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I’ve recently become an Auntie again! As a gift I decided I would make my new niece a fabric Baby Colour Book.
I know how much my kids like cloth books and I thought if I quilted the pages there would be a textural sensory element to the gift as well.
I didn’t start with a pattern or anything. My basic idea was to do an improv block of the same size – 6″ x 6″ – for each colour, add some batting, quilt the pages, add a cover and bind it all together.
I didn’t exactly know when I started how that was all going to work, but I muddled through and I am pretty pleased with the results.
Don’t get me wrong I can see lots of flaws and things I would do differently next time – which I’ll tell you about as I go – but this is a gift for a little baby so I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to notice the flaws.
And her parents will just be grateful for anything that entertains her long enough to let them go to the toilet (I’m speaking from experience here!)!
Sorting My Scraps
I started by deciding which colours I was going to put in my book and then sorting my scraps in to piles of those colours.
Now different people have different definitions of what a scrap is – I’ve even heard some people referring to a fat quarter as a scrap! But in this case we are talking about crumbs (square or rectangles of usually not more than 2″ or 3″ at any point), some thin strips (roughly 1-1 & 1/2″ wide), some slightly bigger squares & pieces that I cut down just to get the colour in & some small fabric sample swatches.
I went for fairly standard colours as well as black and white.
My baby colour book has pages for:
As well as my fabric scraps, I also had a flip pack of unneeded thin fabric samples – a kind of cotton canvas material. I used some of these for the colour name labels on each page but you could easily just use another scrap for those.
Making the Pages
I decided to make each colour page out of a 6″ x 6″ square. Mostly because I have a square ruler that size so it made it easy to square them off.
I improv pieced the pages using the scraps I had.
If you are new to improv piecing or ‘crumb quilting’ as it is sometimes called, you basically start by sewing two scraps right sides together along one edge. You then open them up, press, trim (some people do this some don’t – I do) and sew another scrap along one of the new edges of the piece – again right sides together.
It’s a similar concept to sewing a log cabin block except that you can add pieces on any side. So for example you could have lots of short scraps creating a strip and then turn that into a square by putting a longer scrap all the way along the top edge of that strip of smaller scraps.
You just keep sewing until your piece gets so large that when you put your ruler or template on top there is fabric sticking out from every side. Then you trim it down to a square and it suddenly looks a million times better!
I tried to find different shades of each colour from my scrap bin and I also consciously decided to include a few patterns and prints even when they had other colours in them as long as the dominant colour was still the one the page was meant to be about.
The whole project took me a little longer than I anticipated because I didn’t have very many brown or purple scraps and I really. had to go hunting around. In the end I used more of the fabric sample swatches for those pages as they are basically ‘crumb’ size anyway and I have a lot of them because of my day job.
Quilting the Pages
I wanted my baby colour book to be squishy and soft but also to have some texture.
To assemble the book the idea was to sew pages right sides together and flip over – see below for the binding bit first though!
But before I did that I put fusible fleece on the back of each page and then quilted them all individually (you can use any kind of batting but this way I also didn’t have to baste before quilting them!).
I wanted a different quilt pattern on each page to give another layer of interest for my niece – something for her to run her fingers over.
I am still new to quilting and I’m not super confident with free motion quilting yet so I decided for this project to see what I could do with my walking foot instead.
My quilting designs
Some of my quilting efforts were more successful than others. I think the best one’s were the random zig zag/mountain range kind of one that I did on the white page; the leaves on the green page; the basic criss cross lines on the purple; and the sunburst/starburst thing on the yellow.
Some of the others where I was trying to do straighter lines were less successful as I didn’t use my walking foot guide.
The black is hard to see but it is a spiralling square sort of thing. The red was a mash up of zig zags over the zig zag fabric, a wavy line in the middle, a cross at the bottom corner and then I outlined the flowers on the fabric at the top. Probably a bit excessive but I was having a bit of a play!
And yes, I did go to town and match my thread to each page!
Binding my Baby Colour Book
After all the pages were quilted I came up with how I was going to attach them in the middle (i.e. the spine of the book). I struggled with this bit as I wanted the book to be able to lie flat for ‘tummy time’ as well as stay closed the rest of the time.
What I ended up doing was sewing a 2 & 1/2″ strip of white cotton drill (so a fairly heavy cotton) in between each set of two pages.
I sewed the strip right sides to right sides along the edge of the page that I wanted to be closest to the spine. Then with the same strip on the other side I sewed a second page right sides to right sides.
That left me with long pieces of two colour pages with a white strip in between.
I had to do some thinking about which colours I wanted where in the book while I was doing this and thinking through which sets of pages would be back to back.
See below for how all the pages get attached to each other.
Creating the Cover
Once I had my long two page strips I measured out what I thought would be the right size for my cover.
This was my first error.
Basically all I did was lay my two page strip on top of a larger piece of fabric and traced around it to find the size of my cover – so it was one piece of fabric for front and back covers as well as the spine.
It turned out okay but it was a little bit tight because I didn’t account for the bulk of all the pages. So if I was doing it again I would add an extra inch or so all the way around just to make sure the cover fit generously enough.
I had some very tiny triangle shapes in lots of rainbow colours leftover form another project so I decided to applique them on to the front and back covers. I used heat n’ bond and arranged them in a kind of a curve on the front and a bit more randomly at the back.
If you’ve never used heat n’ bond check out this youtube tutorial from Knack Mak.
I used the lite sewable heat n’ bond. I actually used scraps of it leftover from another project – which is why I ended up doing triangles instead of another type of shape!
I sewed the pieces after bonding with a zig zag stitch.
I also used the fancy letter stitching on my new sewing machine to write a little To/From note on the back.
Lastly for the cover I used a fabric sample swatch and that fancy letter stitching again to add a title ‘My Colours’ to the front.
Assembling the Colour Book
To put everything together I started by laying everything out as it would sit if the book was already together.
So I laid the cover right side down and then one strip of two pages right side up. Then another set of pages right side down and another right side up, etc, etc.
When I had everything laid out like that I took the top two strips and sewed them right sides together with a 1/4″ seam leaving one side open for turning.
Apologies for the fuzzy photo below but basically you should have an inside out tube of four pages open at one end.
I used a chopstick to poke out the corners before turning the set of pages right side out.
I then folded in the raw edges and top stitched all the way around the edge of the piece – which also closes the open end.
This is the next place where I encountered a wee mistake I’d made.
When I attached my fusible fleece, I cut it to exactly the same size as each page, but that made it incredibly bulky to top stitch around the edge as my seams underneath where so bulky. If I did this again I would cut the fusible fleece a 1/2″ shorter on each side than the actual colour book page to leave me room for stitching more comfortably.
I repeated the same process for each set of pages.
Once I got to the last set – one side was colour pages the other side was the front and back covers – I also added a little closure strap.
To make the strap I found a strip of fabric that was long enough to stretch from the back to the front of my book (with a seam allowance as well!). I then sewed it up in the same way as you would if you were making bias binding. Once all but the end seam was enclosed I sewed a square of velcro on to the front cover and the pair on to the strip.
When I turned in the raw edges of the open side I slipped the raw edge of the velcro strap inside before top stitching it in place.
To be honest the strap was a bit fiddly and I struggled to get it to look neat. But it does keep the book shut!
Putting the pages altogether
The very last step is to attach all the finished page and cover sets to each other.
To do this I secured all the pages where I wanted them in the book (with seams aligned) using my wonderclips.
Then, using my walking foot again, I sewed right down the middle several times. This attached the pages and gave my book a spine.
Remember there is no fusible in the cotton drill strips I put in between the pages – so although it was a lot of layers they weren’t overly bulky.
I also didn’t sew right to the edge. I started just above the bottom edge seam, backstitched, stitched to the other end just before the top edge and backstitched again.
I then repeated this a couple times just to make sure!
Finished Baby Colour Book!
This baby colour book has just gone out in the post to my little niece. I had fun making it and it did use up a nice little chunk of my scraps too!
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