Leather Craft Tutorial Round Up

Hope you had a lovely holiday with family and friends!

I’ve been trying to clean up my space and found myself tempted to dive into a bit of crafty fun. Nothing like getting your hands into materials to spark inspiration. I noticed that my collection of leather has been building up, so I thought it was about time I used my leather scraps for something. Often a project that uses fabric can be applied to leather as well. Here’s my round up of leather craft tutorials – enjoy!

If you are looking to buy leather, think of upcycling old jackets, boots and purses you already have. Sometimes it’s cheaper to get something from a second hand shop as well. Otherwise, you can check out the Tandy Leather Factory. Is there a leather project that really peaks your interest?! Share your projects… because I definitely will.

Sew and Finish Making A Handmade Journal

Following my previous posts about my bookbinding tools/materialspreparing my journal cover and folding paper for your journal – this week I would like to finish things up! It’s time to stitch up my handmade journal and put it to use. The first thing to decide is how I will sew everything together. That will determine how I should punch the holes in my paper and journal cover.

I decided to just do some simple longstitch binding, but with a continuous string… a bit out of laziness perhaps! Instead of sewing each individual signature and knotting it up, I would just continue weaving in and out all signatures and then backwards, so there’s only one knot in the end. With that decided, I punched holes in all my signatures of papers with an awl and ruler. You can also create a guide for your holes with thick cardstock and use it as a template to punch all your holes. That can help to ensure that the holes are all exactly in the same spot per signature. However, I  just measure and eyeball it…

Once all my paper signatures have been punched, I do the same for my cover. However, instead of punching for each hole and each signature of the journal, I’ve decided to just slit my journal cover. It’s less time consuming and I actually like the rustic look of it in the end.

With all my materials ready to go, I thread my needle and start sewing the paper signatures to the journal cover. I’m using a rusty orange colored string that is fairly thick, so I have to make sure and tighten properly as I weave in and out while sewing.

Although it might seem complicated to understand… you can actually make up your own sewing patterns and create different looks in the bindings of your journals. Try drawing out a diagram and using your pen as the needle to see what would work out. It’s a great way to discover your own method of stitching up your books!

For my journal, it was really important that I kept everything tightened up properly because there are slits in the binding and my thread is so thick and stretchy. BTW, there’s no need to use a curved needle for this project, I just grabbed whatever was handy. In this case it would have been better to use a straight needle! Sometimes when I use really thick string, I might need to use pliers to help push and string the needle through everything…. just depends how skillful you are with your fingers and hands, I suppose!

As I mentioned earlier, doing the longstitch with one long piece of string will result in these criss cross parts on the edge of the binding. I sort of think they are cool, but if you don’t like that you’d better plan up a different stitching pattern for your journal. There are so many different binding methods and patterns possible – the sky is the limit!

Another detail I added to my journal was some velcro closure. I simple glued the velcro bits to my cover, leaving room for a bit of bulk as I might add bits and pieces to my journal papers. Although some find the velcro noise annoying, I like how practical it is! You can also try using a buckle, buttons or ribbon/string wraparound closure as well. It’s all up to your imagination.

With just a little effort, I’ve made myself a lovely leather journal for doodling and experimenting in… how cool is that, huh?

You can see that it looks a bit imperfect and the string is quite thick creating a sort of staggered effect in the binding. I really like the rustic feel of it – I think it matches the coloring of my journal and raw edges of the leather. Just my preference! The cool thing about having a soft leather cover is that the journal opens up flat and it’s very comfortable to write and draw. Of course, I had to pop in a doodle on the first page to welcome my crisp and clean new journal. No surprise that it’s my default girl drawing!

Have you made your own journal before? Hope you will be inspired to make yourself a handy little creative idea keeper – share your thoughts below!

Folding Paper for Your Journal

Following my previous posts about my bookbinding tools/materials and preparing my journal cover, this week I want to share some information regarding choosing and preparing the paper that will go in your handmade journals. It’s it certainly a personal choice, regarding what type of paper or papers you choose to include in your journal. After all, if you’re making something custom, why not experiment? You can include found papers, printer paper, thicker cardstock, watercolor paper and a variety of other artist papers on the market.

PAPER FOR YOUR JOURNAL

Know that you will need to cut your paper to size, so that when folded in half they make up the size of your journal. A couple of sheets folded and stacked together make a signature and you would usually include several signatures, depending how many pages you want in the final journal. What is important to consider is the thickness of your paper as that will more or less decide how many sheets go in each signature. If you are using regular printer paper, you want to go for at least 6 or even 8 sheets in a signature. That will ensure that the signature is sturdy and can hold up to however you stitch the signatures into your journal cover. If you only had a sheet or two of thin paper, your thread would surely rip through!

On the other hand, if you are using a very thick cardstock, you want to use less sheets per signature. In fact, as you stack them together, you’ll notice that the open edges look a bit diagonal. I don’t mind the inconsistencies, but many folks prefer to stack up their signatures and then trim off the excess so that they have an even edge. It’s up to you!

THE GRAIN OF PAPER

Once you have decided on your paper and cut them to size, you’ll have to fold them in half and stack up your signatures. When it comes to folding paper, there is technically a right way to do it! Paper has a grain to it and you’ll be able to tell especially with thicker papers when you start folding. When your fold paper parallel to the direction of the grain, it will fold nice and crisply. If you fold perpendicular to the grain, you might notice more resistance and a crackly, ragged edged fold. This is because the fibers of the paper are giving you resistance.

However, if you are using regular printer paper, you might not be able to tell much of difference at all. Paper with less fiber and less thickness simply doesn’t resist as much. I usually only run into a problem with really thick 300 or 400 lb painting paper. Normally, I don’t even check for the grain of the paper! Being in the more practical and economical boat, I usually buy white cardstock printer paper in A4 size and just fold in half to make my journals. However, I do use a bone folder to smooth over edges… makes it easy on my fingers. If you don’t have a bone folder, use a spoon! It’s totally works!

CHECK  YOUR JOURNAL

Once you have your paper decided upon, cut them size and folded them into signatures you are ready for the actual construction of your journal. Before moving on it’s really important to put your journal together and take a look to make sure everything checks out. Do you have enough signatures to fill up the journal as you envisioned? Do you need to take away a signature or add more?

If your journal cover wraps around, you’ll definitely have to check to make sure enough room is allowed… you don’t know how many times I’ve simply forgotten about the spine taking up space and thought that my journal could have been much thicker! Here’s a look at my mock-up journal, not yet sewn… but looks good to me so far. Join me next week for the final step of putting it all together!

Why kind of papers do you prefer to put in your handmade journals? I know that junk papers are especially popular for those who will cover up the pages with paint and ink… get creative! Feel free to share in the comments below…

Journal Cover Inspired By Beautiful Leather

To follow my previous post about bookbinding cover materials, this week I would like to share the beginnings of my process in creating a brand new journal. I’m very often inspired by the leather that is available here in Tuscany, Italy. When I come across a beautiful material, I naturally want to make it a part of my next sketchbook. For this journal, I have been inspired by a piece of double-sided leather…

It’s a medium weight black leather with a copper metallic layer on the other side. Beautiful! I decided to use the metallic color on the outside and black on the inside. First step is to decide on the size of my journal and how I will bind it, in order to cut the cover material to size. I most often use regular-sized paper folded in half,  A4 in my case and since the piece of leather is pretty small in size, I really can’t go larger. Then I have to decide how many pages of paper will be included, so I know how much cover material is needed for the spine. I decided to go with a wraparound cover using the longstitch binding to use as much of the leather as possible… so calculating the size and using a piece of paper as a guide, I went ahead and cut my leather to size.

When not using another material to line the inside of my cover, I often just fold over the raw edges of the leather to double the weight. I actually like keeping my journals soft and malleable. Also, the double-sided feature of this leather brings some of the color inside which is a nice effect.

Using just regular PVA glue, I secure the folded portion of the leather and let it dry under a heavy weight. It works great for me and never had any trouble of it peeling apart.

With a final check, I can see that my cover is all ready! Next week I will share my process of preparing the signatures of paper and sewing the journal together…

 Is there a cover material you’d like to try using? Please feel free to create your own sketchbook along with me and share your comments below! Enjoy!

Bookbinding Cover Materials

I’ve blogged about my bookbinding tools and materials, but thought it would be helpful to start a series of posts that goes through my thought process of creating a brand new handmade journal from scratch. Inspiration can certainly come from many different sources. Sometimes an embellishment might seem really cool to add to a journal cover and that’s where it all begins. Or perhaps a new binding stitch discovered tempts me to try it out. Or even coming across some special drawing paper that I want to test.

But most often I’m inspired by cover materials… what will my journal look like outside at first glance? What will protect my precious journal entries from the elements? What look, feel, style will set the theme for the whole journal? Since we see the covers of our journals pretty much every single time we use them, I would say it’s a pretty important aspect. It’s also just fun to experiment with all kinds of different materials.

Let me say that you can literally use any material for your journal. Yes, any material, I said. Even when something seems flimsy or difficult to work with, remember that you can always mount it on another base material and protect it with a layer of varnish or gloss. Get creative! I’ve used cardboard, scrapbook papers, packaging materials, cloth, felt, handmade papers, wallpaper, paper-mache, fused plastic bags… the list goes on. Do you have a funky material used story to share? 

 Of course, by far the most popular material for me to use is leather. This is simply because I have access to beautiful leathers (thank you hubby). However, I also sometimes back it onto cardboard or hardboard to give it more structure. Other times I also line the inside with felt or fabric to give it a lining. Here are some points to go through when considering a material for your journal cover…

  • Does the material have the desired structure/weight/flexibility?
  • Will you need to back it with a supporting material?
  • Are you able to cut it to size and work with it to construct your cover?
  • Will you need a lining material for the inside?
  • How will the material stand up to the elements? Water? Fire? Tossed around in your purse?
  • Will you need to consider protecting the material with varnish, medium, transparent cover material?

Hope that my tips will help you to find lovely cover materials for your own handmade journal. BTW, iHanna recently blogged about deciding on cover papers for her handmade journals as well. There are certainly so many possibilities, it might seem like too much choice. But the freedom to use what you want and use what you have, makes bookbinding fun and approachable for all. When you make your own journal that’s the first step of your creative self-expression… so try it out!

Are there other materials you have used for journal covers? Please share below your tips and suggestions.

My Bookbinding Tools and Materials

Over time I have learned what my favorite tools and materials are for this lovely art called bookbinding. I thought it would be nice to go through what I normally use when binding books and journal. Nothing really fancy here…I think we might all have these items in one form or another. I’m definitely a very DIY small-time bookbinder…

A self-healing cutting mat and cutting knives - definitely must haves in so many ways. I’ve never found a paper trimmer that I love and much prefer a mat and knife. Also, the measurements on the mat itself are very useful for lining up cuts and projects while crafting in general.

A metal ruler – metal means it will last longer and sits heavier on top of paper to prevent sliding while you cut. Love it!

Bone folder – a must for folding paper and smoothing things over. You can also use the tip to score lines in your paper as well…

Awl – for punching holes! I have a pretty small one that sometimes gives me a handache…one of these days I might  invest in the Japanese screw hole punches… very cool. Just know that you need a way to pre-punch your holes.

Needles – big tapestry needles work great for sewing up books.

Linen thread – I use both waxed and unwaxed linen thread, because it’s super strong!

PVA glue – Vinavil is the brand we use here in Italy and it’s the same glue even bookbinding teachers at workshops use…so I’m cool with it! Really, just any glue will do.

Junky brushes – to brush on the glue – probably more important than the glue, because if you get a nice coat on, it’ll stick! I use hardware store brushes. If it gets junked up, I just toss them out.

Materials from paper to leather – I use all types of materials, even recycled board to create book covers and fill in the pages of my journals. It’s fun to use alternative materials actually.

Those are pretty much all the tools and materials that I use… pretty straight forward. I don’t have any fancy presses or stands. Any other tools you love or suggest? Hope my list can help you get started in bookbinding or you can just hop onto my Etsy shop and pick up a pre-made journal. I think anyone can learn to bind their own books, but it doesn’t mean everyone will want to! I get that!

Let’s Make A Weekly Planner

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday weekend! Although perhaps many of you are traveling or still on vacation – lucky! The holidays are falling on weekends this year, sort of reducing the amount of vacation time my husband gets…so it’s pretty much a normal week in our household. I suppose it’s a good thing, as I need the time to catch up on many projects. Nevertheless, every December I make myself a weekly planner for the new year. I always make my own planners, sort of like a date book that just keeps me aware of deadlines and events as well as my list of tasks per week. It’s really a simple process to create your own planner and the best part is customizing it to your particular needs. I never like to buy them because the calendar layout will not suit me or the lines are too close together for my giant handwriting…little things here and there. In terms of planner pages, there are so many variations possible – that’s why making your own tailored to your needs really helps to maximize usefulness.

I like to have a weekly view for my planner pages, just so I can see any major events and deadlines at a glance. Then I like to have a task list, so actionable items can be written down in small bits making it easier for me to accomplish and cross out with full satisfaction! When it comes to project notes or art sketches, I have journals and sketchbooks for those purposes because it’s something I will keep in the long term. My planner gets recycled at the end of the year as I use them for date keeping only. Although there are lovely digital calendars on our computers…I still like the old fashion pen and paper. It just works a whole lot better for me. Maybe I’m an old-fashioned gal, but everyone needs their old school date book, right? I created a custom page for my planner using my diary project graphic submission for the task list and boxes for the week at a glance.

It’s a simple grid and you can readily create your own grid by hand and just photocopy or create it in a graphic program to print out. There’s also many freebies out there like Amanda Hawkins’ DIY planner templates – many are free. Using a regular sheet of paper, I’ve just printed my planner page on both sides of 27 sheets of paper,  giving myself enough space for 2011 and beyond. If you create a whole stack printed front and back, you’ll notice that the left half will match up with the right half of the page when folded. So no special order or binding method is required, just stack ‘em up, fold in half and attach somehow. You can see that I’ve used regular copy paper which is a bit see-thru being printed on both sides. If that is something annoying for you personally, think of using a heavier weight paper.

The binding I chose is a simple longstitch, nothing fancy. Since all the papers are stacked and folded in half, you could also just staple the center fold or punch a few holes and tie tightly with string. The important thing is to bind in a tight fashion as your planner will be used every day. If the middle binding that cuts through your planner page bothers you, just make sure your design is on the left side and right side with ample margins. In my case, I’ve purposed arranged my boxes so the center is the line between the date boxes…so it blends in nicely. If you choose to bind in a different way, just make sure your pages and ordering will turn out right in the end.

For my cover I used a thicker cardstock paper, but when you fold so many sheets of paper together, you’ll notice the inner sheets sort of sticking out over the edge of the cover page. To expand your cover paper, I usually just add another tab of paper around the edges. This makes your cover slightly larger and reinforces the paper edge as well, protecting the planner for everyday use.

I also decided to print out a little manifesto type of write-up for the opening page of my planner. I like to have a little statement or word at the beginning of planners, so everytime I open it I’m reminded of that thought. If you like mine, feel free to download as a freebie printable JPG below. I chose the Pantone color of the year, honeysuckle as well. I think it’s a very sweet color :)

Download 2011 manifesto ZIP file of JPG image

Finally, I decorated the cover of my planner with decorative paper, a tag and my own Home on the Head Rose artwork…as you saw in the first photo. Wah-lah! A simple DIY planner that is totally tailored to my specific needs. I hope you’ll try it out and make yourself an old fashioned datebook or calendar item. It’s easy to use the same idea and make a hanging wall version or desktop version calendar as well. A fun and easy project that will be very useful for your date keeping, I’m sure. Have fun!

Chain or Coptic Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial

Here’s another method of binding your book with an open spine…a chain stitch or also called coptic stitch binding. This is a great method for when you have book covers that are individual boards instead of completely wrapped around the entire journal. You are basically binding all the signatures and covers together with a connected stitch that holds everything together tightly, but with super flexibility. The pages will open up completely flat and that’s a big reason why this method is so popular. I’m sure you might have seen lots of books on Etsy bound in this way. There are variations to the chain stitch (as with everything) but this is how I go about binding with this technique…

From a materials standpoint, you’ll need your cover boards and paper signatures to go inside. I’m also using a roll of self-adhesive paper to cover my boards. That’s actually the stuff you stick in your kitchen drawers and such…very handy! You’ll need some string to bind it all and a needle – here I’m using a curved needle. I also have my awl and holepuncher to make holes.

The first thing I do is to cover my cover boards with the decorative paper. You can use fabric or other decorative papers as well, just finish up your cover boards exactly how you want them to look bound into the book. You can see that I cut my decorative paper to size…

Then I stuck them on the boards, cutting the corners at a diagonal so that it’ll fold over nicely without too much bulk on the corners.

You just smooth down one corner and make sure everything is flat without bubbles and continuing securing the other sides.

Then to cover up the empty side, I put in some dark brown liner paper…that will be the inside of my journal cover.

Once my cover boards and paper signatures are ready, I start to punch my holes for the binding. You don’t really have to space them evenly, just make sure they are spread throughout the spine to be secure. I’ve marked up my holes on the cover then punched them out with a holepuncher.

Then I use the cover as my guide to punch holes in all my signatures. It’s nice to use an awl just because the hole doesn’t need to be huge…it just needs to fit your string or thread type.

Once your materials are prepped, you are basically ready to sew. Pretty easy process at this point and not much different from other binding methods…it’s the stitching pattern that is special in this case. Note that you can have as many signatures you would like, however once it gets really fat, the sheer flexibility will allow your signatures to be more movable and not as “together” in my mind. They sort of “snake” around… but that’s just my experience.

To start stitching, you go with one board and one signature inside. You can see I’m starting at the bottom hole inside the first signature.

You bring the thread out and under the cover board to attach it to the signature…

I like to wrap my thread around the cover board one more time, so it’s a double loop before putting my needle back into the signature bottom hole where I came from.

I make sure everything is tight and aligned, then tie a knot. The important part of this method of binding is keeping the cover and signatures on top all aligned…because that’s exactly how it’s going to end up in the end. You want a perfectly aligned stack of signatures on the covers, nice and tight.

From this point, I just move up one hole and repeat the process of looping around the cover and coming back up. Only difference is that there is no knot to tie, you just keep looping through to attach the signature to the cover.

When you get to the last hole, after looping onto the cover, instead of going back into the same signature you stack on another signature and go into that hole.

See how I’ve come up from the top hole in my second signature here…then I immediately go to the next hole…

…and on the outside I want to attach this signature to something, but there are no holes to go through like with the cover. Instead I loop my thread in between the signatures below it, in this case the first signature and cover. Just stick your needle into the left side of the stitch already there and exit to the right of it. This is a kettle stitch that connects the stitches together and creates the cool pattern on the binding. It is for this stitch that I use the curved needle, because it’s so much easier to stitch it in between the signatures.

Here’s a close-up of the needle pulling the thread behind the existing stitch of previous signatures, from the left side to the right side. You are making a little loop to basically connect the new signature to the rest of the book.

Once you’ve made this loop, the kettle stitch and tigtened it all, you stick the needle back into the hole you came from and repeat going down the line of holes.

Again, once I get to the last hole of that signature, after doing the kettle stitch instead of going into the same signature again, I add a new signature and go into that hole.

Repeat…repeat…repeat. Once you get the idea, you’ll be able to continue for as many signatures as  you have, no problem! You’ll see here I’ve added all 5 of my signatures. There are ways of binding the last signature with the cover together…but I find it all confusing. So I bind all my signatures in the same fashion until there are none left.

Then when I just have the cover left to bind, I sort of do the same thing, but weaving through the last signature again. This means the signature will have a double thread inside, but I don’t mind that for the easy of understanding the process.

With my kettle stitch done on the last signature, to add the cover I go through the same process… I do my double loop around the cover, kettle stitch to attach it securely to the book and then go back into the signature of paper. I move up one hole and repeat the steps…

When I get to the last hole, instead of going back into the paper signature, I actually go in between the cover and paper signature. I loop it around that stitch and tie a knot here to finish binding the book. Pretty easy! One of these days I might learn another method, but this works really nicely for me anyway!

You’ll end up with a book that has a snazzy binding stitch showing, very neat and secure. You’ll notice that the kettle stitches create a column of “v” or “u” looking pattern in the binding. The very left and right holes will look like half of that design, since it’s the edge.

See how the book lies completely open when flat on a table? That’s one of the big benefits of binding this way, you see the entire page and most people find it great to write and work in. Of course, if you add lots of signatures things may get imbalanced. I blogged about another chain stitched journal here and even though it looks cool, I’ve found it to be too fat!

I like this kind of binding and find it very useful, but it’s not the easiest and does require a lot precision in the tightening and lining up…otherwise things will be oddly hanging around or crooked. I often end up tightening a bit too much, so that the book doesn’t even close completely from the tightness. In this case, I put some paper weights on top for a day and it all evens out…thread always seems to stretch a bit!

There are many other coptic and chain stitching tutorials, so don’t hesitate to find a youtube video that shows the process, etc. It’s not complicated to understand, just a bit tedious depending how many signatures you have. The results are fabulous though, so it wouldn’t be bad to make this every once in a while. Have fun and let me know what you think!

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Please support this blog by visiting my Etsy shop full of handmade leather journals, zines and lovely art. Also feel free to make requests in the comments below. Is there something you want to see as a tutorial, let me know!