(Faux) Faux Leather Journal . . .

. . . From Recycle (for the most part.) Yes, two fauxs - since this faux leather is paper and not cloth. I figure, if faux leather is made from cloth, that this is a paper faux of the cloth faux. Have I lost you yet? eep!

Yep, I made most of it from recycled items. I bought the leather cord that closes it at Target and I bought the skeleton key on etsy, and all other components are recycled (of course the thread to sew the signatures and the glue to bind the cover to the liner is not recycled, but that probably should go without saying.)

This journal took a couple of months of migration and morphation (new word! Yay me!) to find what it wanted to be. It started with a piece of junk mail. Yep, junk mail - back in October I had a tri-fold cardboard mailer delivered to my mailbox with a free sample attached inside. I started to throw it all away when inspiration jumped right off the card. I removed the sample and the sticky that held it in place as well as the sticky that held the mailer closed and turned that tri-fold card over two or three times and confirmed that yes it would be a good start for a tri-fold journal cover. And so it's journey to a new life began.
I started out by breaking the glossy finish it arrived with. I took an emery file to it and filed some, wiped that down with an alcohol wipe, sanded some more, wiped some more - repeated until I felt that enough of the gloss was gone. Next up was a couple of coats of gesso. From there I tried different painted designs but none really felt like what I wanted so I would paint over that with something different. That poor tri-fold finally had reached a point where I was going to have to start over with a new coat of gesso or go darker to cover what all was there. That's when the faux leather jumped in. I had seen it done with brown paper bags, but I really didn't want to add too much bulk so I opted to use tissue paper. I painted a base coat of red and black acrylic paint and once that dried I added a good coat of burnt umber watercolor (tube) mixed with Collage Pauge. I then laid pieces of torn white tissue paper in the wet paint mixture and let that dry. When it dried to a tacky stage I started pressing the wrinkles down so that there was texture, but not peaks and valleys. Once dry I thought I would add a little variation to the color and added some raw umber watercolor, but that was too muddy looking. I tried to dab that back off but it would not all lift off so I tried to darken it with some black. Not that successful I finally had to nearly delete my tube of burnt umber to get back the color I liked best. Lesson learned: (again - I say again because I have to keep learning this lesson) less is more - stop while you are ahead!
Laid flat
Next up was to figure out the pages for the inside. That one took me a couple of days but I finally remembered an old sketch book that I have had for years (had pictures drawn way back in 1978). I had it in the bottom of a drawer in my bedroom because it was really too large to carry around. The front cover was missing and the back cover was to thin to use unless the book was on a table. I had not drawn anything in it for over two decades, so it was a very good candidate! And, serendipity . . . the paper had aged to a wonderful yellowing that went so well with a distressed faux leather journal!

And another piece of good fortune was that the size of the old sketchbook worked perfectly with the size of the journal cover. I tore the pages out of the sketchbook, cut them in half horizontally and then trimmed off the ragged paper ends from the spiral-wire binding and folded them in half - perfect fit! I could not have gotten any luckier! I then had sweet hubby make me a homemade book-press and proceeded to press all the signatures to get a nice tight fold and finish.

At this point I had started researching how to bind the journal and in my research I saw several handmade [real] leather journals that were closed with a leather cord and a skeleton key and knew that mine would be also. I found the leather cord at a local Target store and the skeleton key on etsy.

While all these parts were coming together I pondered several options for the inside lining. I decided I wanted a cloth of some sort, but since I had no suede leather available (and before I researched how to make my own) I decided one of hubby's old woven cotton work shirts would do just fine - except for the color. But that was easily remedied with some Noodler Polar Brown ink diluted in water. I cut a square of the shirt back and drenched it in the ink water. Squeezed out the excess and ironed the cloth, both to dry it and to flatten it. I had to repeat that process since once was not really as dark as I was hoping for. I then used the cover off an easel pad to add some firmness - just a little - the easel cover is cardboard, but a very very thin flimsy cardboard. But it was just the right level of firmness for what I needed.
Pieces and Parts
Coming together

 Next up was sewing the pages. Here is where I learned that the folded pages are called folios and the stacked folios create signatures. So I put together seven signatures with six folios in each. I have no idea how I came up with the page counts - it just kinda happened because I was cutting, folding, collating and stacking all at the same time and when I thought my stack was as thick as I wanted my journal to be I stopped. Sometimes lack of planning just works okay.

I decided to order an awl to make holes for the sewing and I also ordered some waxed linen thread to sew the pages so those are supplies that I purchased to make the journal, but they will also be used for other journal making (in fact the awl was already used to make a journal with my granddaughter earlier this month - see my previous blog post dated Dec. 15). I sewed the signatures onto the inside liner since I had no clue of any other way to get them to stay since I'm not sure I would trust gluing the signature block in.
Once I had my signatures sewn in I then glued the inside liner with the signatures to the faux leather journal cover. I once again used the homemade book-press my dear hubby made me to put pressure on the journal as the glue set up so that I would not have bubbles and buckles.
So there you have it. And I've added a bit of journaling to the first page already :D
And now, just for giggles and grins, here are a few pages from the old oversize sketchbook. The sketchbook still has plenty of pages that I can use in the future as well as any doodles and drawing from the past. I may find some other use for the drawings some day or they may just spend another couple of decades buried in a dresser drawer.
Time will tell.
Apparently from the first time I read The Hobbit and LOTR.

Copied from some graphic in a coastal newspaper.

Morning Glories (this one has my reference date: 8-78.)

Another from that coastal newspaper. I once wanted to live on a beach forever.


  1. Lord this is BEAUTIFUL!!! Thank you for the fabulous tut!

  2. That faux leather is absolutely amazing. It looks great. Thanks for sharing your technique.

  3. Absolutely wonderful. I love that faux leather cover.


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