By Claire Joyce-Johnson
I can’t deny it. I have babies on the mind. My first child, Ramona, was born on January 9, and the past several months have been a flurry of preparations. Two of my good friends threw me a wonderful baby shower and managed to organize such an amazing gift that I nearly broke into tears.
By contacting people far enough in advance, my shower organizers convinced a handful of friends and family both near and far to each contribute a handmade page to a felt alphabet book for my soon-to-arrive daughter. The book is beautiful, hilarious, and put together by friends with all levels of artistic skills. I love the different approaches to each page and that the personality of each contributor is obvious as you flip through the book.
This month, my project for you is how to organize and make a similar book for an expectant friend that is near and dear to you. I admit that I did not make this project myself, but I was so touched by the results that I had to share the idea with CRAFT. The great thing about this project is that you could organize a “mailed baby shower” for a friend who is far away, or at least allow distant friends and family to participate in a baby gift that will be personal and meaningful.
9″ x 12″ craft felt in a variety of colors
Thread in a wide range of colors
5 sheets 9″ x 12″ craft felt in colors of your choice
Measuring tape or ruler
(39) 1/4″ grommets (optional)
Small grommet tool (optional)
X-acto knife (optional)
Other adornments that you think are fun: sequins, google eyes, iron on appliqués, scrap fabric, fabric paint, glitter – the creativity is really up to the author of each page.
Step 1: Figure out how to contact 26 people you think may be interested in participating in a collaborative craft. My shower organizer mailed invitations and gave people the option of coming to the shower, coming and making a book page, or sending a book page and not attending the shower.
Setting up an online invitation wiki page or Google doc might be the easiest way to contact the participants and keep track of who is doing what. When people agree to participate, you can either assign them a letter of the alphabet or make them choose their own letter and post it in their online RSVP so other participants can see which letters are taken.
Step 2: Provide clear instructions so that the pages are the same size and formatted in a way that allows them to be easily bound together. Keeping the pages the size of standard craft felt (which is 9″ x 12″) makes it simple for everyone to just purchase a piece of felt and get to work. You can include further instructions such as where the letter should be placed on the page, or you can leave that up to each individual artist. Because you will be sewing the pages together, each page should have a 1/2″ margin on all edges as a seam allowance.
Since these will be pages in a book and pages flex and bend, it is best if the participants stitch down the layers of felt to their page, rather than using glue. Glue works, but it does not hold for as long and pieces of the design can come off and be a choking hazard for the baby.
Step 3: Provide a due date when all the pages must be sent or delivered to you that allows you enough time to assemble the book before the shower or gifting date. Making the due date at least two weeks earlier than you think you need the pages is a good idea. Someone will always be running late and a missing page can stop you from doing much of the assembly.
Alternately, you could just throw a book-making party where everyone brings some supplies and puts their assigned page together at the same time–this would allow people who cannot sew well to get help from more experienced crafters. I find that a little wine at an event like this can really help get the creativity going!
Step 4: Once you have received all of the pages, it is time to assemble the book! There are two ways to do this and both are very simple.
The book I received was bound with ribbon strung through holes in the edges of the page. This works well enough, but it is possible that the felt will tear over time. If you want a binding like this but more sturdy, follow the instructions below for binding using grommets.
The second set of instructions is how to bind the book by sewing the pages together, and although these instructions seem longer, I personally think sewing the binding is the easier and sturdier of the two methods.
For binding the book with grommets:
Grommets are small metal rings that help to secure a hole in fabric so that it does not fray or tear. Using these to secure the holes for binding your book will help it last longer. You can find grommets and grommet tools at your fabric or craft store. The simple grommet tool (as seen in the image) is usually available for under $4.
Step 5: So that each page has a front and back, you need to stitch pages together. Place page “A” together with page “B” so that the blank sides are facing together. Using a sewing machine, stitch around the outer edge with a 1/2″ seam. Repeat this process by doing the same thing for page “C” and “D.” You will do this with all the pages until you have worked your way through the alphabet. You now have 13 two-sided pages rather than 26 single-sided pages.
Step 6: Now that your pages are sewn together, stack them carefully in the order they will appear in your book – this will help you determine which side of the page you will be cutting holes in for the binding.
Step 7: Beginning with page “A” facing up, measure and mark 3 points about 1/4″ in from the left edge of the page. You should be able to space the marks 4″ apart. Continue to mark 3 points on the left edge with page “C” facing up, and so on until you have marked each page.
Step 8: Use a grommet as a template to trace the inner circle of the grommet around each mark you placed along the left edge of the felt pages.
Step 9: Carefully cut out each circle you traced. This can be done with sharp scissors. It may be easier, however, to cut a small x in each circle using an X-acto knife and then trim away these small flaps. You will want to be sure you have cut through both layers of the felt page.
Step 10: Follow the directions on the grommet tool packaging for properly aligning and attaching the grommets. Re-stack the pages of your book in the proper order and line up the grommets you have attached.
Step 11: Thread a ribbon through the bottom grommets on each page. Do this again for the middle and top grommets.
Step 12: Pull the ribbons to straighten out the pages. Tie a bow or knot (this is your own aesthetic preference) to secure the binding, and you have a beautiful alphabet book!
For sewing the binding of the book:
Step 5: Stack the pages of the book in the order they will appear in the finished binding. You will place the blank side (the back side) of page “A” against the blank side of page “B,” then you will place the blank side of page “C” to face the blank side of page “D,” and so on through out the alphabet.
Step 6: Once the book is assembled in order, add two extra sheets of craft felt to the bottom of the stack, then measure the thickness of the stack. My book is 2 1/2″ thick.
Step 7: From two blank pieces of craft felt, cut six strips that measure 3″ wide and 12″ tall.
Step 8: From another blank sheet of craft felt, cut a strip that is 12″ in length and the width is the thickness of your book plus 3″. My book measures 2 1/2″, so I will cut a strip that measures 5 1/2″.
Step 9: Select pages “A” and “B” and the two blank pieces of felt that you added to your stack of pages and the strip of felt that you cut to be the thickness of the book plus 1″.
On your left, lay page “A” face down. On the right edge of the back side of page “A” lay the above mentioned felt strip so that it overlaps 1/2″. Use the sewing machine to stitch it in place.
Step 10: Keep page “A” facing down. Now allow the un-sewn edge of the felt strip to overlap 1/2″ on the left edge of a blank piece of felt. Use the sewing machine to stitch it in place.
Step 11: Keeping page “A” face down, lay page “B” face up on top of page “A.” Use the sewing machine to sew around all four edges of pages “A” and “B.”
Step 12: Lay the remaining blank piece of felt on top of the blank piece of felt you have stitched in place.
Use the machine to sew around all four edges of the blank page. You should now have pages “A” and “B” stitched together back-to-back with a strip of felt attaching them to what will be a blank back cover.
Step 13: For the interior pages of the book, you will now attach four pages together at a time. Take page “C” and lay it face down on your left. Along the right edge of the backside of page “C” line up one of the 3″ wide felt strips that you cut. Allow it to overlap 1/2″. Stitch it in place with your sewing machine.
Line up the un-sewn edge of the felt strip so that it overlaps 1/2″ on the back left side of page “F.” Stitch it in place using your sewing machine.
Step 14: Keep pages “C” and “F” facing down. Place page “D” on top of page “C” so the blank sides of the pages are touching.
Use the sewing machine to sew around all 4 edges of the page allowing a 1/2″ seam. Place page “E” on top of page “F” as described above. Use the machine to stitch all 4 sides of the pages together.
You will now repeat this process for the remaining pages. They will be organized in groups of 4 as follows:
As you sew the pages together, the letters at the beginning and end of each group will be the pages that you lay face down to begin this step. For example, “G” and “J” will lay face down while you attach the 3″ strip of felt between them. You will then lay “H” and “I” on top, facing up. You will repeat this for the final 4 groups of letters as well.
Step 15: Once all the pages have been stitched together in groups of 4, we are ready to do the final binding.
Lay page “A” facing down and spread it open so the back cover is on your right and page “B” faces up on your left. Use a pen and your ruler to measure and mark a vertical line 1″ from the edge of each page toward the center of the felt that connects the front pages and the back cover. Between these lines, evenly space 4 more vertical lines. This is the spine of your book. You will use these lines to help you line up the pages you just stitched together.
Step 16: Use a pen to mark the center of each felt strip that runs between pages (if you measured correctly and allowed a 1/2″ overlap, there should be 2″ of felt between pages).
Step 17: Line up the center mark between pages “D” and “E” on the first vertical line that you marked on the spine (the line that is closest to page “B”). Use the sewing machine to stitch it in place.
Line up the center mark between pages “H” and “I.” Stitch in place.
The third mark is lined up between “L” and “M.” Stitch in place.
The fourth mark lines up between “P” and “Q.” Stitch in place.
The fifth mark lines up between “T” and “U.” Stitch in place.
The sixth mark lines up between “X” and “Y.” Stitch in place.
Congratulations, you have just assembled a book that would make any hormone-fueled pregnant lady burst into tears. I am even getting kind of choked up at the thought of it right now.
About the Author:
Claire Joyce is an artist and college teacher in Eureka, Calif. Since purchasing a new home she is constantly discovering new and exciting ways to better craft her life.