The very first books in a child’s life hold so much importance and sentimental value. If one of those books can be soft, cuddly, and educational—well what could be better than that? Today, Jennifer Wambach stops by the blog to show us how to design and make an adorable cut-and-sew cloth book using basic design skills and custom-printed fabric.
Jennifer: Cut-and-sew patterns are one of my favorite things to design, because I don’t need to worry about creating a repeat or making coordinates . . . it’s just one single panel. Cut-and-sew fabric books are even better, since I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. I used to get in trouble for reading in school and even during summer vacation, filling up hours reading when other kids got in trouble for sticking gum on the wall behind the couch or throwing snowballs at cars! Not surprisingly, I love books, and fabric books are often a baby’s first introduction to reading, so these make wonderful baby shower gifts.
Part One: Designing the Fabric
Materials & Tools
- vector-based graphics program
- sketch paper and pencil
1. Create a storyboard.
First, decide how many pages you’d like the finished book to have and how large you’d like it to be. This example is 5 by 5 inches and has 32 pages. It is possible to design an entire book to fit anything from a fat quarter of fabric to a whole yard or more, depending on the size and number of pages in your book. Remember that the total number of pages in a book must be divisible by four. Also, keep in mind that because it is made from fabric, it can get bulky pretty fast and hard to stitch, so we recommend that you consider a design with 8 to 12 pages for your first design.
Sketch out each page from start to finish, paying attention to how the illustrations relate to one another, how they’ll look next to each other, and how they’ll move the story forward.
2. Make a mock-up.
Instead of cutting out and sewing each page separately and having many bulky seam allowances to deal with, we’ll create page spreads, which combine pages into one piece. To keep pages in the right order when you sew them together, make a mini book mock-up with scrap paper. Sketch and label each page with the illustration that should appear. When you take the mocked-up book apart, you will have individual pieces of paper that will help you lay out your page spreads. An 8-page book will have spread that look like this.
3. Create the artwork.
Create a new file for each page of the book. For this book, the pages are all 5 by 5 inches (or 750 by 750 pixels). You can choose to draw them all digitally, use photographs, or draw and scan your artwork.
Jennifer’s tip: “I love using several mediums in one illustration—watercolor, digital, pencil, and mixed media—and multiple programs with many layers, textures, brushes, and effects to create the print-ready file. It’s a great opportunity to spend a lot of time and create a really amazing design.”
Some design tips:
- If you are using text, choose a bold or thick font and a font size that is at least 12 point.Remember that fabric has an uneven texture and fine lines in text may get lost or look blurry, making it hard to read.
- Think about contrast. Make sure that the color of the text and the color of the background are different enough that they won’t blend together.
- If using photographs—especially photos with people in them—you may want to adjust the photo to brighten it before you print. Photographs with a lot of dark areas or shadows will tend blend together in those dark areas and make the photo look muddy or dark.
- Keep it simple. Choose a set of four to eight colors and a set of two to three fonts to use throughout to help make the pages coordinate and work together.
Save each page as an individual .jpg file. When you have finished all the page designs, then you can move on to lay out the book.
4. Lay out the page spreads.
Open a new file using a vector-based graphics program like Adobe Illustrator. Size the file for the yardage of fabric you would like to print. For this example, we will create one yard of fabric, 6300 by 5400 pixels. Turn on the rulers and/or grids view. You can create guidelines to help you align the edges of the pages and space them out.
Place/insert each individual page artwork file, using the paper mock-up as a reference. Each page should touch its companion page at the center and have a ¼-inch seam allowance around all sides of the pages. You can draw a rectangle that is 1/2 inch larger than your page spreads and place it so it is centered behind the page artwork to represent the seam allowances (and it will give you a cutting line later). Continue until you have all of the pages placed.
5. Save and upload.
Part Two: Making the Book
Materials & Tools
1. Apply interfacing (or felt, batting) and cut out.
Using your iron, adhere the interfacing to the back of the fabric following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cut out the pages, making sure to include the ¼-inch seam allowances.
2. Match and stitch the pages.
Referring to the mock-up to make sure that you match the correct pieces, place the fabric pages right sides together. For our example, pages 1 and 2 will touch each other and 3 and 4 will touch each other when you place them right sides together for this step. If in doubt, refer back to you paper mockup to make sure that you are putting the right pages together.
Stitch around all sides of the page spreads, leaving a small opening to turn them right side out.
3. Clip and turn.
Clip the extra fabric at the corners and turn the pages right side out. Press. Slip-stitch the openings with small hand stitches.
4. Assemble the book.
Stack the book pages, matching the page spreads at the centers and making sure that the pages are in the right order. Stitch through all layers at the center spine. This will be very thick; go slowly or switch to a walking foot if you have one available. Alternatively, you can use a large tapestry needle and embroidery thread to hand-stitch the pages together at the spine using a running stitch.
Don’t forget to address and sign the back cover of your book! What special little person in your life will you make a cloth book for? Let us know in the comments below!