How to Make a Quiet Book from Your Own Design

Make a cloth activity book that will keep your toddler quietly occupied when you need a few peaceful moments.

| June/July 1992

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    Mitering the corners.
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    Some examples of quiet book activities are: unzipping a suitcase to see what's inside, and taking the wheels off and on a truck.
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    Include favorite animals in your quiet book designs.
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    Matching the pages.

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When Peggy's son, Keith, was one year old, he was the joy of his mother's life, except on those occasions when she had to bring him along to her meetings. Alert, active, and noisy, he exhausted her until she was ready to fully endorse the old saying "The only quiet youngster is one who's sound asleep!"

Fortunately, however, a seamstress friend helped solve her problem by sending Keith a homemade birthday present: a charming, 10-page booklet that's chock-full of colorful things to button, zip, tie, stick on, and play with—quietly. These quiet books cost just pennies to make, and the idea's merit has been proven by generations of children who have been entertained by these homemade books. After carefully studying her son's book, Peggy tried her hand at making some similar booklets for other children. Although she's no seamstress, Peggy managed to fashion some very nice ones with very little trouble. Here's the format she used:

Quiet Book Materials: Gather the Basics, Cut, and Fold

A quiet book consists of 10 pages (10 double layers of cloth), each of which is decorated on both sides. The "artwork" is either embroidered or appliquéed on plain fabric, and each page contains at least one activity. These may include: taking pieces off or putting them on, opening and shutting parts of a design, and lifting flaps. Finally, some kind of closure (such as tie strings) is usually provided to hold the booklet shut when not in use.

To make one of these books, you'll need about 1 1/2 yards of 45" sturdy fabric—such as denim, duck, or light canvas—with a basic background. You'll also need embroidery thread and needles, some bits and pieces of colorful cloth, scissors, regular needles and thread (even easier and more durable if you use a sewing machine), a fabric-marking pencil, pins, a little bit of stuffing, some Velcro-brand fastening tape, and lots of notions. Kids love snaps, buckles, buttons, zippers, and eyelets with shoelaces. It's a good idea to make a paper facsimile of your booklet before cutting or stitching the fabric, so you'll also need a pad of paper and a pencil.

To prepare the pages, cut ten 10" × 20" rectangles from the sturdy cloth, making sure to keep the pieces of uniform size. Fold five of these in half (to 10" × 10"), each with its right sides together, and iron them to sharpen the creases. Then go on to fold the remaining five pieces in half, each with its wrong sides together. Iron them as well. Now, match the rectangles as shown, arranging them into five pairs, right sides exposed. While you have the iron hot, turn under a 1/4" hem on all four sides of each rectangle and press it flat, mitering the corners.

The center folds will become the spine of the booklet. Each pair of rectangles will be decorated on the right sides of the fabric, and then stitched together around the edges. This will produce a total of four pages, front and back. Finally, all five double-layered rectangles will be sewn together on the center crease to make the finished booklet of 10 leaves for a total of 20 decorated pages. (You can see why a preliminary mock-up would be helpful.)

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