Soft Books - Dipping your toes into amateur bookbinding

My little guy, who is now 21 months old, loves books.  Unfortunately, most of the time, he loves them to death.  He gnaws on them, rips them, tries to pull the thick boards apart, bends the spines back until they crack, pours milk on them, throws them, and even, occasionally, reads them.  Because we want to foster a love of reading in the little guy, I REALLY, REALLY don't want to say no and take the books away from him just to stop them from being ruined.  Still, I don't really want his entire kid-lit library destroyed before he has a chance to enjoy and appreciate it.  Enter the paperless books category. 

Highlight's Hello Magazine is a great alternative to paper books.  Its laminated pages are easy to clean (read: dishwasher safe), resist teeth, and have great content.  I highly recommend a subscription!  But...since it's a magazine, I can't pick and choose content for him.  And right now, the little Book-a-vore is more into letters and numbers than poems. 

So, that brings us to soft books: washable, chewable, and fairly non-destructible.  My little guy loves the cloth books in his collection, including "The Animals" soft book that I made while pregnant with him.  I just needed to find one to teach him his letters.


Now, if you live where I do, it's not easy to find soft books with words, let alone containing more than just A, B, & C.  And since the letter 'W' currently causes my little guy to giggle, the full alphabet is non-negotiable.  So, armed with a stack of felt, a few skeins of embroidery floss, and printouts of the ABC's, I went to work.


After I sewed the letters onto the felt sheets, I used a sewing machine to stitch the pages and book together.  My little guy loves flipping through the book, shouting out the letters he knows.  I think once he masters the alphabet, I might make him a numbers book, too. 

If you'd like to make your own soft book, here are some basic instructions.

Supplies: felt, embroidery floss, needle, pins, images

Note: I printed the animals/letters on printer paper and used them as a sew-over template.  If you are more artistically inclined, feel free to use washable fabric markers.

1.  Draw or pin design on felt in desired location.  If you would like, secure felt in a hoop for tension.

2.  Stitch over design in desired pattern.  I just punctured the paper as I went, almost as if it was one of those old-fashioned sewing cards with the cardboard and yarn.  If you use the paper method, gently tear the paper away when you're done.  It's fairly easy to do, since the needle has already perforated it for you.  The fabric marker will come out in the wash.

3.  With right sides facing out, stitch the edges of the felt sheets together.  You can either do this with a blanket stitch (like I used in for the animal soft book), a different hand stitch, or a sewing machine (like I used in the alphabet book).

4.  When all the felt sheets are complete, pile them as desired, pin in place, and stitch down the middle.  I suppose you could hand stitch if you'd like, but I used a sewing machine for both examples above. 

Just a few quick tips:

*Make sure you plan the layout ahead of time if order is important.  An alphabet book won't be in the correct order once the pages are sewn together unless you plan for the front/back of each page ahead of time.

*You need to have an even number of felt pieces in order to hide the wrong side so you don't have the loose ends exposed.

*Make sure you don't make the book too thick.  There is a limited number of felt pages you can use before the soft book won't close easily.  If you 'd like to make a thicker book, you can always make a double-seam (~1" from seam to seam) down the center when binding to give the book a larger spine.

*Coloring books are a great place to find images.