Saturday, August 11, 2012

Handbound Leather Wrapped Journal With Summer Gold Handmade Paper

I'm very excited to bring you my first blog post for the Arnold Grummer Design Team! Today's post combines beautiful handmade paper with my love of bookbinding. The result is a rustic handbound leather wrapped journal filled with gorgeous handmade paper.
The journal's leather cover is premium Italian Lambskin from Italy. I used the Arnold Grummer Papermill Complete Kit  and Arnold Grummer's Summer Gold Botanicals along with a warm, creamy, medium weight scrap paper to make the handmade paper, and then bound the leather to the paper with waxed Irish linen thread.

Let's take a look at the materials for this journal:
  • 5 sheets of absolutely gorgeous 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"  handmade paper
  • Leather (can use leather from an old handbag, or jacket)
  • Bone folder, popsicle stick, or fingernail
  • Scissor/Rotary cutter
  • Awl
  • Waxed Irish linen thread
  • Needle (with eye large enough for thread)
Once you have your materials together take one sheet of paper, fold it in half, and score the paper by running the bone folder down the folded edge to give you a sharp edge that will tear easily. Now carefully tear the paper in two along the folded line you just scored.

Now your one 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" sheet of paper has become two smaller sheets. You will repeat the folding, scoring and tearing with each of your two new, smaller sheets of paper. When all is said and done, you will have a total of four even smaller sheets of paper all from the one original sheet you started with.

Repeat this process with all five sheets of 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" paper until you have a lovely little stack of twenty of the smallest sheets of paper. They should be about the size of a business card.

Now, this next step is exciting because you will begin to see your handbound journal begin to take the shape of a book! So let's get started making the pages! Take one of your twenty little sheets of paper and fold it in half. Press down the folded edge with the bone folder, or your fingernail. Repeat this step for a total of five sheets of paper.

Now place one folded sheet inside of the other over and over until all five sheets are stacked one inside of the other like a little book.

 What you have just made is called a "signature." You are going to make four signatures, meaning four little stacks of pages that resemble a book. Each of the four signatures will be made up of five sheets folded in half and stacked one inside of the other.
These are finished signatures. You are making four. I know there are six in the picture, but as I was writing this blog my son started throwing up so I had to make a quicker version : )
When you stack your signatures together you get an idea of what your journal will look like. After you make your first book, you will begin looking at books in a different way - you'll start to see the structure of a book. And then you'll know you're smitten.
With our signatures prepared, we can now figure out how much leather we need for our journal's cover. It is not an exact science - that is what makes art beautiful.
Make sure your leather is squared off, then lay the stack of four signatures along the top and side edge of the leather (the corner). The edges of the paper are not even, but do your best to even them up with the edge of the leather.
Next, carefully flip the paper and the leather over.
Then flip the excess leather over the top of the journal.
Now you can decide where you would like the "wrap" part of your cover to end. I usually cut it about 3/4 of the way across the book. Mark your spot with a little slit then unfold. While you have the signatures still lined up in the corner of the leather, mark the bottom edge of the book with a slit on the leather, then remove your signatures from the leather. You can use a pencil and a straight edge to continue out the slits you marked on the cover. Then cut out the rectangular shaped cover with a rotary cutter or scissor.

Once the cover is cut out, wrap it around the journal and see if you like it! It should look something like this...
You can leave the end straight, trim it, rough it up - try different looks to find what you like best.
You can also use different materials for the strap that wraps around your journal and holds it closed. I use a strip of matching leather, but you can experiment with ribbon, raffia, baling twine, or even use buttons or other types of closures.
It's time to mark the inside of your signatures and punch the holes for sewing. You'll do this with the leather cover also. Make a pencil mark along the center fold 1/4" from each end, and then make another pencil mark along the center fold 1" from each end. Repeat this with all four signatures.
Then take your awl, or needle and punch a hole through each pencil mark all the way through all five sheets of paper. Repeat this with all four signatures.
Stack all four signatures one on top of the other, and place them at your left edge of the rectangular leather cover as even with the edge as you can get it, level with the top and bottom. Now your going to punch four holes in the leather in a vertical line corresponding to the holes on the spine of your signatures.

You're doing great! Once you've completed your four vertical holes in the leather cover, remove the stack of signatures. Now you are going to make three holes 5/8" apart in a horizontal line next to each of the four vertical holes. It's easier than it sounds : ) Look carefully at the picture below and you'll see what it should look like when you are finished.
Time to bind our cover to the paper - let's get sewing! You'll need to thread your needle with 18" of waxed Irish linen thread. Then insert the needle into the top right-hand hole entering from the outside and exiting on the inside.

As you bring your needle through the inside of the leather cover, place one of your signatures inside the cover and push your needle through an end hole of the signature from outside to inside, just like you did with the cover. When pulling the thread through, leave a two inch tale of thread hanging from the outside of your cover.

Now bring your needle down and through the next hole in the signature and continue through the next hole in the cover. Your needle will be on the outside of the cover again and ready to go through the third hole in the cover, and signature. Continue this with the last (4th) hole in the leather cover and signature and your needle and thread should be on the outside.

When you've finished binding the first signature to the cover, give a gentle tug on both ends of the thread to make it taut. This is what the inside and outside of your journal will look like...

Now move the needle over to the next horizontal hole and push it through the cover and the second signature. Continue sewing in and out of the holes in the cover and signature just like you did before. Then when you get to the bottom, gently pull the ends of the thread taut again, and move the needle to the next horizontal hole. Repeat the process until you have sewn in all four signatures and you have two ends of the thread hanging out of the outside of the cover. Tie the ends of the thread together with two square knots and snip the thread off about 1/4" from the knot. I hold the journal between my knees while I tie the knots, it's just easier.

Now tack the strip of leather you will wrap around your amazing journal to the cover. A few simple stitches will do. Tie your thread off, and snip it off. Wrap it around your journal and smile, because you rock!

You just made a handbound leather wrapped journal filled with 80 pages (front and back) of gorgeous handmade paper!


I love bookbinding, and I fall in love with every journal I make. I make and sell these journals in various colors, sizes and styles. Please contact me if you would like to order one.

I hope this post will inspire you to give papermaking and bookbinding a try. Both are ancient art forms steeped in history and never fail to "wow" people with their beauty.

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Many thanks to all my readers in the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and Malaysia! My goal is to take the whole world on a creative journey!

Many Blessings,

Jana : )