Help me start my new awesome hobby!
October 3, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I would like to start learning how to make leather journals. I really don't know where to start. More inside.

I need a hobby. Badly. I realized a while back that I would like to create something with my hands, and keep off the computer in my spare time. I bought a leather journal for my wife for a Valentine's gift a while back, and as I looked through all the various leather bound journals available, I thought that I could design a cooler leather journal than most of these people. So I'd like to get started learning. I'd like to learn the leatherworking and bookbinding skills first, then as I get more confident, I'd like to learn how to attach metal emblems and decorations to my journals, and eventually, how to make my own paper.

Any thoughts on where there are good tutorials for this? Not general leatherwork, but specifically for leather journal making/bookbinding? I'd like to find places that can walk a newbie through this process. The types of journals that I'm looking to create would be similar to Rogue Journals, but I'd like to incorporate metal pieces into the journals as well.

Also, I'm really not that interested in making money at this, I just need to find a hobby that I can take joy in and work with, and where I have created something at the end of the day that's not on a computer. :)
posted by Spyder's Game to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Google around for "Medieval limp binding", that's a good place to start and resembles one of the journals you linked to.

Here's a few blog entries with a walkthrough.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:23 AM on October 3, 2012

Oh, and check with local art supply stores. I know of at least two in my area that carry bookbinding supplies. Yours might be able to recommend someplace that offers classes.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2012

I had a lovely, long reply written, and then lost it. Sigh. Rather than going on at length again, I'll try to hit the highlights.

I was a little worried when you first started talking about leather, because working with leather in bookbinding is really tough. I'm a largely self-taught bookbinder, and I'd still strongly recommend classes if you want to learn leather bookbinding in the traditional sense. (I'm not there yet, myself, but if/when I decided to get into leather bindings, I'll definitely be starting with a class.) Luckily, what you're talking about are limp leather bindings, which (to my knowledge) don't really involve any paring or anything else too complicated. Basically, you'll just cut things down to size and sew the signatures in. Easy-peasy (relatively speaking).

The page you've linked to looks to have some longstitch structures. There are plenty of tutorials for them online; you might want to start here. Hopefully having that term will help you in your search for other videos, tutorials, books, etc.

Keith Smith's books come highly recommended by bookbinders/book artists everywhere. They're on my shortlist, although I don't have them yet. It looks like you'd be wanting Volume I Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue first and foremost, though; I think the other two in the series branch off from that one.

With regards to leatherworking, I can't offer any tips, but the nice thing about books with exposed stitching is that the very structure of the book doubles as a decoration, and there are tons of ways to vary the stitching to create all kinds of fun, interesting designs. As for paper making... well, that's another adventure entirely. But if you do some reading up on the basic processes, you'll learn about things like paper grain that will (or at least should) affect how you create your notebooks now.

Congratulations on picking an awesome hobby! I know, I'm biased... but it is seriously fun, and you get some great products out of it to boot. (Plus, if you're poor thrifty like me, you can do cool things like make people super-personalized and awesome gifts, create the guestbook for your own wedding, never have to buy a notebook in a store again... whatever floats your boat.) If I can help with anything else, let me know!
posted by divisjm at 9:44 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took a book binding class and it was terrific. Check out community college art courses?

Even if they don't specifically do leather journals, it would get you acquainted with the basics of creating page blocks, which you could then mary with your leather worked covers. I'm thinking you'd use the leather cover, where you would use a tail band for a traditional hard cover book.

This was the book my professor recommended. If a class isn't an option, maybe this book could get you started?

One general piece of advice would be to get yourself some cheap media to start with. Quality tools are always a good investment, but start with cheaper media. I've easily put $60 of very nice paper into a modestly sized journal. While you'll certainly come to appreciate the quality of better materials, don't let cost intimidate you from experimenting and actually making things. A $4 ream of nicer computer paper will make several lovely books. A $40 stack of ivory, dappled edge fine rag cotton will make a really nice book, but you're probably not going to make one a week at that price.
posted by fontophilic at 10:20 AM on October 3, 2012

Bookbinding is one of my hobbies (you can see some of my long stitch books here if you'd like) and though I use vinyl instead of leather, the concept is basically the same. I've used quite a few instructional books as well as online tutorials like this one (though not that one in particular), and I can also definitely recommend Cover to Cover by Shereen LePlantz. It was my go-to book for quite a while.

Leather journals generally use a long stitch (of which there are many varieties) and, luckily, long stitched journals are very easy and work up quickly once you learn the technique. Even the addition of a bit of chain stitching at the top and bottom of the spine (like I tend to do) adds very little extra time and complexity.

Good luck! It really is a very fun and satisfying hobby. if you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.
posted by eunoia at 11:38 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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