Introduction: Hand Stitched Leather Notebook Cover

Here's a cool notebook cover with an integrated pen holder and slot for business cards...or whatever else you want to throw in there.

This cover came about through a friend of mine who owns an insurance agency and he wanted to get some nice leather covers for the notebooks his agents to use who are in front of customers. We sketched out the idea, made a couple of prototypes then settled on this design.

The last one I made I took a bunch of pictures and thought I'd put this together. Hope you like it and find it helpful.

Step 1: Tools & Materials


  • Razor knife / utility knife
  • Awl / marking tool / pen / pencil
  • Stitching needles (John James Saddlers Harness Needles, used size 2, also labeled 002)
  • Thread (used 1.0mm Tiger thread)
  • Mallet (hard plastic & rubber)
  • Stitching chisels (used 4mm spaced chisels)
  • Skiver / Safety Beveler
  • Stitching groover
  • Cutting board
  • Ruler / straight edge
  • Washer 3/8"
  • Edge beveler
  • Plastic bone folder
  • Contact cement (Barge)


  • 6oz - 7oz oil tanned leather
  • Thread
  • Contact cement
  • Composition notebook (9.75" x 7.5")

Step 2: Cutting, Marking, Gluing

You could take the time to make some templates or just measure and cut out the 4 pieces. Dimensions are found on the template picture. The pen holder is sized for standard Bic/Paper Mate style pens (or mechanical pencils). If you use pens w/ a larger diameter, adjust the overall length of the pen/card holder piece when you cut it out.

I use a utility knife and straight edge to cut out the leather. I buy the 100 pack of blades and use a fresh one whenever they begin to dull.

Round the corners of the main cover piece and the outside corners of the front and back flap. I use a 3/8" washer...and you can use whatever size you want...or just leave the edges square.

Make the slant cut and notch on the business card holder. For the slant I make a mark on the top edge 2 5/8" in from the right edge and down 1" from the right edge. The notch is 2 3/4" in from the right edge. The notch helps when stitching on the business card holder because this piece isn't laid flat, it's wider so it can be bowed out to fit more cards. I used an English point strap end punch to cut out the notch.

Mark the edges of the back flap where the glue needs to go. Mark the center lines on the front flap and biz card holder, mark the glue lines as well. First glue line is 7/16" wide from the left edge, second glue line is 5/16" wide and is 50mm in from the left hand edge.

Skive the underside of the left edge of the biz card holder (where the 7/16" glue line is). This edge is glued to the underside of the front flap.

Apply contact cement (Barge) to all surfaces, wait for it to tack up / dry and glue back flap to cover, and the edge of the biz card holder to the front flap. Tap glued edges with mallet.

Step 3: More Marking and Gluing

Fold over the biz card holder and line up the right edges. I use an awl to mark the lines where the glue is going to go. If I'm gluing to the shiny side of oil tanned leather, I scuff it a bit w/ some 100 grit sandpaper before putting down the glue.

Carefully line things up as you glue the biz card holder to the front flap. You can see how the card holder is wider than the flap, so when you glue it, it peaks in the center allowing for more cards to be placed in the holder.

Next, I used the stitching groover to mark the stitching line around the edge of the entire cover. The stitch line is just under 1/4" from the edge. I didn't cut a stitching groove, I simply used the modeling spoon attachment to crease and mark the stitching line.

Step 4: Almost Time to Stitch

Before gluing the front flap to the main cover, I pre-punch the stitching holes on outside edge. This will make punching the holes through the pen holder/biz card holder and front flap easier.

Next, mark and punch the stitching holes on the biz card holder. This will need to be stitched before the front flap is glued to the main cover.

Step 5: Stitching...Part 1

Time to stitch the edges of the biz card cover.

I've included a few pictures of threading the needle and locking it on the thread.

I'm using the saddle stitch and I finish the stitch w/ a couple of back stitches and tie off the thread and melt the ends w/ a lighter. Then I lightly hammer the stitches flat w/ a rubber mallet.

There are a lot of great tutorials on the web regarding how to do the saddle I'll let you consult the interwebs if you have any questions. :)

Step 6: Stitching...Part 2

Next, I marked the edge of the front flap on the main cover where the glue would go. Again, apply the glue to both surfaces, let it dry a bit then put the pieces together. Tap the glued front flap with the rubber mallet.

Now punch the stitching holes around the entire edge of the cover and you're ready to begin stitching again.

I measured out thread and stitched 1/2 of the perimeter at a time so the length of thread was a bit more manageable. A typical rule-of-thumb for saddle stitching is to measure the thread 4X the length of the section to be stitched. 4X the perimeter of the cover was just too much thread length to manage while turn on some tunes or fire up a movie and let the stitching begin. I'd say it took me an hour and 20 minutes to stitch around the cover.

Again, tap down the finished stitches.

I added a simple bookmark by punching two holes with the two prong stitching chisel near the top of the cover in the center and threaded a length of the Tiger thread. I tied it off, melted the ends and at the bottom of the book mark I tied a knot melted it as well.

For my final step, I used a plastic bone folder to open up the front and back flaps all the way to the stitching in case any glue stuck the pieces together. Now if you want to, you could use an edge beveler and go around all the exposed edges. Some I beveled and others I left the edge "sharp". It looked good both it just depends on what you want to do.

Step 7: Finished!

Put in your notebook and favorite pen and you're done!