Mar 04, 2017Making a Simple Leather Journal Cover

A Faux Dori, leather Journal or Bullet Journal cover
Finished journal cover and some of the tools used. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

My original idea of keeping my wallet insert in with my journal works fine. And my full Bujo with the wallet will fit into my pants pocket. However, it weighs around 1 lb, and is bulky, which is a pain when you are just popping out to the store, going hiking or backpacking. I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a second leather journal cover just for my personal journal (not Bujo) and a smaller wallet insert. The idea being I’ll use this for running around. For the moment I’ve moved my full wallet insert over into the new cover, and we’ll see how it goes.

It took me a couple of hours to make, and whether you make your own or buy a cover depends on how much you value your time vs the creative satisfaction obtained from making it. I’m all for saving money, I enjoyed making it, and I needed another excuse to procrastinate.

leather, craft knife and rule - the essentials for making a new leather bullet journal cover
Apica CD10 Notebook and the makings of a new journal/wallet cover. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Making a Leather Journal Cover

I found that the hardest part is selecting the leather. It needs to be rigid enough to protect your notebook(s), but not so stiff as to be impossible to fold. Leather thickness is measured in ounces (It just is, I have no idea why). My journal cover and the leather seen here is 9 oz.

Before I started I made a test cover from card to make sure I had all the sizes right.

Having got the difficult bit out of the way, I used a Sharpie to mark the desired height and width on the face of the leather, and the steel rule and craft knife to cut the leather. You’ll need a surface to work on that you don’t mind damaging – I used a cutting mat. I used a quarter to mark the curve on the corners and followed the line I drew with the craft knife. I cut from the finished side of the leather. I used a small drill bit to make the holes, I found it helps to push a punch through a little to stretch the holes.

This journal is made to hold two notebooks, so I have just two holes top and bottom of the spine for the lacing. I’ve found setting the holes ¼” from the edges has worked for me. I also make a hole in the center of the spine for the closure. Some people prefer it to be in the middle of one of the cover pages so it can be used to hold the pages down, or as a marker. I don’t like the lump in the middle of the page, I’ve stuck with the hole in the center of the spine.

How to thread an elastic cord through leather
Tip on threading pesky cords. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

I have no idea who gave me this tip. Probably Ginger from her sewing experience. Whoever it was, I do know that this tip works. In this case, I’m using a loop of fishing line to pull the 1mm elastic cord through.

Lacing for two inserts (Two holes top and bottom in the spine) – 1mm shock cord

Starting inside the cover:

  • Top Right to Top Left,
  • to Bottom Left to Bottom Right,
  • and tie off.
Photograph showing how to lace the shockcord in a home made journal cover.
Journal Lacing. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

I used 1mm cord for the closure as well as for holding the notebook(s) in place. I’d prefer to use a 3mm closure cord, but apparently (after much searching), I don’t have any at the moment. Once I get some, I’ll slightly enlarge the hole in the spine and swap the cord.

Lacing for four inserts (Three holes top and bottom in the spine) – 1mm shock cord

Starting inside the cover:

  • Top Right to Top Middle,
  • to Bottom Middle to Bottom Left,
  • to Top Left to Top Middle,
  • to Bottom Middle to Bottom Right,
  • and tie off.
Everyday Carry Journal Lacing. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Dimensions: Leather Journal / BuJo Compact size (Two A6 notebooks, ½ Inch Spine)

Overall cover dimensions: 9 ¾” x 6 ¼”. Size guide. I allowed 4 ½” for the front and back covers, ½” for the spine and ¼” for the folds. The holes for the 1mm elastic cord holding notebooks are positioned ¼” from the top and bottom edge.

Finishing Touches

If the leather is a bit rough on the edges, I found some very fine sandpaper will clean it up. I don’t know if this is a recommended method, but it worked for me.

I also added an inside cover – the white sheet in the pictures – out of 100 lb card stock. I added a couple of fold-up pockets taped along the edges with sticky tape. These hold business cards etc… I was concerned the pockets wouldn’t last long, but after a year of constant daily use and they are still holding up fine.

Finally, I tied ribbon place markers to the cords. Getting different colored ribbons can be difficult unless you want to buy several yards of each color. Amazon is your friend, I bought a whole bunch of ⅛” ribbons for a few dollars.

Update, December 2019. After two-and-a-half years of constant use, the tape on one of the pockets of the inside cover broke and the paper had got a bit grubby, so I made a new one.

Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

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