One of my first private commissions was something a little different to the stuff I usually make.
A friend of the family, artist James Nunn is a huge cricket fan and had always wanted a cricket ball inspired wallet.
I spent a few diverting hours researching cricket ball stitching and was almost immediately sucked down a rabbit hole reading up on the lost art of handmade cricket balls. The industry died out in the UK many years ago. Almost all modern balls are made in Pakistan - though still hand sewn whilst the ball is held in a spherical vice to raise the seam.
I then set about looking at different wallet designs. You'd think a wallet is just a wallet, right? Well, there are a myriad of different design options.
Once I'd decided on a couple of different patterns, a bi-fold and a tri-fold, the next step is a test build. This is the wallet you see below - made from a bag of scrap panels I picked up from Artisan Leather. The soft creased leather was beautiful, and the wallet looked even better on the inside lined with soft pig-skin - an extra piece of finishing that I thought suited the wallet.
The test make
Pig skin suede lined cash slot adds an extra level of finishing
The main aim was to practice the cricket ball stitch and experiment with thread size and stitches per inch - I ended up buying an old cricket ball to study the stitching.
As nice as the test build was, I ended up gong for the longer tri-fold design for James's wallet; I really wanted to show off that stitching. I also changed leather, appropriately enough to a Wickett & Craig burgundy harness. The shine on this leather is just beautiful, it replicates the shine of a ball perfectly. I sourced two panels from the fantastic Beamhouse Leather - if you're looking for high quality panels of leather that are hard to get in the UK Jared is your man.
Leatherwork can be unforgiving sometimes. It's not like textiles, where a stitching line can be undone and re-sewn - each hole is hammered in with a stitching chisel and there's no going back. You have to be careful not to go wrong or scratch the leather.. harness leather is not cheap. So, my morale dipped a bit when I did exactly the latter on the outer shell that I'd just spent ages marking out seven parallel lines on with wing dividers and chiselling.
All the stitch lines..
Once I'd had a word with myself things went smoothly. Saddle stitching is actually pretty straightforward, the trick is consistency of movement, repeating the same exact action over and over again. Once you develop the muscle memory you can work pretty quickly.
I do have a heavy duty sewing machine but I choose to work by hand with leather, the results are just so satisfying. It's as much about the process of making and the research required as it is about the finished article. That is one of the reasons I enjoy commissions so much.
Best of all I got to hand the wallet over to James in person over a cold pint in a pub in Bath (pre Lockdown 2.)
If you'd like something commissioned do get in touch. If you're a cricket fan the first wallet I made is available here. EDIT: SOLD
Check out James's amazing artwork here.