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Blog > How To Design a Love-Life Journal Cover

  Hello I have a pretty tutorial for you today... a LOVE-LIFE journal cover to make for yourself or for that someone extra special. Simple stitches with ribbon and thread were used and the textures and colours complement each other nicely in this pretty design.   Remember that we have talented teachers and stockists throughout the world who offer classes and you are welcome to look for the list here. I hope you will enjoy this tutorial!     Click on the image to enlarge    1-Love-Life   For this project, I purchased a journal-like book with a hard cover which is 15 cm x 18 cm (6 x 7.2 inches) in size.  To make a smaller or larger journal, adjust the pattern and ribbons accordingly.  This beautiful journal cover is not difficult to make, and is the ideal handmade gift for a special occasion: make it for a special child’s 21st birthday; for a wedding gift for a good friend; for a mum that is moving into a retirement home, or for a daughter who will be graduating and starting a new chapter in her life. Maybe a friend is going through a difficult stage in her life, this journal is ideal for her too.   Whatever the occasion, this journal is sure to become a treasured gift. Depending on how much time you have, embroider just the flowers and words for a faster project, or embellish it as shown in the photograph. Enjoy!  


  About the pattern   pattern sample   Note: the pre-printed “Love Life” panel, is available for order here from my website...   OR you can download, print and trace the pattern onto the fabric from here.   Note: Please be patient while the page loads. It is a large file so you will be able to make a good print.   [download id="197"]      

You will need:

  1. A hard-cover journal approximately 15 x 18 cm (6 x 7.2 inches)- available from stationery and art shops
  2. White felt 20 x 40 cm (8 x 16”)
  3. Fabric glue
  4. Fabric: 41 x 41 cm (16.5 x 16.5”) White poly-silk, cotton voile or fine muslin for the backing fabric
  5. The “love Life” design on pure cotton – see note above
  6. Fabric: 41 x 41 cm (16.5 x 16.5”) white or cream pure cotton or linen fabric – if you will be tracing the design yourself.
  7. Ruler and Blue water-soluble fabric pen – if you will be tracing the design yourself.
  8. Pins or tacking cotton
  9. Embroidery scissors with sharp points and dressmaker’s scissors for cutting fabric
  10. A 12” (30.48 cm) embroidery or quilting hoop


  1. Crewel/embroidery size 8 and 9
  2. Mixed pack chenille size 18/24
  Note about the needles:
  • For the threads, use a number 8 or 9 crewel/embroidery needle.
  • For the 7mm ribbon, use the large (size 18) chenille needle.
  • For the 4mm ribbon, use a medium (size 20 to 22) chenille needle.


  • Soft Green: Six strand cotton: Chameleon 74 or DMC 644 or Maxi Mouline 923
  • Salmon Pink: Pure silk: Chameleon Camellia no.1 or use six strand cotton DMC 761 or Maxi Mouline 340
  • Pink: Stranded cotton: Chameleon 63 or DMC 3833 or Maxi Mouline 329
  • Golden Yellow: Stranded cotton: Chameleon 37 or DMC 728 or Maxi Mouline 149
  • Metallic thread: Silver and Gold

Pure silk ribbons

  • Di van Niekerk’s 4mm silk no. 120 x 2 packets
  • Di van Niekerk’s 7mm silk no. 119, 115, and 102 x 1 packet each.

Organza ribbon

  • Di van Niekerk’s 15mm no. 115

This design uses the following stitches:

For ribbon: Whipped Chain Stitch, Straight Stitch (twisted,) Ribbon Stitch, Running Stitch, French Knot, Detached Chain Stitch (Lazy Daisy,) Gathered Flower Technique.   For thread: Chain Stitch, Couching, Stem Stitch, Back Stitch, French Knot, Straight/Stab Stitch, Feather Stitch, Blanket Stitch and I will show you how...   Method   Prepare the design   pattern sample1. Start on the pre-printed Love Life panel OR use a white, pure cotton fabric, 41cm (16.5”) square and trace the black and white pattern which you have downloaded and printed from this page [download id="197"]. Use a blue water-erasable pen and neatly trace the flower shapes (Hollyhocks), the words and the outline of the journal cover (including the centre lines) Hint:  Use a ruler to draw these lines as neatly as possible to ensure a perfect finish.   2. Place the design, right side up, on top of the backing fabric. Insert both layers in a 12" (30.48 cm) hoop so that the front part of the cover is centred in the hoop. Tighten the hoop halfway. Pull both layers as taut as a drum, ensuring the outlines are not distorted. Tighten the hoop; roll up the four corners and pin or tack in place—this prevents the corners from getting in the way as you work. The back part of the cover (which is rolled up) will be ironed later.  

Make the Letters   

Outline the letters L

  Use two strands of the Soft Green thread and outline the L of Love and Life in Back Stitch. Make each stitch about 4 mm (1/8”) long and work along the outside edges of the letter L. You will have two lines of stitches with a space in-between.    Click on the image to enlarge     Whipped back stitch - double row


Cover the L stitches with ribbon

  • Thread up with the 4mm ribbon no. 120. Use a short 30 cm (12”) length of ribbon to prevent it from fraying.
  • Come up alongside the Back Stitches. Leave a tail at the back (about 1 to 2 cm or 3/8”long)
  Note: Once the letter is completed, both the tails (the start and end tails) will be attached at the back of the work with small stitches in green thread. Ensure that the tails lie underneath the letter so that they do not show through once the journal is covered.  
  •  Start wrapping the ribbon around the Back Stitches by inserting the needle over and under the stitches on either side of the letter.
  • Gently pull the ribbon through so that the stitch is raised off the surface of your design. Bring ribbon over the letter, keeping it as flat as possible (not twisted) and insert the needle into the stitches as shown above.
  • Note: you will be able to insert the needle under a stitch more than once to create an even wrap.  Repeat the process; use a gentle tension, allowing the ribbon to overlap the previous stitch as you work.
  • Repeat for the other letter L.
  Click on the image to enlarge   2-Love-Life     Complete the words  
  • Use the same colour green thread (two strands) and embroider on the remaining letters (ove and ife) in Chain Stitch, working down the centre of each letter. Make the chains about 4mm (1/8”) in length.
    Click on the image to enlarge   Perfect World Book Proof.pdf    
  • Whip the chain stitches with the same colour ribbon (4mm ribbon no. 120) and use a gentle, even tension throughout.
  Click on the image to enlarge    Fig1   Hints: If you are not happy with the wrapped letter, repeat the process, working in the same direction, to create an even texture. Where there is a gap, be sure to end off before starting the next letter. The ribbon does tend to show through if you “jump” to the next section across a white patch. Secure the tails underneath the embroidered letter with the green thread and tiny stitches.  

Make the Hollyhock stems

  a)    Use the same colour green ribbon and a Twisted Straight Stitch to form the stems.    Click on the image to enlarge      Dreamscapes book.pdf         b)    Start at the base and work upwards, making long stitches, twirling (twisting) the ribbon for a finer, raised stem. Take the needle to the back at the tip of the flower. c) Pull the ribbon quite taut and untwist the ribbon before bringing it to the front of the work—this prevents loops from forming at the back. d) Gently pull the ribbon (once it is at the front of the work) so that the stem is not too slack on the design.  

Make the small buds and all the leaves

  Click on the image to enlarge   Fig2     leaves a) Form the small green buds on the tip of the stems. Use the same colour green ribbon and make French Knots (2 or 3 wraps) to form the buds.   b) Make the small leaves: Use Ribbon stitch or Detached Chain Stitch.     c) Make the large leaves: Change to the wider ribbon, 7mm silk no. 119.  and make the larger leaves with Ribbon Stitch. Hints: Work over a spare large needle to raise the stitches off the design. A large tapestry needle (size 13) works well or use the blunt end of a size 18 chenille needle or a kebab stick.  Overlap some leaves as shown above to form the broad, lobed leaves.  Use 1 strand of the soft green thread and make tiny Stab Stitches at the tip and the base of the large leaves to secure them in place. This will prevent the ribbon from pulling out of shape with wear and tear of the journal. d) Use 2 strands of the green thread and Couch the stem in place every 2 cm (3/4”) to anchor the stems in place. Use a gentle tension so as not to flatten the ribbon. e) If any lines are still visible on the design, use the same green thread (two strands) to add extra stems alongside the ribbon stems. Make long Straight Stitches to form the stems and Couch in place with the same colour thread, if necessary. f) Use slanted couching stitches at the base of the stems for an interesting texture.                 Embroider the cross on the top right-hand side of the design    Click on the images to enlarge   cross  crossinchainstitch a) Use 2 strands of the green thread and Chain Stitch to cover the lines of this cross on the fabric. b) Use Whipped Chain Stitch and wrap the chain with the same colour no. 120 ribbon, as you did before. Repeat the process, wrapping them again, if you prefer a higher relief.             Click on the image to enlarge    5-Love-Life    

Form the large Hollyhock flowers

  2-Love-Life     The larger Hollyhock flowers are made separately and then attached onto the design.   Use the 7mm no. 115 for the darker peach flowers and the no. 102 for the pale pink ones. Cut a length of ribbon 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3.2”) long. Hint: Vary the lengths of the flowers for a more interesting effect—the smaller, more open flowers are 5 cm (2”) long, the medium size flowers are between 6 or 7 cm (2.4”) and the large, frilly flowers are 8 cm (3.2”) in length. Use the gathered flower technique to make the flowers as shown below.   Click on the image to enlarge       Gathered Flower      
  • Thread up with 1 strand of the pink thread and make a knot at the long end.
  • Fold the ribbon in half and stitch along the raw ends. Stitch up and down using tiny stab stitches. Proceed along one long, smooth edge and make tiny running stitches until you meet the raw edge again. Allow the needle and thread to hang off your design and carefully cut away the excess seam on the raw edge, if necessary. Be careful not to cut your thread.
  •  Pull the thread to gather the flower, not too tight, as you need the flower to be open when you secure it.
  • Use the same needle and thread to secure the flower onto the design. Work from the base upwards, attaching the flowers in place as you stitch. Come up in the centre of the flower and use tiny stab stitches to form the dark centre and to open or flatten the gathered flower at the same time. Add a French Knot (2 or 3 wraps) to complete the centre.
  • Hint: if the outer grey line is showing, you can add another green leaf in ribbon stitch later. Lift the flower up to form the leaf and this will cover the line.
  •  If you find the Hollyhock is becoming too full with the gathered flowers, thread up with no. 102 (paler pink) ribbon. Make loose, raised Ribbon Stitches instead.
  • Add a French knot in the centre.


Form the smaller Hollyhock flowers

The smaller buds on the Hollyhocks are made with French Knots.   Use either of the 7mm colours number 102 or 115. Wrap the ribbon once around the needle for small buds, twice or three times around the needle for larger buds. Add the tiny, flat buds at the tips in Straight/Stab Stitch or use Ribbon Stitch. Thread up with one strand of pink thread and make a three-wrap French Knot in the centre of the flower. Use 1 strand of the Golden Yellow thread and make another three-wrap French Knot in the centre of each flower to complete the Hollyhocks.   Hint: (optional) to add more colour, use Ribbon Stitch and embroider more green leaves adding them between and underneath the gathered flowers. This will also help to cover the grey outlines on the pre-printed cloth.      

Add the dots at the end of the e and outline the letters

  Use 7mm no. 115 and make a one-wrap French Knot to form the dots. Use one or two strands of the Salmon Pink thread and Stem Stitch to outline the letters.    dotattheend  

Hint: for a quicker gift, there is no need to add all the details below. Skip them and follow steps towards the end of this tutorial to cover the journal. To add the blocks and other detail as shown, follow the steps below.  

Form the background blocks.

  The background blocks are not drawn onto the fabric. Instead of drawing the lines (which tend to go skew once the design is stretched in the hoop) a simpler, more effective method is as follows:       1-Love-Life   Form the straight lines first with long Straight Stitches   Use a 1 metre length of the Soft Green cotton thread (one strand) and make a knot at the long end. Come up at the bottom right hand corner; Measure a long Straight Stitch to find the line up to the second last flower of the Hollyhock on the right – refer to the completed design above.   Holding the thread in place as a guide, make a small dot with a sharp pencil at the e and v and the Hollyhock. Insert the needle to the back at the e, come up again beneath the v; do the same for the v; make a long straight stitch again inserting the needle to the back at the Hollyhock.   Take needle to the back and come up 1 centimetre (3/8”) above the first line and make a second line as before, pulling the thread taut as you work to form a straight line. Do the same for the third and remaining lines and remember to pull the thread taut each time.   End off at the back, pulling the thread taut as you work. Re-thread with a metre long thread and continue as before. Work the thread in the opposite direction and form the criss-cross pattern.    Hint: Use the green thread on the right-hand side of the Hollyhocks. On the left-hand side of the Hollyhocks, use the green thread criss-crossed with the Gold Metallic thread in the opposite direction, Pull the threads taut each time to form straight lines—all of them about 1 cm (3/8”) apart.    

Couch the threads at each intersection (crossover)

  Thread up with 1 strand of green thread about 50 cm (20”) long. Make tiny stitches at each intersection to secure the threads in place. Hint: ensure the laid threads (lines) do not move out of place as each stitch is made. Couch them in place between the blocks, if necessary, to prevent the straight lines from moving out of shape with wear and tear.  

Add the Salmon Pink lines

  garnishing2 Thread up with 1 strand of Salmon Pink thread and refer to picture above.   Make short Straight Stitches at each block to add the pink detail.   Note: the pink stitches are only added on the right-hand side of the Hollyhocks. See picture below.   garnishing6  

Add more detail

  Click on the image to enlarge     Feather stitch  Use the Salmon Pink thread and Feather Stitches to add the feather-like detail along some of the straight lines.      



Form the left-hand border of the journal


Add the wide ribbon along the left-hand side

    Fig4     Use a 20 cm (8”) length of wide 15mm organza ribbon no. 115. The ribbon should be flat and lined up on the left-hand edge (first line) of the design.  Allow the excess ribbon and the raw edges to overlap the design. Note: These tails will be cut a little later. Use the Salmon Pink thread (one strand) and Back Stitch along the edges to secure the ribbon in place.     11-Love-Life   Click on the image to enlarge   garnishing5       Use 1 strand of Soft Green thread and Blanket Stitch along the outer edge of the organza ribbon. See picture above.   Use the Silver Metallic Thread and Fly Stitch on the inside edge of the organza ribbon.   See picture on the left.                             Left-hand border of the journal   Use the same Silver Metallic thread and make a row of Chain Stitches (a short distance away from the Feather Stitches) and add diagonal Straight Stitches between the Feather and Chain stitches for an interesting texture. Stitch along the printed grey or blue line in Stem or Back Stitch in one strand of the Salmon Pink thread.  

Complete the top and bottom sections of the design


Add the ribbons along the borders of the design

  garnishing4   Cut two x 18 cm (7.2”) lengths of the 7mm no. 102. Place the ribbon just below the outer line at the bottom and the top of the design, lining them up with the straight lines. Pin in place along the two tails and use the Salmon Pink thread (one strand) and Back Stitch or Running Stitch to secure the ribbon onto the design along both edges.   

Embroider the detail on and near ribbons

  a)    Use the same pink thread and Blanket Stitch along the inside edge of the top ribbon; b)    Use the green thread and the same stitch for the inside edge of the bottom ribbon. c)    Use the same green thread and Couch three rows of straight lines just above the bottom ribbon. d)    Use 2 strands of Salmon Pink thread and Couch a straight line above the green line. e)    Use the soft green thread and Feather Stitch on top of the pink couched line.   Click on the image to enlarge   garnishing7     f)     Change to Silver Metallic thread and make a row of Blanket Stitches on top of the green couched threads. g)    Change to the Gold Metallic thread and use a Blanket Stitch to work along the outer edges of both the top and bottom ribbons. h)    Refer to fig above and use the Silver Metallic thread and Feather Stitch along the inner edge of the top ribbon i)     Use one strand of green thread and work a row of Feather Stitch from the wrapped cross on the top right of the design towards the Hollyhocks and to the edge of the organza ribbon.   

Stitch the right-hand border


Add the two ribbons and embroider the detail on and near right-hand edge of the design

  Click on the image to enlarge   backgroundblocks a)    Use  20 cm (8”) lengths of  7mm ribbons: no. 119 green and no. 115 pink. Secure as you did before. Use Running Stitch in matching thread along the edges to secure the ribbon.   b)    The green ribbon is edged in Blanket Stitch on the left-hand side with green thread. Use Feather Stitch with Silver Metallic thread on the right-hand side.   c)    The pink ribbon is edged in Blanket Stitch on the left-hand side with Salmon Pink thread and on the right-hand edge  use Blanket Stitch with the Gold Metallic thread. Make the stitches a little longer so they will cover the edge of the ribbon at the same time.   f)     Make a row of Feather Stitch in one strand of Salmon Pink thread; work from the wrapped cross downwards to the bottom of the design.   g)    Make a row of Running Stitches alongside: use the 4mm (no. 120) silk ribbon.   h)    Add French Knots (two-wraps) between the stitches in one strand of the Salmon Pink thread.  

  Complete the corners

  Use the pink or the green thread and add one or two Cross Stitches in each corner. Use a small pair of embroidery scissors with sharp points and carefully cut away the tails of the ribbon close to the edge of the stitches.    

Cover the journal

  a)    Cut a piece of felt large enough to cover the front and back of the book and add 3 cm (1.2”) seams all around. The journal is covered in the same way as you would cover a school book. Cut out a wedge to accommodate the spine, fold the wedges inwards and glue seams in place all along the inside of the cover with fabric glue. Hint: Place a scrap piece of paper inside front and back cover and set the folded book aside to dry. Place something heavy on top of the book for a neat finish. b)    Remove the embroidered design from the hoop. Use a damp white cloth to remove the blue water-erasable lines if you have traced the design yourself...   c)    Press the outer edge of the fabric with an iron (on the steam setting) to remove creases. Note: be careful not to touch the organza ribbon and only iron the back section of the cover. Do not press on the embroidered section.   d)    Cut the design to fit the journal, leaving a 4 cm (1.6”) seam all around. Cover the book as you did with the felt, folding the cut-out wedges towards the wrong side.  6-Love-Life     Hint: align the edge of the design with the journal and glue the front short seam first. Use masking tape to hold the glued seam in place. Close the book and press flat. Allow to dry for a few minutes. e)    Do the same for the back of the journal, stretching the fabric layers slightly for a neat finish. Tape the glued seam in place. Close the book and press flat, allow a few minutes for the seam to dry. Hint: do not worry about the glue messing on the first and last pages -these pages will be glued down in the next step to hide the seams.   9-Love-Life   7-Love-Life f)     Glue the top and the bottom seams in place, folding neat corners, as you would do for a school book. Glue the front and back pages over the seams, ensuring that the book opens flat as you glue. Cut two pages a little smaller from sketch paper or a nice scrapbook paper. Glue in place.     Hint: cut the paper wider than the front and back page, fold the paper along outer edge of the journal to form a flap that will serve as a bookmark. Or use leftover ribbon and add two or three beads on the one end. Glue other end in place inside the spine to form a ribbon bookmark.    10-Love-Life   I hope that you enjoyed this project as much as I did. You are welcome to subscribe for free to keep up to date with new tutorials and news releases. 'Till next time Happy Stitching!   Love   Di   Heartg          
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