Drawing, doodling, painting, art journaling, sewing and crochet are just some of my favorite things to do.
How to Make a Fabric Journal
I am thoroughly addicted to making these cute fabric journals. I just finished the black and white one, above, and am just starting another one, focusing mainly on red prints. Gifts sorted for quite a few people in my family and circle of friends!
Originally inspired by Teesha Moore, I discovered that these journals with their sewn-in watercolor pages are perfect for mini photo albums, scrapbooks, and art journals.
Here's how to make them.
6 Steps for Making a Fabric Journal
- Make small fabric pillows.
- Oversew the edges.
- Quilt the pillows.
- Construct the panels.
- Sew in the pages.
- Finish the journal.
What You Will Need
- Fabric scraps: Pre-cut patchwork charm packs work best. I mostly use 4"x4" squares, but I have also used 5"x5" and 6"x6" pieces as well. The journals here have two panels of four quilted squares along with a wrap-over flap of two quilted squares.
- Embroidery thread: 6-strand, mixed colors
- Regular polyester or cotton thread: Several colors
- Polyester wadding or toy stuffing
- Strong, large-eyed sewing needle: I use a darning needle.
- Watercolor or other good quality paper: Cut (fine edge) or torn (raw edge) into four pieces of 11"x5.5" and folded in half to make eight square 5.5" pages.
- Embellishments: All optional—buttons, bells, a braided cord as a closure, etc.
1. Start Making Small Fabric Pillows
Make a fabric pillow by taking two contrasting patchwork squares. Put the wrong sides together and baste three sides, either by hand or machine. Stuff it with polyester filling, making sure that the pillows are fairly firm but not over-stuffed. Sew up the fourth side. Make 10 of these.
You are going to leave the basting where it is, so it is up to you whether you choose a thread to match the fabric or contrasting color. The whole point of these journals is that they are shabby-chic and homemade. The more colorful they are, the better!
2. Oversewing the Edges
Thread your needle with embroidery thread. Then, double it over and knot the ends. Decide which side of the pillow is to be the front and fold it over the edge of your pillow once. You want the raw edge showing and the back fabric folded over to contrast with the front. See the photo for reference.
Leaving the raw edge in plain view adds to the charm of the finished journal.
Starting about a quarter inch in on the front (the knot will be hidden as you fold the fabric over it. Oversew, going in at the front and out through the back. Bring the needle over and go into the front again, folding the fabric as you go along.
When you reach a corner, you can either fold it triangularly or squarely. Sew right through the fold to hold it securely in place.
- Note: change the thread color willy-nilly. Be brave and bold with color. On recent fabric journals, I have used metallic thread, twisted silk, and all kinds of fibers.
3. Quilting the Pillows
Hand-quilt the pillows using the embroidery thread. I generally follow the printed design on the fabrics. Thread your needle but don't double the thread this time. Knot the end and start on the wrong side. Push the needle through at a chosen spot. Make a small stitch by pushing the needle back through from the front. Keep your stitches about a quarter-inch apart.
Continue to follow the design on the fabric until the pillow is quilted to your liking.
4. Construct Your Panels
Arrange your pillows so that the various colors contrast and complement each other. Whatever is pleasing to you.
Sew your pillows together by laying them on a firm surface and whip stitching with doubled embroidery thread. I generally work from top to bottom, then back up to form a cross-stitch. Use different colors or maybe this time, stick to one color to 'tie' the colorful squares together.
Make two panels of four pillows and one panel of two pillows.
Sew the two main panels together to form the journal cover spine, this time with wrong sides facing, rather than on a flat surface. Then sew the fold-over panel to the back cover, making sure it will be facing the correct way when closed.
5. Sew In the Pages
This is the tricky bit—for me anyway. Place your pages together to form a 'signature'. Position them on the journal cover, lining up the fold with the spine. Clip them into place with bulldog clips or large paper clips.
I use the same needle and tap little holes up the centerfold, about half an inch apart. I shall be buying myself an awl very soon! I sew the pages to the journal with polyester or embroidery thread; either will do the job. Once I reach the end, I turn and sew up again through the alternate holes to form a continuous line of sewing. See photo.
- Note: take care because it is difficult to sew through the spine and find tiny holes in the paper. It becomes easier, the more you do.
6. Finishing the Fabric Journal
It's mostly done. Hooray! Now you can add finishing touches as you please. On this black and white journal, I glued in a 'zendoodle' in the shape of an 'S' for the recipient's initial. You can add buttons to the front for added interest. I also sewed small silver bells along the spine and made a braided black cord to close the journal.
© 2010 Bev G
Leave a note for my journal
Claudia Mitchell on August 07, 2020:
What a great idea for fabric scraps!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 23, 2020:
Congratulations on your crafty prize. They are really beautifully done, with bright colours.
Thanks for sharing the well presented article.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 22, 2020:
I just woke up and found out! Thank you for your lovely comments. I might be inspired to make some more!
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on July 22, 2020:
Congrats on your 'crafty' prize win for this project. I have not made a fabric journal yet but intend to make one using some of my wet felted fabric sometime. It really does lend itself to a project like this, especially if I incorporate some embroidery as well. Well done Bev, I am super pleased for you:) Well done.
Abby Slutsky from America on July 22, 2020:
These look lovely. They would make a beautiful gift. Congratulations.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 22, 2020:
Great instructions Bev. You gave a well-detailed explanation of all the steps, and very innovative too. Congratulations on willing the crafty contest with this.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 22, 2020:
Bev, congratulations for being a part of the wing contest!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on April 15, 2011:
Hi Diane, Sorry, I missed this comment. The flap/wrap is optional but it protects the pages if you intend carrying the book in a purse or tote. It's also decorative and makes the book feel nice to hold.
Diane on February 19, 2011:
I'm not sure of the purpose of the flap
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 03, 2011:
Hi delta-girl, thanks for stopping by.
The answer to both your questions is the same - go with what feels right. Sometimes I quilt the piece until every bit of the pattern has been picked out. At other times I will simply quilt tiny random stitches at key points. Have a look at Teesha Moores Fabric Journal videos on YouTube.
Thread color - on the colored journals I make it as bright as I can by changing the colors as I go. I don't worry about clashing or matching. Just go with the flow. On the black and white ones, I stick to black or white thread throughout.
Hope that helps - have fun!
delta-girl on February 03, 2011:
I have two questions. I can't believe I found you. I was
given a whole bunch of pre-printed panels to make into
pillows or quilts. First,how much of the print do you quilt? I mean if its a cat and flowers, do you quilt everything or just the main thing? Second, when quilting
can you use just white quilt thread or crochet or do you pick a different color to match or otherwise compliment?