A Crafty Mix


A Back to School Journal Inspired by Lord of the Rings

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, the school starts in 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 8 months feels like forever before he comes home again.

Right now I’m this pathetic little heap of mixed emotions.Click to Tweet

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 what 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 best seller 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 back to school gift inspired by Lord of the Rings. Perfect for fantasy lovers and that special little hobbit in your life #backtoschool #giftidea #lordoftherings

How to Make a Lord of The Rings Inspired Journal

Just 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 new-born 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.

Plan BBrown Paper Bags

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

Plan B

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 paper and hopefully a bit of strength to the binding. I’ve never bound a manuscript before so I was just trying to figure it out as I went along. Can you tell?

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

All cut up

The hubby used a punch to make some holes along the long edge of the paper bags. Two holes on the outer edges of paper and three in the middle. They say 7 is a magic number in Psychology and in numerology it’s represents the seeker, the thinker and the searcher of Truth (with a capital T), which kinda reminds me of my son 😉

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

Punching the holes

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.

And So The Journey Begins

I found this awesome font called Angerthas. It automatically converts text into the cirth runes used by the 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 and printed them onto the outer pages of the journal, which were then painted with resin to mimic oilskin.

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

When the resin had dried, 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 manuscript 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.

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

All tied up in knots just like me

As a final touch we used a piece of faux leather to make a cover. Don’t you just love that web that we burnt into the leather? It’s part of the new Halloween inspired Thinlits Dies from Sizzix and as one of their Creative Team Members we got to try it out before it hit the shops.

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

To make sure 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 back to school gift inspired by Lord of the Rings. Perfect for fantasy lovers and that special little hobbit

The etching detail

A back to school gift inspired by Lord of the Rings. Perfect for fantasy lovers and that special little hobbit in your life #backtoschool #giftidea #lordoftherings

Hopefully my little hobbit will use his Lord of the Rings inspired journal to capture his thoughts and ideas. I probably shouldn’t call him that, since he’s just turned 20 😀

A back to school gift inspired by Lord of the Rings. Perfect for fantasy lovers and that special little hobbit in your life #backtoschool #giftidea #lordoftherings

Every great thinker keeps a journal you know.Click to Tweet

A back to school gift inspired by Lord of the Rings. Perfect for fantasy lovers and that special little hobbit in your life #backtoschool #giftidea #lordoftherings

Do you make gifts for you kids when they go back to school? Please share in the comments, I’d love to see what you’ve done. And if you like this idea, don’t forget to pin.

Not keen to make a leather 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
Sale Leather Writing Journal Notebook, MALEDEN Classic Spiral Bound Notebook Refillable Diary Sketchbook Gifts with Unlined Travel Journals to Write in for Girls and Boys (Sky Blue)
Sale Leather Journal Travel Diary, Handmade Vintage Writing Bound Notebook for Men for Women Antique Soft Rustic Leather 5 x 7 - Quality Unlined Paper Best Gift for Art Sketchbook Notes - Pen-Holder + Pen

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

Made with love by a Crafty Mix

Categories:   Craft Tutorials, Quick & Easy Crafts


  • Posted: March 25, 2018 18:34


    I am very excited to find this blog but I cannot find where I can receive posts via email...is there such a thing and I am just missing it? LOL of course it is me but I do hope for some guidance.
    • Posted: March 27, 2018 04:35


      Ooops, that's my fault Lindy. I removed the subscription thingy because it was causing problems and slowing everything down and completely forgot to put something else up instead. And I'm really bad with sending out emails too.
  • Posted: September 3, 2017 00:19

    Keri Roberts

    Michelle, what a beautiful and thoughtful gift for your son!! I bet he loves his new journal and especially since it was handmade just for him. I love the special touches you made with the songs. What a wonderful back to school gift!!
    • Posted: September 4, 2017 05:57


      Thanks so much Keri. 8 months seems like such a long time, but it goes by so quickly too.
  • Posted: September 2, 2017 12:55


    This is really adorable!! Thanks so much for stopping by!! Hugs, Debbie
    • Posted: September 4, 2017 05:58


      Thanks so much Debbie, I really appreciate that
  • Posted: September 1, 2017 20:00


    I am sure he will use it proudly, it is one of a kind and made with love just for him, what's not to love? I hope spring will help you to resist the days until you see him again, keep busy doing wonderful things as always
    • Posted: September 2, 2017 06:02


      Thank you so much Pili <3
  • Posted: August 28, 2017 02:46


    Beautiful! Amazing! Love it, Michelle!
    • Posted: August 28, 2017 13:02


      Thank you Mia, I really appreciate that
  • Posted: August 25, 2017 16:49


    This is amazing! There's so much fantastic attention to detail, and I think it's an incredibly thoughtful gift for a university student. Great job, as always!
    • Posted: August 26, 2017 08:06


      Thank you Amy. I struggled a bit to come up with something that was appropriate for a "Back to University" gift, especially since Calin has to fly back to Canada and I couldn't overload his luggage with gifts for his dorm room ;-)
  • Posted: August 25, 2017 16:07

    Christina Makri

    I am sure your son feels so lucky having a creative mommy like you! This journal is a piece of art!!! I think that my english are so poor to describe this diy project!!!
    • Posted: August 25, 2017 16:46


      Christina you should never, ever worry about your English. I wouldn't know how to return the favor in Greek and I admire you so much. Thank you so much my friend, I appreciate all your comments
  • Posted: August 25, 2017 16:02

    jodie filogomo

    This turned out amazing! XOOX Jodie www.jtouchofstyle.com #sweetinspirationlinky
    • Posted: August 26, 2017 09:21


      Thank you Jodie
  • Posted: August 25, 2017 07:13


    Oh, it's really amazing, Michelle! You're one of the most creative ladies I ever know. Your "little" Lord of Rings (it's one of my favorite books too) will be very proud of this gorgeous gift that surely remember you and home. Perhaps in these pages he's going to write his first best seller. Who knows? Good luck for him! Have a wonderful day!
    • Posted: August 25, 2017 09:26


      Oh I hope so Anabelia and thanks so much for your lovely words. Hope you have a wonderful day too
  • Posted: August 24, 2017 15:23


    Okay this is such a good idea. I love to book bind it is so relaxing. You make the look so easy, I would have never thought of using this materials.
    • Posted: August 24, 2017 16:15


      I even people who bind books for real Kristal. I took the easy way out, only 7 bindings to worry about ;-)
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 23:04


    Michelle, this is the coolest journal ever! I'm sure that your son thinks so too. You put so much attention into the details and creativity into the entire project. I love it!
    • Posted: August 25, 2017 09:39


      Thanks so much Nikki :D
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 22:37

    Linda at Mixed Kreations

    This is so cool Michelle! You did and awesome job on the journal. I love it! It looks like a real leather journal. That's so cool that you were able to translate a couple of the songs he likes in the different font. I like how you added the spider web, and the braided twine to tie it closed. Perfect school gift for your son! I made a mini faux book charm but that's as far as I've gone.
    • Posted: August 25, 2017 09:40


      Ahhh Linda, thank you. I think you mini book charm is adorable
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 18:25

    Sadhna Grover

    The spider design on the leather cover looks awesome. The way you explain all the steps, it is so easy to understand the whole concept. I was a teacher in Gaborone, Botswana for many years, I know we had long holidays in December and the new year starts in January. Even seasons are different than the northern hemisphere there.
    • Posted: August 24, 2017 16:10


      Ahhh you understand Sadhna, living in both hemisphere's like that, it's a big thing to adapt to. I still get confused seeing pictures of snow in the middle of December. It's surreal when it's our hottest time of the year here
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 18:01

    FLORENCE @ VintageSouthernPicks

    Michelle, this is awesome! Finally a purpose for the paper bags! I save those too. Nooo, I could never use leather made from the skin of newborn baby lambs or calves. But the substitute you created is absolutely awesome! The faux leather looks so real & love the spider web on it. Hope your son loves it & uses it! Aww, I know you must miss him terribly when he goes.
    • Posted: August 24, 2017 16:13


      I agree Florence, those newborns need to grow up and make babies, not become part of a book. I'm real happy that the paper bags worked as an alternative though and yes, I do miss him terribly. Not only does he have an incredible mind, but he makes the best coffee in the world and now I have to wait sooooo long to get my fix
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 15:41


    This seems like an interesting journal that I can actually make for my nephew. Thanks for the great idea!!
    • Posted: August 24, 2017 16:13


      My pleasure Elena, thanks so much for stopping and leaving a comment
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 14:53

    Nik G.

    What a creative DIY! It looks so authentic! The paper bags is genius. I'd like one of these myself. You should start an Etsy!
    • Posted: August 24, 2017 16:14


      LOL, thanks Nik. Maybe one day when I get my act together ;-)
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:53

    My Little World

    I think its fantastic! My kids are very young and usually theirs gifts are new bags, pencils and staff like that. But your gift is perfect and i havent seen something like that! Have a nice day!
    • Posted: August 23, 2017 12:00


      Thank you Sotiria. I popped over to your blog and found some amazing craft ideas there too. Thanks so much for coming to say hi.
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 05:02


    This is beautiful and masculine enough for an adult male. You son must love it. I am going to share this with my son. I am sure he will love it as well.
    • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:19


      Thanks so much Leanna, at least I know he's at a good University thanks to you ;-)
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 04:27


    This is so awesome!! I love LOTR. I bet your son was really excited. I love the detail, especially the pages made to look weathered & the spiderweb on the cover.
    • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:20


      LOTR is the best :D
  • Posted: August 23, 2017 01:35


    I bet your son loved this! What a great back to school gift!
    • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:20


      Thank you Tara :D
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 15:15

    Sue Tanya McHorgh

    I really love this Michelle. You are very talented. This is definitely great for back to school idea.
    • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:20


      Thanks so much Sue, I appreciate that
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 15:13


    OMG. I have never seen anything I love more than this!!!!!!
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 15:17


      That's really sweet Amanda, thank you
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 13:37

    Greg Navage

    I love it. Great job, Michelle!
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 14:41


      :D Hello Greg :D Thank you
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 13:05


    Wow, I can't believe you made this! You are one of the most creative people I've ever known! I love the whole thing from start to finish. What a lovely gift for your son. I know he will cherish it. Good luck to him. It sounds like an exciting adventure!
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 14:41


      He deserves and worked so hard for this wonderful adventure and I hate blubbering every time he leaves. It must make it so difficult for him. Thanks so much for your lovely words Carolann
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 12:41


    This is so special and you´re so amazing at this! I cannot get over the details and thought you´ve put into this beautiful Journal Michelle. I´m sure, your son will absolutely love this!
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 14:38


      Thank you Katrin for always making my day. I gave the journal to him a few days before he left and I'm really hoping he uses it to explore his wonderful soul and gets those words on paper so I can read them all, if he lets me, when he comes home again
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 08:25

    Emma jones

    I absolutely adore this, you are so talented! I haven't even seen LOTR but this is so nice x
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 11:29


      WHAT!!!! You haven't seen Lord of the Rings, oh no Emma, it's probably the only movies I ever watched that I think are better than the books. But don't tell my son, he'll think I'm crazy ;-)
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 02:27

    Lexi Marie

    This is a really awesome back to school idea! I need to get back into crafting again :)
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:08


      Thank you Lexi, hope you find some time to get crafty ;-)
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 02:16

    Hey Sharonoox

    What a cool DIY! I really like the finished product. It certainly looks like a lot of effort and love was poured in making this. I'd like to try making one for my son too before school starts.
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:22


      Hope you do get to make one Sharon, it's a fun, love filler project and you can customize the look any way you want to
  • Posted: August 22, 2017 01:51


    When I saw the first picture I almost thought it was a bag LOL it's such a good looking journal.
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:09


      :D Thank you Oyinkan. It does look a bit like a bag
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 21:00


    It is amazing gift for back to school. It has so much character to it. Love the detailing. I would be thrilled to receive it. Normally my gift to my daughter is store brought journal and pencil case only.
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:19


      Thank you Afroz. I must admit I've also bought back to school gifts in the past when time catches me unaware but making something special is so much more rewarding
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 19:56


    Wow! You did an amazing job on that journal. I think any emerging wizard would be proud to carry it and write down thoughts on it's pretty rustic and authentic pages.
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:17


      Awww Chrissy, thank you, that's exactly what I was hoping for. My son's got this amazing imagination and I can't wait for him to start writing all those beautiful stories down somewhere
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 19:35


    Whoa that's pretty crafty of you and also thinking outside the box there a bit. It's definitely a unique handmade notebook! Great idea for a back to school project for an older teen
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:14


      Thank you Jin, a one of a kind teenager deserves something a little different ;-)
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 18:35

    Fabiola Zefi

    Oh wow! What a great journal. I love the ruggedness and the beautiful colour. Such a great idea ... except I am so not good with making things, aside from creating beautiful dishes. haha.
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:13


      :D And your dishes do look fabulous too. That's one thing I can't do. Cooking and me just don't seem to work
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 16:53

    Candy Rachelle

    Oh wow!!! You are really creative and did a fantastic job with this journal! Your son should absolutely LOVE this...especially because it was made with love!
    • Posted: August 22, 2017 06:11


      Thanks so much Candy, , we did try to put as much love as we could into making it for Calin
  • Posted: August 21, 2017 14:20


    What a lovely idea. I can definitely see the Hobbit influence Michelle. You have gone above and beyond by finding that cool font and translating the songs. What a wonderful mama you are. Your son will treasure this journal and always think of you every time he opens it. Where the songs you translated from the hobbit also or are they something else?
    • Posted: August 21, 2017 15:29


      :D The songs are both from one of Calin's favorite band, Pink Floyd. I was a little sneaky, the song at the back is "Wish You Were Here" - just to remind him and the one in front is called "Comfortably Numb"
      • Posted: August 22, 2017 17:40


        Aww so so sweet! Definitely a mama's touch.
        • Posted: August 23, 2017 07:16


  • Posted: August 21, 2017 14:16

    Angie ~ Ambient Wares

    Your son is going to love it! You took so much time making sure it was all about him and that makes for the perfect gift. It's funny because I'm working on a making a binder of sorts right now. I must have channeled your creativity :D
    • Posted: August 21, 2017 15:30


      LOL Angie, maybe I channeled yours ;-)