Mini composition book covers

I spent the weekend making little vinyl covers for dollar-store mini composition books, mostly for my nieces’ back-to-school care packages. It’s one of my favorite designs: the pen loops also hold the notebook closed.

You can make them on a conventional machine if you don’t have an embroidery machine (or yours is too small), but you can make them entirely in the hoop of a 5×7″ machine.

They also don’t have to be vinyl, just something non-fraying and sewable. Felt, leather, tree leather, plastic bags ironed together to make a fabric; there are a lot of options. You may want to use a different fabric for the cover than for the interior, especially if your main cover is a heavy vinyl or leather.

Some fraying fabrics can be stabilized with Heat N Bond 📦 or the like. If you’re using something lightweight like quilting cotton, the outside piece should probably be bonded to some heavyweight interfacing 📦.

You also don’t have to use an interior piece of fabric other than for the pockets, especially if you don’t have embroidery showing on the back of it.

Prepare your pieces

Download the template.

Cut a piece of your main cover material 5 1/4″ by 7 1/4″, and a piece of the lining material the same size (optional). Cut two pocket pieces 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ or, if you’re using quilting cotton, cut two pocket pieces 5 1/4″ x 5 and fold around 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ pieces of interfacing so that the folded edge will be the edge of the pocket.

If you have a 4×4″ embroidery machine, embroider your design now, centered about 1 7/8″ right of the center line. The same goes if you’re appliqueing a design, or using any other decoration method that will show through the back of the cover.

Cut three pieces of elastic about 2 1/4″ long. This will fit G2 or Zebra pens; if you’re using a different size of pen you’ll have to experiment to see what works for you. Cut a piece of ribbon (optional) six or so inches long.

On an embroidery machine with a 5×7″ hoop

In the download archive, you’ll find ready-to-use embroidery files as well as the source SVG. You can insert your embroidery design in the Design layer in the Inkscape SVG, centered on the guide line, and use Ink/Stitch to produce a complete embroidery file to use on your machine. If you use different embroidery design software, insert your design before the final stitch color.

Hoop a piece of any type of stabilizer and stitch the outer placement line (optional) and elastic placement marks. Fold your elastic pieces in half and tape them down over the tackdown lines. Tape the ribbon in place at the top. The raw edges should extend about 1/8″ in from the tackdown lines. If your ribbon has a right and wrong side, the right side should face the same way as the main cover (so that it faces up when folded over into the notebook). Try to keep the tape either all the way inside the topstitching line, or more than 1/8″ outside it.

Stitch the tackdown lines (they will go right over the placement stitching), watching closely to make sure nothing gets bumped out of place.

Float your main cover piece face up, making sure it extends at least 1/8″ past the outer placement mark, or 1/4″ past the tackdown stitching. Stitch your cover design if you haven’t already.

Take the hoop off the machine but don’t unhoop the piece. Turn it over and tape the lining piece onto the back with the two pocket pieces at each end. If you’re using bonded quilting fabric, make sure the sides with the fold face each other on the inside.

Put colored bobbin thread on if you’d like — it will show on the inside of the cover. Replace the hoop on the machine and stitch the topstitching. Pay particular attention when the machine is stitching the left side (the bottom edge of the cover, closest to the hoop attachment on most machines), and make sure that edge of the pocket piece hasn’t gotten scraped loose/folded under.

Don’t let this happen to you.

That’s it! Now skip to the end for trimming notes.

On a conventional machine

Build a sandwich of the pieces. The main cover and lining go right-sides-together, with the two pocket pieces at each end. If you’re using bonded quilting fabric, make sure the sides with the fold face each other on the inside.

Using the SVG from the download as a template (you should be able to print it from a browser even if you don’t have Inkscape), fold your elastic pieces in half and pin or clip them in place along the sides, between the main cover and lining. Pin or clip the ribbon in place at the top. The raw edges should extend about 1/8″ in from the tackdown lines. If your ribbon has a right and wrong side, the right side should face the same way as the main cover (so that it faces up when folded over into the notebook).

Make sure everything is properly aligned, take a deep breath, and carefully topstitch all the way around the outside. You can follow the SVG as a template and round the corners, or you can just sew a 6 7/8″ x 4 7/8″ rectangle.

Trimming the cover

You can use a straightedge and rotary cutter to trim the entire bottom edge, about 1/8″ or a little less from the stitching. For the other three, be careful and skip over the elastics and ribbon. Then take conventional scissors (applique duckbills work well), carefully fold the elastic/ribbon down, and trim the cover piece. Then fold the elastic/ribbon up, and trim the stabilizer (for embroidered covers) and lining/pocket pieces.

You can cut the corners off at a 45-degree angle, or carefully round them with scissors or a heavy-duty corner rounder.

Now you’re done! Tuck the covers of your composition book into the pockets, slip a pen in the loops, and that’s it.

The return of Teddy Pig

Teddy Pig is fifteen years old and I still have never gotten around to finishing its eyes or clothes.

I was contacted on Etsy by someone who’d found the Teddy Pig pattern on a Russian Facebook site and wanted to pay me for it. It’s always been a free pattern so, as long as folks adhere to either CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-NC, it’s legal to share around, use to make and sell stuff, etc.

It hasn’t been on the site for awhile (the Queen of Unfinished Projects has been planning to revise it, add instructions, etc. etc.) but since any availability is better than none, I finally tracked down my old site mirror and copied the text and pictures in.

In theory, my task for today has been stocking new colors of beanie dragons. You can see a couple of new blues there, and UPS is bringing me French blue today which I’ll run along with the purples. Pumpkin and canary are cut and will happen sooner or later. I’ve also been working on the shop software and getting all the minky colors into it. If you’re curious, you can see all the potential dragon colors here, though as I write this nothing is “in stock” – they’re all still sold through the Etsy shop.

Pokeball Snap Tab

Mostly resting my wrists after completing the dragons, but I whipped up another little freebie snap tab design. Apparently my lavender dragon was close enough to an Aerodactyl for someone, so one of these will get tucked in with that.

Happy Independence Day

This isn’t much of an embroidery design; it’s just Ink/Stitch’s built-in font. But if I wore ball caps* and had a hat hoop, this is what I’d wear. Not in red** but maybe teal or purple. The file includes a 4×4 size for hats, and a 5×7 size for totes or whatever, in case you still haven’t tried Ink/Stitch out yourself.

*I wear sun hats; I was born a redhead and while my hair has darkened, my skin has not.
**For the obvious reason, but also because again, redhead coloring.

The dragon emoji downloadable is up

I’ve added the Emoji One Dragon snap tab to the free embroidery designs page. Have fun with it.

I’ve been resting my wrists a bit before working more on the art doll dragons; I’m a week or two late in getting them posted, but this batch is kind of a step up in complexity and I want to make sure they’re done right.

I’ve been restocking beanies and experimenting with different colors for the bronze and/or greens; those will likely show up in the limited-edition slot after the lavenders sell out.

Ampersand snap tabs

When we realized the kid’s birthday fell on D&D night, clearly it was time to make some party favors (or if you prefer: hobbit-style birthday presents). I made use of the ampersand from the dice tray which, I just realized when I tried to link there, I never blogged about! Let me fix that briefly:

It’s pretty much the same as the Jayhawk version, scaled up. It’s a 4×4 inset, but the tray snaps to a little under 8×10 as I recall. I did the rest of the stitching on a conventional machine because, as you can see from the String Theory one above, you can barely squeak out a 3×3 tray doing it entirely in a 5×7 hoop.

Aaaaanyway, I should probably update that one and publish it too. I think I may have been planning to redo it as an applique first, because it is an absurd stitch count.

I remembered this when I scaled it down for the snap tab: making ten or fifteen of those would take forever and at the smaller size was just a little too muddy. I switched it to a bean outline and I’m much happier with it, other than picking out the stabilizer. (As you can see, the black one isn’t done but I decided to rinse it out instead.)

I also went to town with some other String Theory designs. The dice are larger than I really like (maxing out a 4×4 hoop) but it wasn’t worth making my own design just for the sake of this.

Appropriately, the critical-failure die gave me fits. Nothing wrong with the stitch file, it was either the vinyl or I might need to clean out the machine. It kept breaking thread. I rethreaded the bobbin a couple of times, then changed out the bobbin. It wrapped the top thread around its spindle a couple times. Then it broke the needle. Eventually I got it done, and then realized I hadn’t backed the stitching up enough and there was some missing satin stitching right in the middle of the 1. No problem, I thought, I haven’t unhooped so I’ll just run all the way back and pick it up.

Yeah, that doesn’t actually work when you’ve already put the backing on. :facepalm:

(Luckily I wasn’t doing this for the shop because that is NOT up to my quality-control standards.)

In any case, the ampersand is now on the free Embroidery Patterns page.

Warframe Snap Tab: Clem The Grineer

If you don’t know what anything in that subject line means, it’s okay. It’s a Warframe thing and you can basically skip the whole rest of this post.

I only roughly know what it means, but Warframe is the new obsession in my house (and I’m not even talking about the teenager). I was regrettably behind the times and got my husband an Overwatch LEGO set for Father’s Day awhile back, so I whipped up a snap tab to make up for it.

The files are on the embroidery files page as usual. There’s an instruction file in the archive, but it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re not using white vinyl, there’s a template and placement stitch for an applique. Advice: if you use hologram vinyl like I did, use non-holo stuff for the back like I did, or prepare to go blind trying to cut the thing out through the dazzle.

I have a stash of 10mm cabochon rhinestones I picked up on clearance as possible dragon eyes, so I scaled the design to that. If I was buying them for the project, I might pick up 8mm instead. These are clear matte, but gold pearl would work too, or regular faceted rhinestones if you can’t find cabs.

More dragonrider snap tabs

I sold the last of the Pernese dragons in the Etsy shop this weekend; there are still a couple of non-Pernese ones left. I’ll restock a little when I make the instructional photos for the design, but that’ll probably be it (though the kid has expressed a little interest in piecework, and presumably they’ll be available from other sellers using the design).

In any event, it was to a repeat buyer so since she already had a Renegades of Pern key fob, I needed a second. This one’s the primary dragon of the cover of Dragonquest so he’s a little more detailed (more than the stitching can capture at this size). I’ve put up all four variations on the Dragonrider Snap Tab page.

Little felt ferret, circa 2002

I got an email request to revive an old pattern, and by “old” I mean several generations back in the blog. Somewhere I have the text that goes with it, but I’m not sure where, so here are the pictures. And no, that link doesn’t work.

Aside: Hotmail is bad. I tried to answer the request by email, but in my experience Hotmail just silently discards mail from small operators like me. No spam folder for me, no rejection notice to you, it just accepts it and then doesn’t deliver it. Maybe the person got it and just didn’t have anything further to say, but I can’t tell.

It’s my take on the type of pattern in Sewing Tiny Toys by Carolyn Vosburg Hall ( 📦) so you’d need to buy or track down a copy of that for more detailed instructions. (It’s also a pretty great book worth owning.)

But to sum up: it’s made to be cut out of felt, sewn together on the cut edges with an overcast or blanket stitch (no seam allowance). The dotted lines are generally folds, except the curved one on the body is a center belly seam: make two underbody pieces, feet and all, sew them together and then to the outer body. The eyes and nose are seed beads (the nose is two pink beads sewn side-by-side).

I don’t remember the exact scale but if you print it at about 8″ long that will be about right.

I think people have sewn it larger, adding seam allowances (including between colors) and using faux fur, but it’s really not designed for that. The larger a stuffed animal is, the more it needs darts inside the legs to keep them from sprawling out to the sides. I would start with something like this:

You’d cut a single belly piece on the fold, then sew the legs on (the belly piece will only go halfway down the hind leg, and then the two hind legs will be sewn together after that point), and otherwise it would work like the felt version (don’t forget to add seam allowances all around). That’s completely untested though, so sew up a muslin before you commit to any expensive fabric.

If you sew one, especially the leg-dart version, send me pictures!


A pair of dragon silhouettes embroidered as snap tabs.

We interrupt the mostly-boring stretch of fine-tuning patterns to bring you a new upload: a Pernese dragon silhouette, shamelessly swiped from the cover of Renegades of Pern.

Pernese Dragon Snap Tab files

The SVG source file is in the zip archive so you can edit it if you want, say, an eyelet version instead.