Tutorial: Rustic Leather Sketchbook

We're going to be posting tutorials for stocking stuffer gifts for children every day this week. I loved opening stocking gifts when I was a kid but now I am a mom responsible for filling that stocking up and I don't enjoy the process as much. Filling the stocking always seems to be a last-minute chore where I spend too much money and buy too much plastic junk and candy. So this year, I am working ahead, using materials I already have in my studio, to make gifts for my boys and Laura's boys to put in their stockings.

This first tutorial is the most complicated, but also makes a nice gift for almost anyone- it's a little rustic leather sketchbook. My boys are always sketching something or writing down potions and spells, this 32-page sketchbook will serve well for anything they come up with. If you don't want to use leather you could use felt or a sturdy felted sweater piece. 

Now I am not a book maker by any means, but I managed to make a sturdy little journal and you can make one too. You will need:

  • Four pieces of paper, 8.5"x11"
  • Leather or suede scraps, one 5x7" and one 3x4" 
  • Embroidery floss
  • Beeswax
  • Scissors
  • Xacto knife
  • Straight edge
  • Cutting mat
  • Large sturdy needle
  • Sewing machine

Begin by cutting your paper- fold all four pieces in half horizontally, open up and cut along the fold. Fold them again and cut along the fold. Fold the pieces again but don't cut.

You will have four little booklets. Put two each together so you have two booklets with eight sheets of paper each. Stitch down the center fold using your sewing machine. I loosened the tension a bit and made the stitch length a bit longer than usual.

Now, mark 5 spots along the spine, just eyeball it so they are about even. The critical thing is that the marks are in the same spot on each booklet. Don't put the marks too close to the edge of the paper, I made mine just under 1/4" from the edge.

Using a sturdy large needle, twist a hole through the booklets on the marks.  

Run about two feet of embroidery floss lightly over beeswax. Thread floss on your sturdy needle. Sew through both holes on the bottom of the booklets and knot. Pass the needle from front to back in the second hole.

Bring the needle around the spine and back down through the same hole. Then go up through from back to front in the third hole. 

Continue stitching up the spine, alternating stitches on the front and back and work your way to the top and back down, wrapping around the spine at each hole. Pull everything good and snug but not too tight- I pulled right through the paper on my first book.

When you reach the starting point, knot off your floss and trim the ends. Now set the paper aside for a bit. 

Cut a template from paper that measures 6.25x4.75." Trace around your template.

Cut it out and fold in half crossways. Draw a curve to round the corners. Cut on your marks with the leather folded so each side matches.

Here's what you have so far-

Cut a ovalish or circle shape from your other piece of leather and cut in a spiral to make lacing for a tie. You want a piece that is about 18" long.

Now, using a pencil, lightly draw a line on the right side of the leather to mark the center- 3.125" from the edge. Lay the paper booklet on the right side of the leather and mark the hole placement on the leather. Your paper will look too wide right now, but you will trim it in a minute.

Wax and thread about two feet of embroidery floss on your needle again. Starting on the inside, pass the needle under one of the floss "bars" on the spine. Stick it out through to the front of the cover and up to the second mark on the cover, through the cover and up under the second floss bar. Then go back out through that second hole, up to the third mark.  Lay the lacing over the third mark and sew through the lacing and the cover. Sew under and around the third bar, and so on up the spine. Work your way back down the same way. 

Cut the edges of the paper so the edges are even and don't stick out from the cover. Press firmly on the straight edge and lightly slide the xacto knife down the edge repeatedly until you work your way through the whole stack of paper. This makes a nice even edge.

Knot and trim the floss, your sketchbook is done! 

Tomorrow I will post a super-simple and silly pencil topper made from scraps of yarn.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, visit our Tutorials and Patterns page for more like it. Also check out our ebook, Handwork for the Holidays, we designed 14 lovely gifts and decorations for you to sew, knit and craft.