Keep Track of Inspiration – Scratch Pad Tutorial

Having just finished reading Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, I decided to take his advice and carry around paper to document any thoughts or inspiration come to my mind.  I decided to make something to carry in fabrics that I love so that I could:

  1. Surround the paper with beautiful fabric;
  2. Make these “scratch pads” portable AND beautiful enough to keep for future reference; and
  3. Inspire others to build on my idea and share it back with this crafting community.

Here are the initial completed “Scratch Pads” that I made.


In this tutorial, I made a second batch of scratch pads, improving on my original method.  I hope that my process will improve with each batch!  I hope you’ll use this tutorial and make it your own.  Please send me pictures and comments of any variations you tried; as a community we can be more creative than we can alone.

The materials you will need:

001 Scratch Pad Materials


Step One: Cut Fabric Rectangles and Possibly Embellish Them.

002 Cutting Scratch Pad fabric - clean off edge003 -Cutting fabric step 2

Press and square off your choice of fabric.

Cut a 9.5″ x 12″ rectangle for each notebook you plan to make.  Embellish the fabric as you see fit.  You might want to appliqué something on the front or embroider (by machine or hand).  Just remember that the fabric will be painted with Modge Podge, so you have to be careful when making the embellishment decisions.

004 -Pile of scratch pad fabric

I chose to make a batch of six notebooks in two different fabrics; therefore, I cut all 6 fabric rectangles at once.

Step 2:  Make a Crease in the Cardboard

005- Measure center of magazine board and score lightly with craft knife

Place the 8.5″ x 11″ cardboard rectangle in landscape mode on your self-healing mat (if you’re using a cereal box, cut it into the 8.5″ x 11″ rectangle first).

Using your acrylic ruler, measure the center of the cardboard (the left edge of your cardboard will be on the 5.5″ line of the ruler).  Lightly score the cardboard down the center line to assist it in bending in half.  Be very careful in this step not to cut through the cardboard.

006- Fold along score

Score and fold all of the cardboard rectangles and place them in a pile.

Step 3:  Prepare the Paper for the Middle of the Scratch Pad

007- Fold 10 sheets of paper

Count the pages of paper and place them in stacks.  I used 10 pages per scratch pad, giving me a total of 20 pages (after folding) to use for each scratch pad.  I found this was an ideal number of pages for the thickness of the pages.  If you were to use very thin pages, you might be able to include more pages before the scratch pad got too bulky to close properly.

Fold each stack of paper in half width-wise – making a center crease at the same place as your cardboard.

Step 4:  Embellish (or not) the Cardboard

Because I made my first two scratch pads with cereal boxes, I needed to cover the “ugly” part of the cardboard.  Thus, I cut two awesome pieces of scrapbooking card stock into 8.5″ x 11″ and glued the card stock to the cardboard where the interior would later be.  I wrapped the glued cardboard and card stock in freezer paper, placed the glued cover between something heavy, and let it dry overnight.

Here, you can see the interior of the scratch pads with the card stock:

012- Scrapbook paper 1013- Scrapbook paper 2


For the second batch, I decided to sew-in my business cards.  I started with a long straight stitch, but decided that I liked a zig-zag better:

008- Embellishing the inside of the book - idea 1009- Finished straight stitch business card010- Embellish idea 2


Some additional embellishment ideas to make the scratch pad your own:

  • glue or sew in a photograph, quote, or magazine clipping that inspires you into the interior of the scratch pad
  • insert a plastic or even fabric pocket into the interior for holding physical objects of inspiration
  • Draw a picture or cartoon in the interior

Step 5:  Attach the Paper to the Cardboard

014- binder clip paper to magazine board

Because we cannot use pins to hold the cardboard and paper together, this is the time to get out your binder or other clips.  Four clips were sufficient to hold the paper together.  Insert your 90/14 sharp needle or jeans needle into your machine and thread it with your chosen thread.

015- Leave tails at beginning and end

Pull out at least 5 inches (I’m just starting to pull the thread in this picture above) so that you will have a long thread tail at the beginning and the end of the seam.  Set your sewing machine to a straight, long basting stitch.  I set my stitch length to 4.

016- long basting stitch length; leave tail at end

Be sure to leave an additional 5″ – 6″ tail when you are finished stitching down the center.

017- Post binding

After stacking my completed scratch pads, I removed all of the clover binding clips.

011- pull threads to the back knot off


Now is the time to pull all of your threads to the back of the project; the side of the cover that will be covered with fabric.  Above is me pulling the thread to the back where I’ve sewn in my business card.

018- Completed stitch019- Pull top thread to the back020- Top thread coming to back021- Top thread on back; knot it by tying it


Here I am pulling the top binding threads to the back.  You accomplish this the same way that you pull up your bobbin thread when beginning a line of quilting.  You hold the top thread and pull until the lower thread begins popping through.  You then pull the bottom thread all the way through the hole to the back.

022- Leave space at edges for trimming later a


Knot the threads on the back.  I tied the two strands together at least 4 times.  I’m pointing to show you that you MUST leave some space from the top and bottom of your project, because you’ll be trimming it later, and you do not want to cut off your knot and have the entire notebook unravel after making it.

023- tie both ends together in a knot in the middle and cut excess string


Because I left both tail ends of thread long, I can now knot the top and bottom threads together, making it even more likely that these threads will not be cut or otherwise dislodged.  I then trimmed the tails of the threads so that there would not be a big bump in the fabric where they remained.

Step 6:  Adhere the Fabric to the Cardboard

Next, make a decision on whether to embellish the outside of your scratch pad.  Do you want to embroider something on it?  Appliqué a saying or your name?  This is the time to make it your own.  I have noticed in many of the more avant guard art quilts that text is a huge movement.  (As an aside, I just bought a yard of some text fabric and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet…but I have some ideas that are going in my scratch pad RIGHT NOW!)

Maybe you’d like to sew some trim on the fabric, couch some yarn or other thread, or sew decorative stitches on it.  What are some of the ideas you have?  What are some of the experiments you’ve done?  Share them, please!!!

024- Cut and slide freezer or wax paper; shiny side out around paper to protect it from the glue


BEFORE you begin gluing the fabric to the scratch pad, take the time to pull out some freezer paper to protect the pages.  Why do I know to do this?  (Ask me how I know!)  The first set of scratch pads that I made, I did not think of this step.  The glue adhered to some of my creamy Crane paper and I was forced to pull away some of the paper to open the book.  So…pull off some freezer paper.  Tear it in half.  Using the manufacturer’s cut edge (see the picture), place the freezer paper between the cardboard cover and the paper.  Side it all the way to the stitching, with the shiny side DOWN.  Fold in the sides and the front edge.  I secured my folds with painter’s tape.  This will prevent the Modge Podge glue from touching the paper inside your scratch pad.

025- Both sides folded; centered on fabric

Next, fold your fabric in half, wrong sides together in “landscape” mode.  I gave mine a little press so that I could see the center line.  Place the scored center of your cardboard in the middle of the fabric.  You are going to trim off (perhaps, unless you take the fold-over step), so you do not have to line this up perfectly.  Closing the book from back to front, generously paint the Modge Podge on the cardboard, and then open up the book and press the cardboard into the fabric.  The glue WILL seep to the right side of the fabric.  This is normal; don’t be alarmed.

Check to make sure that there are no wrinkles.  If there are, gently reposition the fabric so that it is flat on the cardboard.  Glue the other side in a similar manner.  We are going to trim the fabric later, so this does not have to be perfect.

026- glue both sides and smooth

Close the book and wrap it again with freezer paper, with the shiny side on the inside toward the glue.  (Do you see the glue on the outside of the fabric?  Again, this is normal!)  Put the entire project, folded closed, between something heavy and leave for at least 12 hours.

Step 7:  Trim the Scratch Pad

Carefull pull apart the pages

After carefully opening your book (I had let mine dry for over a week and it was tough to pull apart), remove the wax paper that protected the pages.

Remove wax paper


Then, using a ruler and the largest rotary cutter you have, trim the edges.

Trim the edgesTrim the Edges-2

Step 8:  Use Your Scratch Pad and Give Some Away!

When you’re finished, you’ll be ready to jot down all inspirational thoughts that come to you.  Pictured with my very favorite pen, the Papermate Inkjoy!

Ready for inspirational thoughts!


Step 9:  Share Your Results and Improvements!

Made improvements?  Please share them with us!

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