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There are a lot of Kindle covers out there in this wide world of ours, but I can guarantee that you don’t have one like this.Nabiki Kindle Cover 004

I’m not in leather work for the money, but if I can defray some of the costs of my hobby from time to time, I certainly have no problem with that.  After posting pictures of my Christmas projects on a forum that I have been part of since 2001, another member asked me if I’d be willing to consider a commission.  She had a specific design in mind and hoped to have it put on a cover for her new Kindle Paperwhite.

I was reluctant, not because I didn’t think I could do the design, but because I wasn’t real certain I could do a well-fitting cover for a device that I have never held in my hands.  I talked myself into it, however, and within a day or two had thought of a few approaches to making something that would look nice and still hold the device in reasonable security.

[I will go on the record as saying that I personally prefer “sleeve” type cases, however, of the type that are just for storage and transport; I like to hold the thing in my hand directly, generally speaking.]

She sent me a scan of her design, which is a rather striking tribute to her mixed heritage.  I played with it in Picasa some to heighten the contrast and basically turn it into line art for tracing.
Kindle Paperwhite knotwork design ready for tracing

I did the trace, cuts, and tooling over the course of about two hours, or however long the third Transformers movie (via Netflix) was.

Kindle Paperwhite knotwork - traced and cut

I hadn’t done something of this complexity before, where aberrations in the pattern would really stand out, but it wasn’t too bad.  The tricky part is that it’s very easy while tracing to just miss some lines–which you don’t notice until you remove the pattern, and then you have to freehand it.  I recommend figuring out a systematic approach if you find yourself trying to do this.

Tools of the tradeTools of the trade.  I traced with the red pointy thing, then cut with the swivel knife (right), tooled with the new smooth bevelers, and added texture with the beveler on the right.  I rounded the cords to give them a little more depth using the modeling spoon on the other end of the red thing. That’s a detail that you really don’t appreciate until you do it, but it makes the lines less harsh and gives it a more organic feel.Knotwork - tooled and kanjied

For the kanji, I tried several different tools, knives, and techniques (even a pyrography tool, which bears a suspicious resemblance to a soldering iron) before finally settling on a straightforward attack with my new set of X-Acto knives.  The characters are only half an inch high, so I practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced on scrap leather before doing it For Real…

2013-01-12 10.52.18

–and nearly bungled it by starting to work with my reference sheet upside down.  Fortunately, I had done it so many times by this point that it just looked wrong and I caught myself before any irreparable damage had been done.

I did the initial cuts, and then oh-so-carefully carved minute slices off the sides (using a magnifying glass) to widen the cuts to give it some of the depth and dynamic of the reference characters.  Do not try this any smaller than 1/2″, and preferably a good deal larger.

After the leather dried, it was time to go purple.  Very very purple.

Things get very purple


This is probably the best shot for clearly seeing the characters.  Once it was purple, it was time for the silver frost highlight:

purple and silver


This is probably the best view of the silver, since subsequent finishes dimmed it a little, but in general it made things very difficult to photograph. As with some of my other projects using the gold frost finish, it looks really neat and my photos don’t do it justice at all.

With the decor mostly done, now it’s time for the tricky part.  How do I keep the thing in there?  Commercial cases for this sort of project can use a hard-molded plastic to retain the device, and the leather can just be decorative/protective, but I don’t really have that option.  Leather is flexible; I had to have something that would still work as the leather wore and stretched.

My initial thought was to make a frame which would be sewn to the cover around the edges; the Kindle would slide in from the open left (inside). I spent far more time than I care to contemplate measuring and re-measuring and cutting and dyeing and finishing…

Kindle Paperwhite frame that totally did not work

–before concluding that this wasn’t going to work at all.  Despite my measurements, when I brought it in to a Best Buy to look at an actual Kindle, it was clear that this just wasn’t going to fly.  Oh, I could modify it, but it would be either too tight initially (and a pain to get the thing in and out of) or too loose (and not be able to securely retain the device).  Or worse, it would be both too tight and still not secure.

Also, I needed some way to keep the thing more or less closed when not in use; I favor a snap on a strap or something of that nature, but this was ruled out by the recipient.  An elastic band to slip over the cover would cover up the lovely knotwork, or at the least make it look imbalanced. What to do, what to do…?

Well, I hope this solution works.

Kindle Paperwhite knotwork cover - purple with silver highlights

The front cover, finished.  The Super Shene and then acrylic resolene blended the colors a little, so while it’s still silvery, it’s a more muted effect.  I actually like it better, but it still doesn’t photograph well.Paperwhite interior

Inside, I went for a fairly simple setup.  L-shaped brackets frame the Kindle, with a band of 1/2″ elastic sewn in across the corners for retention. The outside corners on the right side have a metal snap top riveted through, while the left side has matching magnets sewn in under the pigskin lining on two thick triangles (which add key spacing to protect the Kindle).  The lining weakens the magnets a good bit, but it’s still strong enough such that the cover tends to stay closed pretty well, and as the leather wears and softens, it should work better.Interior outer corner buttonA close up of the snaps.  The only real problem with this approach is that I didn’t have any particular way to make the exterior pretty:
Outer corner exteriorAesthetically, this is the weak point.  But it’s not that weak. I hope.

Sewing this was a major pain, especially when I was putting on the brackets and magnets–just too many layers of material to work through.  I need some narrower, sharper awls, I think, to help get stuff like that started.

This took way longer than I expected, but as usual it was a learning experience, and I suspect that I would be able to do another one much quicker.  (This is good, since Pop apparently wants a Nook case.)  I’m moderately pleased with the outcome, and it’s certainly a striking look, though that owes more to the color and design inspiration of its new owner than my own taste.  I hope she likes it.