Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cloth Bunny Book for Easter

Cloth books are an easy, fun, quick gift to make. Lately, with the birth of my granddaughter, I have been keeping an eye out for them. At a quilting and craft expo, I bought a couple that were based on Beatrix Potter's books so I thought the bunny one would make an appropriate Easter present. The copyright on the selvage says 2009 so I guess it's been around for a while.

Cloth books are also a great use of those odd shaped scraps of batting leftovers. The books are usually printed such that a pair of double pages reaches across the fabric width so 22" of batting is the longest dimension you need. Page height is around 11". There are generally 10 pages plus front and back covers so the rough amount of leftover batting you'll need is 3 pieces roughly 22" x 11" or 12". The instructions are printed right on the panel but here are few quick tips I learned.

I do cut on the dotted lines of the panel to separate the pages, but I leave the final trim to do all at once when the the opposing panels are stacked in layers with whatever batting I plan to use. After separating the pages by cutting on the dotted lines, I stretch them on the bias to make them square relative to the printing, not necessarily the straight of grain. Panels, I've found, are rarely printed on grain and I have to suspend my quilting fanaticism for right angles somewhat. I line up the pages that are supposed to be back to back, right sides together, (double and triple check that these are the correct double page pairings) and hold them up to a light source to align the borders. Every book I have seen thus far has had an edging stripe around the pages and that is what I aim to line up.

I pin at the four corners, and four edge middles and then lay this pair of right side together pages on my scrap of batting. I then rotary cut a set distance from this border through all three layers – batting and two cloth pages of book. Even though it is the wrong side of the fabric this line border shows through. I pin all three layers only in one pace in the center. They really stick to each other and need nothing more. Plus, pinning through the batting at the edges where I plan to sew make too many lumps. Here you see my pinning pattern. No, this is not yet another example of my poor photography skills; you are looking at the wrong side of the page fabric.

I started sewing at the bottom edge of a page, a couple inches off from center, back tack, then up a side edge, across the top edge, down the other side edge and back across the bottom edge stopping just short a couple inches from the center again and back tack. This 4" opening is big enough so that when I turn the assembly right side out, I can fit my hand inside with a point turning tool and run it along the seam lines.

This is the kind of turning tool I like because it feels so smooth in my hand.

This is a small detail that you may choose to ignore but when I put the right side out page assembly on my ironing board I have a preferred orientation. I put down against the board the page that had the batting closest to it before turning. Then, as I press around the seamed edges I am easing out the seam on only the double cloth thickness page and not the lump of the folded over batting in the seam allowance. I flip it over and do the opposite in the opening area, since I need the folded over batting more visible to massage and press it under around the opening to be closed. I press the centers of the pages last easing the wrinkles toward the edges. I then top stitch around the outer edges of this double page (four pages actually) unit, starting at the beginning of the opening and ending at the end of the opening so the opening gets stitched over twice.

Now it is time to order and stack the pages to sew down the spine of the book. The cover of the book is generally just a bit bigger so you want to center the inner pages within the covers both vertically along the spine horizontally as the book is read. Horizontally is no problem but I have found that once I align vertically even if I pin it ( which is hard to do through six layers of fabric and three layers of batting) the book shifts as I sew down the spine.

Yes, I have a walking foot, even-feed feature on my Pfaff which normally does a great job, but that is a lot of fluff you are asking your pressure foot to plow through and I do not think it lifts high enough to allow the layers to slide freely underneath. I tried assisting by pulling gently through the back, which helped slightly, but not to my satisfaction. This time I found a solution. I aligned the pages, but did not pin. I started my first pass sewing at the CENTER of the spine down to the lower edge,  Then I turned 180° stitched the whole distance up the spine (as seen in photo), then turn 180° again and stitch the remaining half distance down the spine. The spine still gets double stitched, but I secured it just where I wanted it at the start.

This worked like a charm with just one problem. I was so intent on solving my alignment issue that I forgot to double check the stacking order of my pages. Here is my whoops. I do not want Autumn to think that 6 comes after 3! Plus the story does not make sense! I should have been clued in by the color difference in the pages, too.

Oh well. I got to use my seam ripper. Which leads to another bit of advice.  A teacher in a quilt class I took reminded us that even this tool wears out.  Treat yourself to a new seam ripper periodically. They are inexpensive and are often included in your local chain stores notions sales. They, too, get dull like your rotary blades and scissors, but we often forget to replace them. It is penance enough to have to rip out a seam, but a sharp tool make it so much easier. I wish I had followed this advice. The up side is that the pages were separated with no fabric tears, even though double stitched, and the second try on my alignment technique worked just as well as the first.

Here is the correct sequence as you page through the book.

I just love the soft colors and the gentle illustrations. Here is the finished product along  with Peter Rabbit himself to hug while being read to.

Of course Autumn may just prefer to enjoy her book by stuffing it in her mouth like she did her turtle burp cloth. (Turtle burp cloth back story is in my March 13th post.) 

Hmmm. Maybe I did not need to correct the page order on the book after all...

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