Project: Birthday Gift For An Artist

by Susan Green December 03, 2015

Project: Birthday Gift For An Artist

This month I worked on a completely one-off, never to be repeated leather journal / sketchbook for a very special person. An artist-educator who herself works with books in their many forms including altered books and artist's books, a stationery addict who likes to write (especially on squared paper) and sketch, someone who loves colour and finds beauty in reclaimed and repurposed objects and materials. So this book needed to be colourful, richly textured and a bit quirky, too.

Gift wrapA surprise gift!

Every day I'm delighted by the diverse colour combinations my clients choose with my Bespoke Service, but to standardise my offering I usually make books with plain paper (Daler-Rowney cartridge - slightly textured, a warm off-white, lovely to write or draw on). So it was a real treat to spend time sifting through my collection of 'interesting papers', including pages liberated from old magazines and books, to collate a selection of pages to suit the giftee. 

Choosing repurposed papers from old magazines and books.Choosing papers.

Signatures ready to bind

That Cleo Mussi porcelain figure had to go in! And the purple pelican from the 'Visual Culture' Pelican book cover, liberated from a Monocle publication, was also a must-have. Add in a moody blue page from a John Lewis catalogue and the colour scheme was decided: purple and teal.

Signatures and linen thread

Ready to bind, with Teal Irish linen thread.

Some of the repurposed paper had to be backed with cartridge as it was quite thin or had text on the reverse that I didn't want to see in the finished book. Add in some plant fibre papers, more cartridge and squared paper and the bookblock was ready to bind with the leather. I used the Longstitch with Linkstitch style - this is a 15th century German binding that's flexible yet really strong - great as a sketchbook because it allows the book to lie open flat so you can use the entire page width. Because it's sewn without any glue at all, it's super strong so you can tote it around for years.

Sewing the bookblockTying off the first two signatures (collections of folded sheets).

Handmade leather sketchbook or journal birthday gift The eight signatures are now sewn through the leather cover.

Repurposed signature dividers in a handmade book

The repurposed pages are employed as signature (section) dividers.Colouring in signature divider in handmade book 

Spot the bonus colouring in page!

Leather journal with pen holder

Bonus pen holder, too!

Longstitch with Linkstitch purple leather journal

The finished book: Purple & Teal Leather Journal / Sketchbook. 

I really enjoyed making this one-off book and can't wait to see how the pages get filled up over the years. There's nothing like a handmade gift to bring a smile to a birthday girl's face!

Look out for more Project blog posts...


Susan Green
Susan Green


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Size Guide
Memory Books, Guest Books, Condolence Books, Journals and Sketchbooks

All dimensions indicate external dimensions of the closed book. Memory Books have 128 pages of heavy paper & spacers for inclusions; Guest Books, Journals & Sketchbooks have Mohawk Superfine Smooth 118gsm paper, usually 192 pages unless otherwise indicated in the product listing. Pagination can be adjusted a little for bespoke books, speciality artists' papers on request.

A4 Large Portrait 12 inches or 305 mm 8.5 inches or 215 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A4 Large Landscape 8.5 inches or 215 mm 12 inches or 305 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A5 Medium Landscape 6 inches or 155 mm 8.5 inches or 215 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A5 Medium Portrait 8.5 inches or 215 mm 6 inches or 155 mm 1.5 inches or 35 mm
A6 Small Landscape 4.5 inches or 114 mm 6 inches or 155 mm 1 inch or 25 mm
A6 Small Portrait 6 inches or 155 mm 4.5 inches or 114 mm 1 inch or 25 mm
Miniature Journals

96 pages of Mohawk Superfine 118gsm paper

 One Size 3 inches or 76 mm 2.25 inches or 60 mm 20 mm or 0.75 inches
Simple Wrap Journals

60 pages of 130 gsm paper

 One Size 6 inches or 148 mm approx.  4.5 inches or 108 mm approx. 20 mm or 0.75 inches
Paperback Notebooks

With Mohawk Superfine 118gsm paper

 A4 Large 297 mm or 11.5 inches approx. 205mm or 8.25 inches approx. 64 pages
A5 Medium 210 mm or 5.75 inches approx. 145 mm or 5.75 inches approx. 56 pages
A6 Small  150 mm or 6 inches approx. 100 mm or 4 inches approx. 48 pages
A7 Pocket 106 mm or 4.25 inches approx. 72 mm or 2.75 inches approx. 40 pages
Accordion Books

8 pages of Mohawk heavy paper

A5 Medium Portrait TBC
A6 Small Landscape