Sewing journal tutorial – patchwork with reverse applique.

Sewing journal tutorial – patchwork with reverse applique.

I had hoped to publish this a bit earlier. This is my handmade Christmas gift idea for my special sewing friends this year. The list has grown so I have made a few of these. I hope there is still time for you to make one if you feel inspired, if not perhaps its one for next time.

I was inspired by several of my customers who have beautiful sewing planners. I love the idea of planning projects and keeping notes in a special sewing book so I thought I would design one.

I always think handmade gifts are the most special and I know fellow sewers are most likely to appreciate the effort.

These are a very cost effective gift if you have a juicy box of fabric scraps to play with.

Materials and supplies:

A5 Notebook – I found these fabulous glitter books in Tiger. These cannot be bought online but you can buy a pack of 5 notebooks that would be perfect here.

Medium weight sew in interfacing

Scraps of fabric

Optional buttons 


To make a simple pattern for the cover measure the height, width and spine depth.

Draw out a rectangle 2 x width + spine depth. In this example 15cm (width)  x 2 + 1cm (spine) = 31cm wide. Height = 20cm. Add a 1.5cm seam allowance around the whole rectangle.

Draw a second rectangle the height with the seam allowance added in this example 23cm x approximately a 2/3 of the book width + 1.5cm turning. In this example I made this 13cm.

If you would like to use the same letters or numbers for the reverse applique you can download this below. There is also a template for the insert.

letters A-O

letters P-Z


Sewing notebook insert

How to make:

1.Using a ruler mark and cut out several straight strips of fabric. The widths can vary. Also cut 2 pieces using the smaller rectangle pattern and one larger rectangle from pieces of fabric. Roughly cut one piece of interfacing about 2-3cm bigger all the way round than the bigger rectangle piece. 

2. Lay the large rectangle pattern on the interfacing and mark around it with chalk. This will give you a guideline for where to place the strips of fabric.

3. Place one strip of fabric wrong side down covering the lower chalk line, place a second right sides together pin and stitch a narrow 0.5cm seam allowance.

4. Flip this strip over to the front and press. Repeat with more strips until you have covered the rectangle drawn on the interfacing.

5. I played around with angles to keep the patchwork deliberately uneven. Trim away any excess if you lay a panel in the middle of the previous one.

6. Press the final piece.

7. Lay the pattern on top of the patchwork and draw around the edge with chalk. It doesn’t matter if it is in a different position to the line on the interfacing as long as the pattern is within the edges of the patchwork.

8. Mark a line where the spine will fold so that you can see the space on the front cover more easily. You may also like to mark on the seam allowance around the outer edges. It might help for deciding where to place your applique. 

9. Carefully cut out the internal letter shape to make a simple stencil. Play around with where you would like the letters to go. I used a fibre tip fine line pen to draw around the shape to help get the detail. I chose a colour similar to the colour I planned to use for the embroidery so that any marks that I didn’t cover with stitching would blend in. If you are embroidering with a lighter colour thread it might be worth trying Frixion pens which fade when ironed. These also produce a fine line. 

10. Place a piece of fabric at the back of the area you want to applique. If your fabric is quite lightweight you may need to interface it. Pin it in place on the back and then once happy with the position transfer the pins to the front.

11. To free motion embroider the wording drop the feed dogs on your machine. Most modern machines have a switch often behind the machine foot to turn them off. If not your manual should show you how to do this. Attach a free motion machine foot or darning foot. If you don’t have either just remove the foot. 

Stitch around the design, ‘drawing’ with the machine. I stitched around the outline three times to get a strong outline. I also found stitching quite fast made small stitches and kept the design looking quite neat. Though some irregularities are part of the charm of free motion embroidery, I was keen to ensure I could read it and would be able to trim away the inside fabric from the letters.

Using a very sharp pair of scissors carefully ‘feel’ your way through the first lay of fabric and the interfacing. Snip inside the lettering to reveal the fabric underneath.

12. On the reverse cut away some of the excess applique fabric.

13. Turn a 1.5cm double turned hem on one long side of each of the smaller rectangles. Place one piece right sides together and raw edges matched at each end of the applique panel.

14. Place the larger rectangle piece right sides together over the top of this.

15. Pin the pieces together, starting from the lower edge and leaving a gap for turning. Stitch all layers together using a 1.2cm seam allowance. Before trimming lay your book on to the piece and check the seam is approximately 2mm on the outside of the book all the way round. Trim and turn though. You might like to add a couple of buttons for further embellishment before slip stitching the gap closed. 

I put a little personal note to the first page. I have added a similar template above if you would like to use this, adapt or create your own.

I hope my sewing friends like their books and you enjoyed this tutorial. 

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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