As promised, a quick little post about a quick-and-easy journal/notebook project–


Back in August, a local store had composition books on sale for $.50. Two for a buck! Normally they’re several dollars each, so I scooped up a bunch of them. I wanted to make pretty notebooks. Why? I don’t know. I’m not much of a notebook person, but I just had a hankering. Maybe it’s that I want to be a notebook person?

I began looking for ways to make covers for notebooks. There are all kinds of posts out there that involve sewing and such. I’m sure I lost a couple of good hours looking and pondering and imagining. But then it was September, which is always a very busy month for us, and the notebooks got put away in a cupboard in the garage, and…you know.

It's hard to do crafts sitting on the soccer sidelines.

It’s hard to do crafts sitting on the soccer sidelines.

This December, one of the reasons I put aside the napkin project was so that I could make some notebooks for a friend. I’m not sure if she is a notebook person, but I’m pretty sure her daughters are. They are whip-smart, creative, all-around amazing girls, and their mom is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. I don’t give many gifts in December, but I really wanted to give all of them just a little token of my affection.

Look at this wonderful thank-you note I received from Elizabeth last month!

Look at this wonderful thank-you note I received from Elizabeth last month!

So, I went back through the posts I’d bookmarked. I knew I could easily fall down a rabbit-hole of time trying to do something wonderful–and I just didn’t have time for some kinds of wonderful. I went with a tutorial that was easy, this one from CraftyPod:


(The tutorial is simple and clear, and I am not a fan of re-creating perfectly good wheels. Please click over there if you want to make your own.) All you need for this project is:

  • Composition books
  • Enough fabric to cover the cover of the book
  • Fusible webbing
  • An iron
  • About a half-hour of time

I’d never used fusible webbing–which is a fancy name for plastic-y stuff that makes fabric stick to things. It’s awesome–and I want to use it everywhere now.


You simply iron the webbing onto your fabric, then iron the fabric onto the item you want to stick it to. Once I did one book and figured the process out, it was really fast and easy to do the other books.

At first I thought I would use fabric scraps I already owned, but they didn’t coordinate very nicely and I wanted the books to look nice together. This gave me an excuse to go to the fabric store, which (of course) is always a bonus. I shopped the fat quarter section, where you get a fifth one free if you buy four. They already had coordinating fabrics grouped together, so it was pretty simple to choose some that complemented each other.

One warning, though:  The original post warned against using light fabrics, as the dark cover will show through. I did not take that warning to heart, and I wish I did.


I gave them as-is anyway, because I was out of time and I knew my friend wouldn’t care one bit about that. (The kind of thing about her that makes her my friend.) So, if you are going to do this, I urge you to heed the warning of two bloggers and use a dark fabric.

Also, one tip not in the original post: I found my covers starting to curl from the heat of the iron. I found that putting a heavy book on top of the notebook for a few minutes helped keep them flat.

Oh, I loved this book! A sweet, funny, old-fashioned book for younger YA readers or mature middle-grade readers. Highly recommend.

Oh, I loved this book! A sweet, funny, old-fashioned book for younger YA readers or mature middle-grade readers. Highly recommend.

And what might you use this notebook for? Well, we are entering the season of new intentions and habits and all that. If journaling is something you do, perhaps you need a pretty new journal to do it in? But about all that, I’d like to share two things:

I get a weekly email from the smart, funny, and feisty feminist Kelly Diels, and this week she wrote about “New Year’s resolutions and the unbearable pressure to be someone else.” She cautions us not to fall into the trap of thinking that making some external change (becoming thinner, richer, whateverer) will magically make us into someone we’re not. So, if a journal is part of your quest to make some kind of change in the coming weeks/months, I hope it will not become a place of self-punishment or a symbol of perceived failings (should the change fail to materialize as you hope). And if part of your intentions involve creative work, I really do hope you’ll read her words about women and creative work and issues of time. Really–especially if you beat yourself up about not being able to find/make the time to do the intellectual creative work you want to do. 

Having said that, though, I do like the whole idea of fresh starts and setting intentions and being purposeful about nurturing our own growth. Jen Allen pointed me to Susannah Conway’s free set of materials to work through the process of choosing a word to set your intentions for the coming year. I’ve sort of done this in the past (chose a word), but I’ve never really done it. It’s a five-day process, which is about as many days as I have left on my winter break. So, I signed up this morning and I’m going to use one of my 50-cent notebooks to do the work in. Right after I put a pretty cover on it. 🙂

Got myself a gift this holiday season. Couldn't resist a pair of Ghinger scissors at 40% off.

Got myself a gift this holiday season. Couldn’t resist a pair of Gingher scissors at 40% off.

Yeah, about those napkins…


they didn’t get finished. But it’s OK.

Despite starting in early November, which I thought would give me plenty of time, I ran out of it. No–that’s not quite right. I chose to use my time differently.

I might have finished the napkins, if…

  • I’d chosen a simpler design for them.
  • I’d done pretty much nothing but embroider during every free minute from Thanksgiving to Christmas.


When I found myself feeling anxious and resentful about the project, I knew it was time to let go of it as a Christmas present. To hang onto my original goal, I’d have had to give up other things:

The quality of the finished product. I might have followed the advice some readers gave to embroider only one flower per napkin, but I really didn’t want to. I like them as they are coming to be, and I didn’t want to compromise that.

Time with my family. Although I can sometimes work on the project while in the same room with my family, I’m not giving them the same kind of attention when I do that. I chose to be more fully present than I would otherwise have been, which was something we all needed.

Other gifts that were also meaningful. I didn’t finish the napkins, but I did make these journals for a friend/colleague and her daughters. They were quick and easy and quite satisfying (and I’ll put up a quick post about them in a few days).


I really did want to finish the project and give it to my mom for Christmas, but the relief I felt when I gave myself permission to let go of it (for now) told me that letting go was the right choice. The work already done is not wasted; they will be just as appreciated for Mother’s Day or for her birthday in September. In the end, I got my mom a pair of pretty pajamas, which she loved, and I gave myself the gift of a little gentleness, which I sorely needed to get through the holidays in what has been (and continues to be) a difficult season of my life.


It was good to get a reminder that we always have the power to make choices and the ability to change our minds.  And, that what we originally hope for might not be the only good outcome.

I hope you’ve all had wonderful holidays. Looking forward to connecting with you more often in this space now that things will settle down a bit. (I hope! Don’t want to jinx things!)

Wednesday Words 12.16.15


December 14, 1969

From “Snow-bound: A Winter Idyl” by John Greenleaf Whittier

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change!—with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now,—
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,
      We sit beneath their orchard trees,
      We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
      Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
      No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
      The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
      And Love can never lose its own!