Introduction: Fabric Notebook Cover

About: This summer I graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology and moved to Tampa with my finance, who just started his first year of grad school at USF. I love to make t…

Homemade fabric notebook covers are perfect gifts to personalize for those special friends in your life.  The particular cover used for this tutorial I made for a friend who loves hightop converse shoes, and favorite colors are black and pink.  I think tailoring a handmade gift to a specific person shows the time and thought that was involved in making the gift, making it special to both the creator and gift receiver.  

One of the best attributes of these covers is that they are reusable.  Once the notebook is used up, you can just replace it with a new one.

In this tutorial, I will take you step by step through the basics of how to make your own appliques as well as how to construct the cover its self.  Once you get the hang of the basics, you will be able to explore so many other possibles to make your own unique cover.  

Check out some of my other finished covers at the end of the tutorials to see what I mean about the possibilities of designing something of your very own.  

Being creative can be so much fun!  So let's get the creativity started!!!

Step 1: Materials Needed

  • Most importantly, you will need fabric.  You can use as many or as few patterns as you want to include.
  • If you would like your notebook to be a little more sturdier and more professionally made in appearance, I suggest buying a light-weight fusible interface to apply to the wrong side of the fabric.  Interface is pretty cheap, around $1-$2 a yard and can be found at JoAnn Fabrics.
  • Also, you will need a notebook in which you plan to use for the project.  You can use any size desired, but for this tutorial I will be giving definitions for a 10 1/2" x 8" notebook.  Whatever notebook you decide to use, I suggest one that is cheap and easy to find.  I got about 10 notebooks during back to school shopping at Walmart for only $0.10 apiece.  If you do choose a different size of notebook, I will explain how to figure the corresponding measurements on your own.
  • A cutting mat and rotary cutter is not necessary, but highly recommended for accurate cutting.  Here is a link that shows how to use these tools.  I know they can be expensive, but I got a kit with all three pieces (cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter) for $25 with a 50% coupon at JoAnn Fabrics.  So if these tools are something you are interested in buying, look around at the options and take advantage to sales and coupons.
  • Also, you will need some applique adhesive, shown in the second picture below.  This can also be found at JoAnn Fabrics for about $3, and will last you for multiple projects. (depending on the size of the appliques you are doing)
  • Embroidery thread and a needle will be needed to stitch around the appliques to insure they stay intact.  Or even just some regular sewing thread, doubled up through the needle, will create the same effect.  I use the embroidery thread pictured below.
  • A sewing machine is helpful as well, but this can all be done by hand if wished.
  • Scissors and a iron will also be needed for this project.

Step 2: Cutting the Fabric

I'm finding it difficult to explain how to use the rotary cutter and mat in a way in which would be easily understood.  So again, I suggest checking out the video link I posted on the last step before you start cutting.

For a 10 1/2" x 8" notebook, you will need the following cuts of fabric:

  • 2 cuts measuring 17" long and 11" high----  These will be the outside and inside lining of the cover, so cut the fabrics you wish to be viewed in those spots.
  • For the pockets, you will need 2 cuts measuring 8" x 11" high.---- These may seem large now, but we will be folding them in half later.
If you are choosing to use an interfacing, you will cut a piece for each of the four cuts mentioned above, only 1/4" shorter on all sides.  This means you will be cutting the following:
  • 2 cuts measuring 16 1/2" long x 10 1/2" high
  • 2 cuts measuring 7 1/2" x 10 1/2" high for the pockets
You will then follow the directions that came with the interfacing you purposed to fuse, or iron, the interfacing the the WRONG side the fabric.

Step 3: How to Make an Applique

I like to apply my appliques before sewing the main pieces of the cover together.  This is so the needle marks and remaining threads are hidden on the inside.  That way, they will not be visible when the project is finished.

The applique I will be showing you how to do on this step is quite easy, and I think is the best example to start learning the techniques of creating your own applique.

The black S you see in the middle of the picture below will be applied to the front inside pocket of the cover.  
  • First, fold one of the cuts of fabric meant for a pocket (one of the 8" x 11" pieces) in half.  This will be the amount of room you have to work with for this particular applique.
  • Now you need to choose the shape of your applique, in this case the letter S.  I did this by opening a word document, experimenting with different fonts until I find one I was satisfied with, and printed it in the size I thought would look best.  (I had to print out 3 or 4 different sizes until I found the size I liked best)
  • ***Remember, you do not want it to be too big because once the main pieces of the cover are sewn together, the seam allowance will take up some of that space.  So make sure there is enough space at the bottom and the open side of the pocket for seam allowance.  (I like to leave at least around 1/2")
  • Once you find the right size for your shape, cut it out.  
  • Choose a fabric for which you want the applique to be and cut a rectangle that fits around the shape as snuggly as possible. (This is to not waste as little of the adhesive as possible)  
  • You will then cut the same size rectangle out of the adhesive.  Make sure to follow the directions on the adhesive bag, and iron the adhesive to the WRONG side of the fabric rectangle.
  • Once you have this completed, pin the S to the right side of the fabric and cut it out.  
  • You will then peel the waxy coated paper off the back of the adhesive paper and align the shape where you want it to be located on the pocket. (*see 4th picture below)  You will then iron the shape on.  This will melt the adhesive and make the shape stay onto the desired fabric, in this case the pocket. 

The last finishing touch I like to do for an applique is to hand stitch around the whole thing.  This just insures that the applique does not start to peel off after long periods of use.  Plus, I like the effect the stitches create.  This is extremely simple to do. 

  • Gather the embroidary thread of your choice (color, thickness, and material is up to you). 
  • Thread a needle and make some stitches starting at the edge of the applique and pushing the needle back down about 1/8 of an inch into the applique. 
  • Repeat this all the way around the applique.  Spacing inbetween stitches is totally up to you.  (*See picture #5 below for example)

Step 4: Making the Front Pocket

There are many ways in which to make a pocket for this project.  If you are an experienced sewer, you may have a better, easier, or cuter way to make a pocket.  If so, please educate me!!! :)

You do not have to line your pocket if you don't wish to, but for this product I wanted some extra support just in case my friend wanted to put more than just pens and pencils in it.

If you chose to add a lining to your pocket: 
  • Cut two 5" long by 6" high pieces of fabric. (They don't have to be the same patterns either, I used two different fabric designs for mine) 
  • Pin the two pieces RIGHT sides together and sew three of the four sides together. *****DO NOT SEW THE HEMMED SIDES TOGETHER  Thus, sew both 6" sides and the 5" side OPPOSITE to the hemmed side. 
  • Trim the fabric around the corners, make sure not to cut through the sewing.
  • Turn the pocket inside out.
  • To give a more professional appearance, hem the top (the unsewn 5" side) of the pocket. 
    • To do this: 
  • Fold 1/4" of fabric over onto the lining side.
  • Then, use an iron to press and a ruler to measure 1/4" all the way across. (you want the hem to be level) 
  • Sew along the 1/4" fold as close to its edge as possible. 
Sewing the Pocket onto the Cover:
  • Choose the desired location for the pocket.  (It doesn't have to be exactly where I chose to put it, but remember to take seam allowance and the shoe applique into account when deciding)  The pocket should be put of the right half of the large fabric cut to be on the front of the notebook cover.
  • Once you decided on the location of the pocket, pin it to the RIGHT side of the larger cover fabric, the 17" x 11" cut. 
  • Sew around the sides and bottom of the pocket as close to the edge of the pocket as possible. 

Step 5: Making the Shoe Applique

Now lets move onto a more involved applique.  Really, there is no reason to be intimidated when trying to design an applique that seems impossible.  It took me a day of contimplating whether I really wanted to try to do this, but I finally convinced myself to attempt to create this high-top converse sneeker applique. (And I'm sure glad I did!)  I was really nervious to start this project because I had no idea how I was going to do it.  But my creativity prevailed! 
The steps for this applique are similar to the applique on the previous step, so you will definitely be able to execute this. 

So lets get this started...

  • I used Google Images to search high-top converse shoes and found an image I liked.
  • Print imagine in the size you like/need. (I chose a side view of one shoe because I thought it would be the easiest to use) 
  • Cut out the seperate pieces you will be using different fabrics for. (* look at the right side of picture #1 for example)

Now you will be doing the same thing as the applique before. 

  • Apply the adhesive to the WRONG side of each fabric being used in the applique. 
  • Pin the cut out shoe shapes to the desired fabrics, and cut them out. 
  • Peel the waxy paper off the back of the cutout and arrange the design on the RIGHT side of one of the 17" x 11" fabric cuts. 
  • ***Remember, this will be the outside, front cover of the notebook cover.  It may be helpful to fold the larger piece of fabric in half so you can see the amount of area you have to work with.  The applique and pocket should be located on the right side of the large fabric cut.
  • Once you decide the position of the applique, making sure to take seam allowances into account, iron the applique onto the RIGHT side of the fabric. 
    The next part is where this applique differs a little from the last one.  Instead of hand stitching small stitches all the way around the edges of the design, this time you are going to be more creative and use hand embroidary to add the details of a Converse shoe.  Use different colors of embroidary thread to create the laces, the black rubber sole lines, and any other small stitching shown on the orginal Converse picture. (*See picture #3 for example)  The more detail you add, the more secure the applique will be during wear and tear, and the more amazed the special person receiving the gift will be by your inpressive work!

Step 6: Sewing the Notebook Cover Together

Now it's time to sew the main pieces of the cover together.
  • Place the lining fabric, the 17" x 11" cut without the pocket and applique, down with the RIGHT side facing upwards.  
  • Place the folded pockets at each end of the lining.  You will want the fold to be on the inside, and the two unfolded ends lined up with the end of the lining.  Make sure that the pocket with the applique is on the left side with the applique facing upward. (* See picture)  
  • Place the other 17" x 11" fabric with the applique and pencil pocket RIGHT side down on top of the lining and pockets.  
  • Make sure all the edges are lined up and pin all the layers together. (*See picture #2)  
  • Sew around the edges of the pinned layers with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Leave a 4" opening at the bottom between the pockets to be able to turn it inside out.  I make sure to backstitch several times at the beginning and ending to insure the opening doesn't rip when pulling fabric through to turn inside out.
  • Before turning the cover inside out, trim all four corners, but make sure not to cut past the stitching. (*See picture #3)

Step 7: Finishing It Up!!!

  • Turn the fabric cover inside out through the 4" opening at the bottom.  Be gentle while doing this because it can be easy to rip through the stitching.  
  • Once the majority of the fabric has been pulled through, use a pencil to make sure the corners are completely turned out as well.  
  • Press the cover to get all the wrinkles out.  When you come to the 4" opening at the bottom, press the extra 1/4" fabric that would have been the seam allowance if sewn, under to make it look the rest of the cover. (*See picture #1)  
  • Now, top stitch around the whole cover; this will close the 4" opening.  Make sure to stitch as close to the edge of the cover as possible.  I suggest taking your time with the top stitching and focus on sewing straight.  
  • All you need to do now is insert the notebook into the cover!  The front, thicker page of the notebook should be inserted into the front pocket of the fabric cover, and the last, thicker page of the notebook should be inserted into the back pocket of the fabric cover.

Step 8: More Examples

The pictures below are some other examples of finished fabric notebook covers I have created.  There are so many different things you can do to make them one of a kind.  For example, both of the examples below I sewed strips of different patterns of fabric to create a new look to each.  Another example is for the squirrel applique I used a button for its eye, as well as added a button with a leather strap to keep the notebook shut. 

Now that you have the basics down for making fabric notebook covers, you can use your creativity to explore new techniques to personalize gifts for special friends and family members, or even for yourself!

If you have any questions, any questions at all, please leave a comment, or feel free to message me.  I would love to hear your feedback.  Thanks so much for checking out my tutorial and I truly hope you learned something new from it. 
I would also love to see pictures of any finished projects!!!!!


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