Make it yourself – Midori Traveler’s style leather Moleskine Cahier or Field Notes notebook cover


A couple years ago I reviewed the Midori Traveler’s Notebook and commented that it was too expensive at $60 and that I could easily make one of my own for $20 or less. After I posted that review, I ended up buying all the supplies I needed to make my own covers. The next year I made about 20 of them and sent them as Christmas gifts to all my writers here at The Gadgeteer. The other day someone left a comment on the Midori review asking if I had ever made a cover for less than $20. That question prompted me to write up this short how-to article. I hope you find it useful. 

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

If you don’t think you are crafty enough to tackle this project, I’m here to tell you that you can do it. It’s not hard at all. The hardest part is getting the supplies… and even that is easy thanks to the internet.

Instead of making the weird sized Midori notebook, I opted to go with a size that I could easily find refills for. Moleskin Cahiers, Field Notes and similar 3.5 x 5.5 inch sized notebooks are the perfect size, so I went with them.

Shopping list


3 oz leather – I ordered a 20-24 sq. ft. piece from Leather Unlimited that will last for a very long time. I’ve made 25 or so covers and still have a LOT left over. ($80)
Utility knife – I suggest a utility knife over scissors because they are sharper and cut much better. ($10)
Ruler, square, or some sort of straight edge – You should already one of these  (Free)
1/16 inch elastic cord – You can find this in the sewing areas of Hobby Lobby, Joann Fabrics or Amazon ($4 for 5yds)
Nail / hammer – to make holes in leather (Free)
2 Moleskin Cahier or Field Notes sized notebooks ($8 for a pack of 3 from Amazon)

Total: $102.00


Omnigrid – It’s designed for quilters and it works great for cutting leather squares. Much easier than using a standard ruler. (12 or 15″ size about $20 from Amazon)
Leather hole punch – Easier to use than a nail ($10 from Amazon)
Awl – Makes reaming holes easier ($4 from Amazon)
Corner cutter – Adds a finishing touch to the corners of the cover ($20 from Amazon)

Total: $54.00

Yes, I realize if you buy all of these supplies including the optional items, that it costs $156 which is much more than the $60 Midori Traveler’s Notebook, but the bulk of the price is the leather and if you think you’ll enjoy making projects like this one, it’s worth it to buy a large piece for future projects. You also might be able to find leather for a better price if you shop around. I am really happy with the leather I purchased from Leather Unlimited. There were no blemishes and it was easy to work with.


The first step is to cut an 8 x 6 inch rectangle of leather. That size is assuming you’re going to make a cover for two 3.5 x 5.5 inch size notebooks. If you’ll be using  different sized notebooks, you’re on your own to figure out the leather size.


The next step is to punch 5 holes for the elastic cord. To figure out where to put the holes, just lay your two notebooks on the piece of leather and mark the top two and bottom two inside corners. I use a leather hole punch for these two holes.

You’ll also need a hole for the elastic loop which will hold the cover closed. That one should be centered on the right side as you’re looking at the raw/rough side of the leather. You can use an awl or nail to make that hole.


Cut a 26 inch length of elastic cord and a 10.5 length of cord. Set the shorter piece aside. Take the longer piece and thread it through the bottom two holes so that the loop is on the “good” side of the leather.


Thread the cord through the top holes as shown above. You should now have two long sections of elastic on the raw side of the cover.


Flip the leather over to see the cord on the good side. The hole for the closure loop should be on the left side.

Thread the elastic back through the top two holes so that the cord coming from the left hole threads through the right hole and visa versa.


The good side will end up having a double loop at the top as shown here.


Flip it to the raw side and it should look like this. Adjust the cord tension so that it’s slightly bowing the leather. This will help hold the notebooks in place.


Then tie a simple knot. Don’t cut the ends yet…


Take the shorter 10.5 inch piece of cord and tie a knot in the end. Push the loop end through the hole so that it comes out on the good side of the leather.


This is what it should look like. You’re almost done!


Grab your 2 notebooks, and open one of them to the center and slide it through one of the cords so that the cord rests between the center pages of the notebook.


Do the same thing with the other notebook on the remaining cord. You now have 2 notebooks and can close the cover with the elastic band.


The final product should look similar to this. The ends of the cords can be used as a book mark – one for each notebook. Or if you don’t like that, you can cut them off. You could also make the cord longer than 26 inches and tie a bead to the end. Some people even add beads and charms to the elastic that holds the cover closed. It’s up to you to customize it however you would like.

I have made enough of these covers that I can make one start to finish in less than 20 minutes. I should go into business shouldn’t I? 😉


If you don’t like the look of the raw leather, you could dye it with leather dyes or do what I do and put it out in the sun a couple days to tan it naturally. The cover you see above is one I carry with me everyday. It’s different than the one I’ve shown you how to make because it is sewn… but it used the same leather which browned naturally in the sun. I just laid it flat on my deck for a couple days.

I’m not a math whiz, so I can’t easily tell you how much one cover really cost me to make due to the large piece of leather that I purchased. But I have a lot of leather left and more projects to come, so I don’t mind.

Let me know what you think about this article and if you would you like to see more how-tos.

Updates 05/02/16

I had been using the sewed version (pictured above) of the homemade Field Notes cover until last summer when I moved everything into one notebook (an Evernote Smart Notebook) and started using my own version of the Bullet Journal system. I only have a couple page left in that journal and am considering making an A5 size (8.27 x 5.83 inch) homemade Midori Traveler’s notebook style cover or some type of leather cover for another large sized Moleskine grid notebook.

Posted in: Articles, Do-It-Yourself, How-To, Paper and Pens
{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Tony August 26, 2013, 12:31 am

    Hi Julie,

    if you do decide to sell them, I’d love to buy one.

  • David August 26, 2013, 8:05 am

    Is that leather thick enough to cut a pattern into, or do you need something thicker?

    Dad still has all his leather working tools, and I might give it a try. I’d have to edge it with a whip stitch, but just because I like that style!

    Too bad Rattle snake hide isn’t wide enough! 😉

    • Julie Strietelmeier August 26, 2013, 8:11 am

      @David The 3 oz piece of leather that I bought is called “tooling leather”, so it should be fine for carving or stamping.

  • Betty Widerski August 26, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Do you have a leather-capable sewing machine then, for the stitched one?

    I recently noticed American Science & Surplus sells bags of scrap leather, as well as hole and letter punches – I’m going to check that out.

    • Julie Strietelmeier August 26, 2013, 1:37 pm

      @Betty I have an old Singer sewing machine from the 70’s (I think) that is capable of sewing two pieces of 3 oz leather… barely. I have trouble getting the tension set correctly and sometimes end up with a mess of thread on one side. I’d love have a better heavy duty machine because I have always wanted to make my own messenger bag.

  • Andrew February 19, 2014, 12:50 am

    Would you say the 3 oz leather is thick enough/stiff enough for the cover or would heavier leather be better?

    • Julie Strietelmeier February 19, 2014, 7:37 am

      @Andrew I think 3 oz. is thick enough for a small cover like the one I show here. If you want to make something larger, you might go up to 4-5oz.

  • Kimberly March 1, 2014, 11:11 pm

    I have to echo the other comments. How much would a pink leather one cost? I am interested.

  • Julie Strietelmeier March 2, 2014, 9:02 am

    @Kimberly I don’t make these covers to sell. I just make (made) them as gifts. They are easy enough to make on your own, so that’s why I made this little how-to article.

  • Trent March 20, 2014, 3:29 pm

    What a great idea! I’m going to do this. However, I think I would like to try waxed canvas instead. Do you have any experience working with that material? It seems like it’s pretty durable stuff and it might save a little money.

    • Julie Strietelmeier March 20, 2014, 4:19 pm

      @Trent No, I don’t have any experience with waxed canvas, but I’ve wanted to try to make my own waxed canvas messenger bag for a long time. If you end up making a cover, please do come back and share the results. I for one would love to see what you can come up with!

  • Trent March 20, 2014, 5:13 pm

    @Julie You’ve got a deal!

  • veronica July 2, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Hi, I went to the website you ordered your leather from. However, theres is so much to choose from….which one did you buy exactly? Please help me out! 🙂

  • Jennifer Bozek August 12, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Once I got started and figured out the right size hole to punch for the elastic it took me about 30 minutes. Not bad and my son loves it. I made it to fit a couple of mini composition notebooks. They are smaller than the field notes ones.

  • Eunike Lovely November 27, 2014, 12:54 am

    Great tutorial! is the type of leather you use similar to vegetable tanned leather? I just ordered a vegetable tanned leather and i was wondering if i can tanned it naturally like you did. And if you put the leather in the sun much longer, would it be darker brown? sorry for my bad english!

    • Julie Strietelmeier November 27, 2014, 8:23 am

      @Eunike Lovely I’m not sure about the type of tanning that is used on the leather I purchased, but if the leather hasn’t been stained, the sun should darken it. Yes, leaving it in the sun longer will make it darker.

  • Keelin April 9, 2015, 5:56 am

    Welp… I know what my summer project will be. This is brilliant! Thank you for laying it out so simply. Can’t wait to experiment with leather dyes!! I’ll be sure to share pics of the finished project!! <3

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 9, 2015, 7:18 am

      @Keelin Yes, please do share what you’ve made. I’d be very interested in seeing what you come up with 🙂

  • Paul April 9, 2015, 8:07 am

    I really like my Moleskin however want something smaller and have been suprised like you over how expensive covers are for the smaller books.
    Very tempted by there phone case that includes a cashier however might do what you have done and make my own to hold 2 cashier or Field Note sized books.

  • Yolanda April 19, 2015, 1:52 am

    Thank you Julie for sharing! The best for you

  • Gary April 22, 2015, 4:25 pm

    Very nice design. Tandy Leather Factory often has a sell on single and double shoulders in the 3-5 ounce range. I want to say they range from about $30 to $60 each. They also offer some textured leathers at affordable prices too.

    If you looked around you could find cheaper leather is suppose. This design is very affordable to make. If one wanted they could use contact cement and glue a section of swede leather on the inside.

    You could go together with friends and but a huge piece of vegetable tanned leather, 3/8 letter stamps, and a couple border tools and make custom covers for the whole gang. I would say you total cost each would be about $10 to $12 at most.

    I fell one of these being made tonight when I get home……

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 22, 2015, 4:29 pm

      @Gary I love Tandy Leather. I remember many years ago we were on vacation in Nashville, TN. Our car broke down and we had to take it to a shop there in downtown Nashville. While we waited for them to fix it, we walked across the street to check out some shops and happened into a Tandy Leather shop. We were so interested that we bought a few things, went home and really got into leather working. Even joined a club for awhile.

  • Perttu Mäkelä August 5, 2015, 7:22 am

    Hi, thank you for the tutorial. Just did a piece myself, following your advice. Just got a question: my covers ended up pretty “floppy” and a bit awkward. Did the same happen to you, and did you perhaps do something to correct this?

    • Julie Strietelmeier August 5, 2015, 7:31 am

      @Perttu I’m guessing that you used a lighter weight (thinner) piece of leather to make your cover. You need to use at least 3 oz. leather. One idea to fix it would be to cut two pieces and glue them together.

      • Perttu Mäkelä August 13, 2015, 2:29 am


        I thought I had used pretty thick leather (3 or 4 mm.. 1/8 – 1/6 inch?), at least it was thicker than the leather in my softcover book covers. But they’re still pretty floppy so I thought perhaps there was some treatment for this.. Will have to look for it.

        Thanks for the article and help 🙂

  • Peter marten September 3, 2015, 6:15 am

    Nice post. Its really looking very attractive. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ameli September 19, 2015, 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the clear pics. I plan to really stuff my notebook full, would you recommend building in an extra inch to that 8 inch side to make more of a spine?

    • Julie Strietelmeier September 19, 2015, 4:03 pm

      Ameli, If you already have a stack of notebooks that you know you’re going to be using, you might want to cut a template from paper before you cut the leather. That way you can get a better idea how it will wrap around your stack of notebooks.

  • Ipy December 11, 2015, 2:55 am

    Thank you, this is EXACTLY what I was looking for! Well done, they look beautiful. I have 3 Moleskin Cahiers, as I find the size much better to work with than the Midori, but no cover yet. Another summer project to add to my list!

  • Mikhela April 6, 2016, 12:52 pm

    I actually found swatches of leather the same quality as yours on Amazon for $16 for a piece 1 foot by 2 feet. Plus I found 864 feet of elastic cord for $4 on Amazon. Then for the inserts, I work a job that gets me free printing, cardstock paper is cheap everywhere (but I had some at home), and I have a sewing kit with needles at home, so I printed normal printer paper in ruled and dotted, and plain, high quality paper. Then, I saddle-stitched the printed paper with the cardstock as binding, and came up with three mini inserts. Add my moleskine journal I had laying around to the midori, and I actually DID make my own midori for $20.

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