Sustainable Sewcialists: Scrapbook? Soft book!

If you’re anything like me, there is a box sitting somewhere in your sewing room, its contents half forgotten, ready to live out the rest of their days in the dark. A box filled with random pieces of fabric that are too small to make an actual garment from, of old or thrifted pieces that you will ‘get to’ re-purposing one day, of projects that live in the distant and imaginary future that might never come.

I am talking about the scraps box. Filled to the brim with random fabrics that you do not know what to do with, but are unwilling to get rid of, because what if you get a brilliant idea of how to use them right after you’ve thrown them away (which is not very environmentally friendly nor sustainable), or gave them up for recycling (which is a way better option but might still feel like defeat to your creative ego)?

The project I am about to share with you is an easy way to re-purpose exactly these scraps from the box. I will show you how to make a children’s soft book (also known as a quiet book) out of your sewing scraps. It is basically an interactive book made out of fabric, and you have complete creative freedom to make it into whatever you like.

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Organization is key when making a soft book. Here you can see how I organized the scraps for each page that I was about to make and labeled them.

The first thing you want to do is take your box, turn it upside down so all its contents fall onto the floor, and look what you will be working with. I took a piece of paper and pen, and started jotting down ideas for the pages that I wanted to make. Go through your pile of scraps, and group your materials for each page. It helps to also put a little tag with each pile so you can quickly remember what you will be making from each.

Decide how big you want the pages of your book to be, and then find fabric pieces that will be big enough to be ‘the page’. Alternatively, if you do not have such large pieces, you can sew a couple of them together, which will make your page even more visually interesting.

If your fabrics have been sitting in that dark box for a while, they are probably crumpled up and sad, which makes them hard to work with. So, the next step is to iron each piece to make it easier to work with.

After you’ve ironed all your pieces, the fun starts. It is time to start cutting your monsters, monkeys, spaceships, flowers, or whatever you’ve decided to make. Make sure you’re placing all of the elements of one page together so you don’t get them mixed up.

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An example of a page before any of the pieces have been sewn. When you cut your pieces, arrange them on the page to see if you like the layout, and then top stitch them layer by layer.

When you are ready to sew, take your page and all the elements you want on it and bring it to the machine. One thing to keep in mind are the fabrics you will be using – I had a couple of stretchy and swimsuit fabric scraps, so I made sure to use a stretch needle to avoid turning my sewing machine into an angry monster that skips stitches and eats my fabric.

For me, the beauty of this project is that I didn’t need to be overly careful while sewing. I top stitched the elements on each page, without worrying about the colors of the thread and I actually really like the handicraft feel this has given the book. Of course, you can go the other route and make everything look very professional, but I wanted a lighthearted fun project that would not drive me nuts with the need to focus on the details and wouldn’t take forever to finish.

Once you have completed your pages, face two of them right sides together, and pin to place. You will then sew all around them, leaving a small opening so you can turn the pages around, and stuff them. After sewing the pages together, I’ve cut the excess fabric so I can flip them inside out without excess bulk. I then stuffed the pages with old pillow stuffing and fabric scraps (you can also use only your scraps to stuff them!), and closed the small opening by sewing it shut.

You repeat that for all of your pages, and after you’re done all that is left is to arrange the pages in the order you want them to be in the book and to bind the book! I decided to sew all of the pages together by hand, since the book ended up being quite bulky and it was easier for me to do it this way. In the end, I added a long piece ribbon to the first and last page so I could tie the book when it is not in use. Since the book was already pretty bulky, I decided I will not be making a cover page with the name of the baby I am making this for, but it is a nice added touch if you wish to do it.

This project is a bit time consuming and requires some meticulous cutting of fairly small pieces, but it makes for a truly unique gift. A thing to keep in mind is the age of the child you are making this for, and to plan the elements accordingly, so you don’t include something which could pose a choking hazard or hurt the child in any way. Let your imagination run wild, go back to your childhood days and make a book your little self would have been thrilled to have and then watch the big smile on the face of a child you gift it to. Not bad for a box of scraps, right?

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that I have given you an idea on how to reuse your fabric scraps in a fun way. Let me know if you have any other ideas on what to do with fabric scraps!

If you’d like, you can find me on my website and on Instagram @lavieshobaine.

Happy sewing!