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  • Writer's pictureChristie

A Handmade Midori Style Travel Notebook

A few weeks ago we decided to go on a trip to Bethlehem, PA. I had a goal to create a leather midori style notebook to keep my smaller travel notebooks inside.

A few years back, I began making it a point to keep a daily journal on trips. To make the practice more accessible and less overwhelming, I decided to put these entries into the Moleskine Cahier style journals. They come in sets of 3 and are very thin and easy to carry around individually on trips. I filled up the first one, and started my second, and I wanted a way to keep them all together when I wasn't traveling. This is where the Midori style travel notebook comes in. I chose a Midori style notebook, because it's essentially just a leather cover with elastic bands used to hold multiple notebooks inside.

Here is the end result.

For this project, I used a piece of teal fabric that I had in my stash for a few years. It was purchased off Amazon before I figured out that you can simply repurpose clothing (like leather maxi skirts) that you find at goodwill. Regardless, The leather is a mid-weight and fairly nice quality.

I knew that I wanted this journal to have lots of fun details. I don't intend to travel with it, and intend to not put it into a bookshelf. Instead it will lay flat on a shelf as a decorative object. With this in mind, I didn't mind if it turned out a little bit bulky.

I was honestly expecting this project to be fairly easy, although a bit time consuming due to the level of details I wanted. It ended up being fairly challenging - mostly because I didn't have the appropriate leather-working supplies that would have made this project easier. Even still, It took me roughly 4 hours to complete, which isn't too bad, considering.

The technically hardest part of this project was definitely cutting the leather in a perfect rectangle. I was using a rotary cutter, and found that the leather was a bit pliable and kept wanting to stretch a bit. I ended up needing to trim it a bit on one side since the corners didn't quite line up when I closed it in half. I'm sure there's a trick to this and it would likely just take practice (and maybe a bit more research) to figure out.

For the design, I didn't really have a reference. I just decided to use supplies that I had. To match the teal, I decided to cut out the embroidery project that I documented in this post, and use it as a centerpiece for the front. I cut a circular window out of the leather so to frame the embroidered design, and sewed beads through every other stitch to add texture. I used a multi-colored embroidery thread to put it in place and to frame the embroidery. I used these beautiful metallic japanese seed beads and was happy with the resulting colors and texture they added.

After this, I decided to do some decorative stitching along the edges of the journal. This was also done using multicolored embroidery thread that I had on-hand. This was definitely the most challenging part of the whole project. I didn't have the right tool to poke the holes for the stitching, and ended up needing to use an awl on each indent I made with the tool that I did have and use to make the stitch holes even. I understand now why leatherworkers wear thick leather aprons - While stitching, the number of times that I nearly stabbed myself in the thigh was kind of disturbing. :) The thread was kind of slinky, so I put a dot of glue when I needed to make a knot on the stich and start a new row of thread. The process of sewing this edge took the longest amount of time. Between sewing in the embroidery window and sewing decorative stitching along the edge, this accounted for about 3/4 of the work.

Once that was done, however, it was smooth sailing. I found some elastic that I had in my stash, as well as some of my favorite beads and cut the elastic to fit. I punched 3 holes into the center spine of my notebook strung the beads on where I wanted them, and threaded them through the holes on the spine. The beads make it a bit bulky, but I think it's really cute when wrapped around the journal.

If you'd ask if I'd do this again, I would probably say no, although if I had the right tools to make the holes easier and if I could figure out how to easily cut the leather in a perfect rectangle, I would definitely say yes.

Overall, I am extremely happy with how it turned out. It is a relatively simple project that doesn't take very long, especially for the end-result which is both functional and can look extremely nice. If you're interested in making your own Midori style journal, check out this video by Sealemon. You will need to adjust the measurements based on what you want, but it's pretty straightforward. If you you do end up making a journal, please send me a picture on instagram - I would love to see it!


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