Monday, June 11, 2018

Of Quiet Books, a Quick Room Makeover and Quilting! Part I: Quiet Books

Believe it or not, I've been thinking about writing this post for a very, very long time. It's been such a  long time, in fact, that it's hard to know exactly where to begin. So, I'll just jump in medias res.
With our grandson nearing his 3rd birthday (yes! already!), I find myself obsessed with all things toddler. Toddler classes, toddler education, best toddler bedrooms, best outdoor play spaces, etc.
So ... my next few posts will be about all of my findings and my experiments!
Part I: Quiet Books
Quiet books are certainly not a new concept. My sister has one her mother-in-law made her children back in the late 1970's-early 80's. If you're not familiar with them, they are generally made of cloth and feature page after page of colorful, imaginative activities that will, hopefully, keep a little one quiet and entertained for awhile.
I stumbled upon Pinterest quiet books when Tony was still super small ... spending about two years poring over various pages and YouTube tutorials. Let me tell you, there are some fantastic tutorials and designs out there! Just go to Pinterest and type in "Quiet Book." (I'll also post the links to a few I found especially helpful or amazing.)
Some of them were just too outrageous for me to even contemplate. It was completely intimidating. To top it off, my old, trusty JC Penney sewing machine that I had back in the '80s had completely stopped working. Knowing this, my daughters purchased a Brother SE400 sewing machine for me. But wait! This beautiful machine was nothing like my old one. I was stumped by all the computerized everything! In fact, even after reading the manual, I was petrified to try it. I just put its little dust cover back on and set it aside.
Instead of beginning anything, I just kept collecting more buttons, ric-rac, fabric and ideas. I acquired two very helpful books that I highly recommend. "How to Make Cloth Books for Children: A Guide to Making Personalized Books, No-Sew Techniques" by Anne Pellowski, Chilton Book Company, 1992 and "Quiet Book Patterns: 25 Easy-to-make Activities for Your Children" by Amy Pincock, Plain Sight Publishing, 2013.
I spent endless mornings watching tutorials until one day, my younger daughter said to me, "Mom, you need to stop watching and just do it!" She was right. So, I ended up taking a sewing class at a wonderful quilting shop nearby ... and, although I am far from being a good seamstress, I learned how to use (and appreciate!) my amazing sewing machine. Ta da: I have actually finished my first quiet book!

It only has six activity pages, plus a front and back; however, it's super thick. I added grommets to each page and just threaded a thin grosgrain ribbon through each, then through a button after the last page. I used the layout and mock-up ideas presented in the Pellowski book to help me choose which pages to work on and where to place them. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Although it's old, I found a used copy for sale on Amazon.

Here are the pages:
 1. Button-Under-Tulle Maze

2. Move-Along Vehicles
3. Camping

4. Ocean

5. Mailbox with Letters

6. Emotions

Last Page
What follows are links to the quiet-book pages I used as inspiration and the names of the fabric that I was able to find to replicate them.

Cover Page:

  • Jetsetter Fabric by Dear Stella
  • Race Car Template from "Make! Over 40 Fantastic Projects with 16 Exclusive Designs" by Cath Kidston, St. Martin's Griffin, 2008.
First Page:
  • Bee Hive. I saw this page that I found on Pinterest and thought it was great! I used the Pincock book to help me figure out how to make it. While the book offers 25 patterns of its own, I really just used it for the techniques! It offers a great description of how to attach the tulle. I think these tulle mazes are like magic ... you can't even see the tulle!
  • I affixed the hive to the page with a hand-done chain stitch. I never could master the very tight zigzag that so many quiet-book appliques seem to use. Please ignore the pen line! I initially made the hive too narrow for my bee button! I had to take out my stitches, but, of course, I had used an actual marking pen, so my sketch line remains. Sigh.
  • As it looked a bit bare, I added a little strip of grass at the bottom. I think flowers, clouds or extra little doo-dads on the sides would have been nice, but I was running out of time and energy, so I left it as is.
Second Page:
  • Vehicles. I saw this page  on Pinterest and was obsessed by the fabric with all the buildings and the idea of the moving vehicles! I did image search after image search and finally found the fabric on Etsy! it is called, "City Block" in turquoise by Michael Miller. Doesn't it look like Dutch houses facing canals? I really love it.
  • Somehow I stumbled upon this fabulous website where the author gives very great details about running floss through grommets and objects and attaching with buttons on the back to secure. I used this method, only with elastic cording instead of floss, for each of the vehicles. I tried to replicate the original look as closely as possible.
  • I cut my pieces out of felt, then put grommets in them. Don't look too closely at the sailboat ... it ended up somehow with the wrong side of the grommets to the front. Oh well! It still moves!
Third Page:
  • Camping. There are lots and lots of great camping pages out there! I was taken especially with this one. A tip: be sure your zipper is a separating zipper! I had lots of regular zippers and started working with one, until I realized ... uh-oh ... how will the tent actually open??? Needless to say, I had to google what kind of zipper one needs for a jacket! I had no idea!
  • I added an owl button under the tree's greenery ... and I stitched in a little felt bear inside the tent. Oh ... the tent is lined with another Michael Miller fabric ... Siren Song in Grass.
Fourth Page:

  • Ocean. The page that inspired this is far more complicated and well done than mine, but I still think this easier version is fun. Take a look at the original. And yes, you'll notice it's the same page that has the Vehicles (with the Michael Miller City Blocks fabric) and a ton of other fantastic quiet-book images.
  • I used several different Michael Miller fabrics, as I tried to replicate the original ... so there is just a little strip of the Into the Deep, Mermaid Scales in Aqua at the top, then Into the Deep, Tropical for the middle ... where the submarine is. Finally, I used Sea Buddies, A Sea of Stars in Seafoam at the bottom where I sewed another piece of tulle between two felt and ric-rac borders. I found these fantastic seashell beads for sale on eBay. They are very small and perfect for little fingers to push around. 
  • Examining the photo closely, I tried to replicate the little submarine. I used two pieces of felt, stiffening with fusible pellon and cutting a hole in the top one. I cut a figure from Michael Miller's Monsieur Blocks and sandwiched it in between the felt pieces. I stitched two fabric periscope shapes back to back, after stiffening them up a bit with fusible interfacing. To put it all together, I slipped a long piece of waxed thread behind the figure and had it hanging out when I hand-stitched the submarine pieces together (back piece, waxed thread, fabric man, periscope, front felt piece).
  • Thinking about adding the little window made me way more nervous than I should have been. It really wasn't that bad. I used the technique from Teeny Tiny Mom. She has all kinds of great tips, tutorials and many patterns for sale. I recently purchased her Teddy House, but it will be a while before I can begin that one! Once the plastic was sewn onto a piece of felt, I added the grommets on either side. I threaded the waxed thread from the submarine through the grommets, then used fish beads and knots at the ends. The submarine can move from one end to the other by pulling the thread. I actually love doing this, myself! I added a couple of ric-rac spots on either side, sewing a little button under one and an embellished fabric scrap under the other. 

Fifth Page:
  • Mailbox. The fantastic website Imagine Our Life has all kinds of great quiet-book pages ... all the templates, all the explanations, all the photographs ... and all for free. This is truly an amazing and inspiring website that I visit quite often. I discovered the mailbox page there. Even the flag moves! The mail is so cute! I added buttons to close the mail on the back of each envelope ... and I chain-stitched simple words under animal shapes to the felt letters inside.
Sixth Page:
  • Emotions. I saw this image on Pinterest and then did massive searches to find it. Complete directions for a paper version are from Mr. Printables, here. There is a also a really, really cool wooden version from Moon Picnic. Instead of using paper; however, I cut the pieces out of felt, then attached them to the felt face using the same method for making things move that I had with the mailbox flag. There is a great tutorial about moving clock hands that you can apply to just about anything you want to move. Here is the tutorial: Clock. My Craft / Quiet Book has all kinds of fantastic video tutorials for everything you'd ever want in a quiet book and more! She also has a Facebook Group page where she answers questions and has all kind of information.
So that's it! I used my Sizzix to cut out the animal shapes for the mail and also to cut out the alphabet letters for Tony's name on the cover and the Love, Grammie on the back. I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out the numbers from heat-transfer vinyl. I then was able to iron on the number 3 on the car in front ... and the date at the back of the book. You could, of course, cut all these out by hand, but my scissor skills are not the best. (That's why the race car's wheels look a bit less than round!)

I learned a lot from this. The first thing I learned is to go for it. My grandson doesn't care if my seams aren't straight ... if the face on the face page isn't flat ... if stitches show or if extra lines are drawn. He might ask, "What's that?" and then I simply reply, "That's where Grammie made a mistake." And that's that!

Also, if you spend as much time as I did (do!) looking at quiet-book pages, you'll see some really amazing ones ... but when you start to plan your book, I suggest that you not become overwhelmed by all the fabulous details. When I was planning this one, I really had to ask myself, "What's the play value in this?" It might be the most intricate, fascinating page, but it might not be all that much fun. The Bee-Hive page and the Emotions page seem to be the most used ... and yet they were, perhaps, the easiest to make.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Quick Room Makeover!