How to make faux leather out of paper for vegan friendly journals

How to make faux leather out of paper for vegan friendly journals

Making a vegan-friendly journal

As some of you will know, last year I took a refresher course in journal making and was suddenly hooked.

After many years of knowing how to do something, I had not thought that I could link it with my art so parked it as something I might do again another day.

Having produced my beta collection, which I sold before Christmas, I decided to be more structured in my approach to making a collection for 2021.

I had everything planned out and have already made some beautiful journals and I will continue to do so, but out of the blue a friend shared a video about making fake leather using brown paper. Boy, have I had fun with this process!

I have some friends and relatives who are vegans and being able to produce a collection of vegan-friendly journals for them was a gift I couldn’t ignore.

I have spent hours researching different methods and experimenting with them and thought I would share with you here how to make them yourself. If you don’t fancy trying this but would like to own one, I will be creating a collection for sale later this year [Subtle plug – Ed]. So here goes.

Equipment list: –

  1. Some heavyweight brown paper. Parcel paper is the best, but the thin stuff won’t work.
  2. PVA glue
  3. Ink pads (you could probably use ink watered down and applied with a sponge or some kitchen paper).
  4. Hair conditioner. (I used TREsemmé but any good brand should work)
  5. Card for making the cover (so think about size)
  6. Lining – I used my artwork
  7. Waxed thread
  8. 20 sheets of paper for the inside of the journal
  9. Thread/ribbon – plus a button – to make the closure


Cut out a piece of parcel paper larger than the cover of your journal.

Screw the paper up into a ball, being careful not to rip it. Do this a couple of times so that you get lots of crinkles. This will help to make the faux leather look old.

Once you have the desired number of crinkles, you need to take your ink pad and rub it over the paper so that you catch the tops of the crinkles.

It is best to wait until each colour you add dries so that it doesn’t mess up your ink pads. Keep applying these light layers of colour until you have the desired colour, bearing in mind that the finished product will be lighter in tone once it dries.

Make sure the inks are fully dry (use a hairdryer if you are impatient) before you move onto the next stage.

Lightly spray the paper with plain water and then taking the hair conditioner start to lightly pat it into the paper on both sides. Try not to rub it as you could damage the paper; you need to be gentle with it at this stage. Keep applying conditioner until you can see that the paper has become much darker in colour and floppy like fabric, rather than stiff like paper.

Now put this to one side and let it dry overnight. If you are really impatient, you can fold it in half and hang it over a warm radiator to speed up the drying time.

Once it is fully dry, check that you are happy with the density of the colour and if necessary, add a little more. Using black or brown around the edges does give an older appearance to the piece, like a piece of leather handled over a long time.

Take your card, apply PVA glue to one side and place it on the back of your decorated paper. Push down the card to make sure it comes into contact with the brown paper. Using more PVA, fold the edges in to surround the card and leave it to dry, preferably under a heavy weight. A pile of books does a great job and if you sandwich the work between two sheets of cling film, this will stop it getting stuck to your books.

Once dry, fold the cover in half and press firmly to make a crease down the spine of the book.

Next, unfold the cover and apply PVA glue to the decorated side. Be generous (but not over generous) as this will put some rigidity back into the paper and will stop it from tearing. Once this is dry, do the same to your inside cover. Once dry, take your lining piece, in my case the artwork and, using PVA, attach that to the card so that it covers up the folded over edge and makes it all look neat and tidy. Wait for it to dry. NB you could cover your inside piece with PVA glue before you assemble the pieces. Also, you could use fabric or any other type of paper you like but you will need to PVA any paper to give it strength.

Whilst that is all drying you can start working on the inside of your journal.

Making the journal pages:

Make sure when you cut your pages, that they are about ½ cm inside the top and bottom of your journal and 1 cm in from the sides.

Fold your paper to give you 20 pages for your journal.

Now make a template like the one below so that you can line up the paper with the cover and make six holes in both the cover and the stack of folded pages.

Now, line up the pages with the cover and with your thread start in the inside middle hole, leaving a tail. Come in through the next hole, out through the end hole, back in through the middle hole, and then jumping over the middle hole go out through the next hole, in through the other hole, out through the second hole and back up through the middle hole. Make sure that both tails are on either side of the long middle stitch and tie them together to secure the long middle stitch.

And that’s it. Your very own, homemade vegan-friendly fake/faux leather journal.

The images here are of the prototype journals I made. I have a series of thicker journals with more pages in the pipeline and they will be included in the 2021 collection when it is released.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

If you enjoyed this week’s blog, I would appreciate it if you would go onto my website and sign up to receive it directly to your device. The more followers I receive this way the more people it will be made visible to. Many thanks.


2 Responses

  1. Ingenious!

  2. Thank you, delighted you enjoyed it.

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