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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 smile

Note: All photos on this page are by me unless otherwise stated.

Tools & Materials:

- 24 x A4 sheets of paper.

- A bookbinder's needle

- Ruler

- Glue such as PVA

- Bone folder

- Pencil

- 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

- Beeswax

- Strong thread

- Scissors

- 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

Find square knot instructions here.

(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.

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.

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 smile

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!

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!