I adore felt crafts.
I’m working on felt food presently, but when my niece was 18 months old I made a quiet book using the letters of her name as inspiration for each page. A combination of craft glue and hand stitching created an interactive book of activities and textures.
Although this is not a tutorial, I wanted to go ahead and post a few pages from my layout. My layout is made up of original designs, but inspired by elements of others’ felt book creations. In the interest of inspiring other felt book creators, here are my favorite pages:
Alphabet “A” Felt Book Page: The ant page was one of my favorite (and a perfect gift from an “aunt”!). I made my aunt farm using a scrap of brown towel (for “dirt”) and a covering of green felt grass. I embroidered the ant tunnels and ants on the brown towel, stitched it into place, then placed a zipper on the grass so my niece could unzip the grass to see the bugs underneath. I reinforced the felt with interfacing since I didn’t think it would be sturdy enough to hold a zipper very long on its own.
Alphabet “H” Felt Book Page: The horse page was one of my simpler designs. Layers of felt created dimension behind my horse- and a little extra stuffing (stuffed with snipped up scraps of felt) made him 3-D.
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Alphabet “I” Felt Book page: I was definitely one of my favorite pages to make and show my young niece! A scrap of thin white vinyl formed the slipper ice texture of the background. Layered felt blobs formed a little iceberg on which a penguin sat. This page has a surprise: a dog toy style squeaker stitched inside Mr. Penguin. Poking his belly makes him squeak- my niece loved this!
Building an Igloo for my felt book “I” page: I could have cut ice out of felt for my igloo, but I loved the idea of creating lots of textures for my young niece to explore. So I formed flat “bricks” out of Polymer Clay, baked it to harden, and attached each ice block with a generous amount of super strong adhesive.
Alphabet “J” Felt Book Page: My “J” page features both Jeeps and Jewels, on a road of rick-rack. Again with J, I chose an alternative material for the sake of texture and cool appearance. I created my jewels with my own method where I start by placing a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil on a safe surface, then continue by covering the foil with a generous amount of hot glue, then placing another sheet of heavy aluminum foil over it and quickly (and with hands well protected from the heat) smoothing the glue between the two layers of metallic foil. As the glue hardened I traced lines into the top sheet of aluminum foil to illustrate the gem shape. When completely cool, I used scissors to cut my gem out of the layered foil and glued to the felt book’s page.
Alphabet “E” Felt Book Page: An elephant in the shade of a tree illustrated my E. I used grey burlap for my elephant figure- choosing the rough texture as a fun way to represent elephant in tactile terms. To prevent the burlap from fraying I used Fray Check (A LOT of fray check, given Burlap’s loose texture and tendency to unravel)
Alphabet “L” Felt Book Page: Lion was created with a very similar method to Elephant- again layering fabrics and textures to create a 3-D look. I used a scrap of acrylic fur for his shaggy mane- and again used tons of Fray Check to keep the backing of the fur from unraveling- especially at the tips.
Alphabet “R” Felt Book Page: Racoon and Robin illustrate my “R” page. The photo above was taken as I was about to stitch the bird onto the tree branch. In this woodland layout, the racoon pops out of his hiding place in the grass and is connected via a stitched grosgrain ribbon so he won’t be lost. The ribbon pull also makes it easy to nestle him back into his grassy cubby.
In the photo below, you can see my simple racoon and how he is stitched into the woodland page of my quiet book.
Alphabet “Y” Felt Book Page:
Y was a hard page to design a layout for! Not very many fun toddler-level words start with Y. I ended up with “Yeti”- mostly chosen just because I knew he could be cute. This page is less interactive, but I used an extra fuzzy fabric for the Yeti’s body, providing texture stimulation for the young reader. Again, liberal amounts of Fray Check were used to keep his pillowy fur in place.
I made my first felt quiet book as I was preparing to return to school for my master’s degree in child development and mental health. I’d recently began reading up on sensory development and sensory stimulation for children. Turns out, I learned, that children’s books that include textures and sounds and interactive elements aren’t just for entertainment. Along with rough-and-tumble play and exploratory play in the great outdoors, books that engage more than one or two senses (typically: visual and, when read aloud, audio) help provide the sensory stimulation critical to developing the parts of the brain that help humans understand and interact with the world around us.
That’s what was swimming around in my brain as I started the sketches that became my niece’s first quiet book. When I began planning her book, I knew I wanted to go beyond interactive pockets, zippers, and buttons and extend into tactile stimulation. My elephant would have rough burlap “skin”, the lion would have a thick furry mane, and portions of ice would be slick and cool via the use of vinyl and polymer clay elements. My “J” page, which featured both a “jeep” and “jewels” was an opportunity to add a metallic, hard element to my quiet book’s pages… but how?
After some experimentation, I settled on the technique described below. Try it yourself to create child-safe metallic elements in your quiet books (or fun steam-punk style accessories for your next Halloween costume).
Just two strong warnings: 1. Hot glue is super hot and burns badly, so be careful and be smart by following these instructions closely and/or deviating as your situation requires for safety. 2. Make sure the elements you create are either glued indestructibly securely to the page or are big enough that they cannot be put in a small child’s mouth if they come loose. Ideally, aim for both firmly attached and a non-choking hazard size.
- Hot glue gun
- extra glue sticks for glue gun
- heavy duty aluminum foil
- pen & paper
- work or garden gloves
- ruler or other straight edge.
- a stable work surface that you don’t mind getting glue on
- sharp scissors
Instructions to Make Metallic Embellishments for Felt Quiet Book:
First, sketch your design onto a piece of paper and cut it out. Cut two pieces of aluminum foil 2-3 times larger than the outline of the design you drew.
Put on work gloves to protect your hands. Place one sheet of aluminum foil on your flat work surface. With hot glue, outline the shape of your design, then flood the surface of the foil with hot glue (as if you were decorating a sugar cookie with an outline and flood technique)
Working quickly, still wearing gloves, place the next sheet of aluminum on top of the glue and use the ruler to press down evenly. (Alternately, using a heavy book can be helpful to evenly distribute glue) You want to smash the two layers of aluminum together so that the hot glue distributes into an even layer about 1/8th inch thick.
Allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, you should have a flexible semi-rigid piece of plasticy material with a durable metallic finish. Lay your pattern on top of the “foil sandwich” and trace your design onto the middle of the material.
This design can now be cut to any shape using regular scissors.
If you’d like to trace a design into the material, like I did with the shiny diamonds for my felt quiet book, just lay the cooled foil glue layers on a warm windowsill or warm kitchen for a few minutes, then carefully press the design into the top layer of foil using a blunt point (such as a dull pencil).
You can attach the metallic material to the felt pages of a quiet book using hot glue, or any glue handy. I had great luck attaching with hot glue, but you’ll want to experiment with different glues and make sure any glue you do use can stand up to tugging and tension when fully cured.