The gift of a new pen (Thanks Liam, Lola & Lamb) inspired me to make a pen case to hold it and the fountain pen I received as a retirement gift. Here’s how I approached this project.
A simple design.
Every project begins with a period of contemplation to sort through ideas and search for inspiration. For this project I knew I wanted a leather case, and a bag of scrap leather recently liberated from Mum’s crafting supplies (Thanks Mum) provided the raw material. All I needed was a pattern to start making it.
I prefer simple designs, the case must protect the pens but remain small enough to fit in my pocket. I grabbed a piece of nubuck leather, and as I thought about the design started folding it into rough shapes. I quickly honed in on a simple three fold pattern, a rectangle folded up to form a pouch for the pens with a flap to close over them.
Sewing the leather.
The soft nubuck leather allowed me to use my wife’s sewing machine to sew the three straight lines to form the pouches. Transitioning from two thicknesses to three where the strap is attached proved to be a little finicky. We had to lift the sewing machine foot to get the strap under but then the machine happily worked away to complete the stitching.
I tapered the flap to fit under the strap, and the build was complete in a little over an hour.
Be prepared to fail.
Failure is always be an option when making something, particularly when developing new skills. My maker idol, Adam Savage, is steadfast in his belief that we learn more from our failures than our successes. He encourages makers to build prototypes out of cheaper materials like paper and cardboard before tackling the final product. Even a simple project like this one can benefit from prototyping.
I planned to build a paper model first but I decided to just dive straight into the final product. As a result, I only discovered an error in my pattern after I finished the sewing. I wanted the smallest possible case for two pens but my conservative pattern was too wide, and just looked wrong in my hand.
Luckily I could correct this mistake without a complete rebuild by resewing the outer edges to give the case a slimmer profile.
I am really pleased with the final product and it feels good in my hand.
Making vs Buying
I looked for pen cases in the shops, and they typically cost $50-$100 for a simple leather model. While speciality stores displayed beautifully crafted items I found taking the time to make my own case a joyful experience. It gave me a sense of achievement that buying stuff can never emulate, and I started me thinking about other leather work projects.
It feels good to be a maker of things.