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Quiet Book Sew-Along: Abacus Materials & Tutorial {week 14}

2014 July 13

I love a good quiet book page with some movement and a fun learning opportunity! This abacus (of sorts) is not terribly accurate, but you can count each string’s beads and move them up and down as you do. I made the first version of this with actual beads, (which you can substitute if you want of course) but I’m so paranoid of someone’s child choking on a bead, that I’ve devised a way to (hopefully) make it safer by using scraps of vinyl or leather.

I’ve also omitted the numbering, since I was not satisfied with the quality and “professionalism” of my 80′s-esque puffy paint art on the beaded version! I think it also promotes parent/child interaction by creating an opportunity to play with the child and count the beads out loud. Wow – look at me, I sound like some sort of educational parenting expert now… so totally not the case in real life!

the “original” quiet book abacus page

I’m posting the materials and tutorial for this today because I’m on vacation this coming week – hooray! I’ve also got some secret plans for the week… so there won’t be room to post the proper Quiet Book post. What is it you ask? Come back Monday to find out! (Hint… it has something to do with the fact that my blog started 2 years ago on the 12th of July!)

How about making that Abacus page… just to stay busy so the curiosity doesn’t drive you crazy! (If you are just starting find all the information you need on this Sew-Along page.)

You will need:

  • Background Fabric: 1 piece quilting cotton exactly 9″x9″ square
  • Page Interfacing: 1 piece exactly 9″x9″ square, medium weight fusible interfacing (you will have this from your Week 1 shopping list)
  • Top & Bottom of Abacus: 2 pieces of fabric, 2.5″ high by 7″ wide
  • Abacus Strings: 5 pieces of 6″ long, 1/4″ wide, 100% polyester ribbon
  • “Beads”: 3 small leather or vinyl scraps in different colours (approximately 2 3/4″ x 3″ each)
  • Ribbon: 3 1/2″ long for the side tab
  • Small Safety Pin
  • Glue Stick
  • Leather needle (if using)
Before we begin/Important Notes:
  • When you are sewing this book it is good to remember that some of the edges will be covered after the book is completed and sewn together. 1/2″ on the top edge of your page and 3/4″ on each side edge will not show in the final project.
  • Remember to use your iron liberally when you are sewing this book. It is going to be a work of art when you are done! Since it is thick and some of the pages will not be iron-able once you are finished with them it is advisable to take all of the care you can to remove wrinkles so they are not accidentally permanent in your final book.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Interface the 9″ square background fabric with the 9″ square interfacing as per the manufacturer’s directions. (My background fabric is “Quote This” in Cherry from Double Decker Fabrics.)
  2. To cut your vinyl/leather into 30 rectangles, you first need to cut 2 pieces 1.25″ x 3″ high from each of your 3 coloured scraps.
  3. Place the cut vinyl/leather wrong sides together with their matching colours and glue a very thin (1/4″ max) line along each edge to hold them together.
  4. Once the glue has set, mark each pair every 1/2″, as in the photo below. Use a pencil for this, so the marks can be removed later. There will be a space at the end that will not measure 1/2″ – this is extra.
  5. Stitch down each edge of your leather/vinyl with a 3/8″ seam. ** It is important to treat each 1/2″ mark like it is the beginning or end of a seam. Back stitch at the beginning and before you reach the end of each 1/2″ mark. We will be cutting on the marks to make these beads, so you want your stitching to be strong and reinforced so the beads stay together. If you are having trouble stitching the vinyl or leather because it is tacky – try this trick.
  6. Cut each leather/vinyl rectangle 1/8″ away from your stitches on each side. This will create a 3/4″ wide rectangle.
  7. Cut each long rectangle along your 1/2″ marks to make your beads.
  8. Fold the ends of your fabric in 1/2″ and use a glue stick to hold them in place.
  9. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and press, unfold and fold each side into the centre. You can use a glue stick to hold this in place, or just press it extra well with lots of steam.
  10. Prepare your abacus strings by melting each end of the ribbon over a flame. (I know you will be… but please be careful!) The melting will only work if your ribbon is 100% synthetic fibres. ** If it does not fully melt, it is not appropriate for use in a quiet book because the strings could fray over time (even when stitched) and come out, leaving the beads to be chewed on and potentially becoming a choking hazard.
  11. Use a glue stick or pins to adhere one side of one of the folded fabric strip to the background fabric, 2″ down from the top. Adhere the other one to the bottom centre, 2″ up from the bottom. Make sure there is a 4″ gap between the strips. Leave the strips open so we can place the ribbons between the folds.
  12. Line up the strings so they are equally spaced along one of the fabric strips. I used a glue stick to hold them in place. The ribbons are long on purpose to make them more secure. Place the excess ribbon inside the folds of the fabric strip. Make sure the bottoms of the strings are inside the bottom folded fabric strip as well, but do not pin or glue them in yet.
  13. Pin/Glue the top fabric strip shut. Stitch around the edge of the fabric, catching the ribbons. Also stitch through the centre 2 or 3 times to reinforce your stitching and make sure the ribbons never come out. **Please, again, be careful when using beads and small objects around children. I cannot be held responsible if anything happens… and I want to be extra certain that this page is safe!**
  14. Place the beads on your strings. I have separated them out to make the numbers 1 through 5. A skewer helps to get the ribbon through the bead.
  15. Insert the bottom edge of each ribbon into the fabric strip and follow steps 11 and 12 again to close up the bottom of the abacus.
  16. Fold the 3 1/2″ matching ribbon tab in half and use the small safety pin to attach it to your page so it does not get lost.
All done! And we are half way through our Quiet Book pages! 6 down, 6 to go… Thanks for sewing along! Please check the Sew-Along page for a list of all the tutorials + ways you can share your book. As usual, please let me know if you have any questions: email sherri@threadridinghood.com or leave a comment.
** As usual: This tutorial is for personal or charitable use only. Please do not sell items made with the Quiet Book Sew Along posts. If you wish to sell these please contact sherri@threadridinghood.com for information on how to purchase a license. Thank you!
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