Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cloth Photo Album for Toddlers

First birthdays are special aren't they? My 6th grandchild’s first birthday was coming up and I wanted to make her a gift that she could appreciate and use now. I decided on a washable cloth photo album where mom and dad could put pictures of her family for her to see whenever she wanted.

First I choose a size for my book; it needed to be big enough to hold the pictures with a little room left over for embellishing; about 8 1/2 inches square finished. Next I decided on picture pockets so the pictures could be removed and changed out if desired. Then I chose my fabrics. I also decided to use a ‘shabby chic’ design style for my book, and this made construction easy and fast, stitching the edges together with a zigzag stitch rather than turning the raw edges to the inside.

I began construction by making a small paper book to use for reference while I made my cloth photo album. This is a must for me when I make a project from scratch so I can think through what needs to happen next and cut down on mistakes. Then I decided how many pages the book needed to have by counting one photo per family member that would be represented in the book including a page for the family pet. The three finished pages will be the size of two pages across (8 1/2 inches by 17inches), stacked and then sewn through the middle, and folded over to create the book.

I cut a template from heavy interfacing to use as a pattern for my book. I like to use interfacing because it is flexible, I can pin it to my fabric, and it doesn’t twist, distort or tear. I often use my patterns repeatedly so I like them to be durable. I cut out the required amount of fabric pages; each page needs a front and back piece of fabric. I used fusible fleece interfacing inside each page of the photo album to add structure to the cloth pages. 

After cutting out your fabric pages and fleece pieces, fold it over together to see how thick it will be before continuing. I needed to be careful not to have it so thick my machine would not sew through all the layers. It could be done by hand of course, but in the interest of time, I wanted to use my machine.  For the photo pockets I made a template and cut heavy clear vinyl making the pockets large enough to hold 4x6 inch pictures with seam allowance.

I made my album cover, rehearsing each piece of fabric before committing it to the sewing machine. I chose to stitch the fabric pieces onto the cover without turning the edges under. The pink chenille was stitched down by hand after all the pages were sewn into the book for a nice finish on the binding. The front has a place for the title "My Family" and a place to put "from Gramma" on the back.

For a closure, I made a tab and secured it to the back cover page, then stitched Velcro on the inside tab end and corresponding cover front. I finished it with a decorative button. What ever you embellish your books or albums with, make sure they are attached securely so they do not become a choking hazard for the child.
I needed to attach my vinyl pockets to the pages before I ironed on the interfacing, because it would be difficult to attach them afterwards stitching through the thickness of the fleece.  Notice the blue tape on the bottom of my sewing machine foot. It's there to help it slide over the vinyl. If you don't like this idea there are other ways of sewing over vinyl. Don't say I didn't warn you, it can be tricky! I wish I had made a placement template so that each pocket lined up perfectly with the preceding page, but because of my shabby chic design style, I think I got away with it not being exact.

The pockets are stitched on three sides with the opening toward the middle of the book. This will help the photos not fall out while the book is being played with, and not require any other securing.

Some of the pages I embellished by machine before fusing to the fleece, some I embroidered using a wash out marking pen to mark my designs.

I hand stitched labels under each picture pocket that can be written on with a permanet marker later.

When I ironed on the fusible fleece, I was careful to go around the out side edges only avoiding ironing over the vinyl photo holders. Cover your fleece and cloth layers with a thin pressing cloth so you won’t get adhesive on your iron.

Put all of your pages in the order you want them to be and fold them over. I found that the inside pages needed to be trimmed a little so that each one would not be wider than the next after folding over. The first and last pages I trimmed about a 1/8th of an inch back, the next two pages (the middle ones) about a ¼ inch back. Now I was ready to sew around each page edge with a zigzag stitch.

Then I stacked each page in the order I wanted them, pinned carefully and machine stitched down the center. I wanted to make a cover for the spine of my book, and I attached it last by hand, though it could have been done by machine. I decided last minute I wanted an embroidered title on my album front, originally thinking I would use an iron on transfer method. It would have been much easier to do before the title piece was stitched down.

I love my finished Cloth Photo Album for my sweet birthday girl! I think she will love it too.

*Update: I am hosting a link up party at Family Home and Life, Wow Us Wednesdays.

I linked up this post at Cornerstone Confessions, Bear Rabbit Bear, The Shabby Nest  and Skip to my Lou. It is also linked at  Grandma's Briefs an Under the Table and Dreaming .

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  1. I love this! Unfortunately, I'm not very talented in the sewing department. I've been making photo books online for my grandchildren and they are cute, but not as cute as this. [Sigh]

    1. Photo books online are very nice :)

  2. A few months ago I might have passed on this idea. However, in the past few weeks I have seen how much the grandkids enjoy looking at the (expensive!) Kodak albums their daddy orders as gifts for grandparents (because we really don't need anything besides more pictures of the little darlings!). Well, you have given me an idea and I am going to make albums for the kids with pictures of all the time we spent together over the past few weeks. What a perfect "quiet time" activity when they stop to "read" it, plus a record of all the fun with grandma! Connie, you've done it again! Anybody wonder why you are my favorite blog?

    1. Oh wow! That is so sweet of you to say! Thankk you so much. I have made another one for a another child that I haven't yet posted pics for. I'll try to do that soon, I turned the fabric in that one so it didn't have the rough edges.

  3. Hi Connie! I was just checking out your blog and ran into this tutorial! Oh my goodness that is adorable! If you have time, we would LOVE for you to stop in and link up this post and anything crafty in our Crafty Showcase. It runs from Sat-Thur and then we have a Feature Friday with the top pics!

    We'd love to have you! Love your grandparents linky! Such a super idea.

    Susie @Bowdabra

  4. Love it and the birtday girl pic! You should sell these to people like me, ha ha. I had sewing exhaustion just thinking about it. I started to think about me stitching through fleece on the sewing machine and next you know I could just picture myself throwing the broken machine out the window...How you do all these things I don't know ...wish I had the patience and the gift / you are so creative, Connie, it blows me away

    1. Debra you are rather creative yourself, you could do this-way easier than a quilt. Thank you! I get asked all the time why I don't make and sell things, but when would I have time??

  5. Connie you are so talented. What a wonderful idea, if I could sew this is something that I would create. Thank you for sharing with us.

  6. Your craftiness just never ceases to amaze me! Nicely done!

  7. This is gorgeous! And so smart. Alas, I am so far removed from the sewing machine that I'm sure I'll never make one...though I'd like to pretend I just might one day. It's an awesome keepsake.

    Thank you for linking up, my friend!


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