How to Make a Quilt Journal That’s Perfect for You

Today, I am sharing my favorite style of notebook, method and preferred supplies for quilt journaling. By that, I mean mostly journaling about my projects, quilting in general, and perhaps some of my fabric shopping excursions. But, since quilting is a big part of my life, life tends to also creep into my quilt journal. My favorite type of journal is a spiral bound blank sketch book and I use the purple disappearing Elmer’s glue stick, Pigma pens, and a variety of colored pens.

When I first decided to capture my quilting life on paper, I was attracted to the pre-made quilt journals. Those are the ones where someone else did the hard thinking about what information should be collected onto the page, in what order, and how much space to allocate to each part of the project. How easy, right? In reality, nothing exactly matched the way my thoughts flowed when starting a project or how my quilt making reality evolved and I just could not settle on a ready-made journal or project sheet.

What do I mean? Well, some templates left a big space for a photo … of a finished quilt project. It was there at the top of the dedicated quilt journal page. If you’ve read any of my blog other than this post, you would know that finishing a quilt isn’t something that happens very fast for me; or, very often. So, that big box would just sit there, empty. I couldn’t get into a template that, by design, left the first half blank until the very end of the process. Then, there were the guilt inducing “Date Started” and “Date Finished” sections. That’s assuming a lot! On the flip side, there were quilt journal designers who seemed to assume quilt makers only used 3-4 fabrics in a quilt. That’s how much room a generous template allocated for adding samples of fabrics to your journal. I’m a scrap quilter and if I want to use six pages in my blank journal to save a bit of every fabric I use, I can. I’m also a linear thinker and like to conceptualize my projects with a start to finish approach. So, the pre-made quilt journal templates were not for me.

Illustration of quilt journal entry
Sample quilt journal entry: this one includes fabric samples glued in and color photo of inspiration quilt. Note: I learned some more about the inspiration quilt since I originally wrote this post. Ann Hermes (Notes from the Quilt Lab) made the quilt from antique fabrics and sold it to someone with that information. It later was purchased by a dealer who found out the quilt was made recently. She donated it with the correct information (old fabrics, newly assembled by contemporary quiltmaker) to the American Quilt Study Group’s fundraising auction.

Journal Design Inspiration

My generic journal design inspiration came from Susan Branch’s “Heart of the Home” style of cookbooks which, to me, are actually illustrated journals with recipes. (If you aren’t familiar with Susan’s cookbooks, you can see more at her website) I chose this style years ago, probably last century (you know, the 90s). I loved Susan’s books with their cute little watercolor pictures, a font that looked like perfect handwriting, recipes, quotes and thoughts from the author. I can’t draw so I decided to use fabrics as my illustrations. That’s how my journal evolved into a quilt journal.

Note, this post may contain affiliate links. Ordering through these links does not cost you anything extra but I could earn a small commission. For more information, see my disclosure policy.

I use a 5.5″ x 8.5″ hard cover, spiral bound sketchbook because the spiral binding allows for “give” and literally enables my notebook to expand as I add more than just words to it. For color, I use rainbow pens or black pigma pens in a variety of sizes, depending on whether I’m feeling “basic” or “colorful.” My first journal attempt was the Susan Branch style of watercolor but, as I mentioned, I can’t draw so the illustration was rather ugly and definitely lopsided. It wasn’t “me.”

Illustration of quilt journal entry
This is my first attempt at a journal entry way back in 1997

After the illustration failure, I decided I preferred my taste in fabric over my lack of ability to draw and the fabric added color and pattern very nicely. My second journal entry was the quilt I was starting at the time, a “Trip Around the World,” that I taught regularly at my local quilt shop. My favorite part of the project was choosing the 24 fabrics needed to make the quilt. Once I had them all selected I liked to line them up in order and pet them for a bit before getting started on cutting and sewing. To preserve that image, I cut little snips off my fabrics and glued them into the book in the same order. I date each journal entry I make so the “date started” is implied but not specified.

At the time I started this kind of quilt journaling, I was a stay-at-home mom of three with a husband who traveled often. I didn’t get a lot of adult interaction. In addition to information about my quilt plan, I included my thoughts about life, budgeting, getting dinner on the table, etc. My first journals are personal documents that may never be viewed up close by another human being. Today, those entries give me a glimpse of how I’ve grown and how the tough times do, eventually, pass.

Illustration of quilt journal entry
Recent journal entry and multicolor set of the fineliner pens I like

Life Changes and Journals Evolve

My kids grew up, I went to work to help put them through college and gave up a whole lot of my quilting time. Now, I get lots of adult interaction, spending most of my week in an office. To counter-balance the vast amount of human interaction during the week, I crave the solitary escape of playing with fabric and planning projects. My journaling now is more about planning quilts and the thoughts that go into creating them. It is an indulgence to jot down ideas, sketch blocks, list cutting dimensions and even glue in pictures of the finished quilt. Since I date each entry I even have some “date finished” accomplishments. The narrative parts of my entries are less about pondering life and more directly about quilting. This process is excellent for giving me a sense of control — essential for a control freak, I would say — even if it’s just bragging about making a short row of nearly perfect stitches. The gaps between entries, sometimes up to a year, illustrate that perhaps I’m not allowing myself enough time for what I love to do.

Illustration of quilt journal entry
I’ve planned and started a lot of house blocks and can see this project is already 10 years old! It’s easy to pick back up because of the notes I recorded about plan and pattern.

The Summary

My point, if you’ve been waiting for me to get to one, is that quilting is a very personal hobby and is about much more than buying fabric and (perhaps) a pattern and stitching it into a three-layer sandwich. Creativity comes from within us and, by definition, is a manifestation of ourselves. Documenting your journey is a worthwhile activity and may even teach you something about yourself. My experience has taught me that process is personal and no one can really create a perfect template for something so individualized. If you start putting your ideas, thoughts, methods, wins, losses, down on paper you’ll eventually create something that matters, even if it only matters to you.

The Details

The supplies for this are minimal. I don’t use a larger sketch book and I always get a hardcover version because I will sometimes tuck it into my bag to take with me. The number of pages range from 80-100 per book and I actually prefer the smaller number because it finishes a little faster and has a bit more “give” room. But the number of pages doesn’t really matter much. I like the Elmer’s glue sticks that have a purple tint so I can see where I put the glue on a white page. The purple disappears when dry and, as you can see, some of my journals are 20+ years old, so it lasts well. Buying in a multipack is most economical and if you put the extras in the freezer they last longer. I love pigma pens because they don’t bleed through the page and, therefore, I can use both sides of the pages. I use different thickness of lines for writing, drawing, making boxes, etc., for the journal and a variety of other purposes in quilting so I like to buy the set with several sizes (6 pens range from 005 to 08). The dual brush marker pens (set of 24) are handy because you need the fine line for writing and drawing blocks but the brush end is much better for neatly coloring things in. When I color with the fine point it looks a lot like a scribble. They are a pleasure to write with and I use them for other notebooks and writing purposes, too. I’m into color coding.

If you are interested in purchasing the same materials I use for quilt journaling, you can find them via the links below. These are affiliate links so if you buy by linking through my website then I earn a small commission. It doesn’t cost you any extra and I only recommend them because I use them and like them very much. For more information, see my disclosure policy.

The products I like to use

Similar Posts


  1. I don’t quilt, but this is an awesome idea and would work for many different hobbies!

  2. It is interesting to hear how your quilt journaling has evolved over the years. You are right about it being such a personal experience! My own process has changed from a quilting-specific paperback book that I loved to a hardback spiral book that I did NOT love. Fast forward to the computer age and I am finding my blog to be the best quilt journal yet! My hand writing is TERRIBLE and a pen isn’t necessary. Plus, it’s much easier to add photos!

  3. I too do not find the prepared quilt journals appropriate for me. I use spiral bound notebooks, use the lines to help guide my drawing of the block intended, even draw more to guestimate how many sashing’s etc… am not very mathematical so struggle with figuring yardage. Often when doing that it is way ahead of when I begin cutting and sewing. Sometimes I record the progress there, sometimes not.. I have another notebook that I write what I’m putting on the quilt label, before I actually write the quilt label, so I can see what I want to say.. This is my record of what quilts I finished when as well, since that info goes on the label. That way if also often know who got what!

  4. I just love hearing all your thought processes. Mine are similar to yours and the preprinted quilting diaries. Nice, but just don’t flow with the way my quilting thoughts process. ✂️🧵💗 Thanks for taking the time to share. I think I’ll upgrade my notebooks to heavier paper than the three-ring-writing-paper kind.
    Merry Christmas!

  5. What a great post! I have been recording my daily quilt activities for about 30 years. I love how intricate and fun your journaling is. You have inspired me to add a bit of flare to my humdrum entries. Thanks!

  6. I so enjoyed this post, lovely to read as well as look at the photos. I’m amazed how well the pictures of your quilts in the journal pages are so clear as small as they must be. Can you share your process on this please?

    1. Thanks for your comment.  The quilt photos I printed were taken with my iphone 7 and I used the “high” resolution image for printing.  I’ve been through several color printers but this latest one is my favorite.  It is a HP Laserjet.  I like it because the colors are closest to the actual image and it has a really nice finish – with other printers the paper seemed to absorb the ink and it was kind of flat looking.
      I copy and paste the image on a page in a word document so I can easily resize it to a small image that I cut out and paste in my book.  I’m really liking adding the pictures that way.

  7. If only we all could journal like Susan Branch! I think it’s great that you’ve found a format that works for you. I’ve also tried various ways to document my quilting journey, but it always kind of fizzles out–I just can’t seem to make myself stick with it!

    1. I do wish I had 1/10th of her talent! My journals fizzle and revive periodically. There are literally year-long gaps. But, at least I can keep them around and go back to it when I’m in the mood. I’ve been much better at doing it regularly since I switched to nearly all little quilts. I’m sure it’s because they get finished soon after starting. 😉


  8. Do you leave blank pages between projects when they are in process? Or do you journal chronologically so that some project documentation entries are separated because other projects are begun before finishing the earlier project?

    1. That is a really good question!  The answer is, it depends.  Since I now make mostly small quilts, I finish them much more quickly and all the pages do wind up being together.  I either work on it from start to finish or know enough to judge if I need one or two more pages.

      If I am doing a large quilt and know there are certain fabrics I want to use (and I have them!) I’ll put samples of them all together.  I’m attaching a picture of that from a quilt I started more than 15 years ago.  It’s not done.  That really helped me to pick up the project and work on it over the years.

      Others are chronological and will refer back to the date I first posted about the project and then I show progress.  Nothing is hard and fast but I’ll definitely be more conscious about how I am doing things because of your great question.

      I hope you have a good weekend!


      1. Thanks for your reply, Taryn. I have been keeping a large moleskine 1 day per page for years for an everything journal but have been wanting to make a journal dedicated to my decades-long quilt journey. I recently bought a notebook similar to the one you recommended & am looking forward to documenting my quilts for my daughters & anyone else interested. Luckily I have photos of most of them.

  9. Fascinating! The premade quilt journals have never worked for me, either. I used to just use a tablet of grid paper and colored pencils, sketching my ideas, coloring it like the fabrics I was using, figuring dimensions and writing the cutting instructions out to the side–and sometimes remembering to add info on start and finish. Now I rarely make the time to journal what I am doing. But I love what I see here. I am very impressed!

  10. I enjoyed reading this blog post. And I really like how you add anecdotal information in your quilt journal. I’m a retired registered nurse following a 53 year career in my field. I made my first quilt when our oldest son was around 10 years. Made a few scattered quilts, nursing is an exhausting job with four young boys to raise. Fortunately I was able to work only 4 days a week, usually the second and/ or third shift as my husband was/ is a carpenter. I was able to finally call myself a quilter when the boys hit the junior and high school grades. Good documentation rules a nurses’ life so it was natural for me to carry it over to quilting. Well, with trying to juggle 4 boys, life, and quilting I ended up with some Unfinished Projects! Since retiring, I found that I’m so much happier working on one quilt project from start to finish.

    I use a spiral 8 x 10 lined notebook with a leatherette cover. Feels so nice to the hand. I did try a sketch book but it drove me crazy that my lines were crooked. I tried the popular quilt journals with all the bells and whistles. Must admit they are lovely and look so nice all decorated. But I quickly resented the time tit took me to document this way. LOL, nurses are always rushing!!!.

    In the front, I wrote a list of all of my unfinished quilts and projects. I have 24 entries but it includes a pin catcher and two pillowcases. I entered all information about each and bagged each project up. Most have all the pieces cut and ready. Two “projects” are leftover fabrics from a quilt. I had picked out a quilt pattern tp make with these fabrics as tremulously in love with the fabrics. I did put pattern and or the directions that I had written up for each of the projects in the respective baggie. They are stored in a jelly cabinet in my quilt room so easy to access and “ready to go”.

    Now for your article…… I sure wish that I had taken a picture of each project and added it to my journal! I love the look of your journal with the mix of diagrams, text, and photos. I use the larger left hand column to put the date and sometimes the weather. I also add the name of the quilt in a colored ink to the left hand for easy reference. At rare times I’m working on two at the same time but this is limited to machine work mixed with hand sewing a quilt binding, or printing a quilt label and hand sewing it on, and even the final documentation: ie, gift, etc. and the final photo. I love color coding my documentation, but limit it to the name of the quilt. I too use only my favorite brand of pen for this task.

    My book has dividers that can be moved to where I want them. They also have pockets. That is where I have been putting my hand done drawings and all the cutting information etc. I usually tend to make up my own quilts. But, I think I like your idea of pasting this information along with the other information about the quilt. For the quilts that I impose a deadline, I most always jot down the time segments where I work on the quilt each day. Like you, I also add comments usually ones that affect the quilt. Like recently I tore an abductor muscle in my upper leg. Put quilting on a dead halt and quilting was a hit and miss the following 2 months depending upon my leg.

    Sorry as I didn’t mean to write so much but really enjoyed your post. And I finished a quilt last night (Yes, that means the binding too) and started another one today. This time tho, I pulled one from my list of Unfinished. Turns out that it will be just Perfect for a Christmas gift! Plan to come back and reread this post a few extra times. I do this fairly frequently.

    1. I really enjoyed reading about your system and appreciate your comment.  

      A 53 year career as a nurse is phenomenal.  My daughter is  just in her second year as a L&D nurse.  She is the most organized person I know and I get a lot of tips and tricks on it from her.

      I also plan on rereading your comment because you’ve given me some good ideas.  It’s always nice to tweak things.  Keeps it fresh!

      Best wishes,,

Comments are closed.