HOW TO make a Leather Journal - BOOK BINDING tutorial
Step-by-Step Instructions for a Classic Leather Notebook
The tutorial below will show you exactly how to make a Moleskine-style journal using traditional book binding methods, and also includes clear photographs for sewing your own leather cover - for a real luxurious finish.
Please don't be intimidated by the lengthy and detailed instructions; someone who has never done anything like this before can easily make a decent journal by following along - my first bound book turned out pretty well!
I hope you find this how-to helpful and inspiring. Any problems, let me know in the comments section :)
Note: All photos on this page are by me unless otherwise stated.
Tools & Materials:
- 24 x A4 sheets of paper.
- A bookbinder's needle
- Glue such as PVA
- Bone folder
- An awl
- X-acto craft knife and cutting mat OR a guillotine
- 1 A4 sheet of heavier paper or thin card.
- A piece of soft leather
- Small piece of cheesecloth
- Strong thread
- 2 clamps/vices
- Catalogues/magazines/thick cardboard you don't mind damaging
- Heavy books/catalogues
- Flat, hard surface to work on
- 1 x A4 piece of scrap paper
- Glue spreader
- Double-sided tape
- Strong sewing thread
- Strong glue - to permanently join card and leather.
- A scrap piece of A3 paper
- A press stud
Best Journal Making Supplies
An awl is simply a metal point and a wooden handle, but it is a must-have for making consistent and neat holes in paper.
You can buy thread pre-waxed or wax it yourself with a bar of beeswax like this.
A pretty selection of colored linen threads designed for stitching paper together.
Excellent for a beginner, an array of tools is provided to get you started with wire spiral binding, including pliers, a craft knife and a bone folder.
A fine woven cloth for glueing onto the spine of your stitched book for added strength.
Step 1 - Cutting The Paper
Step 2 - Folding The Paper
Step 3 - Adding Holes to the Spines
Step 4 - Starting to Bind
Step 5 - Joining the Signatures Together
Step 6 - Square Knots
Find square knot instructions here.
Step 7 - Finishing the Binding
Step 8 - Glue the Spine
Step 9 - Prepare the Card Covers
Step 10 - Attaching the Covers
Leather Cover Template
(Not to scale)
Measure out and draw this template on either a piece of scrap A3 paper, or 2 pieces of A4 paper taped together.
Cut out the template shape by following the outline - ignore the other lines.
Most of the lines are to show you how I reached this size. Starting from the left, the sections represent: the width of the inside cover, the width of the outside cover, the width of the spine, the back outside cover, the depth of the journal, then a small section to ensure the leather completely wraps around the journal, and then a point for the flap.
To sum up, the cover needs to be a rectangle of 15.25" (38.75cm) x 6" (15.2cm) with two triangles of 2" (5cm) x 2.5" (6.25cm) cut off one end.
Step 11 - Sew the Leather Cover
Adding a Press Stud
At this point you have the option of sewing half of the press stud onto the leather. Otherwise, you can glue it on later like I did, but this is less secure.
The press stud half should be sewn approximately 5.5" away from the straight end (as opposed to the flap end) of the leather length, making sure it is centred.
Step 12 - Forming The Leather Cover
Step 13 - Finishing the Cover
Well done, you now have a completed leather journal!
And if you're anything like me, it won't be the last one you make :-)
Variations You Can Try
- You can use different paper for your journal. If using thicker paper, you will need to have as little as 2 or 3 folios per signature to allow the pages to lie flat. Experiment to see how many folios are best for your choice of paper.
- You can use more, or less, signatures in your journal.
- You can use different methods of fastening the cover, such as using an elastic strap, a button, velcro or a wrap-around ribbon/cord.
- You can change the size of your pages. If you make them much larger, you will need more stitches to connect them. There should be at most 2-3" between holes in the signatures.
- You can use a different cover material, as long as it's not too thin.
- There are an unlimited number of ways that you can change the cover design, so it's completely up to you!
Wooden Book Covers
Rustic Leather-Bound Journals
Other Journal Tutorials - Including Different Ways to Make a Book Cover
- Rugged Leather Cover
In a rustic style with wrap-around strap.
- Rustic Journal
With snap button closure. One of my favourite tutorials :-)
- Decorating Your Leather Cover
With patterns and dyes.
- YouTube Videos
Showing you how to make a range of different journals.
- Leather & Fabric Wrapped Journals
Lovely journals made of different cover materials and reclaimed papers.
- Rainbow Scrapbook
Bind together different coloured pages for a rainbow effect.
- Make Your Own Handmade Book
How to make an outside book cover with cardboard and fabric.
- Reversible Book Cover
Clever way of constructing a reversible cover.
Journal Making & Book Cover Videos
Top Rated How-To Books & Leather Journals
For more expert guidance and ideas for variations and techniques that you can experiment with, books are great resources. And if you don't want to make a journal, there are lots of brilliant ones you can buy instead!
Comprehensive bookbinding guide containing lots of tips and tricks as well as contributions from a variety of artists.
There are many different techniques covered, with clear instructions and helpful illustrations.
This is an excellent book for beginners because it explains the techniques in step-by-step detail; starting with the most basic and moving onto more advanced.
The book also showcases a range of books by experts, and interesting ideas for experimental book projects.
A treasure trove of inspiring ideas for those wishing to use more unusual materials in their projects, and also for people who wish to be more eco-friendly with their crafts.
16 pages of templates are included in the book.
I think the front cover of this book alone is inspiring!
Those with a creative mind will appreciate this book because it provides ideas for using many different craft methods and media to make a journal truly unique.
Examples include the use of quilting, polymer clay and needle felting.