I love my notebook with a built in zip pouch that I have from Muji with grid dots, except I wish that the notebook were blank. Unfortunately they don't sell a blank notebook with zip pouch, so I made my own zip pouch where you can swap in a new notebook when you've filled the old notebook up.
I laser cut a fancy spine that allows you to snap a notebook on and off, but I realized later that it's actually optional since the pockets holding the notebook covers are enough to keep the notebook in. I wrote up these instructions so you can choose whether or not you want the laser cut spine.
This is an intermediate sewing project, and I assume that you know how to do basic stuff like backstitching at the beginning and end of your sewing and using a zipper foot. If you don't know how to do these things, YouTube is a great resource.
- half a yard of non stretchy fabric - $1-2
- a yard of foldover elastic (optional, to secure the notebook closed) - $1-2
- a foot of 1cm or 1/2 inch wide twill tape (optional, to hold the spine in) - $1
- at least 2cm by 220cm piece of 3/16 inch or 1/4 inch acrylic that can be laser cut (optional, for the spine) - $5
- Notebook (the laser cut spine I have here is specifically designed for the blank A5 notebook with 25 rings on the spine from Muji. The rest of the instructions aren't notebook size specific.) - $4
You don't want flimsy fabric, especially if you are going to be carrying this notebook around. I used a premium muslin. My only regret is that this is the first time I sewed this thing, and so you can see all the little holes from the seams that I made that were wrong and had to be undone. Pattern fabric is cool too. I got a plain fabric so I can decorate mine with fabric markers later.
- Sewing machine, thread, zipper foot for sewing machine, pins
- Laser cutter (optional, for the spine)
The only stitch required for this project is a straight stitch so you can use an industrial straight stitch or normal home sewing machine.
Step 1: Laser Cut Spine (optional)
This spine lets you snap the notebook in and out. It's optional because the pockets holding the notebook cover are enough to hold the notebook zip pouch on. However without the spine, if you open the book more than 180 degrees, the cover will not be as secure.
Cut the shape in the attached SVG onto your acrylic.
Note that the picture with the notebook is with an older spine design that doesn't work as well (the notebook gets stuck).
Step 2: Cut Your Fabric
You need two pieces of fabric: one piece for the notebook cover (including the flaps that go inside the notebook covers), and another piece for the zip pouch.
Measure the notebook cover by laying your notebook on the fabric. It should be long enough for (from left to right): inner notebook cover front flap, notebook front cover, notebook spine, notebook back cover, inner notebook cover back flap.
You can fold the fabric over the notebook to decide how big you want the inside cover flaps.
*don't forget to leave an extra half inch seam allowance around both pieces.*
If you are not using the laser cut spine, don't leave as much space as I do between the notebook front cover and back cover.
Step 3: Sew the Edges of the Cover
Around the whole cover (the bigger piece of fabric), fold the seam allowance under and sew it down.
Step 4: Topstitch Pouch
Fold the seam allowance for the pouch under it. Put the pouch with the folded seams on top of the cover where you want it (between an inside cover flap and the spine). You want the edge of the pouch to be just a little bit smaller than the edge of the cover behind it (so that we don't hit the pouch when we sew the cover flaps). Sew the pouch on three sides, leaving the side where the zipper will be open.
Step 5: Sew Pouch Side of Zipper
Lay the zipper along the open edge of the pouch so that the right side of the zipper is touching the right side of the pouch. Sew this part of the zipper in place. You can use a zipper foot so you can get closer to the zipper.
Step 6: Sew Cover Side of Zipper
This step is annoying because the stitch you're making is inside the pouch. Unzip the zipper past the end of the pouch. Pin the zipper to the cover so that the right side of the zipper is touching the right side of the cover, making sure that this side of the zipper is aligned with the other side that you already sewed on. Pin in place and sew. Afterwards, zip the zipper back up and tuck the tail ends inside the pouch.
Step 7: Sew Down the Cover Flaps
Flip your piece over so that the pouch is on the bottom. Pin your cover flaps in place and sew only on the top and bottom edges, as close to the edge as you can.
Step 8: Secure the Spine (optional)
Put the spine in place. Use three pins to mark the three holes where the twill tape will go through the spine to secure it. Take a piece of twill tape and fold the raw end under. Sew the folded end where the pin is, to the right of where the spine should be. I recommend sewing over it four times (forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards). Do this for all three twill tape positions.
Feed the three pieces of twill tape in through the spine. One by one trim the other end of the twill tape, fold it under, and sew it down the same way. Make sure to bend the spine so that it's not vertical, so that there is enough room for the sewing needle to come down all the way.
Step 9: Tack Down the Ends of the Zipper
On the end of the zipper that the zip is at when it's closed, take the excess fabric and fold it to one side. Tack it down with a couple back and forth stitches.
On the end of the zipper that the zip is at when it's open, sew back and forth over the end so that the zipper can't zip past. Do this by using the manual wheel on your sewing machine and leaving the presser foot up and making sure that the needle is going above, below, above, below (and so on) your zipper. I trimmed the extra zipper right off, but I recommend leaving an extra centimeter or two of tail that you can fold to the side and tack down (the same way you tacked the other end of the zipper down). Because I didn't do this the raw end of my zipper came out and sticks out of my pouch.
Step 10: Add Elastic (optional)
Cut your elastic so that it is a few inches shorter than double the height of the notebook cover. Figure out how you want your elastic to be placed. Using the same technique as the twill tape, fold the raw edge of the elastic under, and sew it on, going over it 4 times. Be sure to move the cover flap out of the way as you do this so you don't accidentally sew your cover flap together. This will make your fabric not flat as you sew, and that's OK.
Step 11: Clean Up Loose Threads
Trim away all the loose threads!
Step 12: Insert Your Notebook!
Insert the covers of your notebook into the cover flaps. If you used the spine, you can snap the notebook into the spine by grabbing all the notebook pages and shoving it in.
If you chose a plain fabric like I did, you can decorate it with fabric markers.