Homemade Children’s Books

(This is a bit of a cross-post, plus a little).
Original post at

cloth book

NOM cloth book!

Cloth books from the store range from $8-$30, and our Puddin’ Heads are going to gnaw on them, drool on them & probably puke on them.  If you are crafty and want to bulk out your baby’s library with some “made with love” books, here are a few options.

(0-2 yrs. estimate)

Pick a theme:
Colors, numbers, a nursery rhyme, animals, an activity (playing with a ball, eating), etc. and go with it.  Keep it simple.  Don’t fret.  Kids this age just like colors, contrast, things to touch and most importantly, things to chew on.  As long as everything is secure and there are no choking hazards it’s all good.  Double-stitching is good.

For the colors book, I used scrap fabrics in colors and little sections of lace or ribbon and sometimes a shape or two.  I tried for some texture but not a lot.  For the numbers book I just wanted enough contrast between the fabric & the number to be able to see it.  The flat binding was not my favorite.   For the cardboard texture book I used a lot of glue & some duck tape (more texture!)


Colors book:
Each panel here is cut 7×7, made up of different fabrics, lined with cotton for more bulk and it helped reinforce the squares.  I made binding strips for the spine, then stitched right sides together with the binding strip flipped to the inside, clip the corners, turn and topstitch.  The binding strips were sewn together in nice sloppy lines.  Pin those buggers, that much fabric likes to squish and slide.  This is my favorite type of cloth book binding as every page opens evenly, the adult has something to hold onto and it’s kind to your sewing machine.


Numbers book:
No lining (didn’t turn out as well as the color book), used the buttonhole setting on my sewing machine with a regular foot to applique the numbers & counting shapes.  There are turning tabs made from ribbons that he totally ignores.  The pages were “stacked” in order open in the middle, sewn flat to their counterpart (5/6, 4/7, 3/8, 2/9, 1/10, f/b), then layered right sides together (cover + 1/10, 2/9 + 3/8, 4/7 + 5/6) , stitch-clip-turn-press-topstitch and then all re-stacked & stitched down the middle.  I won’t do it this way again as it makes the book difficult to handle and always opens to the middle pages (5/6).  My sewing machine also complained.(9/10 not shown).


The Texture book:
I used old Macy’s boxes from Christmas for this, but any clean cardboard box would do.  Cut them to size, marked the middle, glued random texture things on the pages, then glued the pages together & pressed them between 2 phone books.  Once the book was assembled, I rounded the corners and added a duck tape binding over the spine for ease in handling and more texture.  He pulls things off once in a while, but I just set them aside & glue back on later (or throw away).  The fuzzy fabric & tissue paper are favorites.  He also likes the corrugated cardboard.

Pre-printed cloth books:
You can also buy pre-printed cloth books from quilt shops, etc.  He has The 3 Little Pigs and one on Animals in Antarctica (that I’ve yet to sew together, hurum-um).  These actually end up costing more than store-bought books once you figure in the book fabric, interfacing & other materials, but they have the words and the instructions right there, and anyone who can operate a sewing machine and iron can make them.

Paper books:
You can also print paper books for your slightly older kids out of cardstock, or have them printed in a local shop or online store.  Snapfish & a few other photo printing sites do a great job (not cheap, but worth it for an individualized story).  Laminated pages would make a good cleanable toddler book.  Binding can be anything from staples to tape, spiral or even stitched.  Because kids like simple stories & smaller books, you are looking at maybe 10 pages front & back.  If you need to save on ink, do black & white line illustrations.  I highly recommend scanning in & printing any original drawings while reserving the “master copies” for when the current book gets munched.  Please be polite and don’t steal stuff, this is a great opportunity to write original stories for your children, take advantage of it.  Another option is to use their own drawings and paintings as the illustrations, but take care here because art is precious to children.  Before you do this, get their permission and respect their rights as artists, same as you would an adult.  (This may also be an option for out-of-print books that are too damaged to continue reading, but please check with the publisher first.  Some things are in the public domain, others are not).


How to clean children’s books

I was recently gifted a generous number of well-loved cardboard & paper children’s books.
Before letting my precious little darling commence to chewing on them I had the maternal need to DESTROY ALL GERMS from other people’s kids chewing on them, and scrape off the old cereal, **otherwise what is JR going to have left to finger-food paint?**

Anyway, I just spent several hours gently scrubbing and carefully scraping and meticulously drying about 30 lbs of cardboard fun while my husband got to play with, feed & entertain our bouncing baby boy.  I so totally got the better end of that bargain.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation of grubby literary bounty, you will need:

warm water,
large bowl,
Dawn dish soap,
bleach OR white vinegar
soft cloth,
paring knife
dry towel,
hand lotion or gloves
clean counter and drying space

Fill the bowl with a squirt of soap, a cap of bleach/white vinegar and warm water.  Wet and ring out the wash cloth, and start gently wiping down the cardboard books.  They can take some scrubbing, but scrape any stubborn dried ick off with the knife because that cardboard isn’t indestructible.  Page by page, dry the book.  If it’s particularly icky wait to dry the whole book until you are done; it’s just enough moisture to soak stubborn stuff off without destroying the book.  Clean up any spots you missed.  Let dry overnight.

You can do a drier version with paper books, ring out the washcloth really well but don’t scrub at all, just wipe.  If a book is super wrinkled you can even iron the dampish pages on low.   If there id dried on ick, scrape it off while the page is dry.
DO NOT iron plastic laminate or tape!!!
Again, let dry overnight.  Tape or glue anything that needs it after it’s dry.  Personally I’m not afraid to cut off frayed edges that invite gleeful baby ripping, but that’s just me.

For cloth books, wash on cold, hang dry, cool iron.
For plastic books, use a water/white vinegar solution to wipe them down.  I don’t think bleach will hurt them, but at $7 a pop I’m not too keen on finding out.

Last:  Let your own precious darling chew on the newly disinfected de-crayoned, de-gunked, de-slimed and de-snotted books.
Oh.. I meant “read and enjoy.”

**As with anything found on the internet, don’t believe it without verifying with your mother – who is probably checking Google too –  But seriously, if in doubt, don’t.  Bleach can hurt, so be careful, yadda yadda.  No babies suckin’ on the bleach bottle, OK?  Geez…  Did that cover all the safety concerns?  Good?  Good.
PS. vinegar will work just as well to clean stuff as bleach.  Not as toxic.  Don’t let your baby suck on that either.  But if you do, send me a picture of their face after they taste it.  No!  Don’t do that!  I’m joking & sleep deprived and have an odd sense of humor!  It was a joke!  Really… but if you do…