Everything you ever wanted to know about leather journals (and then some)

Leather journal with Lapis Lazuli stone

Our leather books are real showstoppers! They're decorated with stones, stitching and embossing and exude the captivating scent of leather and paper. Customers choose these unique journals to become a Book of Shadows, sketchbook, or personal diary. We've even sold them to historical re-enactors and movie prop departments!

This journal I bought is so beautiful! I'm afraid to write in it!

Okay, so it's not exactly a question. But this is the issue we hear about the most--honest!

Once you make the first mark, it gets much easier from there. Try writing your name and/or a short dedication on the first page, then let your creativity soar!

What kind of media can I use in the journal?

The handmade paper is moderately thick and moderately textured. It's not prone to tearing or bleeding through. Ballpoint and rollerball pens work well in these journals. For the true traditionalist, a feather quill and ink is also an option. Metal-nib pens are just okay--they tend to get clogged with fibers or tear the paper if you press too hard. Pencil and colored pencil will work, but they don't show up as strongly as they would on wood-pulp papers. Erasers aren't much use on cloth-based paper.

The textured cloth paper is great for drawing and takes charcoal and pastels very well. (Use with a fixative to keep the artwork from transferring to the facing page.) Watercolors and other wet media are not recommended.

Are the journals refillable? Can I add more pages?

No, the pages are sewn into the spine and are not removable. (Guess it's time to shop for another journal!)

What about scrapbooking? Can I glue photos or pages into the journal?

Yes, to an extent. These journals are not really designed to be used as albums, but a few additions won't hurt them. Just keep in mind that paste-ups will put additional stress on the spine, and could lead to warping and cracking if you overdo it. If your journal has a latch, it may become more difficult to close.

Where are the journals made?

A few journals we carry are made in the United States. Most are made in India. Our main suppliers are concentrated in the North Indian state of Rajasthan where leather-working has been practiced for hundreds of years.

The journal trade supports craftspeople in the region and helps keep an ancient art alive. It also provides a beautiful use for the hides and cloth scraps that are by-products of India's ranching and garment industries.

What are the journal made of?

Most are made from Asian water buffalo, though some are made from cowhide or goat leather. Water buffalo leather is thick and strong and ideal for bookbinding. The vegetable-tanned leather is dyed or left in its natural color, depending on the style of the journal. It is treated with an oil- or wax-based conditioner to make it moisture-resistant and prevent cracking.

Vegetable-tanned leather is made in the traditional way with tannins extracted from leaves and bark. We don't buy leathers tanned with chromium, which is harmful to the environment and the people in leather-making communities.

The paper is a cloth-based paper made from recycled fibers. Some journal styles have deckled (uncut) edges for a truly rustic appearance. The pages are usually sewn into the spine with cotton cord.

The journals are topped off with brass hardware, leather laces, and exquisite gemstones. No two look exactly alike!

 How do I care for my leather journal?

Leather is a naturally resilient material that requires little maintenance. When handled over time, it develops a lovely patina from contact with the oils in your hands. Properly cared for, it can last a lifetime, growing in character and beauty.

Enemies of leather include water, extreme temperature changes, harsh cleaners, scratches, dust, and sunlight. If you travel with your journal or expose it to the elements, you can treat it once a year or so with a leather conditioning product (no shoe polish or solvents). Gently rub it into the leather surfaces and remove the excess with a soft cloth.

If the pages have creases, they can be smoothed out with a clothing iron. Start on a low setting and gradually increase the temperature until it does the job.

Happy writing! May your leather journal serve you well.

Photo: Leather journals at our booth at Austin Pagan Pride Day.

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