A fabric book for toddlers is the perfect sewing project if you are looking to make a special personalized gift for a young child. I have been making fabric books for kids of friends and family since 2014. And once you follow my tutorial, you will find that it is not only easy but loads of fun too!
The best way to make a fabric book for toddlers is to follow this 12-step method. I came up with this technique after four years of trial and error while making fabric books for my own kids. Simply follow the steps one by one and you will have a finished fabric book in just a few days!
Step 1 – Consider the toddler’s age, gender and interests before starting a fabric book
The most important thing before you start crafting is to first consider the child. This is because the child’s age affects the size and contents of your fabric book. I have done a separate post about the size of fabric books here. But for now, simply refer to the table to determine the size of your fabric book pages that you will be creating.
The simplest way to get through Step 1 is to take a piece of paper and quickly scribble down the child’s name, age, gender along with favorite colors, foods, toys and activities. If you are unsure, you can make a quick phone call to the child’s parents and ask them about this stuff. It also helps to know the toddler’s favorite storybook, sports, people etc.
The more information you have at this stage, the better. The best thing is, this step does not have to be complicated at all.
Step 2 – Short-list your favorite fabric book ideas
This is the fun research part before you start making your fabric book. If you don’t already have a Pinterest account, I would strongly suggest that you make one because that is really where all the best fabric book ideas are floating around. You could also search for “fabric book ideas” or “busy book ideas” because fabric books are also called fabric books or busy books!
Create a folder or a Pinterest board and start saving all the ideas that you think might be appropriate for the toddler. Remember that since you have already done your research in Step 1, you know the child enough. Use your intuition and knowledge to get a feel of what ideas would work best for your fabric book.
Before long, you should have a collection of at least 20 good ideas if not more. This is plenty to work with.
Step 3 – Hand-scribble thumbnails of your fabric book pages on paper
Now you will plan out your ideal fabric book on paper. Simply grab a sheet of paper and scribble out a set of small squares on it. Imagine each square is a fabric book page. Now scribble roughly what you imagine should be on that page. You don’t need any artistic skills for this step. This is just a visual map of the contents of your fabric book.
For example you can see my thumbnail sketch for the letter A page, which is part of a fabric book that I am making for a friend’s little boy. I’m sure I won’t be winning any awards for my artistic efforts here but it works!
But if you’re still unsure about how to go about doing this, no problem! Simply download and print my free fabric book planning template. You will now have your very own 10-page fabric book outline ready to be filled out! Just scribble in the squares and you’re good to go!
Just remember one thing: you should have an even number of pages i.e. in multiples of 2. You cannot have a fabric book with 5 or 7 or 9 pages! Also, try to aim for at least 8 pages in your fabric book.
Step 4 – Hand-scribble thumbnails of the front and back covers
You wouldn’t want to make a fabric book without a cover now would you? Just like you did above, scribble out two more squares and make rough thumbnails of how you want the front and back cover to look. Remember you can include an activity on the back cover as well!
It is always good to have the toddler’s name on the front cover of your fabric book because it makes your gift personal and special.
Once you have finished this step, step back and take a break. From the next step onwards, you will be really stepping up your game of designing the fabric book. So it is good to approach the next step with a fresh outlook.
Step 5 – Draw, print or purchase fabric book patterns for each thumbnail you have drawn
Now this is where you go all in with immersing yourself into the exact kind of contents you want on each fabric book page. Don’t get overwhelmed at this stage. Simply start with the first fabric book page. Refer to the ideas you have saved on your Pinterest board and try to find the best way of acquiring a pattern for that page.
Here, you have a few options and I will briefly talk about them here. I have done a whole separate post dealing with fabric book patterns here. For now, let’s talk about how you can get your hands on fabric book patterns for each page.
Hand-draw fabric book patterns yourself
If you are moderately confident about your drawing skills or if you don’t have a printer, this is the best way to go. You could simply look at images online and try drawing out the pattern using a pencil on paper.
The trouble with this method is that you might be unsure of your drawing skills. Or something that is supposed to be perfectly even all around could turn out wonky or asymmetrical. You could overcome this problem by using some nifty hacks.
For example you could simply place your paper on your computer’s screen and lightly trace what you like. Or for symmetrical shapes, you could fold the paper in half and only draw half the pattern before cutting it out to reveal a perfectly balanced pattern.
So if you work around these little problems, there is every reason why you should be able to create really awesome fabric book patterns by hand. Remember to keep a reference image in front of you whenever you can while making the patterns.
Use your computer to draw the fabric book patterns
This is my favorite way of creating my own fabric book patterns. I use a free software called Inkscape to do this. If you want to draw your fabric book patterns on the computer, follow this Youtube link that shows you how to easily draw, trace and tweak pretty much any image that you like using Inkscape.
Buy fabric book patterns online
If you don’t want to get into the whole pattern creation part of the process, you can simply purchase PDF patterns online. Etsy is a great place to do this because it is full of crafters specializing in making fabric book patterns. Their prices do vary quite a bit so make sure that you compare prices before spending your money.
Step 6 – Purchase the materials for your fabric book
There are lots of places where you could buy the materials you need for your fabric book. I personally love shopping for craft supplies on Ebay because there is so much to choose from.
Once again, beware of price differences. Also, if you are time bound, set your location filters to restrict purchases from within your own country. Otherwise you might end up with a seemingly cheap but very late bundle of fabric pieces that take weeks to arrive from China!
Step 7 – Cut out the paper patterns for your fabric book
While your fabric book materials are arriving in the post, you can get to work cutting out the fabric book patterns. Now this seems like a simple enough task to do, but it helps to keep certain things in mind so that you can cut your patterns quickly and efficiently.
No matter what shape you’re cutting, the slower you cut, the better your results will be. So pace yourself and don’t rush.
Use a separate pair of sharp scissors which are NOT for cutting fabric
Keep your pattern cutting scissors separate from your fabric scissors. Moreover, keep them sharp.
Use two different sizes of scissors to switch between simpler and more intricate cuts
A pair of big bulky scissors just do not do well in tight corners or around tricky curves. Buy a smaller pair of cheap sharp scissors and you will be happily cutting away quickly and easily.
Once all your patterns have been cut out, store them in cheap white labeled envelopes so that they are ready to use as soon as your fabric book materials are with you.
Step 8 – Cut out the fabric and interfacing
Now you need to start cutting out all the materials to make the fabric book pages. I have written a detailed post about how to make fabric book pages stiff and it will really help you if you read that as well.
While it makes sense to cut out all the material pieces of the entire fabric book in one go, and then start sewing, my experience has taught me otherwise. It can actually get tedious and boring if you do all the cutting at once, and you definitely don’t want your craft to feel boring.
So if you can help it, try to do this step page by page. Cut out all the materials of one page first. Then sew them down (Step 9 below). Now move on to cutting out another page and so on.
Step 9 – Assemble and sew each individual fabric book page
This is probably the most rewarding stage of your fabric book. As you sew, keep these tips in mind.
Go slowly. Seriously.
Did I just repeat myself? Ah well, here it is again. Sew s l o w l y. The slower you sew, the better your results will be. Fabric books involve sewing really close to the edge of pattern pieces. If you try to rush through, you will overshoot the edges and end up feeling grumpy. So take your time, breathe, and sew slowly. It’s not a race.
Use a small stitch length for tight bends and intricate shapes
I use a regular stitch length of around 8 for non-finicky bits. But for tight bends and small shapes, it helps to turn the stitch length dial all the way down and stitch slowly.
Knot and hide your thread ends
Some people simply back-stitch at the beginning and end of their stitch lines. And then they just snip off the thread ends on the good side of the page. Please please don’t do this if you want your project to look neat!
Instead, use a large-eyed needle or a self-threading needle to pass the thread ends to the wrong side of your page. Now knot the ends, bury them if possible, and then snip off the excess. I know it takes extra time but please try to habituate this process. It will pay dividends at the end of your fabric book making.
Keep taking breaks
It is very important to keep taking breaks while sewing a fabric book, not just for your physical well-being but also to stop getting frustrated or bogged down during tricky bits. I like to get up and stretch my leg, touch my toes and just twist side to side every 15 minutes. It really helps!
Step 10 – Measure and cut out the binding materials
Many moons ago when I was making a fabric book for another friend’s baby, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time calculating and measuring the materials I need to make the binding. Instead, all I really wanted to do was just get on with ripping and cutting through fabric!
But you see, every quiet book is different with its own set of materials, contents and measurements. So its binding has to be calculated individually from scratch.
After many frustrating months, I came up with my own nifty quiet book binding calculator. This tools helps me determine the exact length of fabric and interfacing I need within seconds, saving me tons of time and frustration. I tested it out on a range of different shapes and sizes of quiet books that I’ve made and it works beautifully every single time.
But don’t worry if you don’t have this tool. I will show you an alternate method of calculating the exact materials you need. And with a tiny bit of patience and a calculator, you can figure this out easily. It’s not hard at all. More on this coming soon.
Step 11- Sew and finish all the fabric book page “sandwiches”
You will notice in the fabric book images that two pages sit together back-to-back. In reality, there is a sheet of wadding sandwiched between these two pages to give the fabric book body and form. These are the fabric book ‘sandwiches’. Before moving to the next step, you need to make all of these sandwiches.
First you will assemble them by hand-basting. Then you will finish their edges all around. More on this coming soon.
Step 12 – Bind the fabric book
Finally, we come to the last step which is the actual binding of your fabric book. This is a two-step process where you will first connect all the pages together using an inner binding. Then you will finish the outer spine of the fabric book using an external binding.
Don’t worry, you will already have the materials you need for this process because you made it through Step 10. I will tell you all about how to do this in upcoming posts.
And there you have it! A complete step-by-step on how to make your very own fabric book! Feeling inspired already? Go check out Pinterest and get browsing. And don’t forget to check back here for more fabric book tutorials and free PDF patterns.
Useful tool: Fabric Book Planning Tool