This lovely wallet was the outcome of my “first” foray into making something for myself back in 2012 (“first” in inverted commas because we’ve obviously made other things back in the day during D&T & Home Economics classes, but that’s another story. Now I’m making stuff that I actually like / will possibly use).

Back in 2012, I signed up for a long wallet workshop at (now defunct?) Black Cotton Factory in Hong Kong. The workshop was run by a friend of a friend in Hong Kong, who had a small leather and design business.

I didn’t document process  / steps in the class back then, but I did make a little collage of the output, with little photo of a corner of their lovely little workshop in Hong Kong.

Leather wallet collage

Keiko (I think that was her name) who was conducting the workshop, spoke primarily Cantonese. My mastery of Cantonese is limited to sappy Cantonese love songs whose lyrics I memorized by heart. I remember it being quite a funny situation, where we relied a lot on gesturing and random Chinese (more like me guessing the Chinese equivalent of what Keiko was trying to say in Cantonese) and English. This didn’t cause too much of a problem at all, because the point of making something is more of doing than talking, so I just followed her actions, while sharing some laughs over struggles to communicate in words.

I got to choose (with expert guidance & inputs of course):
– the colour of the leather
– the design inside the wallet where I arranged and included an extra compartments (up to a certain limit, because the leather is quite thick and not possible to “thin” manually in my short workshop)
–  the type of clasp (I went for the thin long leather strip winding around – takes an extra few seconds to open/close the wallet but it doesn’t wear out unlike the stud fasteners  while looking so very sexy).

I love leather because it ages really well. I still use the wallet today, and after ~ 4 years, here is what it looks like:

Leather wallet 1
Leather colour has darkened over time
Leather wallet 2
Several compartments for cards & cash (2 sections for my different currencies). The dark “stains” on the bottom are from the metal zip constantly being pressed against it (but I love the worn out look of it)
Leather wallet 3
The wallet was painstakingly hand-stitched – we punched holes so that spaces between each stitch was even (and to make it easier for the needle to go through the leather)
Leather wallet 4
Even got to emboss my initials in the corner

This is one of the favourite things I’ve ever made – people are always surprised when I tell I made it. This also inspired me to continue making more things, because I realised I tend to love an item I make a lot more than if I had bought it, and because I made it on my own, it’ll always be unique (a next level of customisation!) and no one can judge me for choosing a bad design 😛


Details of the workshop

I don’t remember the exact details of the workshop (it was ~4 years ago!), but from what I recall:

Duration: 9-10 hours – I did this over 2 half days
Price: this was in HKD, but I remember it being in the range of ~SGD200?

There were other classes at the workshop (ipad cases, smaller wallets etc., and I vaguely remembered a messenger bag as well – but I imagine that would take a lot more time), and it’s a pity I can’t seem to find it anymore. Nevertheless, there are more leather craft workshops popping up in many countries, and I am sure there will be other chances to make more leather products ❤

Level of “fun”: 4/5

There were so many different types of things we had to do it never felt boring (except maybe only a little when some of the steps took really long).

I don’t know the real words for the various steps we did because I don’t remember + she probably told me in Cantonese (thin / “de-furring” the leather, water-proofing the suede side, bevelling the leather edges, attaching a zip, punching holes in the leather stitching etc.)

Level of difficulty: 3/5

Keiko provided very clear step-by-step guidance, and it was not difficult at all. Obviously there were new tools to learn that need some getting used to, but they weren’t too challenging to get the hang of.

The most difficult thing was probably having the stamina to continue working on it over the long duration (9-10 hours over 2 days).