Friday, February 27, 2015

Sewing Tutorial: Preparing to make your first Quiet Book

For my first Quiet Book was to make my daughter a special toy that would keep her occupied on the long flights from Brisbane, Australia to Frankfurt, Germany. In the end we didn't end up taking it with us, as it contained too many pages, too many small pieces and was a little overwhelming for her when she was little Miss 19 months old.

It was beautifully made with lots of love and we play with a lot now, but my biggest advice would be to keep it simple. I couldn't narrow down the pages I wanted to include, so I just kept adding page after page to the plan until it became 14 pages of activities. Stick to 6 or 8 activity pages all up. It will be enough.

Since that time, I've made dozens of them to sell and I've perfected and simplified my method. I plan to share this method with you step by step here, starting in this blog post with the first stage - the planning and preparations.


I make all of my quiet books from calico cotton, cotton print and felt. I find that the calico is heavy enough to last, and felt is easy to work with because it doesn't require edging. I use a cotton print fabric for the covers.

I like to join my pages together with binder rings. It means sewing just two buttonholes in each page, looks neat, and allows you to add and exchange pages when you want to.


My most popular quiet book is an unthemed one, but I have also designed and made counting quiet books, alphabet ones, colour books, and shape quiet books.

I like to vary the activities on each page and have included: size matching, colour matching, counting, tying shoes or bows, buckles, zips, magnet fishing, velcro, studs, buttons, finger puppets and more.

My suggestion is to get on Pinterest and explore ideas until you have picked your top 10, then narrow it down some more.


The costs can add up quickly. Check out dollar stores for things like zippers, buttons, felt packs and other supplies. EBay is one of my favourite places to shop for buckles, buttons, velcro, magnets, snaps, ribbons and beads. Buying bulk packs of calico can also help you save.


First, decide on size. I used to make my books quite large, but slowly they've become smaller. My ideal size is 18cm by 20cm.

You will need to allow for seams. I like to allow 1cm on each side, so for a finished size of 18cm by 20cm, I would need to cut out a piece 20cm by 22cm. If I am making six activity pages, I would cut out eight of these to allow for two extra, one for inside the front cover and one for inside the back cover.

Then you will cut out another two pieces of the same size for the outside of the front and back covers. Choose a vibrant cotton print fabric for these.

I sometimes choose to line each piece of fabric with a light iron on interfacing. This will depend on the weight of the fabrics that you are working with. If they are quite light, the interfacing will make it easier to sew on the felt pieces later. If the fabrics are heavier, you may be able to skip this step. If you decide to use interfacing, cut it out the same size as your ideal finished book size (in my case this would be 18cm by 20cm) and iron it on close to the centre of each fabric piece before going any further.


I've tried a few different ways to do this, but I always come back to using Heat n Bond Lite Iron on applique paper, or a similar product.

You can draw your design directly onto the paper, iron it onto the felt, cut it out, peel off the paper to leave the adhesive backing and then iron the felt piece onto your calico fabric. Once you have ironed the felt pieces onto your main fabric it is a good idea to sew around each piece to ensure it stays attached to the fabric. The adhesive applique paper can lose some of its effectiveness after a while.

In my next blog post, I'll be sharing a pattern for a colour matching page featuring a monkey holding four balloons. I'll also explain the full process for putting together the page.

Stay tuned!



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sewing Tutorial: Easy baby pants variation

We love the easy baby pants at our house. Mr 2 wore these bright dinosaur pants back when he was a baby. What a welcome change they make from the navy blue/khaki options in a lot of the stores here in the cooler months!

A year later, I made him another pair. This time I wanted to trim them with pockets and a cuff.


2. Decide how big you want your pockets. I wanted pockets to be about 10cm by 10cm when finished. Double the length and cut a rectangle. My rectangle was 12cm by 22cm. (adding in a little for seam allowances). I wanted two pockets (one on each leg), so I cut out two of these from contrasting robot print cotton fabric.

3. Fold the pocket fabric in half length ways, right sides together. Sew around the edges, leaving a 2cm gap to turn the pocket out the right way.

4. Turn pockets out the right way and iron flat.

5. Pin pockets in position. I put mine in the middle of the leg piece, by folding the piece in half in one direction and then in half again the other way, finding the centre point. Sew around the side and bottom edges of the pocket, close to the edges.

6. Cut out a 10cm strip of the contrasting fabric to make the cuffs.

7. Fold the fabric in half lengthways and iron flat. Fold the edges into the centre and iron flat again. Place the bottom edge of the leg piece between the folded length of contrast fabric. Sew it down along the top edge, close to the edge.

8. Now follow the instructions on the original blog post ( to finish the pants.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sewing tutorial: Toddler Pinafore Dress Variation (Bias binding trim and pockets)

The sewing tutorial for my original pinafore dress (link here) has been my most popular blog post by far.

Cute, right?

Last year, I fell in love with this cute green and blue bird fabric and used it to make a version more suitable for winter. Miss 4 loves those pockets!


1. Cut out the front and back pieces as per the original pattern (link above). If you are using binding on the neck and sleeves, you will not need the facing pieces. 
2. Cut out the shape you require for your pocket (I like the u-shape above). Cut it on a double thickness, along the fold. With right sides together sew together along the curved edge, leaving around 2 - 3cm for turning the pocket out. Repeat for any extra pockets.

3. Pin pockets in position and sew close to the main fabric by sewing close to the edge, along the curve.

4. Attach the front piece to the back piece.

5. Sew binding around all remaining edges. You can use a store bought binding, or make it from a matching fabric yourself. Just decide on the width you would like and cut a strip along the diagonal (fold the side edge down to the bottom edge to find the right angle) that is four times the width. Fold the strip in half length ways, with wrong sides together and iron. Then open it up and fold the edges into the centre. Close up again and iron again.

6. Finish with buttons or other trim that you require as per the original tutorial.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sewing tutorial: Cuddly little koala softie toy!

Back in 2007 I spent six amazing months in Peru. I travelled, taught, learned Spanish, volunteered and learned how to weave. I made some really good friends too.

One of those friends is starting a project to improve the lives of some of the kids who live in local orphanages. I really wanted to help, but living so far away I was not sure what I could do.

I thought I would put together a package of handmade toys (including some of these koalas) and clothes and make some learning materials for the kids. Then I wondered if there would be something more long term that I could do to help. So I'll be selling some of these koala softies in my Etsy shop and sending on the money made from their sale to my friend's project. So if you can, buy a few for the kids you know and help other children at the same time!


1. Print out the pattern. Cut out two koala shapes from grey felt. You will also need:
  • two ears and a belly from a contrast colour
  • one nose and two eye pupils from black felt
  • two white eyes from white felt
  • thread for sewing together and embroidery thread for sewing the mouth

2. Attach the ears, eyes, nose and belly to the koala front. 

You could glue these on, sew by hand or machine sew them. I machine sewed because of the quantity that I plan to make, but it is completely a personal preference.

3. Embroider on a mouth where it indicates on the pattern and then attach the back by sewing close to the edges. Leave a small opening between the legs, stuff the koala with polyfill or fabric scraps and then close up.

Cute and cuddly!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sewing Tutorial: felt breakfast (bacon, scrambled eggs and a boiled egg)

A few years ago, I made my first items of felt food for my daughter's new play kitchen. I have posted a few tutorials here on my blog for these in the past, the most popular being my felt breakfast patterns and tutorials (found here). In that past post you can find instructions to make bread, fried eggs, sausages and croissants.

In this post, I am going to share a pattern and instructions for bacon, scrambled eggs and a boiled egg. You can download the paper pattern here: PATTERN: Felt bacon, scrambled eggs and boiled egg. The instructions are posted below the following photos.


1. Cut out two bacon pieces from brown felt, and a strip of lighter brown felt (0.75cm wide) to make the stripes. 

2. Follow the markings on the pattern. Pin the lighter brown felt along along the two stripes and sew along the centre of each stripe to fasten it to the top layer of the bacon.

3. Place the back layer behind and sew close to the edges to attach the front piece to the back and add thickness to the bacon. 


The scrambled eggs are easier to make by hand.

1. Following the measurements on the paper pattern, cut out two rectangles of pale yellow felt. 
2. Sew a gathering stitch (long loose stitches fastened at the starting end) along one side of the larger piece and pull the thread until the gathered length matches the length of the smaller piece. Pin together and sew using a small stitch.

3. Repeat this gathering and sewing step until the last side.

4. Fill loosely with stuffing and close the last seam. Remove all the gathering stitches.

5. Feed the needle through the inside and pick up enough thickness of felt from the inside to pull and create some puckering. If done correctly, you will not see the stitches from the outside. Repeat until you have a similar effect to what you see below.


1. For the large part of the egg, cut out:

  • 3 white side pieces
  • 1 white circular piece
  • 1 yellow circular piece
  • 3 light brown side pieces
Cut out the same pieces for the smaller part of the egg.

2. Place two of the white side pieces wrong sides together and use small hand stitches to sew them together along one side. 

3. Place the other side piece wrong side together to the un-sewn sides and sew down these side edges to form the egg shape.

4. Sew the small yellow circle to the centre of the white circle to form the top of the egg.

5. Place this top on the open top of the curved egg shape formed in (3.) and attach these together by sewing around the circular edge.

6. Repeat these steps to form the smaller part of the egg in the same way.

7. Sew the three pieces of each part of the egg shell together in the same way. When these are complete, cut a zig zag along the top edges to make the 'cracked' effect.

Buen provecho!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sewing Tutorial: Easy Hooded Towel

At bath time we love hooded towels at our house. Cuddly and warm, and perfect for stopping Miss 4's long hair from dripping everywhere.

I picked up some fluffy thick towels on sale recently and thought that I would turn them into hooded towels either for my own kids, or as gifts. To brighten them up I ordered some ribbon online - colourful stripes and Hungry Caterpillar. Cute!

I used a regular sized bath towel and half a hand towel for one hooded towel. I made two at the same time though to make use of the whole hand towel. So I needed around a total of 4 metres of ribbon (measure the lengths of your two towels to be sure though - it is around 2.5cm wide, but even wider would be fine too), two bath towels and one hand towel to make two hooded towels.

First, I cut my hand towel in half, by folding short ends together.

Fold, right sides together, again short ends together. Pin along the raw edge and sew together. Finish off with a zig zag stitch.

Turn it out the right way and admire your hood! To decorate, you could pin ribbon on and sew like I did below. Tuck the ends under and sew along too.

 Pin some matching ribbon along the edges of your bath towel and sew on. I used a straight stitch, but you could experiment with others.

You will now have your two pieces - a hood and the main bath towel. Fold both in half in order to match them together.

When you have matched the centre lines of each, turn both over to the back and lay flat. Pin the hood over the top edge of the towel. Pin and then sew the two pieces together. To attach securely, sew along close to the bottom edge of the hood and then sew another line parallel, along the top of the edging.

And finished!

Just remember to clean out the lint from your sewing machine - sewing towels can leave a lot. Also beware of broken needles - sew slowly and carefully over thick seams.