Introduction: Classic Leather Journal

Fans of Lord of the Rings, bookbinding, or writing may be interested in making their own leather journal by hand. Making a journal can take up the time while listening to an online lecture, podcast, radio show, or music. And because of the repetitious steps, it can serve as a stress reliever. From start to finish, it usually takes a few hours to make. The stitch used here is taken from the coptic binding stitch.

Step 1: Gather Materials

  • Leather (fake or regular) - Walmart has it
  • 8 ½” by 11” copy paper (about 80 sheets)
  • A needle with a big enough eye for the string or thread
  • String
  • Awl - They don’t cost more than a few dollars on Amazon
  • Pencil
  • White crayon
  • Ruler
  • Heavy books

Step 2: Make "Signatures"

Note: The word “signature” here refers to one or more sheets of paper folded and placed inside one folded sheet, one after the other into the innermost fold. If you opened the signature, it would look like the inside of a pamphlet.

Individually, fold each sheet of paper once in half so that the two longest sides of the paper become the shortest sides. Slip one folded sheet of paper inside the fold of another folded sheet. Make it a thicker signature by slipping more folded sheets of paper, one by one, into the innermost folded sheet. I am using 84 sheets of paper and making 12 signatures with 7 sheets of paper in each one.

Step 3: Press

Press the stack of signatures with your hands as well as you can. The books will do the rest. Take a bunch of wide, heavy books and set them in a place where no one will trip over them. Place the stack of signatures on top of one wide book, and then set the rest of the books on top. Leave it alone for at least an hour.

Step 4: Cut Material for the Cover

Measure the leather or fabric by placing the stack of signatures at a corner of the leather, bringing the will-be spine to the leather right next to that space, and then turn it over to the other side on the space directly next to the space for the spine. Carefully cut it out with scissors.

Step 5: Prepare to Sew

It is helpful at this point to take a pencil and ruler to mark where the holes in the folds will be. Make 4 holes evenly (about 1 ¾“ apart from each other) down the fold line of one sheet of paper. Take the awl carefully and poke through the marked spots in the fold line. Put that sheet inside each of the signatures and repeat so that all the signatures have holes in the same places.

Step 6: Sew the First Two Signatures

You're going to sew the journal backwards, starting from the last one and ending with the first. The first two signatures will be sewn slightly differently than the rest of the the signatures.

Cut a shorter amount of string for just two signatures and then a larger amount for the rest of the signatures.

From the inside of the first signature, bring the threaded needle through the bottom hole and leave some thread hanging on the inside. Bring the threaded needle through the outside bottom hole of the second signature into the center of it, taking care that the string doesn't come out of the first hole. Bring the needle up to and through the second hole of the second signature and go back into the second hole of the first signature. Repeat with the last two holes.

Step 7: Tie Off the First Two Signatures

In the first signature, there should be two ends of the string, one from the bottom hole and one from the top hole. Tie them around the opening of the two middle holes, whether with your fingers or with the help of the needle, and cut off the extra string.

Step 8: Sew the Rest of the Signatures

The difference with sewing the rest of the signatures is that instead of going into the next signature, you will loop underneath the outside opening of the previous signature before bringing the threaded needle back into the hole it came from and then moving on to the next hole. At the end of the third signature and all following signatures, after looping the string around the previous signature hole's outside stitch, you will go into the next signature instead of going back into the same hole.

If you run out of string and need to continue, tie the end of the old string around the opening of the inside holes in a signature. Cut more string and tie one end of it to the last stitch and keep going.

When you reach the end, tie it off.

Step 9: Sew the Cover

Place your cover-less book on the inside of the cut-out leather and, with a ruler and white crayon, mark four holes for one side and then four holes on the other side. Poke holes with the awl. Sew into the leather through the bottom inside hole of the first signature and bring the threaded needle into the second hole on the same side, into the same signature's second hole up and so on. Tie it off. Repeat with the other side.