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Making fabric books at my family reunion

8 Jul 2010

I haven't written much on my own personal blog lately. Why is that, you ask? On top of an industrious work schedule, I have been camping out of a suitcase this summer. (I have it figured out that the only clothes one really needs in the sweltering summer months are 4 shirts and pairs of shorts, flip flops, a swim suit, a couple of scrunchies, and a summer dress in case the spouse wants to take one out to dinner.)

My first stop: My family reunion in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Every year our extended family gathers for a boisterous and frolicking weekend reunion, and last month, it was our turn to plan the annual festivities. As my husband is the youngest of five––and his four older siblings and spouses had done stellar jobs of putting their own unique spins on past reunions for all 25 of us––the pressure was on! For me, it was a no-brainer, though: with “Auntie Pokey” at the helm, whether the grandparents, spouses, college kids, or toddlers liked it or not, I was going to lead everyone in an art activity.

I had a hard time winnowing down the stitch supplies I wanted everyone to play with, so I schlepped nearly my entire quilt studio to Cape Cod.  See what I mean?

I packed my Bernina, mountainous stacks of fabrics, rotary cutters and mats, paints, stamps, stencils, threads, fabric glues, markers, fusibles, heat guns and irons…you name it. I wanted everyone to make something special that captured memories like this...

Or this...

And expressions like this...

Or pictures of publishers blowing bubbles...

Or publishers doing their best impression of a gecko...

I decided the best activity would be for each family to create their own fabric book with pockets to insert photos and mementos from the reunion. I also brought one of those portable photo printing machines with me so as the reunion progressed, people could print their photos immediately to take away with them and insert into their books. For me it was gratifying to watch the kids sew...


Here’s an easy, no-fuss fabric project that will hopefully encourage every member in your family (from ages 1–100) to get creative. (And I'd like to give a shout out to artist Alisa Burke who has shown me all of the wondrous attributes of working in canvas.)

Easy Fabric Books
• Four sheets of 8" x 20" duck canvas (When folded, each sheet will produce two 8" x 10" pages.)
• Sewing machine
• Fabric paints and brushes
• Stamps, stencils, and other mark-making items
• Fabric scraps
• White glue (such as Sobo® glue)
• Fabric scissors
• Embellishments such as beads, buttons, found objects, and mementos

1.    To create the book structure, stack your four sheets of duck canvas on top of one another horizontally. Zigzag stitch down the middle (at the 10" mark). The zigzag line is now the fold for your book.
2.    Now the fun begins! Encourage everybody to paint the pages using stencils, stamps, resists, etc. Use fabric pens to sign names and journal directly on the pages.
3.    To create pockets for pictures and ephemera to be tucked into, cut other fabrics and glue down three sides for each of the pages. Be creative! You can create pockets along the bottom or the sides, cut the pockets into geometric shapes, etc.
4.     You can also encourage others to try free-motion stitching on fabrics that can then be adhered into the fabric books with fabric glue.
5.    Tuck photos into the pockets, or print the photos onto pre-treated fabrics that can then be collaged into the book.

Wishing you and your family a fun-filled and creative summer!

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bribjo wrote
on 8 Jul 2010 4:54 PM

What a fabulous idea! Thank you for sharing!

on 8 Jul 2010 9:30 PM

Pokey- I left you a message on facebook about this, but I got such a kick out of seeing where you were staying.  I live 4 doors to the right, down on the water on town cove.  Capt. Heman house is a great place for a reunion, and if I had known, would have barged in on your craft night!!   Small world.  Hope you had a great time, you had great weather. Judy Sebastian

MellyT wrote
on 9 Jul 2010 4:12 PM

Fabulous photos and a great project for all.

Wyn2 wrote
on 30 Jul 2010 12:01 PM

Had a great holiday 2 years ago on Cape Cod with my husband and daughter. Shopped till I dropped at beadshops and textile shops. Only one thing missing. A crafting session with like-minded people! So envious of your fun. Best wishes from a wet England xxx

dfmrobinson wrote
on 2 Aug 2010 4:10 PM

How lovely of time you must of had with all your creative talents and family-

Nice to see families get together-mine do still- It brings tremdous joy...Deborah ...Boxboro!

on 11 Aug 2010 1:36 PM

I am a newbie.I want to learn more about fabric and your blog always help me to gain a knowledge.

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