Earlier this year, my friend Gemma (who knows that I love new challenges), came up with this idea: “Camille, I want to make a leather notebook for my daughter, to record small events and funny pictures of her growing up, to give it to her when she’s older. Do you want to help me?”. Well, of course, I want to help, I’ll also make one (or more) for myself and as gifts! Wonderful idea!

There started our journey of bookbinding. We went on searching the web for tutorials, designs, ideas and ended up buying a bunch of material to get started.

Gathering the material ended up being part of the fun! First the leather. This was relatively easy. A Saturday afternoon at the Albert Cuyp markt in Amsterdam, and we found the stall we needed – no not the stroopwafels! – Then we just needed a work mat that artists use for all sorts of cutting, gluing, painting… while protecting their table! A tool to punch holes in the leather and the paper. And I guess the trickiest part was finding the waxed thread, but the internet saved us (I ended up using kitchen thread, the brown rustic type)! We also ordered beautiful recycled paper from a small ethical company in Nepal. Great stuff!

in summary: The List:

  • Leather (Not too hard, not too soft, depending on how strong/hard you want the cover of the book to be!)
  • Paper – we chose recycled paper with visible fiber from Nepal, but I also used normal printing paper)
  • a work mat
  • a leather punch (that we will use to punch holes in the leather ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
  • a metallic flat ruler
  • Thread – preferably waxed according to many websites, thick kitchen thread works great! (you will need the number of booklets x the height of your book + a bit extra: for me that means 4 booklets x 21cm = 84 cm, so I used 1m of thread)
  • Cutter, scissors, pencils, pens, ribbons, buttons, or anything to decorate the final work.

Pinterest was our friend for the whole duration of the project! we were always looking for ideas, patterns, tutorials… We were ready to get started!

bookbinding pattern

We then each decided on the looks and size, we wanted to give our books. And started by cutting the paper in A4

size in order to make A5 size booklets. I cut my sheets using the ruler to give a rough look to the pages. Gemma went for scissors to make clean cuts. Choose your style!

I made 4 booklets with 10 pages each (that’s 5 sheets folded in 2!)

Then I decided to cut the cover. My piece of leather had a triangle shape on the one side, and I decided to use it as a design for my book ( a triangle of leather comes back to the front of the book to close it).

Then the pattern for the bookbinding itself. I chose a simple pattern which still gives quite a nice look to the finished work. You can see the instructions on the image. It is quite easy, it just takes a bit of patience!

After the binding is done, the final touches can be added, for me, this meant a way of closing my notebook. I chose to use a big button, so I made a hole in the triangle flap and sewed a button on the front cover. For another booklet, I chose to use a ribbon and just attached it to the front cover and let it go around the whole book several times.

Creating things with your own hands is so rewarding, at first we are very critical of our own productions, but as we learn and become a bit more confident, it becomes such a pleasure. It is for me a moment of concentration and at the same time evasion. If I am making something for someone I love, the thing gains so much value as I put all my love into it. The key to a result that you are happy with is appreciation, and recognizing that you put a lot of effort into something even if it’s not perfect, You made it and that’s what matters. It is so personal and so much more than just buying a notebook at the store! You can get inspiration from anywhere and make it your own unique creation, that’s what makes it priceless for the lucky person that will receive it!

I hope you had fun! I did ๐Ÿ™‚