outside fabric (A) in half, wrong sides together, and press. Then fold the inside fabric (B) in half, right sides together, and press. For the note pocket, first fold one 8.5″ side to the other, right sides together, and press, and then fold the whole thing over the other way, so you have a square, and press.

All this pressing just helps give your wallet structure as you are sewing it, and once it is completed.

Step Three: make the card slots

Keep the iron on, because now you need to press the slots in your long piece of card slot fabric (D). This is not an exact science, and I use a card to help me make the slots the right size. Bear with me now, this is going to sound complicated. You want to end up with three fabric slots.

Start at the top of your long strip of fabric. We’re going to make some concertina folds. Measure down 3.5″ and make a fold, right sides together, and press. Now make a second fold, about 2″ from the first fold, but with wrong sides together, and press. Use your card here to get the slot the right size, you can adapt it depending on how much card you want sticking out over the slot. Now make your next fold about 2.5″ and fold, right sides together, and press. Now make another fold about 2″ from this fold, using your card again to help, and with wrong sides together, press. Repeat this one more time so you have three card slots. Your folded piece of fabric should now be at least 4.5″ from top to bottom, but in reality should be longer as I was very generous with 18″. Pin the slots in place. You should have something that looks like this:

Step Four:

Now you’re ready to get the sewing machine out! Sew the folded card slots together down the folded sides, with a quarter-inch seam allowance. I start at the bottom as this way the folds go through the foot smoothly.

Step Five: Making the side pocket behind the card slots.

With your folded card slots in front of you, place fabric piece F on top of the card slots, right sides together, so that the longer 6.5″ edge is horizontal and the 4.5″ edge is vertical You need to line up this piece so that the top is about three-quarters of an inch above your first card slot The bottom should be below the bottom fold of your last card slot. Line up the two layers along one vertical edge and sew together, with a quarter-inch seam allowance. Now rearrange the fabric so that the other two vertical edges are lined up and sew together (this is a bit like sewing lining to curtains, the lining is always slightly narrower).Trim the raw edges.

Now turn the loop of fabric right way out and manipulate the right hand seam so that you have a quarter-inch fold of fabric after the seam. Press and top stitch. Press the other side so that both fabric pieces are smooth. You will have a larger fold of fabric coming over the card slots on this side. This is what we want. Does that make sense? I hope so. It should look like this:

Step Five: The zippered pocket

First attach one side of your magnetic clasp to the inner fabric on the right edge, about halfway down and about half an inch in.

Now don’t panic here if you are usually scared of zips, you can do it, I promise. With right sides together, line up the zip pocket lining (E) with the inner fabric, on the right hand side of the inner fabric fold, so that the zip pocket lining’s 4″ edge is at the top and horizontal. Pin in place. You should end up with a sort of right angle as the zip pocket lining is going to be folded up to make both sides of the lining pocket.

Now, with a ruler and pencil draw a rectangle 3.5″ long and 5/8″ wide, about half an inch from the top of the fabric. Don’t be afraid to mark the fabric, it will be hidden. Now sew along the rectangle you have drawn, with right sides together.

Once you’ve done that you need to cut a slit down the middle of this rectangle, with slits going to each corner, like this:

If my instructions are not very clear there are loads of really good tutorials for doing this online, with much better photos than mine. Now for the fun part. Pull the lining fabric through the slit you have cut, so that it is now behind the main fabric, wrong sides together. Magic. Now carefully make sure the seams are lined up in your rectangle and press. Topstitch. You should have a neat little slit rather like a letter box.

Now pin the zip to the underside, lining it up with the slot and making sure the zipper pull is inside the slot. I always sew my zip closed like this:

Sew the zip in place around the slot using a zipper foot and manipulating the zipper pull around the foot when it gets there by leaving the needle in the fabric and lifting the foot up while pulling the zipper pull back.

Now take the long piece of lining fabric and fold the bottom edge up to the top, right sides together, and press and sew the raw edges together.

As you can see I hadn’t yet attached the magnetic clasp, but in retrospect I think it is easier if you do it before sewing the zippered pocket in place.

Step Six: Attaching the card slots

Right, we’ve done the hard part now. Next we need to attach the card slots and side pocket to the left side of the inner fabric. Use the fold we pressed into the inner fabric earlier to help you line up the edge of the card slots and side pocket with the inner fabric. We want them to be left of the fold, lined up with the fold. When you’re happy with the alignment pin in place and baste to the inner fabric along the top and bottom edge, using the inner fabric as your guideline (your card slot fabric will probably overhang like in my photo).

Now take your other magnetic clasp and line it up with the clasp on the other side and then attach it through the fabric of the first card slot so that it lines up with the clasp on the other side. Don’t go through more than one card slot or it will mess everything up and stop your cards fitting into the slots.

Side pocket

Now you can turn the whole thing over so you can see the wrong side of the inner fabric and trim the card slot fabric to the same level as the inner fabric.

Step Seven: Attaching the outer fabric

Now get your iron out again, it’s time for some more pressing. Take your inner fabric piece and press down a quarter-inch seam at the top. Take your outer fabric and press down a quarter-inch seam at the top.

Line up the outer and inner fabric, right sides together, with the bottom edges lined up (the top edges won’t be).The top edge of the wallet will have a  tiered effect, with the outer fabric being half an inch taller than the inner fabric. This helps it lie flat and fold neatly.

Sew together along the sides and bottom.

Trim the seams, turn right way out and press. Now we’ve pretty much completed the wallet, all we need to do is make and attach the note pocket, which is just like attaching a lining to a bag (if you’re familiar with making bags).

Step Eight: Making the note pocket

Take note pocket fabric (C) fold down the top 9.5″ edge, wrong sides together, about half an inch and press. Now with the note pocket folded in half with right sides together put it inside the wallet lining up the folded seam with the top of the outer fabric seam. Pin in place and the fold down and press the other side to line up with the inner fabric of the wallet, making sure the bottom of the note pocket fits into the wallet. You may need to refold and press the bottom fold of the note pocket at this stage to make sure it lines up perfectly.

Once you are happy that the note pocket is all lined up perfectly and the top seams are the right size take it out of the wallet and sew the side edges together, right sides facing, with just more than a quarter-inch seam allowance (so it fits perfectly inside the wallet). Trim the raw edges.


opening for note pocket in main wallet

Now place note pocket inside main wallet, with wrong sides together, line up the folded top edges and pin in place. Once you are happy it is all lined up topstitch around the edge to sew the note pocket to the wallet.

Now topstitch around the rest of the wallet and believe it or not, you are finished! I hoe my tutorial has made sense and you’ve been able to follow it and make your own, because I really do think it’s a great little wallet and a very easy pattern to make. If anyone does make one, I would love to see some pictures!


The finished wallet with the two prototypes

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 11:57 am

    Super cute… would love to know how to refurbish a trifold

  2. September 15, 2013 11:17 am

    Your tutorial is awesome! I can’t believe my first wallet came out pretty. Thank you loads. Your words really gave me the courage to try zipper and that is my favourite party of the wallet. How do I send me the pictures? Email id?

  3. patri carrizo permalink
    January 5, 2015 6:12 pm

    hello! cute, but the pattern of the fabric doesn’t allow to see well.. can you do it with a lighter fabric?thanks!

  4. Julie permalink
    May 29, 2016 3:51 pm

    Just made one – tuned out pretty good for a beginner sewer –


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