When I got back home, I did a bit of digging. Cut a long story short, it turns out these things have a bit of a cult following, people are obsessive about them, carry them everywhere they go, record everything they see, do or hear. Some do crafting, some do journaling, there’s a whole community, all over the world. Now, I’m not a big journal guy, I keep most of my to do lists and dates in my head, and as a consequence I’m generally running late and don’t get a lot of the stuff I need to do done. But I loved the way this thing was setup and loved the idea of a wallet that had the same functionality. So, I did a bit of further digging, searching, Googling, but nothing. I couldn’t believe it. I thought surely, someone must have had this idea before. But apparently not. Well, what to do but fashion one myself.
3. And how did you learn the craft?
Time and an internet connection. If you have a look on YouTube you’ll find a whole host of talented leather workers, crafts-men and women. There are many people that I have learnt from over the past couple of years, but two in particular are Ian Atkinson of “Leodis Leather” and Nigel Armitage of “Armitage Leather”. Both guys are phenomenally talented and have a genuine love for the craft. I can’t thank them enough!
4. Did it take a while before you had made a wallet that you were happy with?
Luckily for me, the guys I learnt from were so good and so clear that the first one I made wasn’t bad. At the time, I thought (rather un-modestly) that it was pretty decent! Obviously, I played it down a bit when people asked, but truth-be-told, I was pretty pleased with myself. I’d fashioned this thing from scratch, with just a bit of time, some pretty cheap tools and an idea in my head – I couldn’t believe it. I still have the first Flat Wallet I made, and to be honest, I still think it’s not bad for a first stab. It’s quite a bit less refined than the ones I’m making today, the stitching is a bit off and the edges a bit raw, but not terrible.
5. How did you decide what ingredients to use for your leather and stitching?
Word of mouth, forums – research. There are a lot of very knowledgeable people out there in the leather community. Everyday I learn something or see something new. In terms of the materials I use, I knew of Horween long before I started making wallets, but I’d never knowing handled their leather. It’s incredible stuff and the pull-up (movement of oils and waxes within the leather that cause a lightning and darkening effect) on their leathers is second to none. As for the thread I use (Ritza 25, Tiger thread), the stuff is widely revered as one of the strongest and resilient threads out there (German engineering), so I went with that. I’m currently looking at introducing a waxed linen thread alternative, but I haven’t found one I’m happy working with yet.
6. Why do you hand stitch each wallet? Surely it would be much easier to do on a sewing machine?
There are a number of reasons really, but they all tie back to something I truly believe in – if you are going to make something, make it well and make it so it lasts. I’ve always loved the idea of owning things for as long as possible. Not just because environmentally it’s the right thing to do, but because the longer you own something, the more stories you have associated with it.
Every one of my wallets is saddle stitched using two needles and a single thread (one needle at each end). The main difference between a saddle stitch and a machine stitch is that every time the needles enter the leather they cross each other, meaning that the thread passes from one side of the leather to the other. If a stitch fails, no problem, the rest of your stitches will stay in place and your item will remain intact. Because a machine stitch is just a series of loops, when one stitch fails, game over; pull on the thread even slightly and all your stitches will come crashing down. The wallets I make are built for a number of reasons, to be functional – of course, to be aesthetically pleasing, but most of all, they are built.