Updated: Jun 17
A tutorial and patterns guide on how to sew your own journal cover that is both functional and beautiful.
I recently changed jobs, and some of the hardest things to leave behind are my lovely colleagues. What better way to express my appreciation of them, than giving them gifts that I personally made? I chose to make journal covers because they are practical, can be used in the office, and are not too personal.
The ideal fabric to use here should have very little give (i.e. not stretchy), medium thickness, tough, and fuse well with fusible interfacing (I found fabrics containing polyester very difficult to fuse with fusible interfacing). Quilting cotton is a very good choice of material. Canvas is also good as long as it is the thin kind, because any material too thick will cause unsightly bulky seams that, if you, like me, are using a domestic sewing machine, will be a nightmare to sew through.
For this project, I have used the beautiful batik fabrics that I purchased from a local store last year (check out my Instagram post). Although they are thinner than quilting cotton, they do have high thread count, almost no give, and are 100% cotton.
Machine-printed batik fabrics.
Purchased from a local retailer but these are originally from Indonesia.
The interfacing I used in this project include fusible felt, hard woven interfacing, and medium non-woven interfacing. These are just materials that I have in my stash that I found worked well in combination to give that tough and sturdy body of the journal cover. Alternatively, I imagine a nice stabiliser foam could be used in place of the fusible felt. I have also heard of crafters using cardboard or plastic sheets, which would replace the hard interfacing. However, I wanted the journal covers to be machine washable, so any paper material is out of the question and the idea of putting a whole sheet of plastic (or two) into the washing machine does not sound like it will do my washing machine any good. Also, the methods I used as described in this tutorial are not suitable for cardboard or plastic sheet - these will require different methods.
As for the elastics, I used 2-inch elastic for the pen holders and 3/4-inch elastic for the binder band. I sourced for the toughest elastics available in my local stores, as the binder band will have to be strong enough to hold the journal cover snugly closed.
As for the threads, I used the regular polyester sewing machine thread. Nothing special there. I reckon it is fine to use stronger threads, as long as your sewing machine can take them. The threads will be holding together thick layers of materials, so I wouldn't go with any weaker threads.
The finished journal cover has measurements of 26 cm (L) x 20 cm (W) x 2 cm (T). It fits journals of up to B5 size.
THE MAKING PROCESS
Let's first have an overall view of the journal cover that we are going to make.
All measurements are in centimetres, unless otherwise specified.
All seam allowance is 1 cm. Seam allowance is included in the fabric cut measurements.
STEP (I): CUT MATERIALS
Cut main fabric, lining fabric and interfacings as per measurements shown below.
Note*: Theoretically, the length of Fabric C should be 73.5 cm. However, in practice, this Fabric C will be folded many times (see STEP III below) and each fold will inevitably take up an extra fragment of a millimetre, when the fabric "travel" from one layer of fold to the another. The extra 0.5 cm is to compensate for this.
TIP! For Fabric A and Fabric F, I recommend rough-cutting them approximately 1 cm to 2 cm larger than the dimensions indicated above. You will see the benefits of doing this in STEP (VI) and STEP (VII) below.
STEP (II): PREPARE VERTICAL POCKETS
Vertical Pockets Ready for Next Step
STEP (III): PREPARE CARD SLOTS
Note*: Start folding from the left side of Fabric C (with 8 cm as the first measurement). Do not start from the right. Theoretically, after all the folding, the right-most measurement should be 4.5 cm (i.e. 9 cm minus 4.5 cm) instead of 4 cm indicated in the diagram above. The missing 0.5 cm is due to the many folds along the strip of Fabric C that take up extra fragments of millimetres. This is why Fabric C is cut at 74 cm length instead of the theoretical 73.5 cm.
Card Slots Ready for Next Step
STEP (IV): ASSEMBLE LEFT COMPARTMENT
Card Slots and Vertical Pockets sewn together.
TIP! Press seam allowance towards the Vertical Pockets to avoid bulk.
Medium interfacing applied onto the wrong side of the Left Pockets Panel.
TIP! It is OK if you find that the seam allowance around the medium interfacing is not exactly 1 cm. The medium interfacing itself will be your sewing guide later.
Sewing of Left Pockets Panel to Fabric D, right sides together, following the edge of,
but without sewing onto, the medium interfacing.
Left Pockets Panel sewn to Fabric D.
Fabric D folded to the wrong side along the seam line, and pressed with steam iron.
Left Compartment is ready for assembly.
NOTE: In the above photo, I did not edge stitch along the seam line as instructed in STEP 5 of the above diagram. Although this is really optional, it is recommended to edge stitch to give the compartment a bit more integrity.
STEP (V): PREPARE RIGHT COMPARTMENT
Right Compartment is prepared by applying medium interfacing onto the wrong side of Fabric E and folding Fabric E into half.
STEP (VI): PREPARE EXTERIOR PIECE
TIP! If you had rough-cut Fabric A as recommended in STEP (I) above, you can just roughly position the interfacings and fusible felt, and then trim around it to give the 1 cm seam allowance. This is a lot less tedious than having to precisely adjust the positions to ensure the 1 cm seam allowance.
Hard interfacings (concealed) and fusible felt applied onto the wrong side of Fabric A,
and seam allowance trimmed to 1 cm.
STEP (VII): PREPARE LINING
TIP! If you had rough-cut Fabric F as recommended in STEP (I) above, you can just roughly position the interfacings, and then trim around it to give the 1 cm seam allowance. This is a lot less tedious than having to precisely adjust the positions to ensure the 1 cm seam allowance.
Hard interfacings applied onto the wrong side of Fabric F,
and seam allowance trimmed to 1 cm.
STEP (VIII): ASSEMBLE INTERIOR PIECE
Interior Piece basted and ready for final assembly.
STEP (IX): FINAL ASSEMBLY
Exterior and Interior Pieces placed right sides together.
Clips to secure the Exterior and Interior Pieces together.
Sewing of Exterior and Interior Pieces together, following the edge of,
but without sewing onto, the fusible felt (and hard interfacing).
Bottom seam left open for turning.
Turning the sandwich inside out.
TIP! This step will be UNNERVING. You will have to crumple the whole assembly to get it through the bottom opening. Therefore, I recommend pressing the sandwich thoroughly with steam iron and let it cool down to make sure all those interfacings and fusible felt are as securely fused as possible, before turning. Some of them may still begin to peel while turning. This is OK as long as they are still largely intact - you will be applying reinforcement stitches in later steps that will secure them forever (dramatic exaggeration for added assurance 👍👍). Also, don't worry about wrinkles - they will be easily ironed off later.
Interior view of the sandwich, after turning and pressing with steam iron.
Bottom seam allowance folded into the sandwich and clipped in place.
Bottom opening closed with edge stitching.
TIP! Use longer stitch length, like 3 mm, when stitching thick layers.
Bottom opening closed with edge stitching (Interior View)
STEP (X): FINISHING STITCHES
This last step is basically to reinforce the whole ensemble - including securing the inferfacings that are now concealed.
Interior view of the finished Journal Cover.
Exterior view of the finished Journal Cover.
But why stop at one? Make six! Seriously though, I made six because that's how many colleagues to whom I will be gifting these. I hope they enjoy the journal covers. I know I would be so happy to receive one!