Introduction: Field Notes Book

About: Love outdoors, climbing, cycling, longboarding, kayaking/canoeing, woodworking, food, recycling/up-cycling.

I love a notebook who doesn’t? But I am very picky about what I want from a notebook and tend to be disappointed when I buy them, some have too few pages, are too small, too big and don’t meet all my needs. What can I say, I’m picky.

So I made myself a notebook, it needed to meet a few critical needs:
Fits in a back pocket,
Lots of pages,
Grid paper,
Lay flat when open,
Fun to make,
& Cool.

I know, I don’t ask for much. So here it is my perfect (not really) notebook.

Step 1: Tools And. Materials

You will need:

A curved needle
An awl
An exacto-knife or pair is scissors
A chopping board or something similar
A rule
A pencil
Something to engrave or brand the leather ( I used a hot butter knife)


A4 paper
Sewing thread
Wax ( beeswax is apparently best)
Leather for the cover
Double sided tape
Card for the liner, I used birchbark

Step 2: Making the Signatures

Signatures are the groups of pages in a book, in order for the book to open and lay flat, I used what’s called a kettle stitch, which requires signatures.

Each signature is a set of 4 sheets of paper, when folded making 8 leaves of the book. The signature is made by folding a sheet of paper in half (if using grid paper make sure to follow the vertical line so all the boxes are straight) then folding another and putting it inside the first, and again and again so that each sheet is inside the previous.
My pages are 10cm by 14 so my sheets are 20cm by 24cm.

Once I had made all my signatures, I pressed them flat between 2 plastic chopping boards and stood on them to make them nice and flat.
Once the signatures are all folded up, and you have as many as you want, you need to make the holes for the thread.

This is done by opening the signature and piercing holes evenly along the spine.

I placed my holes 1 cm from each end and at 2cm intervals. The holes only need to be large enough to put your needle through.

It’s best to open the signature on a flat surface, spine up like a tent, when making the holes. Make sure all of the pages are aligned especially if using grid paper and push the awl through all the sheets of paper.
Once all of the holes are done you are ready to stitch the book together.

Step 3: Sewing the Signatures Together

Start off holding one signature, with the holes facing towards you. Thread the needle
In and out of the holes until you reach the other side Of the signatures once you have done this, tie a knot In the end of the string and pull the straight taught by the end with the needle, now go back through the holes in the signature so there are no spaces between holes without thread. This is a saddle stitch.

TopTip: WAX THE STRING! It keeps the string from tangling and snagging, I didn't have any wax to hand, so I used some beeswax lip balm which did the job and left the book smelling minty fresh.

When you reach where you began, the needle should be coming out of the hole towards you, place another signature flat on the first and open the pages of the middle page slightly, this makes getting the needle through all the pages easier.
Thread the needle through the first hole on the new signature, the one directly above the needle. Thread the needle out of the second hole, under the string of the previous signature, then under the string on the other side of the hole and back through the hole in the new signature. The string should come out of the hole, round the string coming out of the hole under it and back into the hole. Move to the next hole repeat the process.

once you have stitched all of your signatures together, simply repeat the saddle stitch you used at the beginning of the process, then tie off the thread with a square knot on the outside of the book as this will be concealed by the cover.

If you struggle, with the stitching, there are some great videos on youtube, I used Sea Lemons tutorial for the Kettle Stitch.

Step 4: Adding the Cover

Adding the cover is fairly straight forward, you need scissors or a sharp blade, the material you want to use for the cover (in my case leather) some card (or birch bark) and double sided tape.Whenever using the double sided tape, the more pressure the better, push hard or clamp or put weights on the book to get a strong bond, we want this to last.

You will need 2 pieces of card the same size as your signatures, and a cover slightly taller by a few mm, I went for 5mm but that seemed a bit much. The cover needs to be as wide as 2 signatures + the width of the spine +the overhang, however wide you made it for the tops. I recommend making the cover a little larger than necessary so you can cut it back later, as its harder to add material than it it to take it off.

first off, cover the face of the book with double sided tape, peel off the backing and carefully stick down one side of the lining card so that it covers the white paper without any wrinkles or bubbles, do this for the front and back.

Now, mark a center-line down the inside of your cover material, apply double sided tape to the spine, then stick the spine of the book to the center-line, make sure, the book is centered all the way down the spine.

next, you apply the double sided tape to loose leaf of the card liner, and stick the cover material to the inner card, make sure that the cover material is nice and tight round the spine and there is no looseness or slack where the card folds as this will tear later.

Finally, trim the edges of the leather to suit, I recommend closing the book for this so you know that the edges on both sides match and that the cover hides all of the pages. I also rounded the corners slightly just for ascetics.

Step 5: Marking the Cover

You could be done and dusted now but I wanted to add my makers mark to the front cover. The leather I used was little thin so using tools to mark the leather wouldn't be a good idea. With this in mind, I decided to brand the leather with hot metal.

I sketched out my mark with pencil, heated the tip of a butter-knife over a blue flame and quickly and lightly scored over the pencil line. for the dots, I used a 6mm metal rod with a domed end and just poked it quickly.

If the leather gets too hot it will wrinkle, which happened on the little maker mark on the back corner, I think being on the edge didn't help.

And that's it, you are good to go, I hope you enjoyed this 'ible.