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DIY Day Planners

Keep organized with your own custom-made leather day planner. For added embellishment, choose a color of thread that contrasts with that of the leather.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2003


There are many reasons leather is the best material for everything from day planners to checkbook covers: It's durable and weather resistant, conforms to different shapes, and develops a soft, well-worn feel. But perhaps the best reason is that you can easily fashion little luxuries from it yourself.

Making you own accessories costs far less than buying the finished products, and you can use surprising colors and details that you won't find in a store. Leather is forgiving to work with -- it doesn't fray, so there's no need to finish edges, and if you purchase a 1/16-inch or thinner hide, it can be fed through a sewing machine.

You'll need sturdy poly-cotton thread, a leather needle, and a Teflon pressure foot, which will keep the leather steady. Raise the tension according to your sewing machine's instructions, and make the stitches slightly longer than you would with fabric, to prevent the leather from tearing. Mark lines by scoring with a bone folder before sewing.


  • One hide (5 1/2 square feet) leather

  • No-slip ruler

  • Rotary cutter

  • Multipurpose cement

  • Poly-cotton thread

  • Sewing machine equipped for leather

  • Leather hole punch

  • 1/2-inch binder rivets

  • 7-inch 6-ring spine

  • Rivet setter

  • Mallet

  • Paper inserts

  • Grommet kit or elastic cording (optional)


  1. For standard refills (6 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches), use a rotary cutter to cut a rectangle of leather that is 10 3/8 by 7 1/8 inches. Mark the midpoint of the length, and score with the bone folder. For the closure, cut a 3 1/2-by-1-inch tab to fit in a 3-by-1/4-inch strip.

  2. Cement a 1/4 inch of the tab halfway up the inside of the back cover of the planner; let dry, and then sew. Cement the strip halfway up the outside of the front cover; let dry, and sew ends. For side flaps, cut two 3 1/4-by-7 1/8-inch pieces. Cement them on all but the inside long edge; let dry, and then sew all around, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

  3. Backstitch at start and finish. Place the spine on the halfway point, mark each hole with a pencil, and punch out marks with a hole punch. Align bar over holes, and stick rivet posts through each one; snap the cap pieces onto posts from the other side. Position rivet setter over each rivet head, and pound them into place with the mallet. Fill binder with paper inserts. Use flaps to store loose items.

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