Monday, May 18, 2009

Goose's Birthday Gift - ABC Book

A few months before Goose's second birthday, I decided to make a fabric book as a gift. Temporarily forgetting just how stinking many letters are in the alphabet, I opted for an ABC book.
The first thing I did was decide on a word beginning with each letter to depict in a picture. I wanted them to (mostly) be words that she knew AND that would more or less be easy to re-create in simple, fabric form. This was reasonably difficult! I'll give you a hint, though - if you get stuck, ask your creative friends for help! My blog friend Kim gave me a huge boost near the end - I was stuck on the letter G. I had intended to do a goose, and discovered there would be WAY too many tiny pieces to try and depict it in a 3x3" space. Kim suggested grapes, which was perfect!

So, what I finally ended up with was this list:
Apple Buttons Cow Diaper Eggs Flower Grapes Hat Ice Cream Jacket Kite Lotion Mitten Nappy (our cat and her first word) Oatmeal Pocket Quilt Rabbit Shoes Tractor Umbrella Vine Water X-ray Yarn Zipper

For the letters, I used these coloring pages for letters. You could also use a font that you like. I used Microsoft Word and the Format Picture option to get the size I wanted (which was no bigger than 4x4"). That way they were pretty much all uniformly sized.

Next I did a search using Swagbucks* for each word and "coloring page". I found many on this site and this one. I would pull up three or four sites from each search and pick the one I liked best that also seemed the most simple to recreate. I again used Word and the Format Picture option to keep the size consistent with what I needed.

The next step was to print everything out, and cut it out. I opted to keep the pictures intact for now, waiting until I had my fabric ready to cut the individual pieces. It seemed easier to keep everything together that way!

All the fabric I used for my book was either something I already had or something I found in the remnant bins in Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart. The pages of the book came from a HUGE piece of muslin-like material. I used a cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter and still ended up with a lot of crooked lines, sigh. It was about this point that I realized I had to accept imperfections or I wouldn't have the book finished by the time Goose turned 18.

Courtesy of my mother's fabric stash, I had a piece of navy blue fabric (left over from curtains, I think) that I used for the letters. I used Wonder Under fusible backing and I love it! You fuse it to the fabric, cut it out, peel off the paper backing, and fuse it to something else. It works great! You can sew around it (like I did) or you don't have to. Actually, I did a bit of both as the letters on the front of the book and the last page ended up fused by another brand which I found frayed my thread if I tried to sew too quickly. So, I just sewed around the outside and left the insides of Os and Ds and the like plain.

Next I picked out colors for the pictures. I tried to figure out about how much of each color I needed, approximate a chunk of fabric erring on the larger side, and arranged them as close together as possible on an appropriate piece of Wonder Under then fused them all at once. I cut them out and tried to keep them stacked together so I didn't lose any.

When it came time to fuse to the pages, I did all the letters first, then went back and did all the pictures. I then zigzagged around everything with my sewing machine, using a normal width but short (tight together) length stitch. I had to play with it a bit to find what I liked, so I recommend doing that on some practice fabric. I definitely found that I got much better at it as I did more of it, and went back and used my seam ripper to take stitches out and re-do them.

I embellished some of the pictures with embroidery thread, such as the yarn shown above. Off the top of my head, I also put a face on the cow, sticks on the egg nest, a stem on the grapes, tail on the kite, decoration on the lotion bottle, a face on Nappy cat and the rabbit, laces on the shoes, and outlined the cab of the tractor.

I learned that my sewing machine has a "locking" stitch, and that looked much better than sewing a bit, backing up, and sewing forward to start and finish each letter or picture. To turn a corner, I would sew past the end on the first side, leave my needle down and pick up the presser foot, turn the fabric, put the foot back down, and keep sewing. Go ahead and laugh, but I also learned that there's a little arrow on my foot that is the center of the stitch. (Why yes, I should have known that!) It is also important to slooooow down when going around curves as it makes for a much neater stitch.

There were two items for which I didn't use pictures. One was buttons, and I just sewed several buttons on the page. The other was zipper. Instead of buying a zipper, I bought a pair of infant pants with a zipper for ten cents at a thrift store and removed the zipper. Goose LOVES to zip and unzip it - in fact, I should have stitched it several times at the top as she's pulled it loose.

One thing I wish I would have put more thought into was how to lay out the pages. I took one page and put A and B on one side, and C and D on the other. I might have instead put A and B on the left and the last page (which reads ALL DONE) on the other; then the next page would have Y and Z on the left and C and D on the right (because it would face the previous page) - know what I mean? But it worked out.

When it was time to stitch everything together, it became painfully apparent that my pages weren't the same size. I just stitched and let it be crooked! I started by folding the raw edges to the wrong side and ironing them. (Thereby making it more crooked and mis-sized, since being exact isn't my strong suit.) I then matched the front cover to the A/B page, pinned carefully, and sewed around the three outside edges (not the middle) with a smaller width but still narrow length zigzag stitch.

I then took the right side with C/D on it, and stitched it to the left side of the next page, with E/F. And so on, and so on. Once everything was put together, I went back and sewed up the middle of each page.

It took some trial and error, but I was quite pleased with the way everything turned out. This was definitely a time intensive task, although it didn't cost much. If you'd like to see the rest of my pages, they are here. Pictures don't do many of them justice, I promise!

For more homemade Christmas gifts, visit Abbi at Proverbs 31 Living.

* Swagbucks is a search engine where you can earn your way to gift cards to places like, Target, Starbucks, and more! It's not the fastest way to get free stuff - I've been using it for probably a few months and I just finally hit 45 swagbucks, which can be redeemed for a $5 gift card. I've found that I get pretty good results, although if I don't find what I'm looking for in the first page or two of results, I do another search at Yahoo or Google. It takes a bit of practice to get used to going there instead of straight to Yahoo or Google, but it has now become a habit. The link I provided is a referral, so I get a few swagbucks if you sign up through it. If you have questions, please feel free to ask me!


Laura@Heavenlyhomemakers said...

WOW! That is so cool. I bet it took a while to make. Twenty SIX letters! I'm sure she loves it!

Angela said...

That is neat! I can't imagine how long that took to make, or maybe I should say I can't imagine how long that would take ME to make!! I've made two fabric books, but they only had a few pages in them, and it was more work than I thought it would be.

Kim said...

This was quite a learning experience for you! I appreciate that you described the whole process and how your choices didn't always get the results you wanted. It's always good to do that for future reference, don't you think? I mean, someday you might want to make one for a grandbaby! But for now, you might decide to create another book for the Goose and you know what works and what doesn't, like the lesson on how to lay out the pages.

That was one huge undertaking judging by all the zigzag stitching you did and the piecing of some of the images. Very impressive! She will cherish that book because her mother put so much of herself into it.

I had to laugh when I was reading your word list for the letters and got to Cow Diaper. ;) I'm glad you put that tractor in there. A little piece of Daddy. You put so many things in there that are so meaningful to her. I think that's wonderful!

Great job, me friend!

Abbi said...

That is a very cute book! The possiblitys for cloth books are practically endless! I love your ideas.

Thanks so much for linking up at my blog.

Chelsea said...

Wow this is so cute!! I love it. Good to know that your daughter still likes it!! Always nice huh! THanks for the link- love your blog

Jessica said...

You did such a great job! I love that you only did a little space for each letter. With my ABC book each letter had their own page and it's HUGE!!! I love the tractor for T and cow for C. We recently went to a cattle run where we live and my daughter now LOVES cows!