How We Made 150 Wallets in 6 Days; or .retool. at the ESPYs

We recently received an email from someone responsible for co-ordinating the luxury gift bags for attendees of ESPN’s upcoming ESPY awards.

We were excited.

They asked if we could supply 150 items with a minimum retail value of $150 in about a week.  We explained that we are a two-man shop, make everything ourselves, and carry a relatively low level of inventory.  On top of that, most of our items come in at around the $40 mark. It wouldn’t make financial sense for us to offer a gift card for the remaining $100+ balance (did I mention the gift cards had to be valid for at least one year?).

We were less excited.

Then they said that they sometimes include items that don’t meet the minimum retail value, but that if accepted, we would not be eligible for any of the associated press (online features, celebrity posing, etc.). That was fine with us.

We were excited again.

We thought it would be a great opportunity for a production stress test.  We decided to offer our Double-Sided Micro Mini Credit Card Holder along with a small gift card valid only for attendees for a total retail value of $35.

Our challenge was set – make 150 wallets in under a week.

We mapped out our strategy.  We figured out which things needed to happen in what order, established a timeline, and figured out who would do what.  We ordered a few extra supplies, tried to figure out how best to avoid repetitive stress injuries, and had a tasty snack.

Here’s a look at the whole process. Click on photos for a larger view.

The first task was to cut a bunch of webbing. Each wallet is made of up of four strips of webbing – 2 1″ strips and 2 2″ strips.  cut webbing
Next comes joining the 2″ strips to the 1″ strips.  joined webbing pile
Each wallet gets 2 of the new 3″ strips – 1 short divider piece and longer strip that wraps around the bottom of the divider forming a pocket on either side. joined and cut webbing
Then the pieces are sewn together and many threads must be trimmed.  untrimmed wallets
The finished wallets look like this.  finished stacks
Last step – stuff each wallet with a gift card and box them all up for mailing.  boxed wallets

Custom Order Round Up

Over the past 6 weeks or so we’ve had several custom orders come through. They’ve included  custom color/fabric requests as well as tweaks to our standard designs. Here’s a recap (click on the photos to make them bigger):

M-8 Messenger Bag

ImageAt the SF Bazaar Holiday Show, we had a customer who was interested in one of our seatbelt messenger bags. He needed a larger size than we had with us at the show and had one more special request – no velcro!  So we made him an M-8 messenger bag with an inside pocket and no closure for the flap.  The flap is heavy enough to stay closed on its own and we were pretty happy with how the bag turned out.

Credit Card Wallet

We brought a wide selection of our Slim Mini Credit Card Holders to the Renegade Holiday show.  Not quite wide enough, as it turns out.  We had a special request for a credit card wallet in orange and silver seatbelt webbing with dark gray nylon card pockets.

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Toiletry Case

ImageThis one was a special request for my good friend and awesome art teacher, Pam.  A year or so ago, I gave her a toiletry case with a print I knew she would love.  It turns out that her daughter also loves it and keeps trying to run off with it. So Pam ordered a second one for her daughter’s birthday. This one features a flashy red interior and zipper.

Custom smartphone cases

We have a longtime customer who has an unfortunate habit of losing smartphones (and their cases). So far he’s dropped one in the bay and left another on a plane.  Last time he ordered from us, he got two custom phone cases, just to have a backup. They are still going strong and now that his partner needs a smartphone for her work, she’s come to us as well. She’s a stagehand and a ranch hand so she needed a case that will stand up to some rough treatment. She decided to get a pair of cases – one to attach to her toolbelt and another that can clip to her pocket.

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A pair of phone cases

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Smartphone case with loop for tool belt

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Smartphone case with belt clip and grommet for extra security

The Personal Touch

Custom Orders

We’ve been mentioning custom orders a bit on the blog lately, so we thought we’d show you some of the custom work we’ve done over the past couple of years.

The pieces include custom color combinations of our standard wallets as well as one-off designs with special features.

Adam R. liked our classic card holder, but wanted a version in black, brown, and blue. We were pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out…

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Our classic credit card wallet in custom colors.

Adam Z. wanted a long wallet. with a bunch of credit card slots, an ID window, and multiple pockets for checks/cash/receipts.

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Custom long wallet.

Donald likes large smartphones.  He wanted a phone case that he could wear on his belt. We came up with this one – the flap wraps around the phone. To get the phone out, you just pull on the flap. Donald’s been back a few times for more cases, most recently when he upgraded to a larger phone.

This design eventually spawned our C-series device cases (no, they don’t have belt loops…).

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Custom smart phone case (with belt loop!)

Lauren really liked our Messenger Bags, but wanted an extra feature – a tab and o-ring attached to the inside of the bag.  She was getting ready for a trip abroad and wanted to clip one of our seatbelt wallets to her bag for a little extra security.

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Custom Messenger Bag with added tab and o-ring for attaching a wallet.

Nick wanted one of our seatbelt wallets with a matching zipper pouch made out of seatbelt webbing. He also wanted a keyring inside the pouch.  I keep meaning to make more seatbelt zipper pouches…

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Zipper pouch with attached keyring.

Ben wanted a very colorful wallet. The outside is gold and orange. The inside is red, gray, and silver. It looks really sharp!

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Colorful!

Matt wanted one of our Billfold Wallets with a Zipper Coin Pocket. But wait, there’s a twist. He wanted 2 additional card slots on the outside of the wallet. Voila!

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Our Coin Pocket billfold with 2 exterior card slots.

Sergio wanted a wallet with an ID window, side load pockets, a grommet hole for a chain, and an elastic band closure.
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Custom billfold with side load pockets, grommet hole, and elastic band closure.

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Interior view.

And there you have it – a small sample of some of our custom work.

Contact us at retoolsf@gmail.com if you have a custom project you’ld like us to take on!

Tiny Wallets, or Hooray for Minimalism – the Evolution of the .retool. Credit Card Wallets.

Minimalist Wallets

Here at .retool. headquarters, we occasionally talk about how ironic it is that we are working toward making a living selling things when we neither of us really likes to participate in consumer culture.  We don’t like acquiring stuff just for the sake of having it.

We do, however, both greatly enjoy objects that are well-designed and well-made. We like simple things that work and that are pleasing to the eye (and hand). We keep these concerns in mind when we design our products.

We also happen to have soft spot for small things.  So we have always liked having a line of credit card wallets in addition to our billfold wallets.  Credit card wallets are great if you don’t (or don’t want to) carry a ton of stuff around.

We started with a couple of basic designs.

Round 1: The Classic and the Slim Mini

Classic

The Classic Card Holder – this wallet holds a surprising amount of cards (15+) and can still fit in your front pocket.

The Slim Mini Card Holder - thinner than the Classic with a slightly smaller capacity.

The Slim Mini Card Holder – thinner than the Classic with a slightly smaller capacity.

Then we came up with two other variations.

Round 2: The Classic Mini and the Slim Mini Deluxe

The Classic Mini has a smaller footprint than the Classic. Plus, it has an elastic band closure.

The Classic Mini has a smaller footprint than the Classic. Plus, it has an elastic band closure.

The Slim Mini Deluxe Card Holder. We got a number of requests for a card holder with a coin pocket. We were happy to oblige.

The Slim Mini Deluxe Card Holder. We got a number of requests for a card holder with a coin pocket. We were happy to oblige.

After those two additions to the fleet, we thought we were done with credit card wallets. Recently, however, we got a request to  make an even smaller version.  So we came up with a few ideas and started prototyping.

We had two clear winners .

Round 3: the Double-Sided Micro Mini and the Micro Mini with Flap

Double-Sided Micro Mini

The Double-Sided Micro Mini is approximately 3 3/4″ by 2 7/8″ and less than 1/4″ thick. It has one pocket on the front and one on the back and holds about 8 cards.

The Micro Mini with Flap is approximately 3 3/4" X 2 7/8" X 1/4". It has a pocket with flap that wraps around your cards. Pull on the flap to lift out your cards.

The Micro Mini with Flap is approximately 3 3/4″ X 2 7/8″ X 1/4″. It has a pocket with flap that wraps around your cards. Pull on the flap to lift out your cards.

So now we make 6 different credit card wallet models – a little something for everyone.

.retool. wallets are handcrafted in San Francisco. For you.