The kids are in a constant state of doodling and ask me for stacks of paper every other minute. I love that they want to write, draw and doodle and I want to encourage this. You’ll remember that we made these cereal box sketch books a little while back to do just that.
To keep the enthusiasm going, and to kick things up a notch, we invited leather expert extraordinaire, Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked and her daughter Hattie, to come and help us make our very own set of DIY leather journals! Woohoo!
To make these journals you’ll need the following:
- A piece of scrap leather the color you like and large enough for the size of journal you want to make. I would suggest taking the kids on a field trip to your local leather shop. They’ll love learning about all the different types and colors of leather to pick from. Susan suggests choosing a type of leather that is soft and easy to fold but still thick and durable.
- Rotary cutter and ruler/straight edge
- Interior papers. I suggest introducing your child to some nicer papers such as fine art drawing or water color paper which are a perfect companion to leather. Just don’t go too think or it will be more difficult to fold.
- Sewing machine and thread (or thick sturdy needle and thread if you want to teach a simple book binding technique by hand such as we used here).
- Spray glue for adhering horse stencil
- Acrylic craft paint
Now that you have your tools, you are ready to start assembling your journals!
- Using a straight edge and a rotary cutter, cut your scrap of leather to the size you want your journal. Have fun with it. Think about whether or not your want your journal to open at the sides like Hattie’s or on the top like Aj’s. It can be square or long and rectangular.
- Now cut down your interior papers about 1/8″ smaller than the size of your leather on all sides. Fold them in half, pressing firmly to enforce the fold. Separate the papers into two groups of about 4-5 papers each.
- Sew down the middle of each paper group. This is great beginning sewing machine activity for your little ones. Just be sure to supervise.
- Repeat for the second group of paper.
- Now place first paper grouping on top of your leather and sew once again down the middle (you might want to have your bobbin thread match the color of the leather for this step).
- Repeat this process for the second paper grouping, right on top of the first.
- Now fold your journal closed and the assembly part is complete!
Now for the fun part. Decorating your journals! To create AJ’s horse you will need to use our template to create a stencil which you can download by clicking the image below.
After downloading the stencil, we took a side of a cereal box and cut out the shape of the horse and then another small piece for the eye.
Freshly Picked suggests her tried and true method of using spray glue to temporarily adhere the stencil to the top of the leather journal (use a tiny tab of spray glue to the eye shape and placing it within the stencil as well). Susan then goes on to share how after much trial and error she has found that mixing equal parts acrylic craft paint and glue helps to keep the paint from slipping underneath the stencil. Brilliant!
After the paint is dry, you can remove the stencil to reveal your new horse!
And to recreate Hattie’s journal, simply have your little one dab a few loose dots of craft paint onto their journal cover and let it dry. Done and done! We love Hattie’s freestyle spotted look but you could use the pencil eraser approach for more uniform dots if you wish.
And now that your little Rembrandt has a beautiful new custom leather journal (created by them!) they are ready for some Tuscan drawing sessions. And if you can’t make it to Italy to draw the great structures of Rome, we suggest just sending them outdoors to record their surroundings, ecological finds and imaginary musings. Oh and these fit sooo perfectly inside their backpacks. A perfect back-to-school staple for sure!