Toddlers' Quiet Books

They're called quiet books because they can keep a child quiet for a few minutes, and in some situations it's nice that the pages are quiet when they turn. This is only part of their charm, however. The pages won't tear or crease or cause paper cuts. They can even tolerate a certain amount of tasting. And, if you are careful about the supplies you use, they are washable.

Basic Book Construction

The easiest books are the ones made from picture print fabrics. The “cheater's quilts” prints are particularly suited for this project. These print fabrics are designed to be cut into quilt blocks. They often feature children's teddy bear or farm animal prints.

The size of the printed block will determine the size of your book. Buy enough to have eight complete blocks. Cut out these eight blocks, leaving ¼″ for seam allowances. Sew the blocks together in pairs, side by side. Press the seams open.

Layer the pairs with quilt batting or heavy flannel. To do this, put two pairs together on top of the batting, right sides facing. Stitch around the edge, leaving a gap. Trim the batting, clip the corners, turn, and blind-stitch the gap closed.

Do some topstitching if you want. The border decoration on the prints might suggest some rows of stitching. Remember, what you do on one picture will show on the picture that's behind it, so outlining characters is probably not a good idea. Put the two sets of pages on top of each other, and stitch along the center seam.

If you buy extra fabric, you can cut out the characters just like the ones in the quiet books. Use some of the bright-colored border print of the same fabric as a back, and stuff the characters to go along with the book. You could even make a little tote bag with the child's name embroidered on the front just for this special book and the stuffed-toy characters.

Some Variations

If you want more than eight pages in your book, leave additional seam allowances on the side that will be toward the center. When you are sewing all the pages together, make two rows of stitching spaced on either side of the center seams, thus creating a “spine.”

You can make the front cover distinctive by cutting out the motif and appliquéing it to a bright-colored background. Or you can cut the center motif into a smaller square and sew borders around it.

If your fabric blocks are large and you like to quilt, layer each pair of pages with thin batting and a backing cloth. Quilt around the center motif of each block. You can even add some stuffing behind a shape or two by cutting a slit in your backing fabric and adding pillow stuffing. Put two of these pairs together, sew, and turn as usual.

Activity Book

Another idea is to make a cloth book that gives a child something to do on each page. Some suggestions include funny shaped flaps that either button or snap closed. Make the flaps using the turned appliqué method and sew one side securely to your page.

You might use the same turned method to make a pocket. Stuff a tiny figure cut from printed fabric and put it in the pocket. You might want to tether it to the book with a ribbon or a piece of elastic. Or you could put a tiny handkerchief in the pocket instead.

A stiff, wide ribbon decorated with a buckle can stick in place with self-gripping fasteners. Or maybe you want to make it an actual working buckle. Ribbons or shoestrings that tie and teach children about knots are another possibility. Look over the accessories in the sewing department. You may find large hooks and eyes or decorative buttons and snaps that will give you even more ideas for activity pages.

Making a Zipper Page

FIGURE 11-3: Shortening a zipper: Stitch over the teeth and cut off the excess.

Zippers are fun for children, so be sure to include one. Choose a jacket-weight zipper so it's easier for tiny fingers to zip and unzip. Don't worry if you don't know how to install a zipper. You can simply sew it flat to the page.

You will probably have trouble finding one that fits your book exactly, so you will need to shorten it. To do this, hand-stitch over the teeth as shown in FIGURE 11-3, and cut off the excess. The stitches keep the zipper pull from sliding off the zipper.

Lay the zipper flat on your page, and sew along both side edges. Because cutting the end may leave some sharp edges, you might want to cover it with a flap of cloth to protect your reader from scratches. You might simply use a piece of the same fabric as your page. Cut it large enough so you can turn under one side. Sew it over the end of the zipper, and extend the rest of the edges off the page.

This is the same method you would use in garment construction if you needed to shorten a zipper. Be sure to leave at least ½″ below your stitches when you cut the excess off so the teeth don't work open from that direction.

Adding a Window or Door

If you're feeling really creative, try making a window or door that opens to reveal something behind it. These are easiest to do if you can find an appropriate picture print for behind the door.

Because your door will be cloth, it will be limp. This is all right when it's open, but you want it to stay in place when it is closed. You could line your door or window with crinoline, which is used to stiffen pleats on draperies. Another option is to use self-gripping fasteners for the entire length of the open side. This will allow it to close completely without sagging.

In order to have all raw edges finished, you might cut your doorway, leaving ¼″ seam allowances. Cut a facing piece with an equal-sized hole. Cut two pieces for your door (or window), adding ¼″ seam allowances.

The door pieces will actually be 1″ wider and 1″ longer than the hole cut in the outside piece. It will get smaller (by ½″ each direction) when these pieces are sewn together. The hole will get larger (by ½″ each direction). If your hole is 2″ by 3″, cut your door 3″ by 4″.

Sew the two doors together, right sides facing, leaving the hinged side open. Turn and press. Sew the door to the doorway, right sides together, lining up the raw edges at the hinged side. Sew the facing on top of the doorway and door. Clip to the corners, turn, and press. If you've measured accurately, the door will fit exactly. Sew this over the top of your picture print.

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