I made my first plastic-bag wallet in 2007. It has held up really well, but after four years it’s starting to look a bit worn. I thought it might be time to make a new one. And now I’ll teach you to make one too!
I won’t bother lecturing you about how plastic bags are not disposable (if you want a fun new way to look at them, watch Bag It), but just FYI that’s what I believe. Okay, on to the tutorial!
What you need:
- 5-10 plastic bags, ideally in fun colors. Grocery bags and dyed plastic are best. Any printed patterns, colors and logos will wear off. Some clear plastic (produce bags) don’t bond very well.
- Clothes iron
- Paper bags or any thick paper that isn’t plastic coated
- Small paperboard box, like a cereal box
- Flat, heatproof surface
Making the pouch
1. Set your iron to medium-ish heat. It needs to be warm enough to melt plastic, but not so hot it melts right through. I guarantee you’ll have to fine-tune this with your own iron.
2. Cut off the seams at the handles and bottom of the bag, and (if you want, for aesthetic reasons) cut out the printed store name, logo, what have you. You want a nice big flat piece of plastic.
3. Fold the plastic over so it’s a few layers thick. You want the short side of your rectangle to be at least 6 inches, and the long side maybe 12 inches. This is not crucial, in fact nothing in this tutorial is crucial. It’s a trash wallet.
4. Make sure you have paper underneath the plastic. Lay another piece of paper on top, and iron the whole thing. Once you get the hang of it, the plastic layers will bond and make this wrinkly-looking material that I like to pretend looks like some kind of synthetic leather.
If your iron is too hot or you don’t have enough layers of plastic, it will do this. It will also stick to your paper, which is not a big deal. You can wash the paper off later.
5. Keep adding layers of plastic until it feels sturdy enough to you. You don’t need to overdo it. It can be pretty thin, almost as thin as paper, and still be basically impossible to tear. Plastic!
6. Decorate, or pick your colors, or whatever. I do not want a yellow wallet, I want a green wallet with yellow bits. So I added a couple layers of green plastic, which I owned already because I am a hoarder.
7. Cut a piece of cardboard so it’s slightly wider than a dollar bill. It should be lots taller than a dollar bill, for your future sanity’s sake.
8. The cardboard is your form, and you will now make the main pouch. Fold the plastic over with the form inside, and iron thoroughly along the sides of the form. Make sure it is fully bonded, so your cash money won’t fall out.
9. Cut along the two sides, leaving maybe a quarter inch of bonded plastic seam. You have made a money pouch!
At this point, you might be very happy with what you’ve made. I definitely considered leaving this one exactly as it was.
But for the sake of the tutorial, I cut a nice even rectangle. Hey looka there! My wallet is green on the outside and yellow on the inside.
I also put this little leaf on it, to make it more obvious that this wallet belongs to a hippie. Theft protection.
Adding Card Pockets
A few years ago I wound up with a stash of these bags (did I mention I’m a bag lady?) with cool reinforced handles. The plastic is awesome, but the handles are super rad. Here’s why:
You may not have such fancy bags around, but you get the idea. You can make a card pocket by cutting a rectangle of plastic with an enlarged slit in it. This design stands up to pretty heavy use, I can vouch for that. Just make sure you create it out of a few layers of plastic; too thin, and it’ll eventually stretch. That’s repairable, but it’s a pain.
1. Lay out your bag handle, or reinforced card thingie, on one third of your wallet.
2. Make another cardboard form, this one the width of a standard card (much, much longer though. You want it to stick out.) You will need two or three of these, so just make ‘em all now.
3. Insert the cardboard form into the “pocket”. Put your original form back inside the wallet pouch, and then iron the whole thing. Test it periodically by putting your real card into the pocket. Make sure you get this part right, it will get a lot of use in the future.
Repeat this on the other side if you want two card pockets.
4. If you’re feeling super crafty, you can try to make an ID pocket. I’ve had mixed success with this. As I said before, clear produce bags don’t bond well with normal plastic bags. However, this pita bag worked great, and it even had a snazzy little design on it.
You make the ID pocket differently: it needs to open on one side, not in the middle. Your form should be slightly larger so you can get the ID in and out, and you need to leave plenty of room around it to get the plastic properly bonded. Have fun!