Making Small CQ Journals & Notebooks

Carolyn Phillips © 2010

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When joining a round robin group, you are often asked to include a small, lightweight journal where you can write your block preferences, and where the participants of the round robin can write their thoughts while working on your block.

Whether you use your journal for inclusion in your crazy quilting round robins or as a small sketchbook that you can carry in your purse, to record those illusive ideas and inspirations for your next crazy quilting project, you’ll find them to be quick and easy to make and fun to use.

The first fabric journal cover I made was for a small, 3” x 5” spiral-bound notebook; the kind you can buy at the stationery or drugstore. Please see “Peacock Journal” in the two photos below. Although I was pleased with the design and appearance of the journal, I felt that the extra weight of the spiral binding and the cardboard covers could make the postage too expensive for those needing to mail internationally. However, this little journal makes a great notebook to carry in my purse.

My first journal.

When the spiral-bound notebook is full, it can be removed and replaced with another or with a lightweight book that you can easily make, using the following instructions.

Making the Books:

You’ll need a manila folder and a few sheets of 8 ½” x 11” copy paper. A manila folder is the perfect weight and, as a bonus, has a great already-creased fold at the bottom edge. One manila folder will make two small books. I make several of these little books at a time, and then stockpile them for future use.

Measure, mark, and cut 4 ½” up from the bottom folded edge of the manila folder. Make the second cut, as shown in photo above, to separate the folder into two books.

Decide how many pages you want your book to have. I usually make mine with twelve to sixteen pages; each sheet of paper will give you four pages. Cut the 8 ½” x 11” sheets in half crosswise so you’ll have two stacks of 8 ½” x 5 ½” paper. Line up pages, fold in half, and then crease the fold at the center line, as shown below.

When you fold the pages, you may notice that those pages in the center of the stack may bulge forward slightly, as shown above; the more pages in the book, the more obvious the bulge will be. The edges of these pages will need to be evenly trimmed before layering and stitching the pages into the manila cover.

The manila folder, as demonstrated in the photo above, should be a little larger than the pages. Align and center the layers of paper on the manila folder so there is a uniform border all around; and then, machine stitch with a long basting stitch, to prevent perforating and cutting the paper. Allow enough loose thread at the beginning and end of the seam so it can be tied off and trimmed. At this point, the book is finished and ready to slip into its fabric book cover.

Making the Fabric Book Covers:

Open the book out flat (as shown below) and measure the width of the open book. It should be approx 9” wide. As shown in the layout below, add 3” to each side of this measurement for the pocket flaps that will fold in and hold the book in place; this should make a total of about 15” for the width of the fabric book cover. Measure the height of the book; it should be approximately 6” tall; and then add 1 ½” to the height, which will give you a total height of 7 ½”. All of these measurements include ½” seam allowances. The actual seams can be anywhere from ¼” to ½”, but it’s a good idea to give ourselves a bit of wiggle room. It’s just so much easier to take the seams in a little, rather than to wish we had more fabric with which to work.

Refer to the 7 ½” x 15” layout in photo above to mark and cut your fabric. You’ll need to cut one piece in muslin to use as a foundation for your crazy quilting, and then, cut one piece in lining fabric. Cut notches, or otherwise mark the dashed lines (indicated by the diamonds in the above layout) so you will know where the flaps will fold to the inside of the book. It’s not fun to find that one of the prettiest parts of your design or embellishments will be folded inside the book!

After you’ve finished piecing and embellishing the cover of the journal, lay it on your work surface with the right side facing up. Lay the lining on top with the right side facing down. With their right sides together, pin and stitch around the perimeter, leaving an opening at one end that is large enough to turn the cover right side out (refer to the photo above). Blind-stitch the opening closed, and then press well from the lining side with a warm iron. If you have any embellishments that could be damaged while pressing, lay a folded terry-cloth towel on your pressing surface before pressing.

Fold the 3” pocket flaps in toward the lining side, using the dashed lines as guides. To avoid damaging your embellishments, finger-press, or use a terry-cloth towel as described earlier.  Press using a warm iron over a pressing cloth, to lightly press the flaps in place. As shown above, narrowly top-stitch across the top of the fabric cover, and then across the bottom, being sure to catch the top and bottom edges of the pocket flaps as you stitch.

Making the Spiral-bound Notebook Cover:

The Peacock Journal (shown in the second and third photos) is made using the same instructions as for the previous journals, with only minor adjustments. Referring to the photo below, you can see by the 1” background grid that the open book at the top of the photo is about 6” wide. The spiral binding is about ½” thick, plus a little wiggle room, so it’ll be necessary to add an extra ¾”, for a total of 6 ¾”. Because this book is only 3” x 5”, the width of the pocket flaps should be smaller, about 1½” to 2” wide. Remember, also, to add 1 ½” to the height of the fabric cover.

Let’s finish off the lesson with a little shortcut! When working with books that have a thick profile, one of the quickest, most accurate ways to measure for a book cover is to close the book, then measure from the front edge of the book’s cover, take the tape measure around the book to the other edge of the book’s cover (as illustrated by the green book in the photo above), and then add the width of the pocket flaps for your final measurement. When you use this method, the profile of ½” to ¾” is automatically figured in. Notice that the tape measure above shows about 6 ¾”, which is exactly the same as our earlier calculations.

I hope you’ll enjoy making your own personalized journals and notebooks.

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