Handmade Journal with Matching Tote Bag - supply list and instructions

Here is the supply list and instructions for making the single signature journal and the matching tote bag. I made these as a gift for a young lady that my son knows at his work. He was invited to her birthday party, but he didn't know her very well and had no idea what present to get for her. I suggested this, and she ended up loving it!

Journal Printables:

Various pages of the journal are from kits in my shop:

  Coffee dyed papers
  Coffee dyed script papers
  Coffee dyed music papers
  Shabby flowers & lace papers

Cover & some pages of the journal, plus tags, pockets, etc. are from this kit by Calico Collage.

Some of the tags are from this freebie in her Ko-fi shop.

She has lots of coordinating bits to go with that gorgeous set, including these tickets.

More tickets from Iralamijashop here, and some pretty butterfly stamps here.

Pretty photo frames also from that shop. They are so much fun to use as the base for a photo collage, or use them for journaling.

Journal Instructions:

Print the page you want to use as your cover on cardstock. Turn it over and print a coordinating pattern on the other side. For the second side, I like to use a design that doesn't have an "up" or "down" side, just in case I get the paper turned the wrong way in the printer. Just makes my life easier!

Choose the papers that you want to use. Fold them (and the cover) in half, and burnish (smooth/flatten) the fold with a bone folder or other instrument.

Bind the pages to the cover using your preferred method. I like to sew mine by hand, using crochet thread in a color that coordinates with the journal. Here is a video showing how I put my signatures together and how I sew them to the cover.

Add pockets here and there, and fill with ephemera. I also like to use mini paper clips to attach tags or envelopes to some of the pages. Just make it fun and casual!

Since the journal was going to be a gift, I left it very simple. I included the washi tapes, glitter pens and ephemera pieces so the recipient could decorate the journal however she likes.

Tote Bag Supplies:

  • upcycled bed sheet
  • magnetic snap
  • iron-on transfer paper for printer (make sure yours is the right type for your printer)
  • butterflies image by Antique Paperie (unfortunately this particular design has been discontinued) printed at 50% (2 to a page)
  • blue lacy ribbon (for bow)
  • white flower decorations
  • butterfly hair clip

    I also added some other fun things to the bag:
  • glue stick
  • washi tapes
  • glitter pens
  • plastic owl embellishment

Tote Bag Instructions:

Cut out a piece of fabric that is slightly larger than the size you want your tote bag to be. The front and back should be one continuous piece, so that when you fold it in half you end up with a sort of pocket (or pillow case). Cut two of those.

With facing sides together, sew the seams of the two different "pockets". Now you should have two "pockets" that have the fold at the bottom. Trim the seams close to the sewing.

Fold the top under a little and make a hem. Do this on both pieces. Turn one of the "pockets" right side out. Put the other one inside of it so that you cannot see the seams of either.

Now you have what looks like a double pillowcase, one inside the other, with the finished edges at the top, but no seams showing because they are hidden inside of each other. You will sew the tops together AFTER you insert the handles (between the two layers).

Make your handles from a long, narrow strip of the same (or coordinating) fabric. I cut mine about 3.5 inches wide. Make the strip as long as you want (at least double the length of one handle).

Fold the edges towards the middle and iron. They should NOT meet in the middle. Once you have the two edges folded in and ironed flat, you need to fold the strip in half so that the two folded edges meet. Sew the strip together so that the folds are completely hidden on the inside of the strip. Sew very close to the edge in order to catch all of the thicknesses with the stiching and leave a nice finished edge.

Now cut two equal lengths of the long strip so that you end up with 2 handles that are identical. Sandwich the handles between the two "pockets". You want to leave at least 1.5 inches of "tail" between the two layers, so that you can make two parallel lines of stitching to reinforce where the handles attach to the tote.

Pin the handles in place and then stitch all the way around the top of the tote so that you catch all four places where the handles connect to the bag, while you also are stitching the folded tops of the 2 bag pieces together. Then stitch again about 1.25 inches from the first row of stitches. This way you catch the handles twice (once near the top of the bag and once where the cut ends of the handles are).

Follow manufacturer's instructions for the iron-on transfer. Each one may be slightly different. Make sure you buy the right type for your printer. My printer is a color inkjet, so I purchased the appropriate iron-on paper for printing with an inkjet.

I sewed the magnetic button to the inside of the tote bag (by hand) after applying the iron-on transfer. I found this was easier to do at the very end, because you want the bag to lie nice and flat when you iron the transfer onto it.

If you would like me to do a video showing any part of this process (or all of it), please leave a comment to let me know!

Other Notes:

I try to keep several simple, single signature journals on hand, just in case I need a last minute gift for someone. Good thing I had some on hand, because this birthday party popped up on my radar kind of at the last minute. We weren't sure what the young lady would like as a gift, but this choice ended up being a good one. You can't really go wrong with a handmade journal as a gift for a woman or girl. Even it it's someone who isn't into journaling, they always appreciate the handmade quality and artistic design.

If you have any questions about supplies or instructions, please leave a comment below (or on YouTube) and I'll get back to you ASAP.

Have lots of fun making pretty things!