Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hand Bound Journal

Home 'Crafted Holidays part Deux

Today, you’ll see how I made my most recent journal. I made a Moleskine type journal before and that took forever. Glue, stacking, sewing, leather….man, just like Bell, Book, Candle and Cats posted earlier this week. It was a pain in the butt. I found a DIY Hand Bound journal tutorial on Bibliophile's Bookbinding Journal and it was a cinch!

This type of journal didn’t take so long to put together. The majority of the time was spent prepping all the materials.

What you need:

Materials for Journal:

  • Leather (I used a thicker piece of leather from Hobby Lobby.) The thicker the leather, the less likely you are to have torn holes.
  • Paper (I used 50lb sketchbook paper. But you can use whatever weight or size you want.)
  • Waxed linen thread. (You can find this at Hobby Lobby right next to the leather.)
  • Leather strap (Again, found in the same vicinity at Hobby Lobby. I’d probably use a thinner leather next time. My strap was a bit stiff.)


  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Xacto or some sort of craft knife
  • Folding bone or something to crease your paper with.
  • Awl or sharp needle (needs to be heavy duty to pierce leather.)
  • Sewing needle. (Upholstery ones would be nice since it’d be more heavy duty, but if you’ve already pierced through the paper and the leather, you can use a regular needle that’s big enough to thread the waxed thread through.
  • Tailor’s chalk or some sort of pen that shows up on the leather.
  • Scissors
  • Pencil


Paper prep:

  • Figure out how large you want your journal to be. I ended up with an 8x5 inch journal. So I cut down 9x12 inch paper and folded it in half. You need to fold in half for this journal because you’re sewing in the pages.
  • Once you have your paper size chosen, figure out how many pages you want your journal to have. Remember each piece of paper equals 4 pages in the book.
  • Then you’ll need to divide up your paper into “signatures” these are the sections of pages that you will sew into the journal. I used 6 pages per signature and had 6 signatures. (Note: You need to have an even number of signatures for sewing to come out right.
  • Fold pages and crease with the bone folder or straight edge. Set aside all signatures.
  • Mark holes for sewing with a pencil. You need 6 holes per signature if you’re doing 4 holes for the leather. (The two extra holes are to tie the signatures together.
  • I marked my holes at ½, 1, 3, 5, 8, and 8.5 inches.
  • Punch through paper with awl.

Leather prep:

  • No you know the size of your journal. You’ll need to keep an extra half inch of leather all around your journal. (I didn’t do this and you can tell when you look at the journal.) So, for an 8x5 journal you’d need leather 9 inches high. For the length of the leather you need to figure out how many signatures you have in the book and if you want the leather to wrap around the front of the journal. If you go the same route I did, you’ll need to keep a half inch around the sides and include another inch for the spine. So this leather cover would be 9 x 12 inches.
  • Take your ruler and mark off the center inch of the leather. You can mark the way I did, but you’ll have the mark on there after you’re finished. (I didn’t use tailor’s chalk, so I don’t know if that will brush off later.)
  • Mark a half inch and an inch and a half from the center edge of the front cover. This is where the strap will attach to the leather. If you follow the center line through the length of the journal. Mark a line on each edge of the center margin. This is again, where the strap will cut through the leather. These marks need to be at least the width of your strap. (Since your strap will go through at these marks.)
  • Cut through the leather with the xacto knife. BE CAREFUL! Leather can sometimes be difficult to cut through.
  • For the binding holes: I placed my holes at 1, 3, 5 and 8 inches along the spine. You’ll need one set of lengthwise holes per signature.
  • To measure widthwise for the holes, divide up the spine evenly among the signatures. You want to leave at least a little space for each to counter tearing. I marked mine about 3/8th of an inch apart.
  • Punch through holes with awl or sharp implement.
  • Leather strap. Mark a line lengthwise on the strap the same width as the strap about a half inch from the edge. This is where the leather strap will go through itself to secure to the journal.

Putting everything together.

  • Take your first signature and thread the waxed thread through the top hole from the outside of the signature to the inside. Leave about a 3-4 inch length of thread to tie off the signatures at the end of sewing. Then pull the thread through the 1 inch hole and thread through the leather as well. Go up through the leather and signature at the 3 inch hole. Down through the 5 inch hole. Up through the 8 inch hole. And only go through the paper on the 8.5 inch hole.
  • Take the second signature and you will start sewing this one through the bottom 8.5 inch hole. Down through the 8 inch hole. Up through the 5 inch hole, down through the 3 inch hole and up through the 1 inch hole. Again for the ½ inch hole only go through the paper.
  • Continue adding signatures.

  • On your last signature you will end at the top of the journal. (This is why you need an even number of signatures.)
  • Go through the journal. Tighten the thread throughout. The nice thing about waxed thread is that it is pretty sticky to the leather and paper. So you won’t have a hard time keeping the thread taught.
  • Once it’s all tightened, tie off the thread to itself.
  • Thread the strap through. This was a little tricky for me to figure out.
  • Lay the cut edge of the strap over the cover of the book. Keep the tail end of it to the right.
  • Loop the strap over the edge of the journal and through the first slit on the edge of the book. Pull the strap through itself.
  • Tuck the remaining edge of the strap (the part before the slit) under the second slit in the cover.
  • Take the tail of the strap and pull it through the first slit in the binding.
  • Thread the strap through the second hole.
  • Wrap strap around journal and loop under itself on front.

YAY! You’re finished. See, not too difficult. It just takes a while to prep the materials.


Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

This is awesome. I love it.

Dirgesinger said...

Wow thanks a lot! I was longing for a recipe to make a journal - I always wanted to make one - but I haven't found one as easy as I need:) Now I can try myself out:)