I’ve really been enjoying getting back to my craftwork. I used to sew and knit quite often but lost touch with it, and it’s good to pick up my old craft kits again!
One of the first things I needed to make was a proper needle book, to store all my embroidery and normal hand sewing needles, as well as the thimbles, threaders and random small pieces of string which could be used to patch up a small piece of fabric.
I found a few tutorials, but none that were exactly as I wanted them, so I decided to just sketch out my own ideas.
I’ve had this sketchbook for about two years, and this is the first thing I’ve actually made from it. One day I hope to get to all my other ideas!
I began by laying out all my scrap fabric on the table. I’ve collected a lot from my travels and from kind strangers on Etsy who
enable my habit indulge my pleas of “can you put all your pretty fabric in a bag and mail it to me please, they’re sooooo beautiful but I don’t have the space for a thousand fat quarters!”
I bought a sewing kit from Ikea, but didn’t like the zippered box it came in, and I wanted to have separate storage for my different materials. My brother’s girlfriend got me this beautiful wooden box with the leaf carving, which I use for my threads, buttons, chalk, safety pins and pencils. Much more convenient! The smaller one houses my giant collection of embroidery threads.
I wanted it to be quite a large needle book, so it could also take pins if I didn’t want to make a separate pin cushion. So here’s the tutorial!
As you can see, it folds down the middle and has two inner pages as well as a felt inner cover. I saw a nice tutorial which made the most use of the space inside, so I wanted to do something similar. I changed my idea midway through the project, and didn’t sew a separate strip for the inside cover.
You’ll need three strips of felt measuring 30cm by 20(ish)cm (I used three different colours for these), and four strips for the pages (you can either use two colours like I did, or just one).
I wanted contrasting colour in the pages too, so got two different lighter blues. By adding a second strip of felt to the pages, on either side, I made sure that none of the needles or pins would go through the felt to the other side of the page, so they would all be secure and stay in place.
I started by cutting the black felt for the inside cover, and laying that on top of the fabric for the outside cover. I wanted to use scrap fabric for the cover, so chose a pretty print pattern I picked up in Zanzibar. The scrap piece fit the size I needed perfectly, which was handy! Since it’s a print, I didn’t need to embellish the cover, but if you want to, do it before sewing the felt inside cover to the fabric. You’d think this was obvious, but I would show you some of my early projects from years ago which would prove otherwise…
I used this black felt as a template to trace the pattern for the other two pages, rather than using a ruler since this was soft felt. If your felt is also soft and pliable, you’ll need to trim them down, since the inner pages will stick out when the book is closed.
I wanted to add inside pockets to the cover, rather than another strip as per the sketch (I am nothing if not impulsive) so I could store the thimbles, threaders and spare thread. I cut these from pieces of the contrasting felt strips for the inside, stitched these on with a running stitch in a contrasting colour, then stitched the black felt to the fabric cover. If you want to add anything to the inner cover, be sure to do it now before you stitch it to the outer cover!
Adding a chalk line down each page helps you eyeball where they’ll sit and where your spine needs to be.
Then I sewed the two cover pages together, and secured it with a blanket stitch in a contrasting thread. You can definitely tell I’m relearning how to hand sew!
I cheated here, I have to admit. I didn’t want to sew four strips of felt to the inner pages because by this point it was getting late, and I was binge-watching Season 2 of ‘Daredevil’ and it was getting intriguing, so I used fabric glue to sew these smaller strips to the pages. I was planning on a simple running stitch to all three layers.
I purposely wanted different colours so they didn’t match, because I liked the colourful look the book would have. Each page had a darker blue front and a turquoise back, so every time you turn the page you see a different colour. Once the strips are glued in place, leave them to dry for a bit – mine needed about ten minutes in total.
When you have both pages ready, lay the entire book out as you would want it, with the outside cover on your table. Pin the bottom page to the cover, and the top page to the bottom.
The spine is a simple backstitch down the middle, securing all three pages together. You could first sew the two inner pages together and then sew it to the cover, but I found this method a lot easier. A special embroidery needle for felt comes in very handy at this point! They’re shorter than most needles, but much thicker and with a larger eye so you can use six-strand embroidery threads – as I did for this entire project – without having to kill yourself threading it properly!
Once everything is sewn together, fold the book in half and you’ll see that the inner pages stick out a little, owing to the bulk of the extra strips of felt inside. I just used a ruler and chalk to measure a straight line down each page, and cut off the excess felt. You could also eyeball it, as I tend to do. This project began with quite specific measurements, but when you’re working with layers of thick fabric, sometimes it’s easier to just go by sight and feel rather than a ruler.
I wanted to be able to see the eye of each needle, so arranged them in two rows on each page, tips facing the inside (thereby minimising the risk of stabbing myself). The contrast of the darker background of the felt pages helps to identify which needle you’d like to use.
And that’s it! Took me about an hour and a half, including frequent red wine-fuelled breaks and chunks of gaping and re-watching fight sequences in ‘Daredevil’. The book now houses all my dozens of needles, as well as the bits and bobs I might need for a sewing project. I even have a pair of embroidery scissors stashed in one of the inside pockets!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you made a needle book, and if so how? Would you make this project? What would you change about it? Let me know 🙂