Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fabric Notebook Cover Tutorial

While I was still pregnant, I did a lot of internet surfing. I was stuck in bed for much of the day because I was so exhausted and uncomfortable, and while I did a lot of non-computer things, too, I needed variety. Or a break for my fingers from hand sewing. While surfing, I spent some time hanging around The Red Headed Hostess's website. She has great resources for religious study, including some great items to purchase. A lot is geared toward Mormons, but much of it could be applied equally well to other religious groups, as well. I was really intrigued by her scripture study packets, but hesitated to purchase for two reasons. I wasn't sure how well I would use it for my studying, and I didn't feel like I needed "pretty" study sheets. So, I created a printed sheet for myself for general conference talk studying that had the sections I thought I would need (inspired by but not identical to hers), and I started a scripture journal following instructions she had on her blog here (scroll to the bottom for a link to a PDF with concise instructions and tips).

I bought a simple composition notebook at Target before school started, and started my journal. But I decided it really needed a cover. I looked around online, especially Pinterest (see note above about internet surfing...) but couldn't find what I was looking for. I wanted it to have a pen pocket and some sort of closure, I was leaning toward an elastic strap rather than a button and loop, but would have taken either. So, I decided to wing it. I measured the book and guessed at a good placement and size for a pen pocket, and went for it. And decided that someone else might like to make one, too, so I thought I'd write up a tutorial. I made my first one out of solids that I had leftover from other projects, as a trial, but I liked it well enough that it's the one I use. I've made one for my sister, one for my mom, one for my daughter, and one for a friend out of cute fabric now that I have the sizing and technique down!

First, you'll need a few materials.

  • inside cover 11x24-1/2
  • front cover 11x6-1/4 and 11x16-1/4
  • pocket background 11x2-1/2
  • pocket front 12x2-1/2
elastic 12-1/2" piece of 1/4" elastic
Pellon SF101 fusible interfacing: enough to fuse to the cover pieces and the pocket background

Step one: Fuse the interfacing to the cover pieces and pocket background. I like to fuse a larger piece of interfacing than I need to an even larger piece of fabric so that I can trim it to size. You could use a heavier weight fabric instead, but I like using my quilting cotton stash, so interfacing helps make it a little sturdier. I know some people complain about rippling from interfacing, but I have found that if I press the front of the fabric well after I fuse it that it looks pretty flat. Trim the pieces to the sizes listed above.

Step two: Prepare the pocket. Press the pocket front fabric in half matching the short ends. Using an 1/8" seam allowance, sew the pocket front to the pocket background along the bottom edge (short end) with the raw edges of the pocket front at the bottom. This is technically unnecessary but will help keep the pocket pieces lined up in the next step. (no photos, sorry!)

Step three: Prepare the front cover piece. Using a 1/4" seam allowance and with right sides together, sew the pocket pieces to the front cover pieces so the pocket is to the right of the longer piece.

You'll want to be careful to make sure that the pocket opening is up. Press the cover piece with the seams out from the pocket.

Step four: Pin the covers together and place the elastic. Sandwich the elastic inside the cover and pin it in place with 1/4" extending beyond the edges of the top and bottom of the covers. Pin it 11" away from the inside edge of the pocket.

Step five: Sew the cover together. Using a 3/8" seam allowance and with right sides together, stitch all the way around the outside leaving a 4" opening on one end.

Clip the corners (being careful to not cut the stitches) to reduce bulk.

Turn the cover right side out and push the corners out well. (Note that a 3/8" seam allowance makes for a comfortable cover with a bit of overhang around the notebook. If you would like to fit more snugly, and be more difficult to switch out notebooks, you can use a 1/2" seam allowance but must be careful to make sure it will fit before clipping corners and top-stitching.)

Press the cover well, turning the fabric at the opening in to the same seam allowance. Your cover should be about 10-1/4" tall by 24-1/2" long. If it's shorter than 10-1/8", you won't be able to top-stitch to finish it and have it fit, and 10-1/8" is really pushing it. Ask me how I know.

Step six: Top-stitch the short edges of the cover.

Step seven: Prepare the cover for finishing. Wrap the cover around the notebook you are using and fold the edges over the notebook cover, making sure they are as even as possible. Check on pocket placement and elastic placement. When you are satisfied, pin the edge and remove the cover. Repin the cover through the middle of the cover pockets.

Step eight: Top-stitch the cover closed. Being careful to catch both edges of the cover at the ends, top-stitch along the long edges of the cover only. Do NOT topstitch along the short edges. Carefully sew near the elastic, ensuring that you do not top-stitch through the elastic by holding it out of the way of the needle.

Clip your threads and wrap your notebook with your new cover! The notebooks that I bought were quite flimsy and I found they benefited from slipping in a piece of cardboard cut to size. I slipped mine in right behind the notebook.

These make fantastic and quick gifts. Who couldn't use more notebooks?

Friday, March 17, 2017


What is it about samplers? They are intriguing but can seem outdated at the same time. I tend to think of traditional samplers as so old-fashioned, and even the term sampler just feels uncool in my mouth. But really, they're such an integral part of the quilting culture. Many quilters get their starts in samplers; I know I did. The first quilt block I ever sewed was part of a neighborhood sampler (I never finished it, consequently), and the block of the month program at a local quilt shop is what really got me started in earnest.

The first Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting, my local quilt shop

What's not to love, right? It's so satisfying to finish a block, to pick individual fabrics for a block, to have a stack of interesting and different blocks. Sewing a single block is much less time commitment than an entire quilt and can be much less overwhelming. It gives you the opportunity to make a variety without getting burned out on a single technique or block pattern.

The second Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting

Of course, samplers aren't always amazing. When you are just aimlessly sewing blocks, when do you stop? And not all samplers look cohesive, especially if the blocks aren't all designed by the same designer or in the same style or if the quilter doesn't pick a cohesive color scheme. Sometimes you don't really need a theme or style, but they can quickly turn disjointed without one. And then there are decisions to be made about settings...

A mini sampler I made for the Mini Challenge group on Flickr

It's a mixed bag, of course. But samplers seem to be a big thing right now, and are experiencing a wave of popularity (not that they're ever really unpopular) with many sampler sew alongs going on online. I haven't truly participated in any, but I have dutifully downloaded blocks just in case. Last year there was Moda's Sampler Shuffle and The Splendid Sampler, and Gnome Angel hosts lots of quilt alongs, including a 100 blocks in 100 days sew along using Tula Pink's sampler book, Farmer's Wife, and now a Long Time Gone quilt. There are block of the month programs that various bloggers do annually: Amy Gibson (who also just released a sampler book), Meadow Mist Designs, and the Fat Quarter Shop's annual fundraising block of the month. And many others, I'm sure. Clearly, we quilters love samplers. And sew alongs.

I started yet another sampler project recently. I currently have a few in progress. The first one is one I've really abandoned: a Vintage Quilt Revival sampler in solids. I have 5 or 6 blocks that have really been abandoned, and that's okay. I don't really consider it a WIP because I'm not sure I'll come back to it. It's okay. (Even though I've abandoned the sampler project, it's a really great book and I've made 3 or 4 projects from it.)

The second is the Mode Sampler Shuffle, which I've really renamed in my head as my six-inch sampler. I finished the 30 sampler shuffle blocks and now intend to supplement with more blocks from the same patterns or from the Splendid Sampler project. I've taken a break from it to work on other things, intending to come back to it with fresh eyes and new ideas.

I also started the Patchwork City Sampler and I'm sewing it up as a travel quilt with travel prints from favorite destinations. But, a few weeks ago, I paused all the things I was working on (except for my leaders and enders project) to work on yet another sampler project.

The Chip mini is obviously not part of the sampler... ;-) The 7 blocks are from Patchwork City
Sweetwater (my favorite design team) hosted a contest from Moda during their 12 months 12 contests promotion. The Sweetwater designers decided to host a contest on Instagram for making six-inch blocks in their fabric. Of course, I jumped in! And after a few blocks, decided that I wanted to make a lot of blocks (I really wanted to win!) and that I would work towards two sampler projects. One Christmas table runner (I have a lot of Sweetwater Christmas fabric and just love it) and a Sweetwater sampler quilt. 

My goal became one block per day (I reasoned in my head that this would probably put me close to 10% of the blocks) and would give me a decent shot, plus it would mean I'd have a decent number of blocks for a sampler. I hoped I would get more than that done, but I thought about 30 would be doable. I blew that out of the water and ended up with 40, including 8 Christmas blocks.

Here are some of my favorites. They said on their blog they would be looking at creativity and use of fabric. I thought I got some pretty creative ones! And I made it a personal goal to use as many different fabric lines as possible, and to mix them as much as possible in each block.

This is my winning block! Funny story: when I finished it, I told my husband that it was my winner. I knew it could win, and I was pleased to be right. There were a lot I thought could win, including the house ones above that I think are pretty creative. But I knew this one was awesome.

I thought this was my most creative block: It's a cross section of a neighborhood--can you see it?

I also thought this one had a good shot. It's from The Splendid Sampler.

This is one I saw on Instagram over a year ago and have wanted to make it ever since. I think I pieced it differently than whoever originally made it, and I like how it worked out.

I can't even say how excited I was to win! And I really love that I have a really good stack of blocks, waiting to be made into a project. Of course, I'm taking a bit of a break from six inch blocks...

What's funny is I'm not really enamored by sampler quilts. I've sure enjoyed making these, though. And I hope I actually finish them! Also--confession time--I'm really considering starting the block of the month on the Bernina blog. I just can't help myself. It's a beautiful quilt!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Time for a Change Diaper Bag

I finished sewing my new diaper bag a few nights ago, hooray! So, I guess that means I can start taking my babies out, now, right?

Right... *sigh*

But still...I finished my bag! Yippee!

When I found out I was expecting twins, I knew I'd need a better bag solution. I had used a shoulder bag from my university days for my other girls and loved the size, the material (strong, black canvas), and the strap, which had a shoulder pad and swivel clips. But I didn't think it would be big enough for two kids. I started looking into Petunia Pickle Bottom bags because it seems like everyone in my neighborhood has one. Even my friend who couldn't stomach buying one with her first baby bought one somewhere along the way to her second. However, I just don't get the hype. And they're pretty expensive...and I don't think they're that attractive: I think the shape is a little strange. I looked at other styles of the Petunia Pickle Bottom, but didn't see any I loved, and again...the price...I just couldn't see myself spending that much money on something I didn't love. 

So I started looking for patterns and got SO lucky. Erin of Dog Under My Desk released a diaper bag pattern just this year! Perfect! I was not thrilled that she put her store on sale a mere 10 days after I purchased the pattern at full price, but I had sewn a bag from a pattern of hers before and knew they were worth the $10, so I tried to not feel too upset. 

It sort of worked.

I decided to use a lightweight denim (or chambray, maybe?) from my stash for the main fabric and I ordered a piece of Handcrafted 2 by Alison Glass for the lining. I love it! I had the yellow zips already so I didn't have to order any, and I ordered the killer hardware from Bag Maker Supplies on Etsy. I think the hardware is just beautiful, I really love it and I'll definitely order it again.

Even though I complained mightily about the price of commercial diaper bags, this isn't a cheap sew, especially if you want to use AG Handcrafted fabric. I bought the main fabric too long ago to remember how much I paid, and I had most of the interfacings in my stash, but if I had to guess, I'd bet this bag cost about $75-$85 to make, including the pattern purchase. I think it's worth it.

I thought adding a pieced strip of Handcrafted scraps would look really cool as a focal point on the bag and I'm so glad I went to the trouble of doing it, I love how it turned out!

I also added a pocket on the inside with elastic. This was an add-on on her blog and I went ahead and added one because you can never have too many pockets, am I right? 

I'm really excited to start using it. I love how it turned out! I did run into a couple problems while sewing it, but really, her patterns are amazingly written and make it pretty easy to be successful. And now, if I make the pattern again (my daughter has already requested one...we'll see), I'll know where to be careful (hint: the zipper on the top isn't lined up straight, but since it still works and hangs well, I left it).

I really recommend Dog Under My Desk patterns, especially if you're new to bag making but want to start. They're amazing!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fabric Friday: February 3

It's interesting to see the announcements of the "colors of the year." I know these announcements were made a while ago. And I've been mulling over them. In the past years, I haven't been very excited about the colors. I didn't hate them, but I wasn't excited. This year, though, I'm excited about both Pantone's color and Kona's color. Flamingo. Really? Yes. I have four girls--sign me up! 

But, I am also excited about Pantone's greenery. Now, as you know, unlike Kona's COTY, you can't just order Greenery. But, I actually do have a bunch of the colors in the same color family as Greenery. Love! 

The other day, I was picking out some fabrics to add to my English paper piecing project, and decided to add stars in navy and green. Greenery green. :-) (The white will be the hexagon centers in the green stars, and the aqua will be the centers on the blue stars). I looked at the stack, and just fell in love. The fabrics I pulled just looked great together, and I fell in love with the group. Isn't it great? I love navy, and think it pairs so well with so many things. Including Greenery. Go Pantone!

Saturday, January 28, 2017


So...January, huh? I haven't posted since December and don't even have morning sickness to blame. I guess twins are a good excuse...but really, I have been sewing, and I've actually sewed a lot, but haven't had a lot of finishes to post.

Still, since it's been SO long, I figured I'd post a few work in progress shots I took today.

Here's a quick shot of my design wall. I have a mini quilt top I started for the Disney Quilt Swap, but I had to drop out because my pregnancy was killer. My partner was a librarian who (among other things) liked Beauty and the Beast. I had to make a book-inspired mini. Lucky for me, I dig books and Beauty and the Beast, too. I swore I'd finish it up at some point, and now I'm trying to decide how to quilt it. I'm leaning towards just simple straight line quilting. Not quite matchstick, but lots of close lines.

I also have my first seven blocks in the Patchwork City Sampler book. I'm using it to feature travel-related prints. Of course, they aren't all destination specific--I've got some food prints and the camera prints. I decided to also include prints that include things that are important to me in traveling. :-)

I also have two quilt tops and backs ready to deliver to my favorite long arm quilter...but I'm waiting until my big roll of batting arrives. I ordered a roll of Pellon batting off after reading about it from Allison Harris, and since I paid $4 a yard for it (YEP.) I thought I'd take some with my quilts since she charges more. Hopefully the batting is nice!!

I also have been working on this English Paper Piecing project. I started it while I was on bed rest. I didn't work on it a ton, but I did a bunch. And I've worked on it periodically while I pump breastmilk. Because pumping is officially one of the most boring ways of spending time ever.

And, I'm working on a new bag. It's a diaper bag pattern from Dog Under My Desk, and while I get nervous sewing three dimensionally, her patterns are extremely thorough. I'm pretty excited about it, and hope it doesn't take too long. The one change I am making is adding this strip of fabric to the front zipper panel.

I've got lots of things going on...and lots to get started on, too. :-)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fabric Friday: December 23

I've been dreaming and scheming about a sampler project as a tribute to my love of travel for a while. I got Elizabeth Hartman's Patchwork City book last year and thought it would be the perfect thing to use, and have hesitated to start for just a couple reasons. I was pretty intimidated by template piecing--I've used rotary piecing almost exclusively since I began quilting. Everything else that stood in my way was mostly related to laziness--I didn't have the templates prepped, I didn't have a block picked to start, I didn't have fabrics picked for a block, I had plenty of other projects, etc, was all stalling because I was intimidated. But! I have decided to go for it.

I've been acquiring cute travel prints for a while, and I couldn't resist the canal print from Kate Spain's Grand Canal line. But--I ordered it from with some other things, and so of course I ended up with a full yard due to their terrible pricing model on quilting cotton. I cut some off to make a notebook cover for my travel-loving sister, and decided that the scraps left from that cut would be perfect for a first block. But what prints to use with it?

I struggled at first with pulling coordinating prints for her notebook cover and ended up using solids. So when I decided to use the scraps for a block, I again had to consider coordinating prints. And I ended up with two separate stacks that both work equally well. I thought I'd showcase both of them here for Fabric Friday just to show how different two stacks that coordinate with the same focal print can be. Honestly, I can't even decide which one I like better, so I'll probably use both in the quilt.

I used a metallic print in both stacks and I think that complements the idea of Venice really well. Venice is so rich, and steeped with a history of wealth, that I think it works on a theoretical level. I did find that I had to be really careful with the blues and aquas because of how much of them there are in the background of the print. That was what I really struggled with when I was sewing the notebook cover. It needs good contrast so that the piecing is distinct.

So, as I was taking pictures of these stacks, I put them together, and realized that they make a really nice single stack, too! *sigh* I feel another quilt coming on!