TUTORIAL: Moleskine Style Notebooks (Cahiers)

Ok, it’s taken a few days because I have been a bit busy with the New Year family visiting and such, but it’s finally here. Today I’ll be running through how to make a Moleskine style cahier. This one isn’t exactly like the Moleskine one, I mean what’s the point? I could just buy one if that’s what I wanted. This is a colourful, more customised version, it doesn’t have to be perfect, mine never are, but it’s not too difficult either, especially if you have some experience with paper crafts and/or sewing.

For my ‘petits cahiers’ I am making the pages 9cm x 14cm, so you will need to cut your paper into 18cm x 28cm sheets so that they fold to the correct size. From an A3 sheet of paper you’ll get about 3-4 sheets of this size depending on the grain of your paper. To find the grain rip a piece of your paper horizontally and vertically, the tear that is straightest indicates the direction of the grain so if your paper tears better horizontally then then that’s usually because the grain lies horizontally. You will want the grain to run vertically down your book to make folds easier and neater, so cut your paper accordingly using a guillotine or paper cutter, if you’re brave/dangerous you can also use a sharp craft blade with a metal ruler as your guide.

You could also buy paper that is precut, which would be a hell of a lot easier, if you can get it. It has taken me hours (mostly spent tearing my hair out) to cut my paper because at the moment I do not have a guillotine and the paper cutter I have is slightly blunt, so I apologise in advance for the wobbly quality of my notebooks in the photos for this tutorial.

So, start with the sheets and fold them in half, you’ll need to press that crease really well so use a bone folder if you can or the edge of a ruler if you can’t (not the side the measurements are printed on as this sometimes comes off on the paper). I’ve done 12 sheets to make a 24 page cahier, you can use more or less depending on the thickness of your paper. Once they’re all folded stack them and block them all together to make sure they’re even.


Now you’re going to have  to cut the cover, the size of card I’ve got is a bit weird so I couldn’t do it as long as I would have liked to include a larger size pocket at the back. I cut mine to be about 2mm taller than the papers and folded so that the cover had an overhang of about 5mm. You don’t have to do this with yours, you can make it exactly like the moleskine and have the cover flush with the papers, though you will definitely need a guillotine to make it nice and straight.  So the piece of card I cut was 14.2cm x 24cm. I folded it at 9.7cm and then folded in again at the same distance to make the inside pocket.

You’ll need  to glue the inside pocket down. Take a very small amount of PVA onto a small round brush and paste it thinly onto the bottom centimetre of  the pocket and press it down whilst it dries. Next thing you’ll want to do is make a pricking guide, I usually just take a scrap of paper as long as the book and use a ruler to mark where I want to sew. In this instance I made each hole 5mm apart, in hindsight this is a little close perhaps, so it might be better to make them a bit wider apart, it’s up to you.

The next thing you’ll need to do the stabbing! You’ll need an awl or you can use the needle to make the holes, if you do it with the needle you’ll probably only be able to do half the pages at a time. You’ll need a cradle, if you have one that’s great, if you don’t then you can do what I did and use a Yellow pages or other type of large phone book/catalogue.  Just open the book to the middle and use shape of the book to pierce into the middle.

Once you’ve pricked through each sheet and the cover, the time comes for the sewing. If you’ve never done this before do not fret, it really isn’t hard it only requires a small amount of concentration and care.  You’ll need to thread up your needle, you should have a book binder’s needle and some linen thread. Looking at the Moleskine though, they don’t seem to use linen threads, what they use is actually quite lightweight so if you don’t have linen you can try using some strong cotton thread if you fancy risking it, the thread might break whilst sewing if it’s not strong enough.

When I sewed mine I used a rather unorthodox method of stitching the book, I backstitched. To do this start at the second hole on the inside of the book (leave enough thread to tie off later), come back in through the top hole and out through the third and back in through the second. Continue this pattern the whole way down the book then tie off both ends.

And after that you should have your own cahier, if you want to make it more moleskine like you can use a rounded corner punch to complete the look.