Quilted Journal Covers – Birthday and Retirement Gifts

We wanted to make something special and useful for a good friend’s birthday. I’ve had on my mental list that I wanted to make a journal cover ever since I saw Jen’s (at Dizzy Quilter) version. Jen added an outline of her pup, Oscar, to the front of her journal and shared the complete tutorial with AccuQuilt. I thought that was a fun idea and thought I could do something similar. A journal cover was something I also wanted to make for a teacher friend who was retiring, so off to work we went.

I almost let the cat out of the bag earlier this month, but realized just in the knick of time that our friend and the retiree both follow the blog! Oops – that would have been disappointing when they received the journal but already knew about it. There was some backpedaling going on there for a bit!

Inside the Quilted Journal Cover

Since my mission was to make these journals useful, I knew that I wanted the guts of the journal to be replaceable. We all work in a school district, so what would be more perfect than the basic composition notebook?! It’s a nice size, has plenty of lined pages, and is easy to get replacements or refills for. The composition notebooks even come in different ruled sizes like Wide- or College-ruled. For an image, I chose the quill-inspired feather. Perfect for writing in a journal, right?

The idea may have been good but the execution wasn’t stellar, but more on that later. First, we had to select our fabrics!

Journal Cover Pretties

You could easily make these covers out of any fabric! We chose some leftover jelly roll pieces from our Collaboration Synergy quilt because they are too pretty to last long as stash. We had enough for two journal covers that were very similar.

For the inside lining of the journal, we just used unbleached muslin which really played well with this color palette. The blue horizontal strips at the top of the photo were used for the flaps.

Quick and Easy Front Cover

Sue quickly cut the eight strips to the 11″ needed and I started chain sewing them together. It wasn’t long before I was pressing the seams open and almost burning my fingertips. I chose to press the seams open so the journal cover would lay nice and flat.

As mentioned earlier, we used two blue strips for the inside flaps. I turned over a quarter-inch twice and ironed that down before adding a top stitch to firmly anchor it.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t use two strips for the flap if I make more of these journals. The cover fits pleasantly snug when fitting it over the composition notebook, but it does catch on the seam when inserting it. It was very easy to ease it past the seam but why give yourself or the recipient the hassle?! Choose a larger piece of fabric as your flaps – even a continuation of the muslin fabric would have worked here. One other option would be to press the seam to one side. If you had the seam pressed away from the turned under edge, the notebook would never get caught on it.

Simple Journal Quilting

Once all the pieces were sewn, it was time for quilting. I layered the cover with a leftover piece of batting and did some simple straight-line quilting.

The quilting shrunk the top a bit more than I thought it would. I wasn’t able to trim my layered top to 10.75″ as Jen suggests and had to go with 10.5″ instead. It still was plenty long enough as the notebook itself is about 9.5″ high. I didn’t take any trimming pictures – I never thought about it!

At this stage, I tried the image silhouette idea. First, I thought an appliquéd feather would be nice but would add an unnecessary element. The silhouette would be just the suggestion of the quill and would only be visible mostly for the recipient. As you can see in the photo on the right, using the trace feature on my phone’s picture editor, it is really difficult to see. Perhaps the appliqué version would have been better but we’ll never know!

Sandwich and Flip the Journal

It was time to layer all the elements to be stitched together. I did curve all four corners but I didn’t mark it – just eyeballed it as I was sewing. It clipped those corners after leaving an opening of about three-inches to turn the journal. After pushing out the corners, I gave the entire cover a press. Topstitching finished off the edges nicely and closed the opening used for turning.

Ta-da Two Quilted Journal Covers

♥ ♥ ♥

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14 Responses

  1. Thanks for linking up with TGIFF this week, Roseanne! Hope you ladies are feeling much better!

  2. Hi Roseanne. What great gifts for your friends! I love making journals and composition books are my favourite to use as well. Covered journals are one of my favourite ps to make for the Christmas Hampers at the local food bank. 😉

  3. These are fantastic, Roseanne! These do make perfect gifts and I know they will be well received! Something hand made is always special…at least to me!! Do be careful with those fingertips though!!

  4. Vicki in MN says:

    Oh these turned out just beautiful. I am sure the recipients will absolutely love them. I should make one and use for my travel info book, yep I will put it on the to do list:)

  5. Rose Mikulski says:

    Great gifts and an idea for the future for me. I’ve been making placemats and think I can resize one to make a composition cover.

  6. Chrisknits says:

    What sweet gifts! They will treasure them.

  7. Fascinating, such a thoughtful gift and noting what works and what doesn’t was great. Hope they love them.

  8. I know your giftees will love these! I do, too!
    I love how you made these changeable/removable. That’s my next journal related crafty thing on my to-do list – thanks alot! …Said both sincerely and sarcastically
    Many moons ago, I made ‘attached’ (padded fabric hot glued with nice end papers covering the inside) journal covers complete with attached ribbon place keeper for my craft fairs. Using compo books was cost effective and the results really classy! They were hot sellers, too!
    Have a great weekend, Roseanne.

  9. Kathleen McCormick says:

    Pressing seams open is sometimes overrated. I like it better when I finger press before going to the ironing board…but I don’t always do it. The covers are perfect gives for your friends who are celebrating birthdays and retiring. I am sure they love them and I am glad you didn’t let the cat out of the bag!

  10. Rochelle Summers says:

    Such a nice gift for special people. Working with those pre-cut strips sure makes projects go faster! Can’t say which would have been better: the applique or the quilting. As you say it’s done now. I’m sure they both will be very appreciated.

  11. Nicely done! I keep a few of those composition notebooks on hand all the time. They sure would look a lot prettier with journal covers and make very nice gifts, too! 🙂

  12. Tracie says:

    I love the cover! I use those composition notebooks all the time because they’re so inexpensive. Thanks for sharing the project and your tips, Roseanne!

  13. Wendy Tuma says:

    A nifty, quick project, and your fabrics are so pretty! As to burning your fingertips – did you know there are little silicone fingertips for that? I have some – you slip them on your finger(s) and no more worries about burning them.

  14. I love your journal covers, Roseanne! They make a perfect gift! I’ve wanted to try making a cover for a composition notebook for a long time – thanks for the handy tutorial. One question – do your layers include batting? Or just the outside and a lining? Happy Friday!

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