Wednesday, 27 February 2013

My handmade Traveler's Notebook

The Midori Traveler's Notebook is a design classic. But it is expensive. I wanted to see if I could make one myself. It turns out to be pretty easy.

I started with the leather. It's not easy to buy leather in the UK for some reason, but eBay came to my rescue. The type of leather you need is 2 to 3mm thick and you're clearly going to need a piece large enough to for the notebook cover. I found an eBay store specialising in leather and ... er ... related specialist interests. They had lots of pieces of leather. Here's what I went for. I bought a 'Large' piece, which measures approximately 30cm x 60cm, large enough for at least two full-size notebook covers and a few smaller, passport-size ones as well. The piece cost me £13.50 plus 99p postage. This was the single biggest expense.

I was delighted when the piece came that it had three straight, squared edges that needed no trimming at all. To measure the piece, I simply laid down my real notebook cover on the corner of the large piece and drew around it with a grease pencil. If you don't have a notebook cover to draw around, for a full-size cover you'll need to cut a piece that is 215mm x 255mm.

The next step is to set the fold. 3mm leather doesn't fold easily, but I found a great way to bend it to my will. I folded it in half to create a spine and laid the folded leather - kicking and screaming - between two pieces of wood that I then clamped together. I didn't tighten the clamps all the way, but enough to hold the fold in shape. An hour later, I released the leather and although it sprang open somewhat, I had an established fold that would become permanent with use.

Next, using a tiny leather punch and a hammer, I made 5 tiny holes in the leather along the spine. One was dead centre, then at each end I had one 5mm from the edge and another 20mm from the edge, like this:

Then, I used some thin elastic. With the notebook lying open in front of me, with the inside towards me, I threaded the elastic like this:

Pulling the loose ends tightly, I tied them together in a reef knot and trimmed the ends. Just like with the real thing, this is what will hold the main insert in place.

In the Midori Traveler's Notebook, the securing band comes out of a hole in the back cover, but I wanted mine to emerge from the spine. This is what the fifth hole is for. Getting the elastic both ways through that little hole is the trickiest part of the whole operation, but I worked out how to do it.

Pass some very thin thread through the eye of a thick needle - say an embroidery needle. Tie this thread into a loop with a knot as small and tight as you can manage. Now pass the elastic through this thread loop. You should have a rig that looks like this:

Pass the needle through the central hole from the inside to the outside and then cut the thin thread. This will leave you with a loop of elastic on the outside and loose ends of elastic on the inside, like this:

Tie off the ends, and you now have your closure loop. You are now done and will find your new notebook works just like the Midori Traveler's notebook. Here are some pictures of mine.

First of all, here is what the top of the spine looks like. You can see the two holes and the elastic threaded through them.

Next, here is the securing band emerging from the central hole in the spine:

And finally, a top view showing the cover loaded with three notebook inserts using the rubber band method:

This project is easy enough that I'd encourage anyone to have a go. The finished result is superb and will last a lifetime.
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