This is a instance when my excessive love for prettiness wins out over practicality, utility, and common sense. I already had a CD case - a perfectly good one I'd had since high school. But its cover was nylon and plastic and - well, not hand-tooled leather. This is a makeover, and an impractical one at that - not a made-from-scratch project - but it sure is nicer to reach for a "How to speak Italian" CD in the car now.
Read on for the straightforward instructions.
Note: Unless you want to make the CD sleeves from scratch (and I'll leave that to you; I want nothing to do with it), you're going to start with an old CD case. Just cut out the part of the case that actually holds the CD's - in my case, it was a dozen double-sided plastic sleeves sewn on to a rigid cardboard spine. Leave the spine in tact, cutting it about 1/4" on all sides away from where the sleeves attach.
- in-tact spine with CD sleeves attached to it (see note above) - henceforth known as "sleeve assembly"
- heavyweight, stiff leather (I got mine on eBay) - a little taller than your sleeve assembly, and long enough to wrap around it once, plus several more inches
- utility knife
- cutting mat
- metal ruler, or other straightedge for cutting
- rubber mallet
- a metal push-pin or a very thin finishing nail
- needle and thread
- heavyweight snaps (and either the attachment pliers that go with it, or a hammer to attach it - see product instructions)
Cut your leather: measure the height of your CD sleeve assembly, and add 1/4" or so on each side. Leave the length open-ended right now - just make sure that it's long enough to wrap once around the sleeve assembly, plus have several extra inches. Mark the leather with a chalk pencil or crayon, and use the sharp blade of a utility knife to cut it.
Now you'll want to bend your leather to accommodate the sleeve assembly. Place one short edge of the leather along the outside edge of the sleeve assembly, and wrap it around the assembly, until the leather comes back around and overlaps on itself. Mark where the creases should be - one at the top and bottom of the case's "spine" on each side - four creases in all. Now fold the leather - as best you can - at one of these marks. Pound the fold with a rubber mallet, to get the leather to "remember" the crease. Repeat with each crease. Now the leather will wrap nicely and neatly around the spine assembly. (I also rubbed my leather with some olive oil to make it more supple - hence the temporary blotchiness.)
In order to be able to stitch the sleeve assembly onto the leather, you're going to have to pre-punch holes - it would be too much work - and too messy - to poke your needle through otherwise. Where the sleeve assembly will attach to the spine, mark a box the size of the sleeve assembly - mine was inside roughly 1/4" from the edges of the spine. Lay your ruler down along a line, and use a hammer and a metal push-pin to punch a hole every 3/16 of an inch. Repeat on all four sides of the square.
Now simply use your needle and thread to stitch the sleeve assembly in, using the pre-punched holes (the sleeve assembly cardboard - mine, at least - was much easier to sew through than leather, so no need for pre-punching holes on that). I sewed around it twice, filling in all the gaps.
Now trim the excess flap to the desired length, and cut a small hole in the leather (on the top flap and inner flap) for your heavy-duty snap. Follow the snap's directions to install it.
Done! No more useful than that old nylon case, but much prettier!