Notebook pen holder

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This barely counts as a sewing project, but I'm going to share it anyway.

I have a fancy paper notebook (specifically, this one) and a fancy pen (okay, it's engraved "Ryan", but I've been using it for the past two years). I don't want to lose this pen, so I made a little holder for it last year, and this year I made an improved version.


  • a 2.5" square scrap of fabric
  • a 2" square scrap of fusible interfacing
  • superglue
  • a sewing machine with fancy stitches (optional)

Like I said, it barely counts as a sewing project. Realistically, you could accomplish the same thing with just glue and fabric, or even duct tape if you like to live dangerously.

First, fuse the interfacing to the centre of the square, leaving 1/4" on each edge:

This particular fabric is quite thick, so I cut the corners off to try to fold them in better. I'm sure there's a better way to do this, because as you'll see in my next picture, I'm left with tiny raw edges (gasp!). It's okay, it's just a pen holder. Anyway, fold in that quarter inch seam allowance, press it in place, and stitch all the way around:

I also chose to use my sewing machine's alphanumeric stitch capabilities to mark the year of this notebook. This is maybe the second legitimate use I've had for those stitches.

Finally, use superglue to attach both edges of the square to the sides of the notebook at the spine. Use your pen to figure out how far onto the front cover the edges should be glued - mine is about a centimetre past the square part of the edge:

As an aside, I really like this notebook. It's from Peter Pauper Press and is half the price of the Moleskin equivalent with thicker paper.

Here's my shiny new completed pen holder, on top of last year's notebook:

My new pen holder on my new notebook, on top of last year's inferior version.
Last year's version didn't have the interfacing, and it definitely stretched out over the course of the year. It did work though, in case you don't happen to have a selection of different interfacings in your drawer.

And finally, a note on notebooks.

As I used to tell first year students, engineers should keep paper notebooks. However, I wasn't always good at it myself. My entire master's degree fits in one small hardcover book, and the first half of my PhD is scattered between a number of different software solutions (like Evernote and OneNote) and another paper notebook. My main issue was consistency: I would take notes during meetings and when planning out new projects, but I would go weeks with nothing recorded. I think I had this notion that something had to be "important" enough to put it in a pretty book rather than just scribbled on scrap paper.

Sometime around Fall 2014 I was seriously struggling with productivity (apparently common, as depicted by this comic). I ran across the Bullet Journal concept of combining a journal with a task list, and for some reason this made a lot of sense to me. I began writing down a list of things to do each day and that was enough to get me in the habit of actually using my paper notebook, and I've been using mine ever since. It jumps around between personal and work, and I kept the same book when I started my new job, but I find having everything in one place makes me much more likely to use it.

If I ever need to submit my notebook for a legitimate engineering purpose, hopefully there's no confusion between sewing designs and algorithm ideas.

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