How to make a filofax

So I was going to attempt to get a post about making the bodices for my Schuyler Sisters project, but my exams started this week and I seriously underestimated how much time studying would take. So instead you’re getting a post that has been sat in my drafts since before I started the Schuyler Sisters project, collecting dust and waiting for a time where I’m too busy sewing but still want to blog. So this is my tutorial for making a filofax style planner

I’ve come to realise after the last year that my life is seriously unorganised and so I have been looking for solutions to this. A friend suggested I check out the bullet journal system, and initially I thought this would be a good solution for me. However, then I began thinking about what I’d need to include in my journal. As well as weekly pages, for university etc. I would need a section for sewing and one for other miscellaneous parts. I couldn’t really understand how I could have a section which would need to be constantly expanding- how would I know where in the journal to start it? what if I run out of space?! The idea of ‘collections’ in the bullet journal is they are a set of static pages near the end of your journal, that do not need loads of space to grow.

So I decided that I needed an organisation method that was able to expand to my needs- if I need more design pages I could have more design pages. I realised the only way to do this would be through using something like a filofax, where you can add and remove pages. So I began searching for a filofax online and realised even the personal sized ones start at £30, way more than I’d want to pay for a planner. I stubbornly decided that I should instead sew one, then avoided doing so for many weeks, not wanting to approach the idea of sewing something that needs so much support.

Then my old kindle case broke down the spine and I realised that I had the perfect opportunity to see what made these cases so solid- which was the thing I was worrying about regarding making a case. So I ripped the seams and worked out how the thing was made so I could reproduce it.

I surmised that the outer fabric, which was leather for my old case, had a layer of fusible foam attached to make it soft, then a layer of cartridge paper (like the kind you use for water colour painting). The main support comes from the two layers of thin cardboard (like a cereal box) glued in the middle, before another layer of paper and the interfaced lining seals the sandwich. Realising this wasn’t going to be as tricky as I expected, or as expensive, I went about finding all my resources.

I ordered a 6 ring A5 binder from this ebay site for only £1.04 which is the only money I’ve spent on this project, I also bought a magnetic bag closure from my local craft shop, you can get one here for 99p. You don’t need to do a magnetic closure, in fact on my second filofax (that I made because I liked the first one so much) I just used elastic and a button like the cover story filofaxes.

I used upholstery fabric given to me by my parents after they re-covered their headboard for both the lining and the outer fabric. This meant I didn’t have to interface the lining as the fabric was fairly strong. I would recommend using either upholstery fabric, canvas or maybe twill for the outer fabric. If you use cotton you will definitely need to use interfacing.

I then used some cartridge paper (120 gsm) left over from my art GCSE days and the cardboard base from the pizza I ate for dinner the night before I made this. The cardboard was much thicker than the kind used in the planner I took apart so I only used one layer of it, but you can use two layers of thinner cardboard in place of this.

Because I was reusing so much stuff my A5 filofax only cost me £2.03! much better than £30!

How to make a filofax style planner

  1. First you need to make a template, I wanted an A5 size planner and I had a rectangle of cardboard about A4 size with already rounded edges so I just cut it in half. This left me with two pieces of cardboard 25 cm by 17.5 cm (about 10″ by 7″) with two rounded corners. This is a good size for an A5 planner because it allows a nice border around the paper. My Personal planner is 20.5 cm by 11.7 cm (8″ by 4.5″) but you can easily customise your design. Just find a size you’re comfortable with, but make sure it’s long enough for your binder rings to fit. You’ll also need a rectangle of cardboard (probably about 1″ by 1.5″) for the closure if you plan to make a magnetic clasp like mine.
    If you enlarge this image so it fits on an A4 page you’ll have the template I used for an A5 and Personal filofax.


  2. You’ll need a piece of cartridge paper wide enough to fit your two templates, with a 5 cm (2″) gap between. Lay them out like below, draw round them and cut the shape out. You’ll need two pieces this shape, and you’ll need to use this template to cut out the fabric. If you want to do a magnetic clasp you’ll need two pieces of cartridge paper 1″ by 4″.DSCN0470.JPG
  3. The stick the pieces of cardboard to one of your pieces of paper. Do the same with the magnetic clasp piece. I used a mixture of double sided tape and glue. DSCN0471.JPG
  4. Cut out the outer fabric, lining fabric, interfacing and foam using the template made in step three. The interfacing and foam (you can use quilting batting) don’t need seam allowances, but the outer fabric and lining fabric need a 1 cm seam allowance (don’t make your seam allowances too big or they don’t curve properly).
  5. Attach the interfacing and your lining either by pressing (if you’re using fusible interfacing) or basting stitches- make sure to make your basting stitches easy to take out as you will have to take them out. You can skip this step if you’re using strong fabric for your lining (I used the same fabric for lining as I did for outer).
  6. Stick the foam/batting to the cartridge paper you’ve already attached the cardboard too (but on the other side to the cardboard) I used double sided sticky tape to do this.DSCN0473.JPG
  7. Attach the other piece of cartridge paper to your lining (again I used double sided) you only need to attach the middles for the next step.

    see only the middle is attached
  8. Mark the positioning of your fastening for the binding rings. Mine were rivets so I had to make holes for the rivets. You need to mark this on the side not covered in foam or fabric. Make these holes using a variety of tools (I use an old dart, then a replacement high heel tip, then an old pen)DSCN0477.JPG
  9. Attach your rings by going through all layers but the outer fabric layer- put the rivet flat side on the foam, through the cartridge paper layers and out the lining fabric then use a rivet setting tool to hammer it in place.
  10. To make the magnetic closure;
    • Put the accepting part of the magnetic closure in the front of your planner before it’s sewn up. (I forgot to do this!)

      You can see where I had to unpick the sewing wound the edge to put this in
    • If you’ve followed the instructions above you should have already attached the cardboard to the cartridge paper, and also the foam to the back of the same bit of cartridge paper.
    • Attach one of the bits of fabric to the left over piece of cartridge paper with double sided tapeDSCN0478.JPG
    • Mark the positioning of the slits you need to make on both the cardboard and cartridge paper, then make themDSCN0480.JPG
    • Take the ‘pointy’ part of the magnetic clasp and put it through the cardboard fold the prongs back so they’d be inside.
    • Paper clip the two parts together and sew round the edge (if using a sewing machine you’ll need a strong needle, or a lot of patience)
  11.  Fold the top layer of fabric in between the two layers of cartridge paper as you turn the seam allowance under.DSCN0488.JPG
  12. Do the same with the other piece of fabric on the other side
  13. Glue the paper to the cardboard in the middle- but don’t put glue on the fabric because that will cause your needle to get sticky.
  14. Use paperclips to attach the edges together- like you’d use pins
  15. Sew round the edge of the planner.DSCN0489.JPG
  16. Sew on a button if you used an elastic closure method.

And you’re finished! A bit complex to explain but really not that hard to make, for a fraction of the cost! I now have space for all my design needs and my lecture notes!DSCN0490.JPG

One bad thing is that this design has no pockets (mostly because I forgot about them until it was too late) but that can be easily remedied by making a cover for the planner with pockets (which is what I plan to do when I get time).


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