Last weekend A and I went on a mission to find the perfect journal. We’ve both kept journals for most of our lives, but neither of us had bought one in a long time. We were talking about life and our goals for the future and decided we should get journals to write down everything we had been discussing. We didn’t want just any journal though; we wanted a journal that would inspire us to write. As we scoured through Indigo and small stationery stores, we couldn’t find anything that fit our criteria. Most of the journals had lined pages (blank pages are a must for us!), many of them were awkward sizes, a lot of the materials didn’t feel nice to the touch… we were basically like Goldilocks testing out beds. Eventually we realized we would be better off just making our own DIY leather journals; after all most of the journals that we had liked seemed to just be leather glued to a book. So we headed to a small fabric store and found the perfect piece of leather in one of the scrap bins, and then searched through some art supply stores and found cheap notebooks that were just the right size. The finished DIY leather journals turned out great and we’d definitely recommend making your own journal if you’re like us and looking for something specific! The whole thing took us about two hours max. to make and cost approx. $25.
What you’ll need:
- Approx. a 1/4 yard of leather. We had a 1/2 yard and made two journals. If you’re from Toronto we bought ours at the Leather & Sewing Supply Depot.
- A hardbound notebook (we used an art sketchbook that we found at Toose Art Supplies)
- Exacto knife
- Folder (any old office folder should do, you want something that’s stiffer than paper, but not as stiff as cardboard)
- Two bottles of super glue
- A ruler (we didn’t have one, so we used the edge of a discarded piece of the folder below)
Step 1 & 2
Step 1 / Make sure you have all your supplies before you start (scissors, folder and second bottle of glue missing from this pic). You don’t want to have to run out to buy more glue…this may have happened to us!
Step 2 / Cut the paper folder in half. You’ll only use one half, but keep the other just in case you make a mistake.
Step 3 & 4
Step 3 / Remove the hardcover from the notebook, by using the exacto knife to carefully cut along the seams that bind the cover to the spine. This makes the journal more flexible and gives it a more relaxed, personal feel when you hold it.
Step 4 / Trim any rough edges along the seam, but make sure not to cut through the binding.
Step 5 & 6
Step 5 / Lay the notebook onto the folder you previously cut, with the opening lined up with the short edge of the folder. You should be able to open up the notebook and have it stay within the space of the folder. With the opening of the notebook lined up with the edge of the folder, trace around the closed notebook. Within the rectangle you’ve traced, apply a liberal amount of super glue to the folder, leaving .5cm untouched around the edges (you don’t want your glue to leak out and glue all the pages together). Very carefully place the notebook onto the superglue, keeping it within the lines you traced. VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure the opening of the notebook is lined up with the edge of the folder, so that when you eventually open the notebook it will fall onto the rest of the folder, not away from it. Place magazines (or other heavy object) on top and let glue dry for 5 minutes, or whatever is recommended on bottle. Next, bend the folder over the spine and back cover, creasing the folder to hold the shape, release. Apply super glue to the exposed side of the notebook, leaving the binding bare, and press the remaining folder on top. Now your notebook should have the folder glued to all sides. Place magazines on top and wait for glue to dry. Once dry, use exacto knife or scissors to trim excess folder, leaving you with a nicely covered, slightly firm notebook.
Step 6 / Cut a long narrow string of leather along the longest part of your leather piece, this will be used to close the journal. Put it aside. Like you did with the folder, trace one side of the notebook onto the remaining leather, with the opening of the notebook lined up with the edge of the short side of the leather.
Step 7 & 8
Step 7 / Repeat the same gluing process you did with the folder.
Step 8 / Once everything is dry and complete, use the scissors to trim the leather to the shape of the notebook. We chose to leave a half inch of leather padding around the original shape of the notebook, but it’s not necessary. If you want an envelope flap closure, like shown above, make sure to leave extra fabric on one end (approximate to one page size) when you trim.
Step 9 & 10
Step 9 / To make the envelope flap: fold the extra fabric over the front cover of the journal and mark the point where it meets the front cover (this is where you will start the outline for the envelope flap).
Step 10 / Use a ruler or any straight edge to trace a triangle starting from the marks that you just made. Use the marks you made for the base of the triangle with the point facing out. Use scissors to cut along the outline you’ve made. Now you have your envelope flap. Create a small hole centered near the tip of the envelope flap with the scissors, it’s better to keep it small and see if you need to make it larger later, than cut too big and not be able to go back. Take the leather string you cut and set aside earlier and push it through the hole you just made. We tied ours in a knot, but it’s all personal preference. If you want to get really creative, use a beautiful ribbon or different coloured string/thread, etc.
That’s it! You now have a personalized journal to record all of your thoughts in, or a super chic notebook to take to work, or a new toy for your pets!