How I made my own Travelers Notebook! Real leather…real elastic…not real Travelers…but totally functional and beautiful!
[The MichaelsDori, by Recollections at Michael’s.]
So I had, for about a week, a cheap “fauxdori” – an off-brand, faux-leather Travelers Notebook, from Michaels Arts and Crafts. I had one in Coral (pink) and I also got a calendar refill insert. It hasn’t entirely worn out, but it does show some wear already – more than I would like, for something I used for a week.
So I created The BrokeDori. Because I wanted a new one and didn’t want to plunk down $35+ for what amounts to a piece of leather with holes in it and some elastic bands. I call it The BrokeDori because it’s the Broke Girl’s answer to Midori Traveler’s Notebooks.
[The BrokeDori in action.]
I wanted a new one for several reasons:
First, because my MichaelsDori WAS starting to wear out, after less than a week, and I wanted one that could take a little more use and abuse. This is the kind of thing I’d carry around in my purse, and my purses tend to be full of other stuff, so anything that lives in my purses pretty much has to be tough as nails. (See also: my broken phone; the wallet with a hole in it; various bleeding pens; scratched up water bottle.)
[My old setup of my MichaelsDori. As you can see, I like to decorate TN’s.]
Second, it didn’t hold NEARLY the amount/weight of inserts I wanted – on a regular basis I have at least 4 or 5 in rotation, plus a couple of extra card inserts and a kraft folder or two. A little fauxdori made from cheap plasticky fake leather isn’t going to stand up to that.
[Only four inserts?! ONLY FOUR?!)
Third, the aesthetic: There’s just something about real leather, and there’s also a distinct LACK of something about faux leather! I do apologize to the vegans, but for me, there’s nothing like real leather. And I thought that since the TN system DOES work very well for me, it was worth investing in the real deal.
[it’s so BEAUTIFUL]
For an evening, my finger hovered over the “place order” button on Amazon, for a Camel color Travelers Notebook – yes, name-brand – but I held off, knowing that Saturday I could go shopping.
I held off, somehow, and waited for Saturday. It came, and I went shopping. Joanns and Michaels. No luck.
It was frustrating, but I had a trump card up my sleeve: I called my Mom. My mother and her mother both did a lot of leatherworking Back In The Day. My hope was that my Mom might have some leather lying around somewhere.
As it turns out, she did. A perfect, beautiful, huge piece of heavy, high-quality, aged camel-colored leather.
The price – which, on the market, should have been upwards of $75?
Spending two hours helping Mom clean out her office.
So within a day, I had a beautiful piece of leather and Mom had a well-organized office. Bam. This is why I always advise people to ask their friends before buying expensive supplies, and why I suggest offering to trade skills for goods. I am excellent at organizing and cleaning; my mom has an extensive collection of craft supplies. We make it work. No money exchanges hands – just skills and goods. Fuck capitalism.
Here’s my piece of leather:
[This is after cutting out the piece. If you look closely, you can see where I marked for holes.]
I cut it very carefully, because you really don’t want to cut a piece of leather and realize that you cut it 1/4” too small. 1/4” too big, okay, that can be worked around. You can always trim. You can’t often sew pieces back together, unless you’re going for that look. But I spent a good 10 minutes just measuring, and measured as we went along, and I wound up with a perfect piece that holds about 6-8 inserts maximum.
[After punching holes in the leather. No errors – I got lucky.]
I actually punched 8 holes for elastics – I wanted two sets of elastic, slightly separated. I did it similarly to how Recollections does their MichaelsDori knockoffs: two holes at the top, two holes at the bottom. I think it turned out beautifully. Again, I spent a lot of time measuring, to make sure I had them in the right spot. I also punched a hole in the center of what I’d decided would be the back cover.
(Note: That’s the one thing I really regret about the BrokeDori. I’d only ever seen the hole punched in the center of the back, so I did that – but I found out recently that some creators place it on the spine, and I like that look way more. Oh well. Next time.)
I then treated the leather piece with Leather Lotion.
[Mixed feelings about this stuff…)
Again, Mom and Dad just had some lying around (Dad works in an office and has a lot of leather shoes and belts and such). This was a bit odd to work with. I’m not entirely sure I like the texture – it’s extremely glossy, not the usual TN look at all – but it’s very well protected. If something should spill on MY Travelers Notebook, it is far less likely to be badly stained than an untreated, standard Midori.
[After one treatment of Leather Lotion.]
When I got home, I installed the elastics and tested it, then migrated all my various inserts from my weary Recollections TN into my new one. Perfect fit, nothing sticking out, and space for more if I figure out what else to put in it!
[A few of my favorite inserts for the BrokeDori.]
My only complaint, and it’s very minor, is that the elastic I used for the wraparound elastic is a bit weak – I’d want a thicker, tougher elastic. The only thing I’ve changed since making it was to add another treatment of Leather Lotion, which resulted in a HUGE mess and having to buy leather cleaning wipes and panicking a lot.
[Part One of the Leather Lotion Nightmare.]
[A lot of praying was going on at this stage. ]
[My travelers notebook in roughly its current state. The leather really is that rich red-brown color…love it!!]
[I love that it holds 7-8 inserts easily and has space for more!
So…yeah. My homemade leather TN is here!
[Pictured with the elastics visible and a few of my favorite inserts already in.]
Bear in mind that all you really need for a TN is a piece of some kind of material. Faux fur, faux leather, real leather, suede, felt, fabric, plastic…Travelers Notebooks are a system, a concept, not just a specific branded product. There are so many tutorials on how to make one, I recommend this one by Ray Blake, who is, as far as I can tell, the Patron Saint of Paper Planning, at least here on the Internet. His tutorial is the best I’ve seen and it’s pretty much how I did it, only better (lol).
I’ve been really loving the Traveler’s Notebook concept so far, mostly for one reason: I never have to start over again. For most of my life, I’ve used notebooks to hand-write journals, notes for classes, bullet journals, diaries, etc., and inevitably at some point I get frustrated with how the journal is going and tear out some pages or throw the thing away, and get a new one. It’s irritating, though, because a) I have to buy a new notebook, and b) I lose all that work I did, plus c) I hate throwing things away.
So what the TN concept allows me to do is to have ONE notebook, modular, with several sections that I can take out or rearrange at a moment’s notice. If I screw up a notebook? I can take it out. If I want to add pages in one area? Pop in a new notebook! It’s really that easy, and I love that about the TN system.
Please welcome the BrokeDori to the family of my weird little life, and please welcome me, Julian, into the TN community.