One of my favorite things about getting into DIY projects is that, while it's an excellent way to learn new skills or save money instead of buying an expensive item, it also just plain makes everything more fun. For example, my husband and I are planning on doing some overseas traveling together this year, and we could just take our passports with us as they are, but why not make a cute passport cover to jazz them up a bit instead? There are some pretty fun options out there, and I liked the ones that had a phrase or cute logo on the front, so I thought I could stamp the front of the cover to make it a little more unique.
I made this tutorial for both those that want to hand sew their cover and those that would rather use a sewing machine instead. You do get the chunkier stitching look and learn a new technique with the hand sewing route, while the machine sewing is certainly the fastest choice, but both options are cool with me. So pick whichever one sounds best to you.
For hand sewing:
–hand sewing needles
–spacer overstitch wheel
For machine sewing:
-leather needles (something like these, just make sure they work with your particular brand of machine)
If you are hand stitching your leather, use your metal ruler and spacer overstitch wheel to mark where to punch your holes all the way around your larger rectangle about 1/2 cm from each edge. If you haven't used one before, just think of it as a rotary cutter that makes marks instead of cutting the leather as you roll.
Now for both machine and hand stitchers, use the double-sided basting tape to tape the three outside edges of your side flaps to the underside of the larger rectangle (wrong sides together). These will be the pockets that the front and back cover of your passport slip into.
Machine sewers can now use the leather sewing machine needle to sew all the way around the edge of your passport cover with a 1/2 cm seam allowance. Now hang out until we get to the stamping part below. Make yourself a drink. Re-laaax.
Hand sewers, you'll want to use your leather punch to punch a hole at each of the marks your spacer overstitch wheel made.
Cut a piece of waxed thread that is long enough to stitch around your passport holder twice (with some extra to be safe) and thread a hand sewing needle at both ends. Go through one of your holes and pull the thread through until you reach the middle point of your thread.
Now you can either do the hand sewing part the easy way or the more professional way. If you want to go faster, you can sew all the way around your passport holder back to the beginning point with one of the needles and then sew around again with the second thread going through the opposite holes to fill in all the spaces for a continuous stitch. You can see in the photo above how it looks with one round of stitching completed and the second round starting to sew the opposite holes and fill in the gaps. You'll want to come up through a hole (or go into a hole) next to the thread that's already there rather than pierce through the existing thread. That makes the stitching look much cleaner.
If you want to hand stitch like the pros, you'll take turns stitching through each hole with both needles (this is a great visual tutorial to follow). It takes quite a bit longer to do it this way, but you do get a much cleaner and more even stitch line. I did the professional version on the black holder and the easier on the pink holder. Personally, I would suggest doing the easier version if your thread is the same color as your leather and the pro version if you are doing contrast stitching of a different color (the contrast stitching is a lot more visible). Live and learn, right?
Either way you choose to hand sew, when you get back to the beginning, sew back through a few holes that have already been sewn. This will secure the ends of each thread. Trim the threads close to the leather and use a lighter to melt the wax thread in that spot (this will secure the thread further). Be careful not to burn your leather. So hold the flame just close enough that you can see the threads start to melt.
OK, now that all the sewing is done, use your stamping block, ink, and stamps to customize the front of your passport holder. If you're worried about the stamp not stamping evenly since the inside flaps of the passport holder make one edge thicker than the other when closed, you can place two scrap layers of leather in that thinner middle section so it's all the same thickness when closed. Or, you could stamp the leather after it's cut but before you do any of the the sewing part. You can use stamp cleaner on a Q-tip to clean up any stray ink spots after stamping.
Not too shabby, huh? You could also stick your whole passport into one of the side flaps and then use the other to hold your airline tickets or a bit of cash. I thought about adding "HEY HO" on the back of Todd's passport because he's a traveling musician so it makes perfect comic sense. Although, if we are doing song quotes, I should probably make one that says, "come fly with me" and give a nod to my Sinatra obsession. Go on, make your passport cover while you dream of all the places you'll take it to—let's fly away! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.