Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve always been a little confused about the whole back-to-school thing that trends around this time of the year. South of the equator, school starts mid-January after a long December holiday. The school year and the calendar year are in sync, all nicely lined up. So it feels a little weird when all my blogging friends start talking about back-to-school gift ideas in August. Well, it used anyway until my son went to study Psychology in Canada.  Now I understand, well kinda. I’m still trying to get used to it.  Calin spent his “summer” vacation here in South Africa, and he flew back to Canada this weekend. Sniff sniff 🙁 I’m so proud of him, but Canada is sooooooo far away and eight months feels like forever before he comes home again.

Right now I’m this pathetic little heap of mixed emotions. Click to Tweet
A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with a back-to-school, or in his case, back-to-uni gift. I wanted to make something different and as unique as he is. He loves fantasy, history, people and learning about strange facts that no one else knows. The only idea I could come up with was to make a journal so he could jot down his ideas or write that bestseller that I know is bubbling inside him. Something that perhaps the hobbits or even Gandalf would use to document their adventures through Middle Earth.

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

His back-to-school journal is filled with hand-bound paper but would work equally well as a laptop or tablet cover.

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

And it was so easy to put together, and this tutorial will show you how I did it. But, before we get there, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post!

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

How to Make a Lord of The Rings Back to School Journal

Like Tolkien, I thought I’d use those old medieval manuscripts as inspiration for the journal. That is until I read that in those days paper was made from newborn goats or calves. Ummmm nope, I can’t do that. I love my son to bits, but there are limits. Did you know that some manuscripts were even bound in human flesh??!!! UGH, no, no, no – that’s just beyond creepy.  It might be something that Sauron would do, but not me. So onto plan B.

Plan BBrown Paper Bags

Repurpose brown paper bags to make a Lord of the Rings inspired journal

I have a whole bunch of these bags in the craft cupboard. They come in so handy when you can’t find that darn roll of wrapping paper 😉 and they happened to be the right size for making Calin’s “Lord of the Rings” inspired journal. I just needed to cut off the handles and one of the sides. I left the other side alone to add some substance to the paper and, hopefully, a bit of strength to the binding. I’ve never bound a manuscript before, so I was figuring it out as I went along. Can you tell?

Remove the handles and cut the bags open

The hubby used a punch to make some holes along the long edge of the paper bags. Two holes on the outer edges of the paper and three in the middle. They say 7 is a magic number in Psychology, and in numerology, it represents the seeker, the thinker and the searcher of Truth (with a capital T), which kinda reminds me of my son 😉

Punch holes on one end of the paper

So now I had a whole bunch of brown paper bags with holes in them. Pretty boring and not very inspiring right? It needed a bit more before it would resemble something that came out of the Lord of the Rings.

And So The Journey Begins

I found this awesome font called Angerthas. It automatically converts text into the cirth runes used by the Dwarves in Moria. My son is a HUGE fan of the Lord of the Rings, and besides learning the Chinese alphabet in his spare time, he’s pretty good at reading cirth too. I used the font to translate two of his favorite songs ……

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

and printed them onto the outer pages of the journal.

Printed script on brown paper with holes

To mimic the look of oilskin on those printed pages, I painted on a thin layer of resin.

Paint the brown paper bags with a thin layer of resin to mimic the look of oilskin

When the resin had dried, all the pages were bound together using strips of leather. A skewer helped to align the holes nicely.

A lovely idea for a back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

The first time I tried binding the paper together I tied the leather strips too tightly and the back-to-school journal was really difficult to open. Oh well, you live and learn.

Making mistakes is better than faking perfections, right? Click to Tweet

I found it best to open the journal up and then tie the knots, so there’s some play in the binding.

Bind the pages together with leather cord sewn through the holes

As a final touch, we used a piece of faux leather to make a cover. To add visual interest, I burnt a web pattern into the leather with a soldering iron.

Using a soldering iron to burn the leather

Doesn’t it look cool?

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

To ensure the leather cover stays on I just braided a long piece of twine and inserted the end bits into holes I made in the leather. 

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

To open the journal or laptop cover, my son just needs to unwrap the cords….

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

… and start putting his thoughts down on paper. I wish with all my heart that my little hobbit will use his “Lord of the Rings” back-to-school journal to capture all his crazy ideas and special memories. I probably shouldn’t call him that, since he’s just turned 20 😀

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

Do you make gifts for your kids when they go back to school? Please share in the comments; I’d love to see what you’ve done.

If you like the idea of making a Lord of the Rings back-to-schoo journal, don’t forget to pin it for later.

A lovely idea for a DIY back to school gift for someone who deserves something a little different. A hand bound manuscript that let's them explore their creativity

Not keen on making a back-to-school journal from scratch? I’ve got you covered and found these beauties on Amazon. Disclosure: Clicking on the links below, means we may receive a commission. But don’t worry it won’t come out of your pocket, and it helps us come up with more amazing ideas to share with you 😉

Vintage Embossed Handmade Leather Blue Stone 120 Page Unlined Journal with Clasp
MALEDEN Leather Writing Journal Notebook, Classic Spiral Bound Notebook Refillable Diary Sketchbook Gifts with Unlined Travel Journals to Write in for Girls and Boys (Sky Blue)
Leather Bound Journal for Men and Women, Handmade Gift Set with Antique Journal and Stylish Pen, Vintage and Classic, Notebook, Sketchbook, Planner and Diary (300 Pages) (7x5')

Wishing you a beautiful week filled with lots of love as always

Made with love by a Crafty Mix