Quilt Journaling 101

Hello Everyone! Today I want to share my views on keeping a quilt journal and what I include in it. I’ve been writing down information about my quilts almost since I started quilting. In the beginning, I started with a list of quilts and their start and finish dates. Today I keep track of almost everything involved with the quilting process.

I think it’s important to keep a quilt journal so all the information about your quilt is in one place and becomes a quilting history of what you’ve accomplished. Even if you’re not into the details, having a record of your quilt that has taken lots of time, thought and energy to make will hopefully give you and your family fond memories to look back on. If you make a lot of changes to patterns or you don’t get back to a project in a timely matter, the journal is the place to record the details and where you left off.

One of my first designs in my first journal/planner (Fall 2011) is the first version of Holly-Daze (notice the very basic quilting)

My journaling is part journal and part project planner. I know we are supposed to label our quilts with all the information about them, but are some of you like me, sometimes you label and sometimes you don’t? I do label quilts that I give away, but not always my own. So what information should you keep in a journal? This is my list of basic items to keep in your journal:

  • Start and Finish Date
  • Pattern Name, Designer, tutorial, blogger, etc.
  • Fabrics
  • Who the quilt is for or why you are making it (special occasion)
  • Pattern changes or special techniques used
  • Block/Quilt size
  • Picture of the final quilt
My journals, starting with the earliest, left to right.

A journal can be as simple as keeping a running list of your quilts and projects in a notebook, with the above information listed. I started with the yellow lined notebook which contains notes or rough drawings about quilts or bags that I designed. If I drew something on graph paper, it’s attached to the pages or just thrown in. Nothing very formal and sometimes not even a date. This was really more of a design notebook and I had my master list of projects with the dates in another notebook (I still keep that list today). The Christmas snowball quilt information is in the yellow notebook and that’s where I started when I decided to make Holly-Daze, 7 years later.

The white notebook and my covered notebook are part of the Staples ARC system. When I saw this, I knew this was what I needed. It has blank pages, action pages and graph pages that you can customize for your needs.

The pages can be inserted and removed as needed. This is the Holly-Daze quilt and one of the latest entries. The page on the left is an action page with different areas to put notes, I taped an EQ8 version of the quilt on the right page. I didn’t start out keeping track of all the things I do now. My journaling has evolved over time and I’ve had some input along the way from a couple of other quilters.

About the same time I discovered the ARC system, I saw this blog post by Lori Kennedy about keeping a Quilt Notebook and I started writing down all the information that she has listed. Over time, I’ve dropped some of the information and added others. But one of the things that I’ve kept is the estimated hours. I try to keep track of the hours for each task of the quilting process. I will be honest, I rarely add it up, but for quilts I’m getting paid for, I do. The tasks I keep track of are:

  • Planning – includes pattern changes and fabric selection
  • Cutting Fabric
  • Sewing – piecing and all things associated with it, trimming, pressing, etc.
  • Backing – tasks involved with making the backing
  • Quilting – includes sandwiching and quilting
  • Binding
Endless Summer Mini in the Lori Holt Scrappy Planner

After filling up the first ARC system, I decided to try Lori Holt’s Scrappy Project Planner. I really liked this planner. It has two pages each for 50 projects and has 52 weekly calendar pages that you fill in yourself so you can start it at any time. It has sections for fabric swatches, supplies, sources, notes and a graph paper section. I didn’t exactly use it as planned as you can see above. I put my task items in the swatch section. Under the supplies, I would put supplies not normally used, such as fusible web, zippers, specialty threads, or different batting than I normally use.

My Endless Summer Mini

One of the things that I record in my journal are changes I make to the pattern I’m using. The Endless Summer Mini by Sherri McConnel is a four block square mini. I changed mine to be a three block table runner with a different border than the original. Because I was making 3 blocks instead of 4, I needed to change the cutting directions slightly, so I recorded that in my journal instead of on the pattern. That way if I want to remake the pattern or gift it to someone else, my notes won’t be all over it.

I ran out of the weekly planner before I ran out of the project pages in the Scrappy Planner. Instead of starting over, I continued to use the project portion and bought a weekly calendar planner because I had started a new habit of using that planner just for sewing. I used the Scrappy Planner for 2 years before running out of project pages. I thought about buying a new Scrappy Planner, but I went back to the ARC system because I could add more pages if needed to the projects. I wanted to pretty up my cover so I used this pretty embroidery piece by Jenny of Elefantz Designs. You can read more about the journal cover here.

I carried the Source and Supply section from Lori’s planner over to the ARC system. The Source section is where I list the fabrics I’m using, blog tutorial, class, etc. I use the Comments/Notes section to record changes I plan to make, deadlines if I have them, and any other things I want to remember about the quilt. Since I’ve gone back to the ARC System, I have more room to add construction notes or things that I need to do (Action Plan section). On projects that have multiple steps like the Moda Blockheads 2017 quilt or Winterville quilt, I list the date that I finished each step and specific notes for that step.

Quilting diagrams from Stars Around the Garden

Another thing that I add to my journal are quilting diagrams. I don’t always make a diagram first, but when I do, I include it in the journal. I hand quilted the Stars Around the Garden quilt and went through several iterations on how to quilt the pieced blocks. When I finally had a plan, I included them in the journal.

Stars Around the Garden
Moda Blockhead notes in Design Notebook

When I was using the Scrappy Planner, there wasn’t enough room to always add changes or draw designs on the one page, so I ordered these graph paper notebooks from Plum Paper. If I have notes for a project in the design notebook, I make a reference to it on the journal page. Besides just using this notebook as an extension of my journal pages, I use it to draw all my ideas for future quilts and projects. They are a nice size to carry with you, too.

Swoon block

One very good reason to keep a journal entry for a quilt is to write down your initial thoughts or plans for that quilt. For example, I started making Swoon 16 blocks (pattern by Camille Roskelly) 2 years ago. I changed the setting of the quilt from 16 blocks to 20 blocks and came up with the border cutting plan in the beginning. I wrote everything down in my journal. My intentions were not to take this long to make this quilt, but I have 5 more blocks to go. If I hadn’t recorded my notes, I would have to figure it all out again. I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t get a quilt made in the first few months that it’s started.

Moda Blockheads 2017 Top

One last point, then I’m going to wrap this post up. I mentioned on the basic list of things to include in your journal is a picture. I always take pictures of my quilts. I have a stack of quilt photo prints from before digital, but they are also mostly before my journals. Because everything is digital now, they don’t get printed and most of my journal pages don’t include photos. My goal, one day, is to get prints and include them in the journals.

If you don’t already journal about your quilts and projects, I hope I have given you inspiration to try it. If you do journal, I hope I have given you some new ideas to include and please leave a comment if you include items that I haven’t listed. Going back and looking at my journals for this post made me smile as I remembered making each of the quilts (if only I had pictures, too)!

Thanks for stopping by and happy journaling!

This entry was posted in 2019 Plans and Goals, New Techniques, organization, Planning, Tutorials, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Quilt Journaling 101

  1. Hi Brenda, great post. I like your ARC system: it looks nice and flexible. I also use a system of different notebooks: I have one for ideas (designs I think of, and would like to make, this includes possible design sketches, and even EQ8 prints, if I get that far). Quilts I am actually making go in another notebook: I note the begin date, and the end date, and details of thread, fabric, pattern changes, quilting and anything else relevant. I also have a studio diary – literally a diary, and I make a short note of what I am doing anytime I am in the studio, and also of finishes and blog posts. From that I can see how much or how little time I have been able to spend on quilting! My last notebook is to keep track of fabric that I have bought for specific projects: I sometimes find a pattern and buy fabric to use in making it, but it has to go on the waiting list of projects: if I don’t note down which pattern I had bought the fabric for (and where to find it, if it is a pattern from a book or magazine) and what exactly I had in mind, it can be hard te remember when I revisit the fabric months later…it also serves, over the years, as a record of changing tastes!
    I label all my quilts, even the ones for home use, although I put less information on those than on gifted ones: the most details are in my journals and on the blog (which I back up every so often, just in case).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lydia says:

    Lots of options for staying organized. Since it can take a “little” time to complete these projects making notes along the way is a great idea.


  3. Pingback: January 2019 Progress and What’s up for February | The Quilting Nook

  4. Pingback: Taking it Easy and Working on a Few WIPs | The Quilting Nook

  5. Arlene says:

    Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas. I’ve been using Lori Holt’s Scrappy Planner for a while but I’m looking for something else to go with it. I think the ARC system might work….but I also love the Plum Paper notebooks. So many good sources, now just to find the “perfect” one…Being more organized and keeping tabs on my quilt projects are a few of my goals this year. Love your blog. Happy 2020!


    • Brenda says:

      You’re welcome and thanks, Arlene! I hope you find a way to keep track of your projects. It’s been very helpful for me because I have so many going on at once. I really liked using my daily quilting only planner not only as a guide for things to do, but also to keep track of what was finished on a specific date. I then was able to add those notes to the journal page. This year, I started a new journal specifically for cross stitch. My ARC system is already pretty full after using it for a year. I may also need to find a way to archive those pages so I can add new ones. Happy planning and journaling in 2020.


    • Brenda says:

      Thank you Arlene. It’s hard to find a commercial planner that fits all of my needs so that’s why I went back to the ARC system. Hope you find what’s best for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Swoon 16 Blocks Finished! | The Quilting Nook

  7. Nancy says:

    Really enjoyed this post. Have tried different ideas and finally designed pages I can print and add to a small 3 ring binder. Am going to tweak my design to add some ideas from your post that I hadn’t thought of or about.


    • Brenda says:

      Thank you Nancy! I’ve just been going through my new plans for the year and archived my journal pages of finished projects from the last three years so I can add more pages.


  8. Pingback: New Year, New Plans | The Quilting Nook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s