achievement unlocked: secret agenda notebook cover

i mentioned recently that i have purchased a new notebook to keep track of my to-do lists. i am still absolutely in love with this thing. i decided to show my love by making a cover for it.



it’s basically just a sleeve that fits over the front cover. i didn’t use a pattern. i just winged it. i measured the cover & added 1/4″ all around for the seam allowance, plus 1/8″ to accommodate the thickness of the cover (which is very sturdy cardboard–much heavier than your average mead notebook). i folded in the outside edges (by the spirals) & topstitched to hem. i added the decoration on the cover & the pocket on the inside before i stitched the sleeve together.

all the materials for the cover were pulled from stash. i didn’t buy anything new to make it. the pennants on the cover are made from felt. i happened to have a bunch of different colors laying around because i’ve been meaning to make an activity book for ramona. i just keep getting sidetracked by other projects. i matched thread to each pennant & used gluestick to place them before i sewed, to make sure they would fit & that the colors were harmonious.

i used my free motion foot to do the lettering. full disclosure: this was the first time i have ever used the free motion foot. you can kind of tell. the letters look a little messy. some messiness was intentional. i’m not sure i am 100% in love with the way the letters came out, but for a first try with that particular tool, i am satisfied. “secret agenda” is a reference to a “cat & girl” comic from a few years ago. jared said it reminded him of me.

the pocket inside is fully lined in self-fabric & i added a little slot for my pen, since i am extremely picky about my pens (i only used stylist fine tips). i have to mail order them because no one in lawrence sells them, & you know. they’re not the most expensive pens on the market, but they cost a lot more than a 20-pack of bic ballpoints from office depot. i really don’t want anyone else touching them because they are ruined if they get skin oils on them (& ramona loves to draw on herself), & they need to be held at a particular angle to flow properly, & jared doesn’t use that angle & ends up pressing too hard & splitting the tips. so this way, i can stash my pen in my notebook & keep it safe!

pro-tip about adding a pen slot to a pocket: the slot has to be wider than you think. mine is 1.5″.

one of my favorite things about this cover is that i added rivets! the cover was snug enough to stay on the notebook without any fixtures, but once i had the idea of securing it with some kind of metal, i couldn’t get it out of my head. i had a stash of jeans rivets purchased for a pair of jeans that i have cut out (in may) & not yet sewn, so i used them, putting the flat part of the rivet on the outside. they secure the cover & add style!

i also added a couple of closure options, because i am obsessed with notebooks that can be latched shut. it’s probably a throw-back to being a child in the 80s, the last big gasp of locking diaries for little girls. i added a length of 1/4″ elastic that stretches around the back cover, & i also sewed a fabric-covered button to the front & a simple white hair tie to the back, to create a button & loop closure.

oh, & i added a pink ribbon to serve as a bookmark, to hold my page.

all in all, it was a pretty quick project–just a couple of hours, including all the cutting & threading different colors of thread in the machine & hand-sewing the elastic (because it didn’t occur to me to add it until the rivets were already in place–i would have preferred to sew the elastic into the seam allowances). it was a nice hit of instant gratification after all the hand-quilting i did last month (my skin is still peeling off where my hands blistered from not using a thimble) & it makes me smile every time i look at it.

of course, i couldn’t stay away from big, involved projects for too long. i went to hancock yesterday to check out their big veterans day sale & found this really gorgeous dark gray plaid.


it’s hard to tell in this photo, but the black lines in the plaid are glittery! it’s a heavy wool blend, & pretty expensive, but it was 50% off thanks to the sale. i found some pink satin that exactly matched the pink in the plaid, also 50% off, to use for the lining. i’m planning to make view D, with the longer, even-all-around hem, funnel collar, & hood. this is basically my platonic ideal of a winter coat. i’m nervous about fitting, because my big problem with coats is always finding something that fits my bust, allows me to move my arms, & hits my short waist in the right place, but you know. that’s the magic of sewing for yourself. hopefully i will manage to achieve a better fit than i’ve ever found off the rack, & then maybe i won’t be so resentful of cold weather.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

8 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: secret agenda notebook cover

  1. This is so weird since I just commented here yesterday, but I got that pattern last week for a winter coat as well! I’m going to modify it to be less full in the skirt and then I’m going to put a hem flounce type thing on it, which sounds awful, but the coat I’m trying to copy looks awesome, I swear. I liked this pattern because it has a lot of seams, which I’m hoping will equal better fit.

    1. that is my hope as well. i think i’m going to have to do some grading between bust & waist. especially if i want to add an extra layer between the outer fabric & the lining (for extra warmth). i don’t love the idea of doing a muslin on a pattern with so many pieces, but it’s probably a necessity, right? are you doing a muslin?

      1. Yes, I’ve been really dreading the muslin because of all of those seams, plus the modifications I want to make. I need to get my act together, though, because I don’t have a winter coat! I bought some super cheap eco felt from Joann to use for the muslin because I’m hoping it will somewhat imitate the thickness of my fabric, though it is stiffer. I just didn’t want to use actual muslin because the wool I got is double-faced, so it’s too thick for muslin to be a good approximation. I’m determined to get started on the muslin tomorrow when I get home from teaching. It’s not supposed to get really cold in the foreseeable future here in Chicago, so I’m hoping I won’t be too far behind the cold weather with this coat.

        1. yeah, it hasn’t gotten super-cold yet in kansas either. i think i am going to have to re-draft the waist area on the pattern because my waist is bigger than the listed largest size, but i don’t know what kind of ease the pattern has. i’m probably also going to have to do an FBA. i’m glad it’s princess seams because that will make the alterations a lot easier, but ugh. so many seams. still, i guess it’s worth it for a gorgeous, well-fitting, handmade winter coat.

          we will have to support each other through this process! that’s a good idea about making the muslin out of felt. i have a metric shit-ton of old sheets i usually use, but i was worried about the weight not being at all similar to the coat fabric.

          are you adding any other layer for warmth? i have an old wool blanket that i’m thinking of basting to the exterior fabric. i’m just worried that a wool blend & a satin lining aren’t going to cut it as far as making a real, functional, warm winter coat.

          1. I meant to reply to this the other day but I’ve been so busy with teaching! All my students have big papers coming up and they’re all freaking out right now. Anyway, I did my FBA on the pattern two nights ago (I used a combo of directions from Idle Fancy and By Hand London because I’d never done a princess seam FBA before), and I measured all the waist pieces to see if the finished measurement would be big enough. It looks like it will be just big enough at the largest size with 5 inches of ease. I’m not sure if I might need more ease, though, because I find that when I sit down, everything spreads A LOT. Like I never wear pants because if they aren’t falling down when I stand up, they’re strangling my stomach when I sit. So I’ll have to see how that goes with the muslin. I want to cut out the muslin tonight, but I have so much to do that it might not be possible. It was 65 here yesterday and today it was a very windy and chilly 45!

            I’m not adding any other layers for warmth because I’m also planning on getting a puffy down coat (I have one from last year, but like the rest of my coats it doesn’t fit after some weight gain this year). I use mostly public transit in Chicago, so I spend a lot of time outside and it’s just not possible to get through a winter here with only a wool coat. Before I moved here I never understood the point of those puffy coats, but when you’re stuck waiting for unreliable buses for 20 minutes in -10 degrees, they come in handy! So my wool coat will be for weather down to about 15, and then the puffy coat will come out. Have you thought about using Thinsulate? I’ve heard it’s a pain to sew because it’s so thick, but when I was thinking about using it, I thought I would attach it to carrier strips of muslin at the edges so that only the muslin would need to be in the seams (I hope that description makes sense!). I’ve also heard of people using a layer of flannel, but that doesn’t seem like it would actually add that much warmth to me, so a wool blanket seems like a good option.

            I saw you on instagram–funnily enough, calling out a weird fat-shaming comment on Cashmerette’s dress form post–so I’m going to add you there so if we take pictures of our progress, we’ll be able to see each other’s!

            1. yes, i saw your FBA post on instagram! & the post about getting hair canvas! ahhh! i was like, “do i need to get hair canvas?” i was going to see about getting some books about tailoring out of the library before jumping into my coat, but now i feel all weird & intimidated. maybe i’m just tired. (so tired. ramona has been under the weather, which is weirdly exhausting for a parent.)

              if all goes according to plan, this will be my main winter coat. i don’t spend a ton of time outdoors in any weather if i can help it. lawrence’s public transit isn’t that great so i just drive everywhere, & walk if it’s just downtown. i haven’t had a puffer since my first winter in boston, back in 2001-2002. it was so hideous (though warm!) that i ditched it after that winter. the coat i’ve been using for the last two years is (i think) just boucle with a satin lining. i would not want to rely on it to stand around at a bus stop for twenty minutes in 5-degree weather, but luckily, that is not my life. the outer fabric i bought already seems heavier than my previous coat (which was RTW) even without any kind of lining.

              so when you did the FBA, did you blend extra width into the waistline to make that bigger too? can i ask what your waist measurement is? mine is 39″, which can usually be accommodated by most big 4 patterns with the extra ease they build in, but obviously a lot of that ease is going to be eaten by the thickness of the fabric & any other layers i’m wearing.

              i was nervous about leaving that comment on jenny’s post because i am new to instagram & don’t really know what the etiquette is. it just seemed so weird for someone to be crowing about not being plus-sized anymore on a post where someone is showing off her plus-sized dress form.

              1. I don’t think hair canvas is necessary at all – I’m just overpreparing! I’m probably only going to use it on the collar, but I bought enough for other stuff because I haven’t done a test to see if any of my fusible interfacing will stick well to my wool. I certainly don’t have time to padstitch a bunch of stuff, nor do I even really understand how to do it even after reading about it, so I’m probably going to machine sew it on the collar. I bought a tailoring book and it has some good tips in it for pressing and for some adjustments to make to jackets, but I would say it’s really not necessary unless you’re planning to do all-out tailoring. And I just don’t have time for that because it’s getting cold and I just need coat.

                The puffer coats are hideous, though I have a funny story about them: I don’t ever get street harassed, and I’m not really sure why. I’m fat, but so are a lot of other women who get street harassed. Maybe I fade into the background? Maybe I look mean? People tell me I look upset a lot when I’m not, so? Anyway, the only two times I’ve ever been street harassed in my life were times when I was wearing a puffy coat in Chicago. A friend who looks really similar to me had the same experience, so hilariously, we seem to become alluring to assholes on the street when we wear puffy coats.

                Yeah, when I did the FBA, I just kept the extra waist width. That coupled with the width of the pieces for the size 22 looks like it should be enough, though some of those pieces look so small at the waist to me! My waist measurement was around 36 when I measured it, but it fluctuates pretty wildly, so I want to make sure I have extra room. For the FBA, I used size 16 and did a two-inch FBA (or should I say 4 inch? I added 2 inches to the one pattern pieces, so I’ll be adding 4 inches total). I just did the FBA on the front side piece because I didn’t know if it would be a bad idea to split it up among the panels. I don’t know exactly where they’ll all hit on my bust, so it might have been adding depth in a spot where I don’t need it, if that makes sense. You make a good point about the thickness of the fabric. I haven’t really considered that in my measurements, and the felt is a bit thinner than the wool I’m using, so that may be tricky.

                I’m glad you said something! Jenny pushed back a bit too, and since she’s so vocal about body size stuff, I wouldn’t think it would be weird for one of her followers to call out that comment. It was really an inappropriate thing to say!

                1. i just did my FBA. i did exactly the same as you, i think. i cut a 16 at the shoulder/armscye, grading out to a 22 in the waist, & a 2″ FBA (for 4″ total) in the front side piece. i still have to adjust the length of the other side pieces, but that should be easy enough.

                  it says the 22 is for a 37″ waist, with a finished measurement of 39.5″, so 2.5″ of wearing ease. i’m adding 4″ to the total with the FBA graded into the waist, so it should be a finished measurement of 43.5″. so i think that will be enough. i double-checked my waist measurement & somehow came away with 38″ with a sweater on? okay? honestly, if it ends up being a little big in the waist, i don’t think that’s a bad thing.

                  i’m thinking about doing the muslin from the wool blanket, so if it fits okay, i’ll already have the interlining pieces ready to roll. the fewer pieces i end up having to cut, the happier i am.

                  right now, the entire dining room table is COVERED is pattern tissue, scissors, & pattern weights, & i need to make & serve ramona’s lunch. someday i will have a sewing room, i hope…

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