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 :)
Note: All photos on this page are by me unless otherwise stated.
Tools & Materials:
- 24 x A4 sheets of paper.
- A bookbinder's needle
- Glue such as PVA
- Bone folder
- 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
- Strong thread
- 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
Best Journal Making Supplies
Step 1 - Cutting The Paper
Step 2 - Folding The Paper
Step 3 - Adding Holes to the Spines
Step 4 - Starting to Bind
Step 5 - Joining the Signatures Together
Step 6 - Square Knots
Find square knot instructions here.
Step 7 - Finishing the Binding
Step 8 - Glue the Spine
Step 9 - Prepare the Card Covers
Step 10 - Attaching the Covers
Leather Cover Template
(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.
Step 11 - Sew the Leather Cover
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.
Step 12 - Forming The Leather Cover
Step 13 - Finishing the Cover
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 :-)
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!
Wooden Book Covers
Rustic Leather-Bound Journals
Other Journal Tutorials - Including Different Ways to Make a Book Cover
- Rugged Leather Cover
In a rustic style with wrap-around strap.
- Rustic Journal
With snap button closure. One of my favourite tutorials :-)
- Decorating Your Leather Cover
With patterns and dyes.
- YouTube Videos
Showing you how to make a range of different journals.
- Leather & Fabric Wrapped Journals
Lovely journals made of different cover materials and reclaimed papers.
- Rainbow Scrapbook
Bind together different coloured pages for a rainbow effect.
- Make Your Own Handmade Book
How to make an outside book cover with cardboard and fabric.
- Reversible Book Cover
Clever way of constructing a reversible cover.
Journal Making & Book Cover Videos
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!
For more handmade journals for sale, please visit:
Hand Dyed Cover Paper
Please Comment On My Lens!
KerryW1 on March 02, 2019:
great tutorial and guide with resources, just goes to show how ageless bookbinding is as an art, considering I am reading this 4 years after the update and at least 8 years after the possible first publishing of this article :)
emers on September 13, 2016:
Brilliant tutorial, very detailed and easy to follow!!! Really great job!
Jack on October 29, 2015:
Really excellent guide! The best one i have found anywhere....fantastic detail in both the description and photos provided. I have never bound a book before and with the help of these instructions i managed to make a beautiful book for my house mates birthday, thanks so much! :)
mvaivata on March 26, 2015:
This is FANTASTIC! I've always liked the idea of binding books/journals... even made a few attempts, but always had some trouble with the spines. I will definitely be making a project of this soon! Thank you!
StormWriter from United Kingdom on March 19, 2015:
Brilliant step-by-step, I just wish I had the money and time to make some. Would make awesome presents for some friends of mine!!
Panorea White from Los Angeles on March 07, 2015:
Thank you so much for showing this process step by step! The quality seems superb!
Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on March 07, 2015:
This is such an amazing well thought out HUB. You've been very meticulous in you instructions. Your photos really enhance the Text. You've created a beautiful product.
Lynn Sorrell from Mesa Arizona on March 06, 2015:
I not sure what a lens? is or a LOTD?....I make a lot of things, just get the ideas in my head and usually can just build it, but needed some help figuring out how to keep the whole book tightly together. Thought about buying one and ripping it apart just to see. Stumbled onto yours and it tells me everything I need. You did well. Thanks for taking the time to write this, it's well done. Looks as if the binding is strong. Just what I needed to help me make an extra large sketchbook for my daughter.
Emily Tack from USA on March 05, 2015:
I had to come back and visit this article, again. It is really informative!
I am still using the credit card holder I designed from scratch out of leather, after 21 years!
Raimer Gel on March 05, 2015:
I always buy my journals from bookstores but I rarely use them. I do not know why but I just don't find them good.
Mara Alexander from Los Angeles, California on February 27, 2015:
So kewl, this is a great project. Thank you for sharing
I voted it up
Marty Andersen from Salina, Utah on November 28, 2014:
Love the article. Thanks for sharing it! I want try doing it myself.
Johnf744 on November 08, 2014:
I loved your blog article. Really Cool. debebadkckdd
micksmom2 on June 09, 2014:
I stumbled upon this page and am very fascinated with trying my hand at this craft. I work with leather and this would be great fun to incorporate into my leatherwork.
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on October 15, 2013:
@karagenknight: Hi - I've never made one of those so to be honest I don't know sorry. Thanks for visiting though :)
karagenknight on October 15, 2013:
Hello Your guide is great and very helpful. just one question though i have read that you can make an expanding journal as in one you can take a cover off and add signatures. do you know how this could be modified to do that?
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on September 11, 2013:
@anonymous: Hi! Start with 48 A3 pieces of paper and fold them in half, rather than starting with 24 A4 pieces like in my instructions. That way you can avoid the cutting steps at the beginning :)
anonymous on September 10, 2013:
What size paper would I need to use to get the journal to be A4?
janey126 on September 09, 2013:
Wow what a great info and lensâ¦just awesome!
steadytracker lm on September 05, 2013:
Wow, a really great and very in-depth tutorial .Thank you for sharing it with us.
SusanAston on July 28, 2013:
This looks too good to write in!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on March 30, 2013:
@anonymous: HI! Yes, the journal is a good size for carrying around in your coat pocket or bag so it's on the small side. You can double up the size if you would like a larger journal. Thanks for visiting :)
anonymous on March 29, 2013:
I'm a little confused. The size of this journal seems really small. Maybe I'm not understanding, but are we cutting the paper to be folded down into a 3.5" by 5.5" page?
belinhafernandes on March 25, 2013:
Wonderful tutorial! I wrote a lens about a sketchbook and this one showed up!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on February 24, 2013:
@pattypulliam: Hi...yup, you follow step 5 to join each signature to the one before :)
pattypulliam on February 23, 2013:
You don't sew the 2nd signature to the first?
Jaugustm on February 02, 2013:
@anonymous: Thanks, that's a great idea! I couldn't find any yet, but I'm checking the thrift stores every day. I'm trying to get it finished before Valentine's day (it's going to be a present).
anonymous on January 21, 2013:
@Jaugustm: I just made this book and I used leather from an old bomber jacket. I bought it on eBay for like $5 and $9 shipping. The jacket had some ink stains on it so I didn't feel so bad cutting it up. But it was cheaper than any other piece of leather I could find at a craft store. And it was a bit worn to give my journal an old look feel. I got the entire back piece off the jacket and two front panels. I made my book about 5x7 inches, so I have a ton of leather left. Or you can look at thrift stores for old leather jackets. The leather was the perfect texture and was very pliable.
Jaugustm on January 21, 2013:
@wellingtonboot: Awesome! Thanks again!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on January 21, 2013:
@Jaugustm: Hi, I'm afraid I don't remember the seller name but just search for leather scraps on Ebay and you should find some - just make sure it's soft and pliable, not too thick :)
Jaugustm on January 20, 2013:
Hi! Thanks for sharing. Question: do you know who on Ebay you bought the leather from? Or have any more description for the leather you used? It's just what I have been looking for.
anonymous on January 07, 2013:
This is exactly what I was looking for!! I am going to make the pages bigger though and adjust the holes for threading the signatures. Shouldn't be too hard. Can't wait to do this for a very special birthday gift for someone!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on December 28, 2012:
@anonymous: Awww thanks that's great to hear! :)
anonymous on December 27, 2012:
This guide is fantastic. I've never worked with leather before, (or hand-sewn anything, or bound any books) but I successfully made this journal. I had to stitch 5 pieces together to fit the template, but it actually made the final product look really cool. It was the perfect Christmas gift for my boyfriend. Thanks so much for going into so much detail.
JenaleeMortensen on December 15, 2012:
Thanks for sharing how to make a journal. I was hoping to make some journals as gifts, so I appreciate the guide.
dominic-simon-37 on December 14, 2012:
Thank you very much :) I will have to try this.
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on December 08, 2012:
@anonymous: Awww lovely to hear, thank-you!
anonymous on December 07, 2012:
I just wanted to say thank you for publishing this guide, as it provided the framework for a very special Christmas gift for my girlfriend. The directions are straightforward, as evidenced by my ability to complete the stitching, and the finished product is spectacular. Completed the project with abaca-fiber based pages Iade myself. Thanks!
Judith Nazarewicz from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on December 04, 2012:
Great instructions! Thanks so much!
anonymous on December 03, 2012:
@anonymous: oh wait nevermind they get cut in half before they get folded... sorry :O
anonymous on December 03, 2012:
@wellingtonboot: waiitttt but the template is 7"x11" so when it is folded wouldn't it come out to 5.5"x7"?
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on December 02, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi thanks :) The pages should turn out to be 5.5" high ish. The width is 3.5" (ish!). Hope that helps!
anonymous on December 01, 2012:
This is really awesome and its easy to follow.
I would just like to add that i believe there is an error in this tutorial. perhaps the template for the leather should actually be 7" or 7.5" wide as opposed to 6" because the height of the signatures is 7". maybe i am just confused. anyway, thank you for this awesome addition to the internet. :)
artshock on November 24, 2012:
This is an amazing tutorial. Thanks for sharing.
anonymous on October 26, 2012:
Thanks. I found this more than helpful as I was going about this completely wrong.
daisychainsaw lm on October 22, 2012:
What a brilliant idea; love the lens, will definitely be trying this! Thanks!
anonymous on October 14, 2012:
Love this! Just wondering though if this method could be used to bind an actual book you already have.
anonymous on September 20, 2012:
@wellingtonboot: Where did you buy the tools and materials from?
Tea Pixie on September 04, 2012:
Your lens is great. I have done married guts to covers and made covers. I am biased because I have some background in doing this, but I find your lens to be well done. I find using an awl to be extremely difficult - especially with so much paper.
anonymous on September 02, 2012:
please set it up differently i don't know when to go to the other side kinda confused
John Dyhouse from UK on August 12, 2012:
Great tutorial, I have a use for a journal like this. I wiil be trying something using the instructions THanks
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on July 28, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi! To buy all of the materials it probably cost me about Â£15. I had a couple of bits to start with, but now I have bought the tools (and a lot of paper), I'll be able to make a few journals with what I now have...so it probably works out at about Â£5 per journal because I bought in bulk. The more journals I make though, the less each one will cost :)
anonymous on July 27, 2012:
how much would this cost?
JerStein on July 01, 2012:
I was making a tutorial for something else and thought I would compare my layout to another... Chose the wrong lens to do that with, this lens is just awesome and I am not even interested in binding books. I congrats you for making an awesome lens.
Kae Yo on June 19, 2012:
Thank you. I love this. I've always loved leather journals and this is awesome!
Sher Ritchie on June 09, 2012:
I love your step-by-step instructions, this is a fantastic lens. I've featured it on mine: https://hubpages.com/art/country-estate-3d-decoupa... . Thanks for sharing!
LharbinWrites on May 20, 2012:
This is so neat!!! I want to try this :)
anonymous on May 07, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi! The journal will end up approx A6 size, which is useful for a travel size book. If you would like a larger size of journal, you can skip the extra cutting step, but the rest of the measurements in the tutorial will have to be changed too. Thanks for your interest :)
anonymous on May 06, 2012:
I have a question: why do you cut all the paper in half at the beginning? Wouldn't that make the journal very small?
tombonner on April 10, 2012:
I want to try this.
Kim from Yonkers, NY on March 30, 2012:
Great step by step lens.. added to my favorite lenses lens.
(& possibly later to my Reading & Poetry lenses)
anonymous on March 11, 2012:
This is a very resourceful lens. Thank you for posting!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on January 29, 2012:
I have been wanting to make a leather journal just like this one. Perfect timing. Thanks so much for the excellent instructions. Appreciated! Very nicely done.
sydeli on January 27, 2012:
Nice. So gonna do this when I get the stuff I need
klaird on January 04, 2012:
I love journals! And a homemade one is even better! Love the lens; I've featured it on my "50 Craft Ideas for Adults" page. Thanks for sharing!
ArtProMotivate on January 02, 2012:
I just created my first lense myself, and this is the first one I visited!
eganj1 on December 08, 2011:
Thank you for a very interesting lens, I must have a go
Leilani-m on December 02, 2011:
Great lens! the instructions are very easy to follow :)
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on November 29, 2011:
@anonymous: It was probably nearly Â£15 cost, but obviously now I've got enough materials to make a few journals so they'll get cheaper the more you make. As for time, i did it over 3 days because I needed time for the glue to dry. It probably took at least 3 hours solid work.
Good luck and thanks for the comment!
anonymous on November 29, 2011:
I am using this as my guide to creating my first journal ever. It sounds as though you didn't miss a beat (comparable to other tutorials I have found). As far as cost and time making it goes, do you have a 'ball-park' estimate?
ethoscustombrands on November 01, 2011:
Very informative! Great Lens!
ICanCook on October 22, 2011:
This truly is an awesome lens. I could now bind a book with the step by step instructions you've provided. So many thanks.
anonymous on October 20, 2011:
This is an amazing tutorial! Followed it for an A5 black leather journal and it looks dope!
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on October 20, 2011:
How lovely! As a sometime book crafter, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this page. Your instructions are more thorough than any I have seen.
anonymous on October 20, 2011:
great tips and pictures of the steps, earned a 'thumbs up' from this reader.
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on October 20, 2011:
@hysongdesigns: Yay, thanks!
hysongdesigns on October 19, 2011:
Congrats on your purple star! Very well deserved!
DuaneJ on October 19, 2011:
I love writing and could use these tips myself...well done!
hysongdesigns on October 16, 2011:
Most Excellent!!! I have done a bit of bookbinding myself and you did a most excellent job with your step by steps photographs and instructions. It it weren't already a LotD I'd nominate it!
dwnovacek on October 07, 2011:
Great lens! Your detailed instructions make me feel that this is a project I can really undertake! Angel Blessings!
Bernie from Corbin, KY on September 24, 2011:
one of the best lenses
anonymous on September 24, 2011:
An easier way to reach step 2 is to quarter fold three sheets of A4 (trimmed to 7" x 11" if you like, or 10" x 8", or whatever. In fact, if you live in USA, you'll probably have easier access to letter than A4 sized paper anyway), i.e. fold in half then in half again. Slot them inside each other with the folded edge at the same end, then guillotine the folded edge
chgreen on September 21, 2011:
One of the most detailed and wonderful lenses I've seen yet! I'm chicken to try it, but I know someone crafty that I'm going to send here to try it. :)
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on August 23, 2011:
@MustangFilly77: Hi! I got my leather off Ebay - just search for leather scraps :-)
Thanks for your interest
MustangFilly77 on August 22, 2011:
Really cool tutorial, but I was wondering, where did you buy the leather that you used? The only leather I can find for sale online is sold by 50sq. ft. minimums, and really expensive!
digtimepools on June 20, 2011:
Wow, finally squidoo lens with some real value. good job, I hope a few of mine are this helpful when I get them completed.
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on June 09, 2011:
It's up to you really but I personally wouldn't go more than double the number of pages in the journal above (so approx 200 pages max). Thanks for commenting :-)
anonymous on June 09, 2011:
Could you tell me the maximum number of pages that would be reasonable to bind in this format?
pixiepot on June 05, 2011:
Very interesting. I might give it a go. :D
Actiongames LM on May 31, 2011:
Wow vary detailed and easy to read.
Muzzie4848 on April 13, 2011:
Fantastic lens and very detailed. I have added your lens as a feature in my 3rd Wedding Anniversary Gift Ideas as the traditional and modern gift for this year is leather. What a great idea for a gift. Thank you.
resabi on February 19, 2011:
This is a very thorough and clearly presented lens on a great project. These journals can be used for anything -- and the soft spine and wrap-around cover makes it flexible enough to allow for photos and other paste-ins that normally would warp the book. How great. Your illustrations and photos add so much to this. Blessed.
bjslapidary on February 01, 2011:
Great leans. Thanks for sharing with me.
Fox Music on January 04, 2011:
Great Lens - Thank you
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 28, 2010:
Great idea....I would love to make this to keep copies of my blog and drawings for each year.
Mona from Iowa on November 28, 2010:
Okay this one is really awesome. Love it.
mirichandler on November 05, 2010:
Great original pics! Nice job!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on October 01, 2010:
This one should have 96 pages. Thanks for your comments!
anonymous on October 01, 2010:
How many pages is the finished product? Thank you for this how-to. I've been looking for a pocket sized journal with a nice thick feel to it, and I think I'll just make my own.
Kitsune64 on September 13, 2010:
This is great! I'm just starting to learn about bookbinding, and the resources here will help a lot. Thank you. :)