Thursday, April 25, 2013

Needlebook Tutorial

I had a request for a tutorial for these little needlebooks.  There are lots of ways to make these sweet little needle carriers; this is the way I make them, but it's certainly not the only way!

I start with a length of linen fabric.  You're going to need a little more than four times the width of whatever embroidery you plan to use. I'd suggest you use a couple inches more width than that even if it might mean you waste a little bit.


Fold this in half and mark your center point.  I use a pen with water-soluable ink that you can get at any notions store.  You can then hoop the fabric or however you hold your embroidery at this point. I use a frame called a Q-Snap and love it.  (You can get a 6" frame at Hobby Lobby, or larger frames at

You'll want to create your embroidery on the left side of that line.  The line marks the approximate place where you will fold your fabric to create the needlebook.  Don't worry if you're not exact; that's why you have a bit more than extra.

As you can see, I didn't plan my embroidery well and went over my fold line.  No worries, I'll just move my fold line over a little ways. The embroidery in this case is silk blackwork; the central motif is from plate 165 of Ensamplario Atlantio by Mistress Ianthe d'Averoigne.  I charted the outer frame, you can see the chart in subsequent pictures.
 Once the embroidery is finished, rinse the ink out with cold running water for at least thirty seconds.  This takes out every trace of the ink so that it doesn't reappear.  Pat excess water from the fabric and hang to dry on a clip hanger if you have one, or dry it flat.
 Fold the fabric with the wrong side out, then fold it again so that you can tell where the back side of the book ends.  Trim the end with about 1/4 inch extra to fold back.

 Here's a little trick: I have such a problem cutting linen straight, so what I have learned to do is to pull a single thread out of the fabric, then using the line as a cutting guide. You get a straight cut that way!

Unfold and cut the top and the bottom with about a 1/2 inch clearance. When it is refolded, it should look like this:

Fold in the extra length on the back side of the book, like this.  You will stitch these flat as you make the seams, and it will make it easier to finish  the open end when you turn it right side out.

Now you will sew the seams on top and bottom.  When you are finished, clip the corners, making sure not to clip them too close, especially on the open edge.  The seams can be done with simple running stitch with matching thread.

When you are done stitching, turn it inside out.  Poke the corners out with an orange stick or scissors.

If I were making a tiny gift bag, I'd add a little drawstring here!

Iron the seams flat, and also iron the crease in the needlebook.

Close the open side with tiny overcast stitches.  If your thread matches you'll never be able to see them unless you're looking 'very' hard.
TA-DA! The outside is done, now to finish the book!

 Cut a piece of matching or contrasting felt slightly smaller than the height, but cut it intentionally too long.  Line the felt up slightly inside of the cover, and stitch it down onto the crease with running stitches.  Don't worry, this will be covered later.

Once the felt is sewn down, open the cover again and trim the excess felt.  Make sure that the felt doesn't protrude from the cover when closed.


Sew a small bead to the front edge of the book, and match this with a thread loop on the back.  This gives you a closure and keeps your book from flopping open.
I use fingerloop braiding for the cording on my needlebooks.  There are several very good tutorials on fingerloop braiding on YouTube. (I would be happy to teach anyone who wants to make a trip to meet me in person! But I find it very hard to describe the process without showing it.) You could also use kumihimo, lucet, or plaiting.

I used the thinner silk to make a tassel for the book.  This process is rather straightforward: wrap 60 turns of silk around a small box lid, tie off with the cording (do this off center by about a third), remove the turns, bind the top and cut/trim the bottom.  

 Tie the cording around the crease of the book, and tie off with a square knot in the center of the book.  This is why you needed to place the tassel off-center.  Stitch the cording down with matching thread through the cording, following the braid pattern.  Knot and trim the excess cording.

Voila! The finished needlebook!

 The needlebook, including the embroidery, fingerloop braiding, tassel-making and construction, took approximately four hours.  Very quick, very easy project.  (I took more time fighting with Blogger and writing up the tutorial! ;) )

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