About six months ago, a funny thing happened: I dressed the kids and left the house, with only my coat. Suddenly, I felt magical and weightless; a truly liberated woman. You see, for the first time in nearly five years, I didn’t bring a bag of crap. No diapers, no wipes, no spare pants or burp cloths or bibs. Everyone in my family was eating solid food, on a regular schedule; everybody was potty trained.
I’d quickly boiled down my going-out necessities to what I could fit in my coat pocket: phone, keys and wallet. Then, as if sensing that my life was getting too easy, my wallet broke! The coin-purse end spilled its innards– coins, a band-aid, a bike tire valve adapter, some string and a piece of gum – all over the floor at Aldi.
I hastily stuffed my most critical wallet contents into a snack-size Ziploc bag, and back into my coat pocket.
But, like trailer classrooms next to a school, what should have been a temporary “emergency” wallet became semi-permanent. And when the plastic baggie sprung a leak, I would simply reach into my kitchen drawer for a new one.
In process, I realized my old wallet had been weighed down by too many souvenirs from the past, like ghosts of my former self. My old college I.D., you know….in case I wanted to score some sweet student discount on incense. Or my midwife’s card, in case my (happily retired) uterus* suddenly went in to labor. What did I really need to keep?
This week, I decided to quit embarrassing myself at the cash register and make a “real” wallet to celebrate my new life. Happily, a proper wallet has only two components: a zipper and a bag.
We’d both be disappointed if I just went out and bought those components. And, while folding laundry the other day , I noticed my younger son’s footed pajamas had a big hole in the toe. (he must have grown overnight and popped out the bottom). The pajamas — a hand-me-down from his sister — were pretty threadbare, so it wasn’t worth trying to fix them. But as I tossed them into the ragbin, I noticed the long, beautiful zipper running down the length of the PJs: Component #1.
For the pouch, I wanted to stay with the theme of “old baby crap.” While rummaging around my sewing drawer, I found an old diaper cover that I had foolishly tried to revive with new Velcro™ (and, as you can see here, quickly gave up). Here’s how cloth diapers work: you wrap the baby’s butt in the equivalent of a lumpy cotton dishtowel, and then wrap the cloth-covered butt with a sturdy, waterproof cover, usually in a fun pattern, like this one:**
- One pair of old baby pajamas
- One old diaper cover
- Seam ripper and scissors
- Needle + thread, or sewing machine
STEP ONE – HARVEST THE ZIPPER: You’ve heard the urban legend about the businessman who gets drugged in a New Orleans bar? He wakes up in a hotel room bathtub, chest-deep in ice, and finds stitches in his back where his kidneys used to be.
Although we’re supposed to identify with the businessman in this story, for this project let’s pretend to be the organ thieves of lore. Turn the PJs inside-out, and use a seam ripper to carefully snip the seams and remove the zipper from the pajamas.
Unlike the businessman who sell them, children’s clothes are usually pretty shoddy, so this should only take a minute or two.
STEP TWO – SKIN THE DIAPER: Before you mutilate the diaper cover, plan the dimensions of your wallet. In my case, big enough to hold a handful of cards and some cash, plus a band-aid or a stick of gum – about 5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall. While not totally necessary, I recommend trimming the elastic off the sides of the diaper cover so you can lay the fabric flat.
To determine how much fabric to cut, add about an inch to your desired width to account for seam clearance. Next, double your height and add another inch. So, to get a 5 x 3.5 inch wallet, cut a 6 x 8 swatch. Cut that in half to end up with equal “front” and “back” panels of 6 inches wide x 4 inches high.STEP THREE – SEW THE PARTS TOGETHER: WARNING: I’m going to be using a lot of prepositions in this next step, so go ahead and diagram the sentences if necessary.
First, place the zipper down, front side (or teeth) facing up. Then, place one of the wallet sides wrong-side-up*** over the top edge of the zipper like this:
Now sew the first panel in place, using a zipper foot on your machine.
Full disclosure: This picture is a total fake-out. After Scott took the photo, I realized that I could not do this stitch without a zipper foot, which wasn’t included in my $20 Target sewing machine. Then Scott chimed in, helpfully, “Oh yeah, I had a bad case of zipper foot once, but I got it treated.”
I ended up pinning and sewing it by hand, which is actually quite relaxing and the recommended technique for daydreamers. Repeat this step with the other panel, sewing the “wrong side” of the diaper cover onto the “right side” of the zipper. When you flip it open, it should look like this:
Pin the “right” sides of the diaper cover panels together, and sew a seam around the entire perimeter of the inside-out wallet. No zipper foot required.
Go on now – fill up that wallet with all the proof of your existence!
* Its official title is Uterus Emeritus
**Aside from the pins and the Velcro™, diaper technology hasn’t changed much in last 200 years.
*** Who’s to say which side is “wrong” and which side is “right”? I’m no moral relativist, but in this case, the shiny white side is “wrong” and the colorful patterned side is “right.”