tell us: do you keep a sewing journal?

There are lots of ways to keep track of your sewing projects, and social media has made it even easier. You might have a blog where you write about your projects, or you might post photos to Flickr or Instagram. Or maybe you keep notes on your sewing patterns like Nicole does.

But what about keeping a sewing journal? A sketchbook-type journal allows you to keep track of your sewing projects in a more tactile manner than a blog. You can include clippings of the fabrics and trims you used, images of the finished garment, and notes about how you made it, what alterations or customizing details you added, and any other special details that make it more memorable and personal. I think that, over time, it would be fun to have such a detailed collection of your sewing projects all in one place. And it’s so tactile! As sewists, we’re quite tactile anyway, so this has a particular appeal.


A couple of years ago, the Smocking Arts Guild invited me to be a guest teacher at their annual conference, and I enjoyed the experience so much. The women were very welcoming, extremely knowledgeable, and so eager to talk about sewing. One of the women I met there was Lynn Dohne, who shared her journal with me and encouraged me to share it with you. When I returned home I somehow lost these photos, only to discover them again recently. Better late than never to share these with you, I suppose. So here are a few images of Lynn’s journal to inspire you.

On this page she included her wedding invitation as well as swatches of the fabrics she used to make her gown.

journal-1Here is a detail from the page.


Lynn’s journal includes a fun collection of both photos and notes to help her keep track of each project she’s made.


If you want to keep a similar journal you might include inspirational photos you see on-line or in magazines, etc., to help you plan new projects. You can bring it to the fabric store when you shop, too.


I love how Lynn included the smocking chart for this dress. It will be a wonderful treasure for her grandchildren to remember the clothes she made for them.


And I recognize one of these dresses….


Obviously, if you already do scrapbooking you know all about journaling. But keep in mind that you can make a project like this as elaborate or as simple as you like. There’s no need to invest in a lot of equipment or materials, which is what I like about Lynn’s journal. She uses a simple leather-bound diary with a wrap-around strap to keep everything tidy and contained. You could even use a three-ring binder and add a new page for each project.

Do you document your sewing? If so, how? Do you keep a sewing journal?




  1. Mary Ann Wilson

    Yes, which is fun to reference when details don’t immediately come to mind. Especially when sewing for children their record of measurements is interesting to them as they get older.

    1. i can imagine that would be very useful, Mary Ann! And your children will probably enjoy reminiscing as they look through it someday, too.

  2. Helena

    My mum keeps a journal of my sewing with swatches! I make a printed photobook every couple of years. I really enjoy the process of putting it together, it’s nice to reflect on how my skills, taste, confidence and children change over time!

    1. That’s so nice of her, Helena! It’s like a journal of your progress and your projects!

  3. I keep 2 kinds of journals. One is my dream journal with things I want to make. See a glimpse of it in this post:

    The other journal I keep is for alterations or pattern designing. When doing alterations, I keep track of each step as I undo something (with measurements) so that I know how to put it back together. I do this even when I am taking up a hem. When I am designing something, I keep track of what I am doing every step of the way with measurements. This helps me when I put the pattern/tutorial together.

    I love this idea of including a finished photo of the project.

    1. Good idea, Ana. The dream journal must be fun!

  4. Emily

    I don’t have a journal, but I keep a list. For each item I record the date, pattern, size, and then some notes, usually about fit, whether or not I like it, what I thought of the fabric, etc. It’s handy because I often can’t remember the details!

    1. Do you keep swatches of the fabrics, Emily?

      1. Emily

        I don’t keep swatches; my list is electronic. If the fabric is unusual I will note that in my list.
        The best part about an electronic list is at the end of the year I categorize everything and see how many garments (and what type), bags, quilts, etc I’ve made during the year.

  5. Cheryl

    Yes, I’ve been keeping a journal(s) for 13 years. Although I’ve had to move to binders, I take a picture, add the beginning and finish dates, add any notes and if I donate or give away the item in question I write down the date and name of the person.

    Now I’ve started another journal for what I would like to accomplish and any pictures I see that I would like to incorporate into a piece of clothing. Maybe it’s overkill but I find it relaxing.

    1. I think it sounds great, Cheryl! What an amazing record you’re going to have.

  6. Jennifer M

    Well I feel a little silly, as I’ve never even thought of this before! What a fantastic idea! I’ll have to start mine soon! 🙂

    1. I know, it’s so low-tech it seems obvious. I hadn’t considered it, either, until she showed me hers!

  7. Rght now I just use my blog, and if something is not blogged, then I’m out of luck. Having a journal like this would be nice.

    1. I agree, Masha!

  8. Nicole

    The leather journal is very lovely.
    I am not overly sentimental about my sewing, it is more everyday type stuff then beautiful heirloom sewing, but I do keep notes with my patterns and I blog, much like Masha.

  9. I’m not terribly sentimental about my sewing either, Nicole, but I’m a bit sentimental about the sewing my mom did for me. And I think, rather than keeping the dresses themselves, I’d rather have a record of them. It’s fun to look back and remember the events and activities surrounding each item.

  10. My record-keeping is much like Emily’s; I have a note-book that I record kids’ measurements (as I wring them from their responsible adults); and I record what I’ve sewn and/or cut out for each child. My most useful records are written on the back of the envelopes in which I store the patterns I’ve traced from a specific O + S pattern. IE: size of pattern traced off; alterations made to draft; child intended for sewn garment; date the draft traced, and date the garment is made/delivered.

    This method enables me to quickly see which sizes are traced from a particular pattern (so I may not need to retrace if short of time); which patterns have been made for a particular child (is it time for something different?); and how my littles have grown since I first sewed their first O +s outfit.

  11. I use a journal with sketches to plan projects, usually putting something for the kids and me on every page and working through it that way. I find that it can feel too constrictive sometimes, though, and I need to break away from the “rota” and do something totally spontaneous now and then. The blog serves as a record of finished projects – although I really like blogs that discuss the WIP process more, I tend not to do that as much as I’d like.

  12. Jill

    Hi everyone – I have been keeping a detailed Craft Journal for about 15 years (in Exercise Books) – this includes sewing, knitting, crochet, machine knitting, cross stitch, machine embroidery and so on. I find it incredibly useful when I want to make something for a second time or check how I made something in the past. I include things like weights and measures as well as photos and notes about all the changes and modifications I have made to a pattern. Recently, I have created a spreadsheet referencing the projects to make it easier to find things – up to about 1400 entries so far.

  13. Wow, Jill. Those books will be heritage items, one day. I cross stitch too; what patterns do you most enjoy working?

    1. Jill

      Hello Needlewoman – I do a variety of patterns but I really enjoy Jill Oxton’s books and have made several of her designs. I have also done some computer cartoons (a request from my son). I recently saw a really good idea for stitching a big design – you may already do this but it was new to me. The person divides her canvas into blocks 10 x 10 by sewing a tacking thread from top to bottom and side to side and this means that if you do the same on your pattern you can stitch anywhere on the canvas without getting lost. She also stitches on her lap without a frame of any sort!

  14. Heidi

    I have both a sketch book and spread sheet.
    The spread sheet keeps track of items sewn, including pattern company, pattern, size, item, who, type of fabric, amount used, where the fabric was from. It also has my records for fabric acquired that year (including price, amount and when sewn), pattern companies used and individual patterns used (including how many times). I also keep totals by month and year of how many items sewn, meters used, most common pattern used that month, used fabric broken down by types (knit, woven, fleece). I have been using this for 3-4 years and it has helped me understand my sewing better as well as providing information to inform me when deciding on a new pattern or fabric purchase.

    In conjunction with this I also keep a notebook. This has practical information in it like measurements for all the people I sew for. It also contains lots of sketches with it without measurements. This book may occasionally also contain random other inspiration that is not sewing related. It is generally in black and white, using a pencil so I can erase lines as needed. Although I rarely refer back to my books once finished I use them for nearly every project.

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