Long Stitch Leather Journals

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A tiny, 2″ tall book made with lamb leather, lavender bookbinding thread, and jewelry charms. Zig-zag stitching.

A few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful lambskin leather hide on eBay that was quite a steal. This weekend I finally decided to use it. I busted out my bookbinding tools, and tried my hand at some leather journals in the long stitch binding style. I had never done this type of bookbinding before, but it was easy to translate the skill from regular textblock sewing, into sewing exposed stitches through a soft cover. I used Pinterest for some pattern inspiration, and added my own flair to things. You can check out my bookbinding board on Pinterest here.Long stitch sewing is a really easy style to learn. it’s also fun, and yields beautiful, practical books. There’s no glue involved, which takes out a lot of the difficult work involved in other types of binding. It’s also easy to do without any special bookbinding tools, which can be expensive. One of the best things about them though, is that the signatures are sewn onto a very flexible cover. This means that the book opens completely flat, which is perfect for sketchbooks or manuscript books. And, who are we kidding, we all love that old-timey travel journal look.

Now, because I had never done this before, I was scared to waste any of my precious leather. I got it for an amazing deal, but you still don’t want to waste quality leather. So I decided to start with tiny books, so I could use small pieces of leather from the outer edges of the skin. The outer parts are stretchier and are usually avoided in other types of bookbinding. These books were a little over 2 inches tall. I started out just using thread on the spines, and trying out different patterns I thought would look nice; french lace stitch, typical long stitch, zig-zags, and weaving ideas.

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My first set of tiny books. You can see some of the spines are crinkled from where I pulled the threads too tight on the French lace patterns.

I also used the hand-made recycled paper I made at a recent paper-making workshop I attended for the decorative end sheets. I have all different colors- red, purple, green, gray, blue, etc., and it was nice to use them and play with the thread and paper colors for the books.

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An open tiny book, which shows the handmade recycled paper end pages, and the shape of the open cover of the books.

After making a bunch of tiny books, I decided to trust myself and make a large journal. I made this journal about 9 inches tall and 6 inches wide. I spent more time thinking about the stitching design, and decided to try a regular long stitch, but at varying lengths so they created a nice shape. I used lavender thread, and my favorite hand-made papers for the end sheets, a gray paper with flecks of book text and silver foil embedded on the surface.

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My first large journal after the initial sewing, illustrating the decorative long stitch pattern.

After it was done, I thought it looked a little bland; it needed a little bit of oomph. I added on a flower charm and did some hand beaded detailing. It took forever, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

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Finished with the beaded details.
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A close up of the hand stitched detailing. I used an awl to make the needed holes before sewing the beads on.

Now I decided to make a medium sized journal, and decided to experiment with incorporating beads and charms into the stitching. It resulted in my favorite journal so far. It’s about 4 and a half inches tall and 3 inches wide. I used green thread against the brown leather, and golden brass beading details.

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A beaded, Celtic inspired long stitch journal, showing the spine detail.

Now, I love how beautiful these journals are, but they are also great because they are so practical. They open completely flat because of their flexible leather spine, which many people look for in sketchbooks and journals. And while I used a thin leather, using a thicker leather on a long stitch journal creates a very durable cover.

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Long stitch journals open completely flat.

That’s the end of my long stitch bookbinding escapades from this weekend. I just received six new leather hides in aqua, mustard yellow, brown, dark green, purple/pink, and wine purple in the mail today, so be on the look out for more books. Follow me on Instagram for updates!

Also, be on the lookout for an upcoming tutorial on how to make a long stitch book at home, coming soon.

Long stitch journals open completely flat.
A shot of my favorite gray hand made recycled paper I used for end sheets in my larger journal.
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