Levi's Traveling Journal Project

A few months ago I got a very interesting email. A woman from a consultancy in London contacted me and seven other members of the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team asking if we'd be interested in participating in creating custom books for Levi Strauss & Co, for a project that revolving around inspiring young women who've proved themselves transcendent in some way—either changing their own lives or their communities.

The opportunity seemed almost too good to be true. Levi Strauss after all, is a household name. (Though jarringly many of the kids my age who I mentioned the project to didn't know who I was talking about, until I said, "You know, Levi's. The jeans company?") To get commission work at all is a special thing—well, for me, many of the other bookbinders on Etsy are more familiar with it!—but to be getting a commission for a big international project like this is mind-blowing. Many of us took the leap of faith, though, and decided to go through with the project.

So much about this project excited me. The company, the mission, the fact that it would mean stretching my boundaries and creating books that were larger than I was used to. It also thrilled me that the woman from the consultancy immediately turned to ETSY when Levi's told her what they wanted to do. She found the Bookbinding Team (we call ourselves BEST!) and gave the links to Levi Strauss, who then selected the shops they would like to participate.

I can't begin to tell you how flattered I was when my shop was selected to be one of the eight shops participating. Eight shops! Out of nearly 175 in the Bookbinding Team. I was amazed and humbled to be selected, as I know that many of the bookbinders on the team have not only been doing this a lot longer than I have, but also have been formerly educated in bookbinding, whereas my training has come from the University of Youtube, growing up in a quilting family, and a LOT of experimentation.

I was really excited about making these journals. They were to be at least 10" by 10", with 72 pages back and forth, but we were encouraged to do whatever we wanted to, creatively, and I couldn't have been happier with that.

My shop has two really distinct styles in it, and so I wanted the journals I made to reflect that. I work mainly with felted wool, either in a raw format, or quilted over in cotton fabric, so I decided that I would do my signature softcover binding in one of each formats for this project.

"Patchwork Mosaic"

The first journal I decided to do came together in a way that surprised me. I knew I wanted to do a sort of mosaic out of felt, but I was planning on piecing bits of felt together, Crazy Quilt style, and then cutting the result to fit the size I wanted. When I started cutting up pieces, though, and laying them down on the base I was planning on sewing them to later... I really liked how they looked simply laid out.

I ended up ditching the piecing idea altogether, and instead quilted the bits of felt down where they lay, giving the journal a very nice and unusual textile feel. The closure came together very naturally for me, and I love the way the raw wooden buttons look against the blues, greens and beige's of the mosaic work. This book feels very Oriental to me, which is also fitting, considering I'm half-Japanese!

"Coral Snake"

The second journal I made was a little more traditional by means of construction. I took several pieces of red and yellow fabric, laid them in stripes with thinner stripes of black fabric between them, and quilted the book together along the lines of the colored strips. The resulting look reminded me of the Coral Snake, so I named it accordingly.

The closure on this one took a lot of hunting through my button stash. I wanted five perfectly mismatched silver and silver-and-pearl buttons. Sure, I could have used five of the same button, but when I laid that out, I didn't enjoy it as much. It took some time, but I finally finally found five buttons that complemented each other, while still giving some variety. A crocheted string wraps around the buttons in a corset-like way, and there is a tiny crocheted star motif on the end of the wrap for a little fun.

These books, along with the others created for the project, are currently being sent throughout the world to be decorated and inscribed by creative young women who have made a difference. This is their opportunity to tell their own story in whatever way they so choose. Later a documentary will be produced to tell the story of the books, and they will be put on display in a gallery setting.

It's really an honor to have contributed to this project. I can't wait to hear back from Levi Strauss, and see what's become of the books I've sent them!

Comments (2)


September 16, 2010 at 7:36 PM

What an amazing post! Congratulations!! The books look great, can't wait to see what becomes of them.

Hooker Next Door

September 17, 2010 at 8:33 AM

How amazing, Lisa!! That is such a cool idea... and way to go you for being chosen! :)
Keep us posted on how they turn out... it's so interesting!