Sewing a children’s book

At the very beginning of May I thought I would use some of the scraps on my sewing table and make a start on the fabric book from Vogue 1959. My intention was to make one page every now and then. I began with the giraffe as I thought it was easiest. Ten days later I had the entire book. It took a long time, had a lot of hand sewing, and I just could not stop!

Here is each page of the book with descriptions of what I did, I did not stick entirely to the pattern for various reasons, mostly that I only used scraps and stashed bits and bobs. I did not buy a thing to complete the book.

The front cover was made quite late in the day as I don’t have a child to dedicate the book to and I was puzzled as to what to do with it. I had been sent the book “Dirty Wah-Wah” by my IG friend Kristen @kristenshaw353, and had previously posted a photo of me reading it to the teddy bear my Mum made when she was expecting me. Another IG friend, Wendy, @Whendy7 asked me if I was going to read my new cloth book to Ted. That began a chain of thoughts and so the cover is dedicated to both Kristen and Wendy, plus Ted of course.

So this is Ted, reading Dirty Wah-wah with a picture of Ted on the front of his little book. I made Ted from some yellow Aida cloth that was donated to my stash. I drew a shape of Ted sitting down, cut it out and appliquéd a waistcoat, bow tie, feet, a hand and the book on. Then I sewed wool through the holes. The lighter wool was meant to differentiate his legs from his arms, but I wasn’t very successful. I began to put wool on his face but didn’t like it. You can see some stretched holes where I removed it.  The book title was chain stitched on with variegated embroidery floss.


Next page is the giraffe – the first page I made. I used some spotted quilting cotton. I was pleased to get a spot on the end of his nose! The mane was from some fringing I bought to make Tom a zebra costume about 25 years ago, and I could tell that it had been used for a fancy dress crown of some sort as it had been knotted into a circlet. The bows are to practice how to tie a bow. If you look at the side you will see that the cover page lining isn’t sewn down. This is because I want to put squeakers and crackly paper inside some of the pages. I also sewed eyelets rather than using metal ones. I deemed this to be the safer option and I took this photo before I had tidied up the loose threads.

This is Gerry the Giraffe. The background fabric came from the Fibres West garage sale. It is a beautiful quilting cotton. IMG_1717


Next page is Tommy the Turtle who has stopped to smell the roses. He’s made of beige linen and his shell is made from the scraps of a lining of Mark’s blanket bathrobe (same as the one I’m wearing in the featured image)


Tommy’s shell opens up to show a heart full of love. I had to draw the hearts on as I only had spotted fabric. I also used velcro instead of snaps. I know that the child is supposed to learn to use snaps but I am erring on the side of caution!IMG_1719

Percy the Pelican has been fishing. The fish are supposed to be attached with hooks and eyes, but knowing my sewing they would detach themselves so I used more velcro. The pelican was supposed to be made from textured yellow fabric. I could only think of a towel and happened to find one in the garage. Mark scored the remnants made into kitchen wipes, so he was happy too. His beak is made from a Canteen bandana.IMG_1720

When Tom looked at the book he said that the fish needed to be on an actual fishing line, so modifications were made. I crocheted a couple of chains to be lines and attached them to the fish.  They can be hooked up with the velcro, but can also hang free. The fish are stuffed with cast off cotton thread.


Here is Ruby the Roo with her joey. She is supposed to have a buckled satchel to hold the joey, but I used my home made felt to make Ruby and she was really thick (no offence Ruby). I also didn’t really like the satchel so just made the pouch. Her hat is made from some magnificent Italian silk velvet which had been donated to my stash. IMG_1723

Joey is more of a blob, but it’s fun taking him in and out of the pouch. He’s made from more of my felt and stuffed with the felt crumbs left over from the cutting out.


Leo the lion comes next of course. I made his face and tail from some very soft scraps which had been donated to my stash. His body is a piece of leftover linen from my culottes from the Megan Nielsen photo shoot and his tail tassels are just embroidery floss. The mane caused me some thought. It was clearly supposed to be bought stuff, but I finished up using wool that I had dyed with onion skins with a couple of strands that I had dyed with passionfruit. I wrapped the wool round a thin piece of cardboard and sewed one side fairly well. I cut the edge of the wool (like making a pom pom) and pulled out the perforated cardboard. I then zig zagged it on around the face. IMG_1725

Meet Archie the Alligator. He has a zipped mouth (and wouldn’t that be nice!)


When the zip is undone a long red tongue comes out and licks the ice cream!


Further exploration of his mouth shows a little label from KTM that I got in my goodie bag at the Sydney Frocktails.IMG_1728

Fifi the poodle was made by my Mum and once graced a circle skirt I had when I was seven. Imagine my delight when I found that Mum had saved her. There was also a white one as we had both black and white poodles, but I think it must have disappeared. I found this French themed fabric in my stash, which seemed really appropriate.


I sewed an eyelet on the girl’s hand and pushed a stud through. I deemed it a safe bet that the stud would not come through the eyelet as it has a wide backing. Fifi’s leash gets attached to the eyelet and we have black and white poodles together again!


I decided that Fifi needed a ball to play with and crafted one from yet more felt, blanket stitched and stuffed with felt bits. I attached it to the book with velcro. I wonder how long before it gets lost?


Harry the Hippo is a bus driver extraordinaire, but his hat is a bit wonky! he’s made of lovely grey linen but I really wanted to use the back of some knit fleece and make him furry. I was told by my son in no uncertain terms that this wasn’t right. Sigh! he has buttons as by now I was sick of velcro. I sewed them on very well and put fray stop on the back so hopefully they won’t pull off easily.


When Harry’s mouth is unbuttoned he has a lovely smile and a very red tongue. Unfortunately I forgot to change out my bobbin thread so the buttonholes are obvious.IMG_1734

Last, but definitely not least is Ellie the Elephant. She is made from beautiful silk and she loves to roller blade. Her tail feathers are made from embroidery floss and the yellow buttons were given to me by Tom when he bought about 200 of them (and then asked me to sew one on his shirt!)IMG_1735

These buttons are closed with hat elastic. There’s nothing inside those boots which I find very disappointing so they will be salted with treats when I read the book to a child.


I was originally protecting the book in a plastic bag which I find quite repugnant. I found a really lovely organic cloth bag which fits the book exactly. I found the bag at the Fibres West garage sale, my favourite source of all things wonderful.


I thought you should probably see the pattern. I found mine in an op shop, but they are available here and there online. It’s described as a zoo full of teaching pets. It has a lot of pattern pieces and fiddly components but it’s well worth a go if you have a small child in your life. Or even a big child. Mark has read the book several times!

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I bound my book with three different coloured shoelaces. The book can be taken apart and reassembled in a different order, depending on the story being told.

Here I am reading the book to Ted and I have to say that we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m wearing my Zero Waste Sewing dressing gown made from one of Mark’s Mum’s blankets and lined with part of an old doona cover. I can’t think of a nicer way to be reading this book.


In the first two weeks of May I did not make a single item of clothing as I was totally consumed with the book and with making outdoor cushions (another story!). It was marvellous to reduce my scrap pile, use up all those nearly finished spools of thread, and, best of all, imagine reading this to a little one.


37 thoughts on “Sewing a children’s book

  1. Sue, this is marvellous. Reading this post made me smile. So inspiring! You gave me all the ideas of making one myself for the second grandson who is due in September.
    Wis xx

  2. Sue, your book is absolutely charming! Finding it hard to settle on a favourite page, but highlights are the texture of Percy the pelican, the heritage of Fifi the poodle and Archie’s tongue.

  3. Love it! Also this is totally a trip down memory lane for me.
    Making a book like this was a year 8 sewing assignment for me back in the day (the late 70’s- early 80’s).
    I still have my book. It taught me how to construct a lot of closures as well as producing a book to teach children how to use them.
    Great idea. Except, as a 13 -14 year old, I didn’t have a toddler who needed this book. Great sewing lesson for a parent though… Gotta wonder about the education system sometimes!

    1. Wow, how fabulous to make this at school! Mind you, I probably would have preferred an item of clothing too! 😂. I’m so glad you still have the book, and hopefully some little ones have enjoyed it.

  4. It’s absolutely magical Sue. Little ones and big ones will love it for years to come. xxxxx

  5. Love it, Sue. As I told you on instagram, I have this book, given to my first child, born in 1980. Mine features a lot of corduroy fabric for the animals which gives them some extra texture. I loved the book but have to say that none of my three kids played with it much so it’s still in pristine condition. The grandkids have only vaguely flipped through it too. On the positive side, it will continue to be passed down through the generations without falling apart!

    1. corduroy is such a great idea. I didn’t have any scraps obviously or I might have used some. I love that no one played with it! I can sort of imagine that, I think it needs to be read to a little one who is not really reading. I did think that the tail would probably never be plaited, but I’m ok with that. As you say, it can be passed down for a long time.

  6. What a fun project with the bonus of using up lots of scraps. This will be loved for many years and one day you will have a chance to read it to a small person.

  7. Your book is absolutely delightful Sue. I can’t pick a favourite page as they are all so charming. I need to make this for my baby granddaughter.

  8. This is delightful! My favourite page is the alligator.

    I thought I had a squeaker to donate to your book, and have just taken apart my sewing room looking for it, but can’t put my hands on it. I did find a bag of teddy bear eyes if ever you want to make another book!!!

    This is a massive project, and I am sure it will be handed down in your family for generations to come. It is so wonderful that you were able to incorporate the poodle from your Mum.

    1. Thank you Katherine! I also have a bag of eyes, but no squeakers, which is amazing as my mother had EVERYTHING! Perhaps I didn’t know what they were and threw them out! Anyway, thank you, I can’t wait to force you to fondle my book!

  9. What a wonderful project Sue. You certainly had as much pleasure making this book as the wee ones who will eventually have reading and learnind from these pages. It is bursting with creative ideas. Excellent post xxx

  10. Gorgeous Sue, I love it all. The sad thing is that as a parent of young children you don’t have time to make these things – and the mass produced type aren’t anywhere near as cute 😀

  11. An amazing book and story telling and dong the actions sounds wonderful. I have used some of the technique for fiddle mats for our local hospital.

  12. This fabric book is so sweet and memorable. All used materials have stories and are coming together is this book. Well done,

  13. I am so honored that you dedicated the first page to me and Wendy! I do hope that you continue your blog for the long term. I’m leaving IG, only in protest of Facebook and it’s policies ( I won’t delve into that here.). I love how the book turned out. So much love obviously went into it, and I’m sure Ted is tickled that he’s on the cover! I look forward to seeing what you’re up to on this platform, Sue. Your friend, even without IG, Kristen

    1. I will miss you on IG! I don’t post on FB any more, and I’ve thought about finding an alternative to IG. I will definitely post more here because I don’t think you’re alone. I was so happy to dedicate my cover to you and Wendy, you were both so lovely about my wonderful bear. I think the cover is my favourite page. Definitely your friend Kristen, and if I’m ever in your part of the world again I will definitely get in touch. Suex

  14. Sorry for leaving two messages, but I found this post delightful! I chuckled my way through and then realized at the end that I have this pattern in my stash! You have far more patience than I; the result is wonderful. Your mother would be so happy to see the poodle in use!

    1. Thank you so much Kristen. I had such a nice time making the book. I began with a page and then it took over my life. If you have the pattern and some children in your life, you should consider it. it really is fun to make. I think Mum would be happy to see the poodle preserved. She was funny about her things though, so I can’t be sure!

  15. What a creative and beautiful idea! One thing this captures that no other form of children’s book does is a full sensory experience of touching the entirety of the page. I remember when I was a wee thing, I was disappointed with the books that had just a tuft of fuzz on an animal’s body, because I wanted to feel the whole thing! What a talent and perseverance you have to complete this!

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