DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook

Recently, my friend the Good Doctor directed me to the Darbin Orvar You Tube Channel, and I fell in love.   It is filled with DIY ideas, and building projects that are simple, creative, and beautiful.  One of the projects that immediately caught my attention was their DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook, and I knew I had to make it.  Unfortunately, the Darbin Orvar Tutorial was a bit light on measurements, so I had to figure out a few things as I went along.  It really wasn't a problem, because the notebook is really very simple, but I thought I would share the measurements I used, in case it helps out anyone in the future.

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

I started with an 8.5" x 11" piece of thick yet flexible leather (215.9mm x 279.4mm) by ArtMinds found at my local Michaels.  It is sold out online as of my writing this, but it is really similar to this leather sold by Amazon.  I used it as my cover, and it really dictated the dimensions of the rest of the journal, including the paper inserts.  Had I had a larger piece of leather available initially, I think I probably would have let the paper inserts determine the size of the notebook, but in the end I am very happy with the size of my finished product, and I am not sure that I would change the size if I make another.

Prepare Cover

You have to create holes in the cover to connect the cover to the paper inserts that you put inside it.  The holes need to be big enough to stick a piece of round elastic through them.  In the original tutorial Lin from Darbin Orvar used what I think was a leather hole punch like these.  I did not have a leather hole punch, so I used this sewing awl (on a side note, I use this tool ALL the time, it has been especially useful in the kitchen, and I highly recommend it).  I think Lin's leather punched holes look a bit neater than mine do, but I think mine still look pretty darn good.

I placed my holes 5.5" (139.7mm) from each short side of the leather, and then on that axis I placed holes 1" (25.4mm) from each long side, then 2" (50.8mm) from each long side, and then one hole 4.25" (107.9mm)  from each long side.  I made five holes total.  If this is hard to visualize, check out the picture of the leather after I had made the holes.

Create Inserts

Gather Paper and Prepare for Sewing

For my inserts I used 15 sheets of standard 8.5" by 11" (215.9mm x 279.4mm) paper for the interior and a piece of heavier weight craft paper for the cover.  I started by folding the paper short sides together in bunches of three pieces (it helps to crease the folded edge with a straight edge, like a ruler), and put the bunches together to form a book.  Since I wanted the height of my inserts to be slightly less than the height of my notebook, I then reduced the height of the insert by cutting off .5" (12.7mm) with an xacto knife (the total size of the paper being inserted was now 8" by 11" or 203.2mm by 279.4mm).  In retrospect it may have been easier to cut the paper prior to folding it. 

To make it easier to sew the paper together I punched holes along the fold as well.  First I unfolded all of the sheets and clipped them together with large paper clips to keep all the pieces in place.  Then I marked where my holes would go along the fold line every half inch.  Finally I used the same awl from earlier to punch the holes where I had marked.  

Sewing the Insert

To sew the insert I chose some variegated plied embroidery thread that I already had in my stash, because it was the thickest thread I had, and I thought it would be pretty.  I sewed using a large embroidery needle.

I sewed a running stitch, starting in the middle inside of the insert, and worked my way to one edge of the insert, turned around and sewed back to the other edge of the insert overlapping my previous stitches, and then turned around again and sewed back to the middle.  This left me with two tails in the middle of the insert which I knotted together using a square knot.  

Cutting the Insert to Fit

Your insert will now be too wide for your cover, so it will need to be cut down.  I cut mine down by .5" or 12.7mm (making the total paper size 8" x 10" or 203.2mm x 254mm).  With three inserts in my notebook, my cover is just big enough to cover my inserts.  If you wanted a little extra overlap by your notebook cover you might want to cut the inserts down by .75" (19.05mm); however, if you were using fewer inserts you might need to cut the insert down by only .25" (6.36mm).

Adding the Elastic and One Insert

To attach the inserts to the notebook cover and to keep the notebook closed, I used this round elastic from Dritz.  Start by cutting the elastic down to size - I cut a 36" (914.4mm) piece.  Then fold the elastic in half.  the folded part of elastic should be inserted into the middle hole in the notebook cover from back to front.  The elastic should then be pulled through so that it makes a loop that is the same length that the cover is wide (5.5" or 139.7mm).  

At this point, the remaining portion of the elastic will be two tails on the inside of the cover.  One tail should be inserted in the next closest hole toward the top of the cover, and the other in the next closest hole toward the bottom of the cover.  The insertion direction is from the inside to the outside of the cover.  The loop that was made earlier should remain.

Turn the cover over so that the outside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the second holes from the bottom and top of the cover, respectively.  Insert the top tail in the hole closest to the top of the cover, inserting from front to back.  Do the same for the bottom tail, in the bottom hole.

Turn the cover over once again so that the inside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the upper and lower-most holes in the cover.  Open one insert to the middle page and place the spine of the insert over the spine of the cover.  Now gather the two elastic tails over the insert and tie them in a knot, holding the insert in place.

Adding Additional Inserts

To add additional inserts, gather two inserts and a piece of round elastic about 20" (508mm) long.  Open the inserts to the middle pages, wrap the elastic around the middle of each insert, and tie the elastic in a knot.  This will connect the two new inserts.

Next slot one of the two new inserts underneath the insert that is already attached to the notebook cover, leaving the second of the new inserts on the opposite side of the original insert.  The elastic holding together the two new inserts will be held in the notebook by the elastic holding the original insert in place.


Thats it!  Enjoy your new notebook, and let me know about all of the places you travel with it!


This post contained affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.

Coat Closet Mini Makeover

We took a quick break from our bathroom remodel, to get some perspective before putting on the finishing touches.  During that break we tackled a quick and easy project - our hall closet.

In a tiny hallway type area, just off our foyer we have a small coat closet.  It is about 24 inches by 34 inches with 8 foot tall ceilings.  On the right side of the closet there is a large wooden box in the closet that forms a low shelf.   It houses our A/C intake vent and cannot be removed.  Prior to this mini makeover, the closet had a single hanging bar for coats, and a shelf that was so deep only Firebeard could reach things on the back of the shelf without a step stool.  Soon after moving into this house the closet was regulated to storage closet status, because it was so impractical to use, and I began to research alternatives.

In a previous post I shared the inspiration for our hall closet makeover.  We were inspired by several of the beautiful and functional coat closet makeovers on pinterest, particularly those that used hooks for hanging coats and bags rather than hangers.  We put that inspiration to use, and here is the result.


What was involved in the transformation?

Preparing the flooring for hardwood

We are slowly replacing the flooring in most of the house with engineered hardwood, so we decided that since we were already doing some work in the closet we would do some of the prep work for the new flooring.  We pulled up the carpet (but didn't cut it out), removed the tack strips and baseboards, and cleaned the sub floor.  The carpet stayed peeled up while we painted and was laid back in the closet when we were done to help protect the subfloor from wear and tear until we can install the new flooring.  We decided not to reinstall the baseboards since we would need to pull them back out when it was time for the new flooring.


We tried a couple of different colors in the closet before settling on Soft Mint by Behr.  In the tiny dark closet most of the mints we tried looked too dark.  Soft Mint is a really pale mint, but in the dark closet it looks much more vibrant than it does on the paint sample.

All of the trim, the shelf, and the ceiling is painted in BM Simply White.

Adding Support and Reducing the Shelf Depth

I wanted hooks installed along two walls in the closet, so we added an extra board along the back wall to screw the hooks into.  We were able to nail the additional board into the studs, so the hooks, being screwed into the board, will be able to hold more weight than if we had simply used a molly to screw them into the drywall.  It also adds an additional measure of support for the shelf.

We reduced the depth of the shelf by about 6 inches, so that I could reach the back of it.  It also makes it easier to step into the closet to hang things up.

Installing Hooks

The hooks, which are gold colored metal with a pretty decorated ceramic ball at the top, were from World Market.  I found them for only $2 a piece.

We decided to install the hooks on only two sides of the closet, leaving the right side of the closet (where the box for the air vent juts into the closet) free.  This gave us room for 5 hooks, each spaced about 6 inches apart.

Adding Mini Shelves

On the right side, above the air vent box we decided to install mini shelves to hold small items like sunglasses, and mail.  We used Ikea's Bekvam Spice Racks ($4 a piece), which we had originally gotten for a different project, but didn't end up using.  They were a great size for the closet, because they are only about 4 inches deep and don't project very far into the tiny room.  We painted them BM Simply White to match the rest of the trim in the closet.

We had a hard time finding anchors that would fit the built in hangers on the back of the spice rack.  We finally found that 50 pound EZ Anchor drywall anchors fit perfectly.

The Door

We decided to add a few special touches to the door as well.  The edge of the door was painted in Folk Art Chalk Paint in Vintage Mustard.  I love the little peek of color when we open the door.

We also decided to try our hand at painting the hardware rather than replacing it.  We used Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint in oil rubbed bronze.  If the finish holds up pretty well, we will use the same technique for the hardware in our hallway, and I will create a tutorial.

Finishing Touches

Now:  Clean, neat, and a place for everything.

Now:  Clean, neat, and a place for everything.

We added a basket for shoes at the bottom of the closet, and a small basket for dog things on the "shelf" formed by the air vent's box.

At the moment we have a small basket on the upper shelf holding umbrellas and rain jackets.  I'm hoping to find two taller baskets that can fit in the closet side by side to make better use of the space.

We have left the baseboards out of the closet for now, since the new flooring will be going in soon.


Let me know what you think in the comments.

Converting a False Drawer Front

Over a month ago we started to give the cabinet a little facelift.  We planned to paint it, and change out the hardware- nothing serious.  It should have been a weekend’s work at the most, and had we stopped there it would have been, but instead, we decided to be clever.

When I was little, my sister and I shared a fairly small bathroom with very little countertop space, and no drawers.  At some point my Dad installed a tilt out drawer behind the false drawer front in front of the sink to add a bit of storage, and since then, every time I see a false drawer front (like the large one on the kid’s bathroom vanity)  I feel like it is a waste of valuable storage space.  It seemed like an ideal time to remedy the wasted false drawer front space when we began working on the bathroom vanity.  We bought a kit by Rev-A-Shelf on Amazon that could convert false drawer fronts into tilt out drawers for $20 (enough for two), and that is where the trouble began. 

While we were waiting for the kit to arrive we got ready  for it.  Removing the false drawer front from the cabinet was surprisingly easy.  I expected it to be securely attached to the vanity, but when I got under there  wasn’t much holding it in at all, just a couple of pieces of wood screwed to false front that fit snugly against the cabinet frame.  The wood swiveled out of the way releasing the front.

The false front had been painted to the front of the cabinet at some point, so I also had to use a razor blade to separate the false front’s paint from the rest of the cabinet.  Then the front popped off – easy as pie.  Note the raised bit of wood on the back of the false front, that will become important later.

When the tilt out drawer kit arrived the cabinet was otherwise ready to go.  We thought it would take 30 minutes to an hour to install the kit, and then we would be done.  Hubris, pure hubris. 

I calculated the placement of the tilt out hinges to within 1/32 of an inch based on the instructions provided with the kit, then, being very confident of my measurements, we quickly screwed everything in and closed the door ready to start on our next project.  The drawer front was too high, much too high.  We were a full 1/4 of an inch off (enough that it was noticeable), despite very careful measurement and direction following.

We took everything off, repositioned, reinstalled, and reclosed.  This time the drawer front was the correct height, but the raised piece of wood on the drawer front hit the cabinet frame before it closed.  The next time the hinges hit the raised piece of wood on the back of the drawer front.  We had to cut off a chunk of the raised portion to make the hinges fit correctly.  After several more attempts our cabinet was doing a very good impression of Swiss cheese, and the drawer front was no longer hitting the frame, the hinges were no longer hitting the drawer front, and everything was at the correct height, but the drawer did not close all of the way, it stood out from the cabinet about as far as the raised portion on the back of the drawer front was thick.

It was now obvious that the makers of this kit had assumed that the false drawer front that the hinges are attached to would be flat.  To compensate for the raised portion of our cabinet front we needed to install the hinges father back in our cabinet than the instructions indicated.  However, there was no space to install them further back, so we had to improvise.  I came up with the plan, and Firebeard implemented it.  The basic idea was to attach additional blocks of wood to the drawer glides to either side of the tilt drawer opening that could then be used to screw the hinges in place.  We got two lengths of 2x4, approximately 6 inches long, routered out a channel on the backs of each block that would fit over the drawer glides (and still allow the drawers to slide in and out) and allow the wood to sit flush with the cabinet opening, and then glued (and Screwed) the wood blocks in place.  We were then able to install the hinges farther back in the cabinet, allowing the drawer to close all of the way.

So now we finally have the new tilt drawer in place, and I will admit I really like having it.  It is a great place to hide the toothpaste and toothbrushes, it can be taken out easily and washed, and the countertop is less cluttered as a result.  Would I put another one in?  Even though I have another kit ready to be installed I haven’t decided if I will actually install it yet.  It was just such a giant waste of time and energy that I am not sure if it was worth it.  If you decide to put one in yourself, here is my advice;

  • Use the instructions to get a general idea of how everything is installed and where everything should go
  • Don’t use the actual measurements in the instructions, there is just too much variations in cabinets for the measurements to be completely accurate
  • Get a helper (or two) to hold things in place while you mark where all the holes need to go
  • Expect to install the hinges more than once, and for the installation to be a far bigger pain in the butt than the helpful kit indicates

If you have any helpful tilt drawer installation tips, or just want to share an installation horror story tell me about it in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.

The Power of Less - Craft Studio

I have been reducing the clutter in my house, and sharing the results with you in my power of less series. I will finish off national craft month, with crafty decluttering.

For me, having no space to craft is the most discouraging barricade to crafting. When my craft "studio" is a mess, nothing gets done until the clutter is cleared.

This decluttering was simply reestablishing my pre existing organizational system, rather than an overhaul of that system. I'm pretty happy with the results.

The Power of Less - Spice Cabinet



In keeping with the theme of un-cluttering my clean on the outside, awful on the inside kitchen, this past weekend I tackled my spice cabinet.

Thing 1 and I started by taking everything out, including the shelves. We washed everything, even the spice bottles themselves. Then we started sorting. We threw out old spices, and merged duplicates. They were grouped by their type and use. The result was far less clutter, and easy access to the most used bottles.

Time: About 2 hours. Cost: $0

More than one use for cereal

Ok, not the actual cereal, the box. My kids eat a lot of cheerios, so I buy the giant boxes that never fit on the shelf correctly. Rather than struggling with the giant box several times a day (cereal is not a breakfast only food if you are 1 and a half), I decant, leaving me with a cereal box in pristine condition. Typically this box would immediately be broken down and sent to recycling, but in the throws of organizing, this box looked suspiciously like a magazine file box.

Mark a 45 degree angle on a large cereal box. The high side of the angle should end in one of the top corners of the box before the flaps begin (if the high side is at the top right on the front, it will be on the top left in the back).Cut along the mark you made. Be careful cut the box cleanly.This is what the box should look like after it has been cut.Wrap the box in heavy weight paper. I used craft paper, which requires strong tape.Then shove some magazines in it. Ta Da! The box really can't stand up to the weight of the magazines on it's own, but it does a great job when propped against something heavy, like other magazine boxes.