How to draft a notebook or journal cover in any size

Hello, my crafty friends! How many of you use a journal, diary or a simple notebook to organize and plan your days, shopping, holiday, budget and more? I have a few organizers and journals for different aspects of my life.

I like to keep a sewing diary for my garment projects, where I make notes on which pattern I used and what size I’ve cut out, any adjustments that I’ve made to the pattern or any fitting issues that I still need to fix. I also add a simple line drawing of the pattern and for the reference glue a small piece of fabric that I made this project from. This keeps me organised and I know exactly what to do, or not to do if I ever want to use the same pattern again.

I also keep a separate notebook of bag and accessories patterns I am currently working on. In there, I write all details about the project: sewing skills needed, size and shape, name and measurements of individual pattern pieces, fabric and other supplies requirements, sewing steps and any pattern testers adjustments. The end of that notebook is full of ideas for patterns I want to design one day. I am not very good at drawing but will sketch a rough design or style of the project that I envisioned in my mind, make notes on size, any specific features and details I want to add or techniques I want to use or try.

To keep myself organized I also use a journal and calendar. I tend to sit and plan my week ahead, so I know exactly what I am doing and can stay on top of everything. Since I decided to start a YouTube channel my workload doubled, but unfortunately the days aren’t any longer hahah

I wanted to make my journals/notebooks look more pretty, so decided to make a cover for each one. Unfortunately, they are all different shapes and sizes, and I had to draft an individual pattern for each one. That got me thinking, that many of you would love to know how to draft your own notebook cover pattern, because if I give you my pattern it might not be the right size, hence this post 😆

Notebook/Journal cover features

I could have designed a simple notebook cover, but this is not my style! Instead, I decided to spice things up a bit and divide the external cover in three panels, so I can play with colour blocking and make my covers as colourful as possible.

Then, I thought….you need some pockets! Yes, pockets! Whenever a new idea struck me, or need to add something to my TO DO list I can never find a pen or pencil on hand, but if my cover had pockets I could keep a spare pencil with my notebooks. One less worry in my life!

But what pockets would you add to a notebook cover??? How about a patch pocket, or maybe a zipper pocket? Well, why not add both? Patch pockets are easy to sew and can be divided in smaller compartments to hold individual pencils/pens. Zipper pockets are fantastic to store anything you don’t want to lose or maybe a bunch of business cards.

And as a bonus I also wanted to add a snap closure, because why not?!

If you like the sound of that, keep reading so you can learn how to draft your own notebook/journal covers!!!

Taking measurements

To accurately draft a pattern for your notebook cover, you will need to take few measurements.

First measure the length of your notebook or journal, so place a measuring tape on the edge of the back cover, wrap it around the spine and across the front cover (Photo 1). Add 1 cm to that measurement to give yourself some room for an error. Keep the notebook / journal closed when measuring. If you open it and lay it flat the measurement won’t be accurate and your cover will be too small.

Next, measure the height (Photo 2) and ADD extra 1 cm, thickness (Photo 3) , and the width (Photo 4) of your notebook / journal.

If you also want to add a snap closure to your notebook cover and planning to make the patch pocket to hold a spare pencil or pen, place one pen inside the notebook/journal, than measure the thickness and add 4 cm, this will be the length of the snap connector.

Write those measurement on a piece of paper, because we will need them in a minute.

My notebook measures:

length = 40 cm, height = 25 cm, thickness = 3 cm, width = 18 cm, snap connector length = 8 cm

Drafting the notebook / journal cover pattern

Let’s stop for a minute and think about the anatomy of our notebook/journal cover.

We need the main external panel that will wrap the notebook/journal on the outside. We can keep it simple and use one-piece fabric or divide it in multiple panels. For the purpose of this tutorial (and my personal preference) I am dividing my external cover in three panels, so I will need to create following pattern pieces: SIDE PANEL (cut twice) and MIDDLE PANEL (cut once). Additionally we need a seperate pattern piece for the lining, I will call it MAIN PANEL. This one is best to make from a single piece of fabric, because we will barely see it when the cover is made.

Next, we need a pair of handles that will keep our notebook/journal inside the cover. I will call this pattern piece SLEEVE. We need one of them on each side, plus additional pieces for the lining. Noone wants raw edges!

Technically, you can stop here! That is the bare minimum you need to create a cover, but I did mention we going to add a patch pocket, zipper pocket and snap connector, didn’t I?! You can probably guess, that we also need to draft separate pattern pieces for them!

Grab a ruler, piece of paper and a pencil because we are about to start!

To begin drafting your pattern draw a rectangle that measures length / height (for me it is 40 cm / 25 cm), than mark the centre (dashed line).

If your notebook/journal has rounded corners you can draw them as well.

Add 1 cm seam allowance around the panel (green line) and just like that you’ve created the first pattern piece. Mark middle notches along both side edges and always remember to label the pattern piece.

This one will be your MAIN PANEL that needs to be cut x 1 from the lining fabric. If you are working with quilting cotton, stretchy or fraying fabric you might want to interface the back of the fabric with some woven interfacing.

If you want to make your project even quicker and easier, use this pattern piece and also cut x 1 from the external fabric. Only do this if you prefer to make your notebook cover without dividing the exterior panel into sections.

Math time! Below calculations are just my personal preference. I think they keep the overall design proportional, but if you want you can use different measurements altogether.

We will use the MAIN PANEL piece as a base to create all remaining pieces. This is especially useful if your notebook cover has rounded corners.

SIDE PANEL = 1/3 notebook length by height (for me: 1/3 x 40 cm = 13.3 cm so I will round it up to 14 cm, so the piece measures 14 cm by 25 cm).

Measure and mark it on the main panel (red line), and add 1 cm seam allowance (green line). Than mark a snap placement (black dot) about 3 cm from the outer edge (measure from the green line). Trace the pattern piece and label it as: SIDE PANEL, cut x 2 external fabric + interfacing. Whenever you are using fabric with a directional print, you need to remember to cut it out as a mirror image, so I would make a note of this on the pattern piece, so you do not forget.

MIDDLE PANEL = notebook length – (2x side panel) by height (for me: 40 cm – 28 cm = 12 cm by 25 cm)

Always remember to add 1 cm seam allowance around the panel, so my middle panel is: 14 cm by 27 cm.

Because the middle panel is a simple rectangle I usually prefer to save on paper and do not create a seperate pattern piece. Instead just make a note on the SIDE PANEL pattern piece what dimension the MIDDLE PANEL is and add additional label:

MIDDLE PANEL, cut x 1 external fabric + interfacing (14 cm / 27 cm)

If you prefer to have all your pattern pieces ready you can draft it and cut it out as normal.

SLEEVE = 2/3 of notebook width by height (for me: 2/3 x 18 cm = 12 cm by 25 cm)

I would not make the sleeves any wider then 2/3 of the notebook width because it might be difficult to insert the notebook once you finish making the cover. Do not make it too narrow either, because the cover might fall out when is open. As a rule of thumb I like to make it between 1/2 and 2/3 the width, especially when adding pockets.

Again, measure and mark it on the main panel (blue line) and add 1 cm seam allowance (green line). Once traced, add a label:

SLEEVE, cut x 2 external fabric + lining , cut x 4 interfacing. Similarly to side panels, when using directional fabric cut it out as a mirror image.

All the basic cover pieces are drafted, now we are going to draft the PATCH POCKET and the ZIPPER POCKET. We will use the SLEEVE pattern piece as a base, so trace it on a seperate piece of paper or you can just draw on the back of the pattern piece.

The size and shape of the PATCH POCKET will depend on what you going to use it for? I want to use mine to hold a couple of spare pencils so a simple rectangle will be perfect for that. Draw the shape of your patch pocket, but whatever you decide, make sure you keep it out of the seam allowance. My patch pocket is about 9 cm / 12 cm and I placed it about 2.5 cm away from both sides and the bottom edge.

If you want, trace it to a seperate piece of paper and add 1 cm seam allowance on all sides, or add extra label to the sleeve pattern piece: PATCH POCKET, cut x 1 external fabric + lining, cut x 2 interfacing (11 cm / 14 cm)

To draft the ZIPPER POCKET pattern draw a shape of the pocket bag first (dashed rectangle). You want to keep it away from the seam allowance along the top, bottom and curved side edge. Similarly to the patch pocket, I kept mine about 2.5 cm away from the edges. The zipper pocket will be cut x 1 on fold from the lining fabric. Inside that pocket draw a 1 cm – 1.5 cm wide rectangle, that is where the zipper will be installed.

My zipper pocket measures 11. 5 cm / 22 cm and the seam allowance is already included. You can trace the ZIPPER POCKET (including the pocket placement markings), or add another label to the sleeve pattern (same way as before).

Lastly, we need to draft a SNAP CONNECTOR pattern piece. Start by drawing a rectangle 4 cm wide and 8 cm long (or whatever your measurement was). I like to round it on one side, but you can keep it as it is. Add 1 cm seam allowance around all sides and mark a snap placement 3 cm from the short edge. Cut it out and add a label to your pattern piece.

That is all!!! You successfully drafted a cover pattern that will perfectly fit your own notebook/journal! You can customize the pattern even more, by adding more pockets, or changing the way the external panel look. Whatever you do, always remember to add seam allowance and use the main panel as a base.

Supplies needed

Once all pattern pieces are drafted, you can gather the supplies needed to complete the project:

  • External fabric
  • Lining fabric
  • Interfacing (optional)
  • #3 zipper
  • press snap or magnetic snap closure
  • and obviously things like sewing machine, scissors, needle, thread etc.

The amount of fabric needed will depend on the size of the cover. To find out what you need just lay the pattern pieces on your table in a similar manner you would lay it on the fabric and measure the area they cover. Do this separately for the pattern pieces that are cut from the external fabric and again for the pieces that are cut from the lining fabric.

Make sure to transfer all notches, middle points and other markings.

The length of the zipper will be the same as the zipper pocket placement rectangle that you’ve marked on the pocket. If you are using a zipper tape by the yard (continuous zipper) than you need to cut it at least 2 cm longer. I usually cut mine the same height as the zipper pocket.

Now, let’s get sewing!!!! Watch my video tutorial whenever you are ready to make your notebook/journal cover.

Sewing tutorial available on YouTube

Join the Allsewpetite – Makers group on Facebook and share your versions of the notebook cover!

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