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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Zip-Around Yahtzee Wallet

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
My customized zip around Yahtzee wallet...
Or, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again!

This little zip-around wallet has been the absolute most frustrating thing I've sewn to date, exceeding even the much more complex multi-zip organizer. A seemingly simple little "I'll tackle it this afternoon" type of project turned into three days of suffering.

Okay, so I exaggerate a tad. First of all, I spent only a couple of hours on it by day three. But day one featured such aggravation and so much seam ripping that I feared one of my exterior fabric pieces was going fray away to nothing.

You can see evidence of the previous stitching lines here in this closeup!

Permanent reminder of so many stitches ripped out...

At more than one point, I seriously thought that I was going to toss it out.

But it seemed too simple of a project to die on. I mean really, if I'm going to admit defeat, it should be on something so much more complicated than a zip-around wallet!

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Our Yahtzee dice and score sheets now have a home to travel in...

The truth is, though, I did concede defeat in one aspect. The original wallet (a freebie pattern whose link appears at the end of this post) is meant to be less than one inch thick by virtue of a 1" wide gusset. I could not make that work using plan A — more about my plans A, B and C later — so kudos to anyone who has been able to accomplish it. (A tip of the hat to you... although maybe you also had a plan B or C!)

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Hubby and I like to play Yahtzee when we travel. We genuinely like the game and it's easy to bring along. In fact, I've often carried the dice, score sheets and a pen in a zip lock bag. However, you also need a surface for the dice to roll on to and that is usually where we have to "make do" with what we have in the moment.

My idea with this wallet was that one side of it could act as the playing surface, like so:

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs

The other side has two stacked pockets, the top one made out of mesh and bound with ribbon. (The specs for the original wallet called for a slip pocket on one side and a series of pen slots on the other.)

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
I love this travel themed fabric...

Okay, so about plans A, B and C. If you'll notice, this wallet has no exposed seams or binding of seams. This means that it requires a bit of expertise to install the zipper. After pinning half of the zipper to one of the exterior pieces, the instruction is to baste it. In plan A, I did this basting by machine. The next step is to place a lining piece on top of the entire assembly — with the zipper and its loose other half inside the resulting sandwich — and pin/sew all the way around it using a 1/4" seam allowance.

I could not for the life of me accomplish this.

On a 1" wide zipper, there's not a whole lot of room to do a 1/4" seam allowance with fabric on top and bottom while sewing blind. (Remember, the zipper is between two pieces of fabric, unseen while you sew.) Never mind having to turn those wicked corners! I was too busy stabbing at my fabric with the seam ripper to take a picture of my first attempt, which resulted in the zipper teeth being caught in the stitching around two separate locations on the corners.

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Back view...

In the middle of the night after day one, I ruminated about adding some width to the zipper and gusset. The next day, I cut two strips of fabric 1.5" wide, folded them like bias tape and then sewed them around the zipper. The resulting zipper assembly ended up being 1.5" wide; I then cut two new gusset pieces to match, of course.

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Adding width to the zipper...

Oh, and to illustrate how perverse this project really was for me, for some reason I continued to sew with black thread when I attached the first strip (I suppose they can be properly referred to as "facings") to the zipper, which made it look really bad. Out came the seam ripper again!

One thing was certain after this plan B modification: it was much easier to pin the zipper assembly to the outer piece.

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
More room to clip with my zipper extenders...

However, little did I know at the time that the whole "sewing blind with zipper in middle" thing was still going to be problematic.

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I won't bore you with the details or any photos, but I still got a hot mess after attaching the lining to the exterior piece with the zipper assembly trapped in the middle. This time, none of the zipper teeth got caught in the stitching, but the whole thing was so uneven as to be worthy of being thrown out.

Which I still considered at this point, feeling rather defeated all in all.

It was then that plan C came to be.

You already know how I feel about hand sewing, but it finally occurred to me that the small seam allowance — combined with the multiple layers — made it hard to control the sewing machine around the sharp corners. I decided to hand baste both layers before sewing.

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
This is my second layer of hand-basting...

The third time's the charm, as the saying goes. I was finally able to progress beyond one side of this wallet!

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Finally... success at the halfway point!

The underlying pattern and instructions for this wallet are courtesy of Choly Knight. Her original take on this was for a portable sketch book with pens (PDF download here). All in all, a terrific freebie that will test your abilities and give you something useful in return. (And absolutely no reflection on Choly's pattern for the challenges that I experienced.)

Summary of changes that I made:
  1. applied fusible fleece on top of the Decor Bond for extra body
  2. applied Decor Bond to the gusset pieces (I think she referred to those as zipper tabs) for same reason as above
  3. added the zipper facings for extra width (which also required changing the width of the gusset/zipper tab pieces)
  4. omitted/added different pocket
  5. applied Decor Bond to half of pocket lining
  6. put a piece of Peltex into one side and fused it to the lining to create a smooth playing surface for the dice
In the end, I'm glad I went with the zipper modification. It gives the playing surface a deeper rim, ensuring the dice stay inside.

And I'm SO glad this is finished and functional!!

Customized Yahtzee Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
No one would suspect looking at this that it was almost destined for the trash bin!

Some notes about the materials used: the zipper was a remnant off a long duvet zipper that had been cut for my Summit Pack. (I put an orange zipper pull on it since I seem to have an abundance of orange zippers.) The mesh — originally a laundry bag from a discount store — was a remnant left over from my Bundled Up Bindle Bag. The bit of ribbon that trims the top of the mesh came from my customized Market Tote. The lining fabric is from a pillow case found in the clearance bin at Jysk, while the exterior fabric was gifted to me, last seen on my Bodaciously Basic Bucket Bag.

Have you sewn anything with this type of wrap-around zipper? If so, how did it go for you?


  1. I can feel your frustration and totally understand! I was always afraid to try that kind of zipper installation. Then a while back I tested Potluck Pals byAnnie. The zipper called for is a double zipper pull type. Annie's instructions were so good that I didn't have any trouble installing the zipper. https://www.byannie.com/shop/product/potluck-pals/
    However, I struggled making a scissors case where you take the zipper pull off and use only one zipper teeth tape side and reinstall the zipper pull. The instructions were excellent, but I struggled for more than thirty minutes to get the zipper pull back on. It kept fraying too and I needed to trim it and try again and again and finally when I was not going to have enough zipper tape left from trimming it it worked! But I had cut out to make all 3 sizes, so the next one I had to toss the zipper because I trimmed it too much. This is also a free pattern on Craftsy. Considered a beginning pattern. I wrote a review saying if this is your first time putting in a zipper I would NOT consider it a beginner project! I said if that was my first time sewing in a zipper, I never would want to sew zippers again! I said perhaps there is a trick in putting the zipper pull back on that could be shared. Of course the designer probably never read my review because you know Craftsy 's problems that they don't let us know when we have a pattern reviewed or if anyone asks questions we no longer get emails.

    At least you were finally successful with your project and it turned out nice!

  2. I so enjoyed these step by step instructions. Thanks.

    1. You're so welcome; thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. I always put my zipper in a gusset and sew the gusset to the front and back, or in a train case, to the top and bottom. MUCH EASIER than trying to get a stiff zipper around a curve! I've loved making these things ever since I struggled and got way too frustrated the first time. Tablet cases, my digital accessories.....there's no end to the goodness that can be stored in these wonderful things! Even the guys love them for their digital accessories, if only to have in the car. A spare power pack, a charger, an extra battery, ear buds, etc., all go to the hospital or on a trip and keep things hidden and organized. Custom size them and love 'em!

  4. Love this idea. We play yatzee as well when travelling. I have laminated some cards and use a dry erase markers.

    1. That's a great idea, as long as you can get some fine tipped dry erase markers. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  5. I do love this Rochelle - Yahtzee is one of my favourite games and I've just been teaching my students to play it too, with a giant version I made with foam dice and a chalkboard for scoring. I've struggled with this type of zip installation too - when I have a little time to sew again I'm going to revisit this post and try again!


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