Gryphon prefers to use graph paper (quad paper) in his sketchbooks because it works equally well for drawing and writing. He uses them to work on drawings, RPG character designs, logos, poetry, and fiction. He and his closest friends often develop creative story lines they all work on simultaneously, writing fiction and drawing characters. Sometimes the works are collaborative and meant to fit together into one whole; other times the work is parallel, and exists in the same story arc.
When he filled his latest sketchbook (wire bound, black covers, serviceable but dull), Gryphon asked if we might find something that would have graph paper and be "cooler." I poked around online, not really finding anything. I realized I probably was going to have to create something for him. We took a field trip to Barnes & Noble so he could look at the way various writing journals were constructed. He loved the ones that had the leather flap that wrapped around and tied. He also really liked the embossed leather designs on some of the lined journals. Gryphon had one of them a few years prior as his special "writing notebook" for a language arts class, but lined paper just wasn't going to work.
Barnes & Noble had some refillable versions of both the wrapped and embossed types of leather-bound journals, but there weren't versions with graph paper, even as refills. Rather than drive myself insane trying to find a graph paper refill online and then try to match that refill size to a cover, I decided I could make one at least as nice as what Barnes & Noble had, and, most likely, make one nicer. (yeah, I know- not terribly modest of me!)
I did not want to deal with having to source sheets of graph paper large enough to use for pages to bind a book from scratch, so I purchased one of the very same journals you saw here in my DIY planner hack. (except this one was black.)
Note: Barnes & Noble sells these Miquelrius blank graph paper journals for $9.95 in their stores & online. (You have to search Miquel Rius as two separate words. Also, I'm not a Barnes & Noble affiliate.) Amazon carries the brand, but only seems to have the more expensive version of the same book for $15.99 - $23.99. The only real difference seems to be that the more expensive version has an elastic closure, which doesn't seem to justify the price difference.
I helped Gryphon find his old writing journal, and he agreed to sacrifice the cover for his new sketchbook.(Of course, we saved the book block full of writing.) I also snagged the ribbon bookmark from that journal. I dug through my leather stash, and found a leather upholstery remnant in the perfect color to match the cover piece. If I hadn't had green leather, I would have used black or navy.
I also found a zipper pocket I had cut out a thrifted leather bag that was about the right size for the project. (I had left the fabric interior pocket attached, so I had a fully working lined pocket.) The leather pocket was used to create a built in place for drawing/writing supplies.
TIP #1: Leather Sources
Your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store will have leather garments and bags that provide more leather for the same, or lower, price than you can buy the same amount of pieces of leather elsewhere. You'll find variety in color, texture and thickness. Be sure to read the label to be sure you are purchasing leather.
Also, upholstery remnants can be purchased from various decorator fabric places/re-upholstery places that work in leather.
TIP #2: Don't Use Leather?
Thrift stores are also a terrific source for quality faux leather materials. You can find lovely faux leather in the form of garments, and bags.
How to's are fairly straightforward:
I simply cut two pieces from the leather remant- one to create the cover and the other to create the tie.
To cut leather, and have it come out straight and smooth, I prefer to use a rotary cutter. Of course, I use a straight edge for the straight lines, but I used a dinner plate as a guide to create the curved edge for this cover.
TIP #3: Adhesives
I glued the book into place using Beacon 527 glue. Beacon Quick Grip would also work well. I use these glues when having a flexible, clear, waterproof bond is necessary. Both glues can be found at Wal Mart, Michael's, JoAnns, etc.
I glued the front cover of the Miquelrius book first and weighted with several heavy books.
After allowing to dry for 24 hours, I glued the bookmark to the spine, and glued the leather across the spine of the Miquelrius book.
Next, I glued the back of the Miquelrius book to the leather.
Before weighting it down to dry, I smoothed and tugged the leather tightly across the spine and back cover. Before weighting it down from the top, I placed a stack of books next to the spine, and a stack right next to the fore-edge of the newly adhered Miquelrius book; then, I stacked books on top to weight it all down. (the books on the sides prevented the Miquelrius book from sliding off the leather and helped keep the leather on the spine nice and tight. I allowed it to dry for 24 hours.
I glued in the leather tie, making it stronger by feeding it through the leatehr cover in a couple spots. This takes the stress off just one point. I glued all points of contact between the tie and the cover. I weighted it down, also, and allowed it to dry.
Next, I glued the decorative pieces we had cut off of Gryphopn's old writing journal. Besides using the cover, I also used the spine. I placed waxed paper on top of and under the cover, wrapped the leather around, and weighted it down.
To attach the pocket:
I trimmed the scavenged pocket, making sure it fit and the whole thing would wrap nicely. Then, I tucked wax paper inside, and glued the leather front of the pocket to the fabric interior pocket. I weighted it down, and allowed it to dry.
Next, I replaced the wax paper with a clean piece, and glued the back side of the scavenged pocket to the interior of the leather flap. I weighted it down, and allowed it to dry. To create a zipper pull, I cut a bitty strip of the green leather, threaded it through the loop on the zipper, and sewed a few stitches through the green leather strip near the loop to hold the zipper pull in place.
The drying time required between each step might seem daunting as it makes the project take a few days. However, given the sketchbook was going to be carried around in a backpack full of school books, get lost in a teenage boy's messy room, fall off any number of flat surfaces, I really wanted it to hold together. Allowing adhesives to dry completely, and weighting down the surface are important for creating a strong bond.
In fact, the photos you see are what the sketchbook looks like after several months of use! I just shot these images this week. (This morning, I found Gryphon's sketchbook open and tangled in the blankets on his bed looking just fine!)