Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hand Made Baby Books

Welcome to the December 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Childhood Memories
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about memories of growing up — their own or the ones they’re helping their children create. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My very first memory is one I can still easily recall. I was sitting on the green shag carpet of my families living room, when the front door swung open and my father walked inside. He scooped me up and kissed my cheek and put a piece of paper in my hand.

It was a cartoon image of a blond headed little girl in a blue dress, with little white shoes. He showed me how to move the paper feet, and it looked like the girl was  walking. I was simply amazed, and I loved it!

What I remember most poignantly about that first memory was not the cardboard child - it was the feeling of peace and safety that washed over me when I saw my father, and how relieved I felt when he picked me up. I have always had a special relationship with my father, as things between my mother and I were strained, pretty much from day one.

In my next memory, I was in what I knew to be my own room, in front of a toy box full of broken barbie dolls, a See-and-Say, blocks, and general wreckage created by a toddler and a preschooler. I was holding my little paper girl, and I was crying loudly because I had ripped her feet off. My mother rushed in and yelled at me, she took the girl away and I never saw her again.

My parents split up when I was five and my mother moved us to another state. I was completely crushed. After all, I was a daddy's girl from very early on and I'm pretty sure I hated my mother from the moment she told me that I would never see him again.

Years later, when I was ten, we were unpacking from a move. My mother pulled out a box with some old looking albums and told my sisters and I that they were our baby books. I eagerly opened mine up and beamed over all of the stickers and the newspaper cutting that announced my birth, the list of presents from my first birthday. Seeing the details my mother felt important enough to write down about me, offered me a rare momentary affection towards her. When I flicked the page, I was shocked and stunned to see the blond headed paper girl I had recalled from my very first memory.

At first I disbelieved what I was reading on the card. It was, after all,  a birthday card from my very first birthday. I didn't think that people could remember that early but I most certainly did. My mother, of course, thought I was telling stories. When I opened the card, the mystery of the moving feet was finally revealed to me. There were four feet, on a wheel that turned as you moved them. I ignored my mothers admonitions about children not being able to recall memories from that long ago, and went on looking through the book.


When I was pregnant with my first child, it never occurred to me that he would not have a baby book. I assumed this was something all children had, and was skeptical of my husbands claims that he never did. He also didn't see the point of them, and when we saw how expensive they were, it was clear that it would not be going on the "Need For Baby" list. I was heartbroken that we couldn't afford one. But I had learned from a very young age that if you want something bad enough and you cannot buy one, you can nearly always make one with items that you have on hand.

The following are the baby books I have made for my children, over the years. It was only necessary to improvise for the first, but it ended up being such a special treasure that it really never occurred to us after that to NOT make them. 

This first baby book that I made was put together with whatever I could find around the house. The pages are from an old sketch pad, and the illustrations were colored with watered down acrylic paints and a fountain tip pen.

The outside of the book was made with cardboard  padded with paper towels, and "dressed" with fabric and trim from my wedding dress.

This baby book was for my second child. We bought the paper and the fabric that we felt suitable, and I chose characters from the books of Peter Rabbit because they were among my husbands favorite.

The illustrations were painted with oil 
pastel and turpentine.

When I pictured my third son while he was in the womb, I kept imaging a devious, mischief loving little boy. When I designed the illustrations, it was with that personality in mind. Believe me, I hit the nail on the head there!

When we discovered that we were going to have a little girl, we went a little crazy with the pink and the lace and the frills. I'm relieved that she is every bit as "girly" as her baby book implies, or I'm sure she would hate it!

By the time I had made this book, my skills as an artist had grown exponentially and as I had mastered figure drawing, most of the illustrations are of children. We also chose an extremely old fashioned font for the titles. Again, I feel this matches her.

I have taken great joy and pride making these baby books for my children. Even though I was the one writing and illustrating and constructing the books, my husband also enjoyed choosing the papers and the fabrics and helping with the layout of the cover. We are truly hoping one day to add a fifth to the collection and when that time comes, I will certainly post the step-by-step. For now, I've done a small book to show the basics.


How to make a book

This is a basic handmade book tutorial. It's not perfect, these are made by hand with materials you typically find around the house. There are likely wobbles and bubbles in them. This is normal and most imperfections will usually sort themselves out over time. As your book ages, it will "relax," so to speak.


Pages of the book:
Intro page
Foot Prints
Family Information
Family Tree
Babies First Bath
First Outing
First Year Photo Montage
First Laugh
Miscellaneous Writing Page
Baby Rolls Over
Baby Sits Up
First Holidays
First Holidays
Baby Stands Up
Babies First Steps
First Birthday
First Words
Pages for cards, hair, tooth and other memorabilia
Announcement and Cards
Teeth Chart
One Year Old Portrait
Two Year Old Portrait
Second Birthday
Third Birthday
Best Friends
Three Years Old
Photo Pages

Two to four blank pages
3 Three inch wide strips, the height of your pages
2 pieces of cardboard, the thicker the better
Glue - The thicker your fabric, the stronger you want your glue. Elmers glue works well if using a standard weight of fabric. If using a heavy fleece, you'll want a tacky glue and probably want to get some squeeze clamps to hold it while it dries.
Sqeeze Clamps - if your paper and fabric is thick.
Batting - optional
Old Paint Brush
Measuring Tape

Step 1:

Make the pages of your book first, because you won't be able to replace one later if you bungle it. The pages are permanently in place, so double and triple check that you have them in the right order and just as you want them.

Fan the pages out, making sure there is about a quarter inch showing on each one. Spread some glue out over them and using the old paint brush, coat them all well.

Step 2:

Slide the pages back together and use the table top to make sure they are even along the front and sides. It doesn't really matter if the back end isn't totally even.

Step 3:

Paint the outside of your spine, and wrap a 3 inch wide strip around it.

You can clamp this, if you like. If your paper is thick, you may well find it necessary.

Step 4:

Press your fabric flat, iron it if needed. Lay two pieces of batting (you may also use paper towels) on each side, and place your cardboard on top. Depending on the thickness of your books pages, you'll want about an inch - give or take, of a gap in between them.
Trim off until you have an inch and a half of fabric all the way around.
Fold the four corners in first and paint heavily with the glue. Don't be stingy, and don't worry about the cardboard warping. That will happen regardless, and it will sort itself out in time.

Step 5:

Fold up the four sides, and again, paint them heavily with glue. You really want to saturate the fibers.

Step 6:

After painting glue along the entire surface of each side of your book, lay down one of the blank pages on each side, taking care to line them up.

If you find that there is excessive wrinkling, you may choose to paint a very light coat of glue only around the edges and lay new clean pages over this. There will again be some wrinkling, but a lot of it will diminish as the book ages.
When making my baby books, I always chose to do the extra pages. Because I made this book for my own personal use as a jotting book, I only used one sheet of paper on the inside of the cover.

Step 7:

Lay your finished and bound pages on one side. Keep everything flat and loose. It's fine to have a gap between the cover and the pages. If you move the cardboard over to the spine of your bound pages and then glue the strip over it, your book will pull apart after it has dried.
Simply lay the bound pages in place and glue the three inch strip onto both the bound pages and the inside cover. Close the book, flip it over, and repeat on the other side.

Step 8:

Close your finished book and lay a heavy book on top of it. You want to let it sit underneath a heavy item for a couple of weeks until it has had time to fully dry.

If you open your book and find that a page or two was not glued well enough it's easy to take your plain white glue and run a very fine bead of glue down the crevice. Repeat on any pages that were missed, close the book back up, and stash it for a few more days.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon December 11 with all the carnival links.)
  • Childhood Memories of Peace, Support, Joy, and Love — Amber at Heart Wanderings wants to make sure the majority of the memories that her children have as a part of their family are ones that are positive and help support the amazing people that they are now and will become as adults.
  • Hand Made Baby Books — Destany at They Are All of Me talks about why baby books are important to her for preserving memories of her childrens first years, and shows how she made one by hand for each child.
  • Can your childhood memories help you keep your cool?Here's To A Boring Year uses memories of being a child to keep her on the path to peaceful parenting.
  • Inter-Generational Memories {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about her own childhood memories, and what she hopes her daughter will remember in the future.
  • Snapshots — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings reflects on the ways our childhood memories appear to us, and hopes her own daughter's childhood will be one she remembers as being happy and fulfilled.
  • What makes the perfect parent? — In a guest post on Natural Parents Network, Mrs Green from Little Green Blog reflects on camp follow and camp no-follow...
  • In My Own Handwriting — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about her journals and the hope that they will be able to keep her stories alive even if she isn't able to.
  • Candlelight, fairylight, firelight — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud re-discovers the ingredients for bringing magic to life, especially at Christmas.
  • Making Memories (or) How We Celebrate Christmas — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about creating new memories at Christmas, and the joy their adventures bring to her whole family.
  • The Importance of Recording Feelings and Emotions and Not Just the Experience — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares why she puts pen to paper every day to record more than just her experiences as a mother and her daughter's experiences as a child. Jennifer looks at the importance of capturing feelings and emotions that accompany the experience.
  • Dredged up — Kenna at Million Tiny Things has been forced to recount childhood memories at bedtime, due to the failure of her middle-aged imagination. She resists, of course.
  • Crafting Memories — Handmade is what makes the holidays special for Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs, and she wants to create the same connection with her daughters that she remembers with mother and grandmother.
  • My Childhood Memories; beacons of light in the darkness Stone Age Parent shares the impact of her childhood memories on her life as a parent today, listing some of her many rich childhood memories and how they now act as beacons of light helping her in the complex, often confusing world of child-rearing.
  • 10 Ways I Preserve Memories for My Children — From video interviews to time capsules, Dionna at Code Name: Mama wants to make sure her children have many different ways to cherish their childhood memories. Dionna's carnival post features ten of the ways she preserves memories; check out her Pinterest board for more ideas.
  • Memories of my mother — Luschka at Diary of a First Child remembers her mother and the fondest moments of her childhood, especially poignant as she sits by her mother's sickbed writing.
  • Creating Happy Childhood Memories through Family Traditions — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why family traditions are so important to her and her family and shares how she’s worked to create traditions for her children.
  • Traditional Christmas Tree — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep remembers the great times spent with her family driving for the Christmas Tree and the lessons learned.
  • Wet Socks and Presents — Kat at MomeeeZen writes about her favorite Christmas childhood memory and why it's so special. And she hopes one day her kids will also have a feel-good memory of their own to look back on.
  • Stuff does not equal memories — Lauren at Hobo Mama learns that letting go does not mean failing to remember.
  • A Child's Loss- Will They Remember Dad? — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about their family's loss of their husband and father. She trys to find answers to the question: Will they remember their Dad?
  • Childhood Memories - Hers and Mine — Jorje of Momma Jorje wished for her daughter the same passions and experiences she loved as a child, but learns the hard way to accept whatever passions strike in her child.
  • Holiday Non-TraditionsErika Gebhardt enjoys her family's tradition of not having traditions for the holidays.


  1. Oh my goodness - I *love* that your wedding dress is incorporated into the book!! You are so talented and creative - seriously. I have my wedding dress hanging in my closet and was wondering what to do with it. Now I have some inspiration :)

  2. Thanks Dionna! I was really nervous about cutting up my wedding dress, but I'm so glad that I did. I know that over the years I would not have saved the dress. It would have wound up ruined or lost eventually, but the books are the most valuable things I own.

  3. Oh. My. Gosh. Destany, you are a creative genius! Those books are fabulous, and I love the tutorial. I also clearly need to put you on my list of possible children's book collaborators…

    1. Thank you Lauren! And I would love to be on your list of collaborators!

  4. Beautiful! Your children will cherish these books so much more than the basic fill-in-the-blank baby books that you can find at any store. How creative!

  5. Such lovingly created memory baby books! I didn't do scrapbooking until after my first child was born and looking back at it now I am embarrassed by it. Of course my daughter loves it and we have a ritual of reading it cover to cover at bedtime on her birthday. My middle daughter's baby book is a thing of pride for me. Alas, my youngest so far has nothing. I have lost my crafting mojo the past couple of years. This post may actually inspire me to get going again.


    1. What a sweet tradition! I love that you read it on your daughters birthday. Thanks for reading!

  6. Such a beautiful memento! If for no other reason, those drawings are precious and I'm sure your children delight in the fact that they were created just for them.