Projects, Tutorials

2016 Agenda: Making a Midori Traveler’s Notebook cover

Last year, I made my first agenda from scratch. As I bound it by hand, it was a very time-consuming work, but I loved it although it didn’t fit all my needs. I needed something more flexible. So this year, I’m making a Midori Traveler’s Notebook inspired agenda for 2016.

A Midori what? A Midori Traveler’s Notebook or a Midori Traveler’s Journal is a Japanese type of notebook that consists of a leather cover and separate inner folders. The cover has at least one elastic band under which you can put a folder. Then, by means of more elastic bands or binder clips you connect all the other folders to each other. This way of putting a notebook together gives you a lot of room to make it your own. You decide how to put your notebook together and which elements it needs to contain and which it doesn’t need. When you search for Midori Traveler’s Notebook on Pinterest you can find a lot of examples and inspiration.

A leather Midori Traveler's Notebook styled cover

I really liked this way of putting a notebook together and thought it would be pretty awesome if my 2016 agenda was put together like this. I’d be able to adds lots of extras whenever I needed them (like drawing paper or extra notebooks or special to do lists) and it’d be really easy to discard of past months.

Some of the supplies for making the cover of the Midori Traveler's Notebook: leather, marker and a steel ruler

Materials needed for the Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Before I start talking about how to put the cover together, let me tell you what you’ll need:

  • a piece of leather of at least 370mm x 235mm (that is, if you want to make my A5 agenda, if you want something smaller, you’ll have to do the math ;))
  • sharp x-acto knife
  • metal ruler
  • black marker
  • elastic band (about 1 mm thick, about 3m long)
  • big sewing needle
  • a leather hole punch or a nail (and a hammer)

I used leather for my cover, because I wanted to make a cover that would last. When I stop using it as an agenda, it’ll make an awesome notebook or sketchbook. I bought my leather in a local shop in Ghent, called Reyne (on the Nederkouter 121). They sell their discarded pieces and scraps of leather. I managed to pick up the priciest piece in the shop. It was this thick brown leather that felt awesome and is normally used for making gear for horses. The shop owner assured me this leather would last at least 20 years and I decided to buy the piece, even though it was €20.

I know not everybody wants to use leather, so I added an alternative, leather-free, version at the bottom of this post.

Some of the supplies for making the cover of the Midori Traveler's Notebook: hammer and an awl

Making the cover

Putting the notebook cover together is fairly straightforward. You start by cutting your piece of leather to size.  The inside pages of the agenda will be A5 (148mm x 210mm) so the cover has to be a bit bigger. You need to take at least twice the width of your paper (148 x 2) and add the height of your stack of folders to it (+ 35 mm) and then add some extra because your cover really needs to hang at least 10mm  – 15mm over your inside folders (+ 15mm x 2). I then added 10 mm extra for good measure.

For the height of the cover I took the height of my folders and added 12mm on each side, because that’s the point where I wanted my elastic band to come out of the cover. My final measurements for my cover where:  370mm width x 235mm height.

Draw your cover measurements on the leather. Measure twice. Then use a sharp x-acto knife to cut it out. Make sure you put a cutting mat under your piece of leather before you start.

Punching the holes in the leather cover for the Midori Traveler's Journal styled agenda

Punching the holes for the elastic bands

When the leather is cut, it’s time to pierce some holes for the elastic bands. I decided I wanted three elastic bands in my cover. This way I could put at least three folders in the cover without needing extra materials to keep them in place and it also means I can easily fit nine folders (three per elastic band) in this cover when I use three extra elastic bands.

I only need two elastic bands for the agenda, because it consists of six folders, but I wanted the extra band for the extra materials I want to put in my Midori Notebook. Whether you want one or three elastic bands in your cover, the execution is pretty much the same.

Punching the holes in the leather cover: where to punch to holes

Start by finding the middle of your cover when it’s lying open. Draw a line from top to bottom. Then measure 12mm from the top and 12mm from the bottom of the cover on a horizontal line. Where the horizontal line meets the middle make a mark, both on the bottom and top of the cover. Now put another horizontal line bellow the line at the top and above the line at the bottom. The lines should be 15mm apart.

Make another mark where the horizontal line crosses the line in the middle of the cover. This is where the first elastic band should go. On the middle of your cover, find the middle between the inner holes. Make another mark for a hole here. I put the holes for the second and third elastic band on 10mm of either side of the middle band.

Getting your elastic bands into place by using a needle and an extra piece of thread

Putting in the elastic bands

We’re almost there! When you’ve punched the holes, it’s time to get your elastic band and your sewing needle. You can’t get the elastic band through the needle, because the eye is too small, so you’ll have to make a bigger eye with some thread. Make a loop (see picture above) and then put your elastic band through the thread.

Putting the elastic bands in the leather cover

Put your needle (and elastic band) through one of the holes closest near the edge of the cover. Work from the inside to the outside. On the outside make a stitch from the first to the second hole. On the inside you make another stitch to the next hole. When you’re attaching the elastic band in the middle of the cover you have to make a loop on the outside that can go around the notebook. Go to the next hole, making a small stitch. On the inside make a knot in the elastic band, pulling it rather tight. The cover will curl a bit. Repeat this for each elastic band.

Putting the elastic bands in the leather cover
Putting the elastic bands in the leather cover

You finished your cover! In my next post you can find the printables for the 2016 agenda and all the information on how to put your agenda together + on adding extras.

The 2016 agenda: a handmade Midori Traveler's Notebook cover and fitting inserts The 2016 agenda: a handmade Midori Traveler's Notebook cover and fitting inserts

Alternative versions

I know not everybody is a fan of using leather, whatever the reason. Before I found my piece of leather I also tried making a Midori Traveler’s Notebook in an alternative fashion. I used a piece of oilcloth, some Decovil, a piece of cotton and bias binding.

I ironed the Decovil onto the cotton fabric and then attempted to glue the other side of the Decovil and the oilcloth together. I tried using Mod Podge for this, which has worked for me on many occasions, but failed me this time. It barely stuck together and I decided to add the bias tape so the pieces stayed put.

Alternative to the leather Midori Traveler's Notebook: a cover from fabric and oil cloth

Afterwards I added the elastic band. I didn’t know it at the time, put this elastic band was a bit thicker than the one I used on the leather journal, which made putting it into place a lot harder. I wouldn’t recommend using such a thick elastic band.

Alternative to the leather Midori Traveler's Notebook: a cover from fabric and oil clothAlternative to the leather Midori Traveler's Notebook: a cover from fabric and oil cloth

If you don’t like the feel of the plastic cover or you don’t know how to sew you can also use thick wool felt. You can prepare and put it together in much of the same way as the leather cover.

A leather-free Midori Traveler's Notebook and a handmade leather Midori Traveler's NotebookA leather-free Midori Traveler's Notebook and a handmade leather Midori Traveler's Notebook

If you read everything until now: wow! You really want to make this notebook, don’t you? If you have any questions or something isn’t very clear, let me know in the comments below!

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  • Reply An November 27, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Jeuj, ik sta al te popelen om er aan te beginnen! Ziet er goed uit!
    Ik ga waarschijnlijk op zoek gaan naar een mooi stukje vilt, tenzij ik ergens een stukje leer kan vinden.

  • Reply Ruth July 14, 2016 at 1:23 am

    Awesome tutorial!!! Thank you so much for making it

    • Reply plutomeisje July 16, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you! I’m happy you found it useful. 🙂

  • Reply Sven August 30, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Thank you for this useful tutorial. Where do you buy your refills? Is there a store in Ghent that sells them, or do you order them online?

    • Reply plutomeisje August 30, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      I make my refills myself, as my journal isn’t a standard Midori size. I also buy A5 notebooks in Hema, Ikea, Flying Tiger,… they fit inside perfectly. You can buy real Midori inserts at PIET Moodshop though, they have a small collection of Midori stationary.

  • Reply Eefje September 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Super! Ik wil er meteen aan beginnen! Enig idee waar ik leer kan vinden? Liefst online…

  • Reply Dilia November 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Ik heb deze notebook cover gemaakt met dikke vilt en het is heel goed gelukt.

    • Reply plutomeisje November 23, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Super! 😀 Kon je gemakkelijk aan dikke vilt raken?

  • Reply Nickko August 18, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks for your tutorial it’s the first I read with precise measurement.

  • Reply Saek April 3, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Nice tutorial! Good job:) Could you tell how thick leather did you use for cover?

  • Reply mike March 30, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    I think your hole punch measurements don’t make sense.

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