DIY: soft cloth book for babies
The story of this book starts when I stepped inside a small toy store of handmade toys. Everything was so inspirational! I fell in love with everything.
I wished I had my camera with me to take pictures of the setup and toys. I drew sketches, took notes. One of the toys that caught my eye was a cloth book. It was so simple yet so beautiful. Just then I realized that if I wanted to make a cloth book (something I had been wanting to do for a while), it didn’t have to be perfect and complicated. I had been under the impression that fabric books were difficult to make, that they had to be all neat and nicely sewn, that they had to have crinkle wrap inside them and that if you didn’t have special textured fabric it was trash. Wrong! This is a book for your baby. Your oh-so-sweet baby who thinks that everything you make is awesome. Your baby who doesn’t really care if there are big ugly zig-zag stitches and that the applique is slightly fraying underneath. (That being said: do exercise caution as to not make something that could be a choking hazard or anything else dangerous like that. I’m not responsible for anything you make.)
The minute I got home (after the children finished jumping on me) I brought out my stash of scraps and started making the book you see here.
The construction of the book is quite simple.
First you have to decide on the size of each page.
From that, you will determine what size rectangles to cut from your fabric.
=> [desired page width] x 2 + seam allowances (about 1/2 inch, 1/4″ on each side) + a little ease (about 1/2″) = measurement A
=> [desired page height] + seam allowances = measurement B
That makes A x B sized rectangles to cut.
Choose a plain white or unbleached cotton fabric (or whatever color you want) (rainbow book!). Cut 6 rectangles (or however many you like, I just think that 6 double pages makes a good book). I recommend ripping the fabric so that you get straight rectangles and also to put you in a mode of doing things boldly and not oh-so-perfectly!
Now bring out all your scrap fabrics and artistic talent.
Write down different ideas for each page. Draw sketches. Play with your scraps. Cut pieces out. Try layering. Get some buttons, you could even sew a zipper on for your growing baby to play with later on.
Some ideas of things you could sew on the pages:
- food items like fruit and vegetables: apple, banana, grapes, tomato, carrots, lollipop (different color yarns or ribbons twisted together and then spiraled around to make the lollipop), etc.
- Nature: rainbow, cloud, rain, sun, moon, waves, cactus (with some sort of gentle prickles), tree, flowers, etc.
- Animals: sheep, cat (face), fish, octopus, snail, snake, butterfly, caterpillar, dragonfly, bird, ladybug or other bugs, mouse, etc.
- Man-made: house, rocket, clothes, bed, train, car, goootruck, bicycle, knife, fork, spoon, etc.
- Abstract art (cubism, random layering of colors, focus on textures, ribbons or strings attached at each end of the page and let loose in the middle to grab).
I could go on and on. Just writing this makes me want to make lots of other books with different themes. One on clothes, one of fruit and vegetables, one on animals, one to practice opening zippers, buttons and ties, etc.
Some notes on the items I put in my book:
- The sheep is most definitely the idea for which I am most proud of. It is made with cotton filling which is basically cotton yarns/threads all tangled together. First I placed the legs (brown cord folded in half and knotted for the feet. I sewed them in place. I covered that with a ball of cotton filling and hand stitched it in place. I cut out a piece of brown linen, folded it over to make a trapeze shape for the head, sewed it in place, covered the head with some of the cotton filling, then I sewed the cotton filling in place with my machine. Criss crossing everywhere to anchor it in.
- The butterfly’s and dragonfly’s wings are made out of fabric that won’t fray (or very little). The butterfly is waterproof fabric, some sort of nylon and the dragonfly is from an old broken kite.
- The blue-green flower is made of some kind of knit that it won’t fray either. I cut out various sized squares and stacked them from largest to smallest and stitched that down then added a button.
- The bird is made with red corduroy and the twig with brown linen.
- The tree leaves are made with the same material as the dragonfly’s wings (an old broken kite) Since I only had strips of green, I had to layer the leaves to get the whole tree. Therefore I had the idea to stitch them in place with something that would resemble branches.
- The sun is made with a circle of yellow fabric and the beams of light with a tight zig zag stitch.
- The abstract purple squares are made with soft fleece. And I played around with different decorative stitches (but I don’t really like the end result).
- I got the idea for the caterpillar because I had cut out lots of circles and was trying to find a way to use them. While playing with them it made me think of a caterpillar.
- To make the snake I cut out a large circle, then cut a spiral inside the circle. I arranged the cuts nicely.
Once you are finished deciding what to do and have cut out all the necessary scraps to do so, figure out where you want each item (what goes on first page, what goes on second page, etc.) You might not care, in that case, don’t bother, just start sewing anywhere. If you do care, this can be a little tricky. Since the double pages are stacked when assembled, two items on one rectangle won’t be next to each other in the book (except on outer cover and center of book). So you got to figure out where you need to put what. You can do a mock scrap paper book with sketches on it to see where you need to put what.
Start sewing your items to the pages of the book. Be careful not to put anything in the seam allowance nor too close to the center of the rectangles.
Sew each item in place with a straight stitch then zig zag all around it to prevent it from fraying too much. But don’t be too picky about it. Have fun with your sewing machine: use different color threads, use fun decorative stitches. Get creative. For example, I thought my snake would be the dullest of them all because it was made with plain gray canvas. But it turned out great with all the colors and fun designs I used.
When that is over it’s time to assemble the book.
Place each pair of pages right sides together. Sew down each long side (leave both short side open for now). Turn each double page right side out. Iron flat. This is where you can slip crinkle wrap or batting inside. I used neither one. Tuck the open sides in, iron them flat and top stitch over to close them. In this step you can adjust the width of each page since the outer pages must be a teensy bit wider so that they cover the inner pages. That’s just a detail but if it matters it’s easy to adjust them before sewing. By assembling the book this way, you don’t have to top stitch all around the book and it makes a more even looking book.
When each of the 3 sheets are done, line them up together, find the exact center and sew a straight stitch all the way through the 3 pages to bind the book together.
I added a small bell to one corner of the book because my baby would get so obsessed with those bells each time I would move them around in my sewing stuff. She would get “mad” at me because I wouldn’t let her get at them (they weren’t attached to anything, so she couldn’t have them). Now she has one whole bell for herself! Yippy!
If you make one, I would love to see pictures of it!