I got an iPhone 5 and finally figured out how to make a case!

Some things are harder than others. I have been working for 6-12 months trying to make a functional iPhone case that can slip into your pocket or purse. (Well, it hasn’t been a full-time effort, but it is always somewhere in my brain…) I finally got something that I’m happy enough with to share with all of you.

iPhone 5 cover. It is all made by hand and is more like a slipper.

Some of the design requirements that I started with: 1) keep it simple, 2) minimize bulk, 3) eliminate clunky fasteners that are a pain to use, 4) make the iPhone fully functional without needing to remove the case, 5) make it look nice.

I made dozens of attempts on my iPhone 4s, and even though I ended up using my last design for several months, it just wasn’t quite right. It was not always easy to tap on the screen, and I kept over-designing the way to get the phone into the case. The seams were too big, and it wasn’t very clean. (It did have character, though…)

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a gadget lover. I realize the irony, considering that some of my favorite time is crafting leather things without any machines much the way things were made hundreds of years ago. I justify the gadgets both from the need to have the latest-greatest thingy for my job as a research scientist and professor and also the need to be able to make things like cases. It can be a hard sell to my wife sometimes, but after 30+ years I’ve gotten pretty good at making the arguments…

Back of iPhone 5 cover.

So a few weeks ago I made the order of the fancy new iPhone 5. It arrived yesterday (it really is pretty nice…!), and I decided that I would not buy a plastic case this time so that I would really be forced to figure something out. Not only is the phone taller, it also has less edge on the front around the screen. All of the problems that I was having with my iPhone 4s attempts were going to get worse with the iPhone 5. Therefore, I finally listened to my daughter, who kept asking me why I need all the other stuff on my older cases that didn’t work.

The result is a case made from a single piece of leather, formed wet from the back over my wooden iPhone 5 form and shaped to fit. There are 4 very small seams that hold the whole thing together. I was worried that it would be hard to get on and off the phone, but it slips right on like a slipper onto a foot.

Detail of bottom of iPhone 5 slipper.

The slipper still looks handmade, and it is an interesting (at least to me) contrast to the industrial and sleek iPhone 5. It sort of softens it and brings the world of one-at-a-time things–with all of their inconsistencies and character–with the fancy gadgets that many of us have come to enjoy. It feels nicer to hold and in my pocket. Here are a few more pics.

If you are interested in one, you can contact me, but please note that I’m always slow, and this is an especially slow time. I’m also going to try it out for a week or so to make certain that everything works as planned. I hope to be able to make a few more before the phone is obsolete, but don’t look for these cases flooding the world any time soon!

iPhone 5 with case and wooden form.

Author: edisonleatherworks

I'm a biochemistry professor and leatherworker who likes bicycles, travel, art, education, and music. Walking is my favorite form of transportation, and I regularly practice Tai Chi.

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