Sponsored: Leather Folio Tutorial



This tutorial is sponsored by Jo Totes. They have a wide selection of fashionable camera bags in both genuine and vegan leather. My favorite of all is the Siena bag – an italian leather bag that ages beautifully. I use it as my every day bag. It fits all of the essentials! The structured body allows me to easily find all of my purse’s contents quickly.

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My purse essentials (beyond baby stuff): my instax camera, a notebook, pen, chapstick and gum.


For a while I had my notebook just floating around my purse naked. The problem with this was that the top page would frequently break off, wrinkle and just get disgusting. To remedy the problem, I hand-bound a folio where I can just insert the notebook I’m using and protect it from the contents of my purse. I’m constantly ripping out pages and tossing them, so it’s nice to have something reusable instead of having to bind a new journal every time I run through my pages.


The original version I bound was a traditional 3/4 rounded back bind with cutouts and pockets. I thought about sharing how to make this, but as I broke down each step, I realized that I had very specific bookbinding tools and the steps would take 5+ hours to photograph and explain. I ditched that idea for a simpler sewn version. It’s not as rigid, but it’s still quite sturdy and can be completed in well under an hour. You could opt out of real leather and use an industrial felt instead. I’m not sure I would recommend a vegan leather as it doesn’t tend to wear well over time.


This would be a great gift for a guy or gal. Christmas gift perhaps? It’s just over 2 months away, so time to start planning! I’ve already taken care of a couple of Christmas gifts already. I feel way more on top of things this year. Don’t worry though, I have plenty of time to procrastinate and get behind on my gift-giving.

So would you like to make one with me? It’ll take you about 20-30 minutes. If you’re making a bunch all at once (which I would totally recommend!) it’d take less than that for each one.



  • ruler
  • rotary cutter (and mat)
  • bulldog clips
  • thread
  • leather needle (or topstitch needle)
  • elastic
  • button
  • hand-sewing needle
  • x-acto knife
  • pen
  • bonefolder
  • leather
  • sturdy canvas or a fabric wallpaper*
  • notebook**

* I used fabric wallpaper for this. I scored some years ago from design centers in SF. Just ask an interior design company if they have any wallpaper samples that are being discontinued that you can have. Alternatively you can fuse any kind of fabric to Ultra Hold Heat ‘n Bond with regular copy paper.

** My favorite paper is the Rhodia pad or Clairefontaine Triomphe paper. They come in plain, grid, dot grid and lined.

Read more for the full tutorial.


Measure your notepad and insert into the following equation for the exterior dimensions.

W + 5/8 + 5/8 + 1/8 = Exterior width

(H + 5/8 + 5/8) x 2 = Exterior height

For the pocket dimensions:

Exterior width x H = Notebook pocket

Exterior width x Exterior width = Front pocket(s)


Cut out the pockets and fold the top portion down 1/2 inch and crease with a bonefolder.

For the front pockets, I folded the two squares in half and trimmed off excess for corner pockets. This will allow me to have two overlapping pockets.


Sew the top portion down with coordinating thread.


Clip the notebook pocket into place and sew around the edge using a 5/8 seam allowance. I used a specialty stitch that doubled back on each stitch. The stitch looks like this ||| on my machine.

Insert elastic on the bottom middle between the two layers for a closure!


After you’re done sewing, insert the notebook and make 1 inch slices at the top of the notebook around the middle of the leather. Cut 1 inch long and 1-2 inches apart. This is where your pen will go.


Now clip your front pockets together. I overlapped the corners together and sewed using the same specialty stitch and a 5/8 seam allowance.


When laying flat, the folio will look like the above.


Now trim down your seam allowances. I use my see-through ruler for a 1/8 border around my stitching.


If you forgot to sew the elastic in between the layers in the previous step, you’ll want to put the elastic on now.


Measure where you want your button along the front. Poke two holes and sew in place by hand. I used my sewing machine to poke the holes so I didn’t need to get out any hole punches.


Trim excess threads. And you’re done! Enjoy!


This post is sponsored, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

This tutorial/freebie is free for personal use and should not be distributed/republished without my consent. If you would like to use this tutorial for commercial purposes, please email me. Thanks!


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