Monday, June 8, 2015

Is felt the best material to use for quiet books?

My front cover for Evie's Quiet Book
I am utterly and completely addicted.  After a friend posted Greendot's video of her gorgeous quiet book, I've spent every children-asleep moment surfing Pinterest for quiet book page ideas. It wasn't clear to me why everyone chose to use felt though. Felts are cheap, flimsy things that tear and fall apart after a few days right?
Wrong! So wrong!
That may have been the case with the felts I played with as a child but what people have been using are high quality composite felts, made from wool or recycled plastics. After some experimentation, I've come to the conclusion that yes, felt IS the best material for quiet books, hands down. Here are the reasons why:


Samples from National Nonwoven 

Felts are relatively cheap and readily available.  This is especially so if you live in the US, where the best wool blend felts are manufactured. I ordered a bunch of National Nonwovens felts online and the quality is just beautiful. They are also helpfully sold in pieces of 9" x 12" so I only have to trim them to get the perfect quiet book page size.

It's a bit trickier to get your hands on wool felt in Singapore (where I live). Shipping from the US can be costly, but the craft shop Art Friend sells a pretty good alternative called Eco Felt, made from recycled "post-consumer plastic bottles". These are environmentally friendly and most importantly, super cheap (approx. 0.75 cents per 9"x 12" sheet). They are nowhere near as dense nor as pretty as wool felt but are absolutely good enough to use as backgrounds or non mobile pieces.

And for those who are trying quiet books for the first time and don't want to invest too much time or money, acrylic felt is a perfectly good choice. They are super cheap, come in a huge range of colours and can be found pretty much everywhere. I bought a bunch from our local S$2 store Daiso. Your finished work won't last very long it's true, especially if you're handing it over to a toddler. But then again if you mess up, throwing the whole thing out won't feel so painful.

If you're interested in the differences between eco, wool, wool blend and acrylic felts, check out this post by American Felt and Craft - The Blog, which does a really clear comparison.

Ease of use 

The most magical property of felt for me is they DO NOT FRAY! No need to hem edges, fold them over before sewing or allow seam allowance etc. This is SO convenient for making small animals and other bits to play with on the page. It makes designing easier too by eliminating difficult construction.

Felts are also very forgiving to sew.  Because they stretch, even if you've sewn a piece slightly wonky, it won't be very obvious. It is much easier to spray mount your felt pieces before sewing them on the background but for small to medium peices I've managed to get away with skipping that part.

Finally, felt makes the perfect background because it is relatively stiff without being brittle. If you sew on both sides, you will be using 2 sheets anyway and I think that is the ideal thickness. Any thinner the page will be floppy and any thicker will be difficult to sew under the machine.

Ready-made embellishments available

I was losing the will to live by letter G when cutting tiny alphabets for my son's A to Z page. Luckily, ready-made felt letters, numbers, and embellishments like leaves, butterflies, hearts, flowers etc... can be found from craft shops and online and they are generally inexpensive. Do yourself a favor, put down those scissors and that half finished G, just buy the 26 letters and save yourself a heap of trouble.

No Sew Option* 

Best glue in the world! 
I bet the best reason for those who can't or plain hate sewing is the no sew option! Again, because felts don't fray, you can get away with not sewing anything at all and just stick the felt onto the background with glue. You must however use a very good glue (I use E6000 which is the best glue in the world), otherwise the book will disintegrate - but I have had very good experiences so far, none of my no sew felt animals have fallen apart yet.

The velcro wasn't strictly necessary but I thought it looked cute. 

Also, because felt pieces are fuzzy and naturally stick together, there is no dire need to sew on velcro, snaps or buttons unless your design calls for it. This is THE best reason to use felt for your dress-up doll pages.
* (check out this fab tutorial by Nicolette for a no sew quiet book)


My soft felt background held up better than my stiffened felt page
Now I've seen a few quiet books made from fabric that look awfully cute. However, there's just something super adorable with the fuzzy, hairy, squishy look felt has that other materials can't beat. It is also this thick fuzziness that makes felt an ideal material to use as background because it keeps the pages surprisingly flat.

Crinkle becomes more obvious over time
Do not make the mistake I made and use stiffened felt for the cover pages thinking they'd hold up better. They don't. Every crease and fold shows up like a beacon whereas the soft felt manages to level out by sheer fuzziness.

It does look good though to cover a few pages with fabric for variety. Especially if the opposite page is a bit plain or has a neutral palette. I used a really pretty flowery fabric as background for my washing machine page but it took a lot more effort and I still had to use felt as a backing regardless.  

More Pros than Cons...

There are of course problems with using felts too. Firstly, it is difficult to find patterned felt.  Solid colours and maybe a few polka dots are the snazziest you can get. Secondly, felts WILL break under ungallant hands. If you have a toddler who likes to explore your work by pulling them apart, your stuff WILL break. An easy way to avoid this is to steer away from very fine details in your design. Thirdly, unlike a fabric book, you can't wash the whole thing by dunking it into the washing machine if food/ dirt/ baby detritus gets onto it.

Overall, for me anyway I think the pros out weight the cons. Very happy to hear from anyone who've had more success with fabric though! Drop me a comment if I've missed anything out!


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  2. Hi Susie! I am Su, from across the straits..! and I am just about to start on my first quiet book project for a few friends and family.
    I am contemplating using denim (with interfacing) as the page - but I am reading a few blogs/sites who also recommend muslin. I intend for my books to be long lasting, (my sis wants to make it into a heirloom!) - so what are your thoughts?

    1. im also been planning to use muslin as page sheets

    2. What kind of interfacing do u use?

    3. What kind of interfacing do u use?

    4. I think it's a great idea to use denim. I personally never use interfacing. It's unnecessary. Just spray mount or sew the felt pieces straight onto your books.

  3. could I pls ask where you got the felt letters and the glue?

  4. Dear Susie, I would like to learn how to make quiet books. Do you conduct classes on that?

    1. I conduct classes in Singapore- please check out my facebook page for details

  5. Where to buy the glue? I just love your book.

    1. Most craft shops in the US have then, or Art Friend in Singapore. Where abouts in the world are you?

  6. These are lovely! Do you hand sew them?

  7. Hi Susie! Do you still conduct classes on quiet book? :D

  8. Hi Susie , where do you get all the materials for quiet book in Singapore ?

  9. Do you think it's necessary to used stiffened felt for inner page scenes / objects, or can I get away with regular felt?