Hi friends!!! One of the pieces of “homework” we have had for our adoption is to create a soft photo album about our family and home to send to China for our daughter after we are matched. I will explain more about the adoption and personal aspects of that below, but first, let me teach you how to make a similar soft book!
These books are baby and toddler friendly and make great gifts. You can (of course!) customize yours to be about any subject you want! I worked with our friends at Canon USA to create this post, using my PIXMA iP8720 printer (as always) to customize our book with family images.
I decided to hand stitch my book because there is a certain crafty nostalgia that I associate with it. Even though it takes longer, I enjoy the process much more. But feel free to machine stitch yours to save time and/or create a more “professional” look.
1. First things first, buy the right iron-on transfers. This is the brand/type I use and recommend. I’ve tried some others that were not nearly as easy to use and good printable fabrics are a bit pricey. These transfers are made for inkjet printers, so you will need to print them at home. I mentioned above I use the PIXMA iP8720, which not only can handle large format prints, it’s great for smaller projects, too. You can also use a regular format printer for this project. The large format is not necessary; it’s just the printer I have at home. 2. Cut out images. 3. Iron the images onto white cotton fabric. 4. Peel off the backing after it has cooled.
5. Before you print, you need to horizontally flip all your images (so that they appear backwards). This is especially important if there are words of any kind of your image. If you don’t flip, your completed transfer will look backwards.
7. I printed all my images around 5″ x 5″ and left several inches of blank fabric around each image while ironing. Next, make a page template. You can see mine here. It’s nothing fancy. I just made this so that all my pages will be relatively the same size. Also, the bar to the left side is meant to show you where the spine will be sewn. You’ll lose a little bit of page there after it is sewn. 8. Between each two cotton pages is a piece of felt to add some bulk and to make sure they are not see through. 9. Stitch around three outside edges of each page (leave the part that goes to the spine bare). I did a combination of messy stitches and folded bias tape that I hand stitched on using embroidery thread. 10. Here are completed pages.
11. Stitch the spine together. 12. Glue a strip of felt over the top and bottom of the pages to conceal the messy page ends. 13. Prepare your cover with any design you want. I tried a couple things that felt too cheesy, so I just did a simple panda face using child safe eyes and a nose. 14. Using fabric glue, glue both the front and back cover to the pages.
And next, the personal stuff!
We are currently waiting to be matched with a child in China. So this book will be sent to that child after we are matched. You also get to send a letter. This is the first (and I think only) interaction you have with the child until you arrive to pick them up a couple months later, so it’s kind of a big deal.
Since we requested a younger child, our agency recommended a soft photo book instead of a paper photo album. All of the images in our book were suggested by our agency, and there are certain guidelines you have to follow. Our child will not be able to read yet, but the Chinese captions in the photo book are intended for her caretakers to read to her. Our agency provided us with these translations of simple photo captions. I will note what they all mean below.
As with many things in our process so far (and, from what I hear, parenting in general), this book is in some ways more for us than for her. It was therapeutic making it and it will feel good to be able to send a care package when the time comes. But I don’t literally think that a small child can get full comprehension of what is about to happen, who we are or what adoption means in general. But still, it is so special and exciting to be able to make it for her!
If we were adopting an older child, I would probably have put a lot more thought into the photos and words. But since we are not, I didn’t stress too much. I just followed the agency’s instructions and used photos we had taken from our other applications and from my Instagram pics.
For the cover, I had done an embroidery of her initials, but it wasn’t turning out cute. So I ripped it off and just added this simple little panda made of layered felt. I mainly chose a panda because I have noticed a LOT of panda toys and icons in the Chinese orphanage photos I have seen. So I decided to go with something she is probably familiar with!
Sidenote: In all of our applications so far, we had to take dozens of photos (of ourselves, our home, etc.), but the dogs were never allowed in any photos. This is the first time the dogs were “invited” (haha), so we were happy! They’re part of the family, too! Oh and if you’re wondering why we didn’t include extended family, it’s because the agency said only to include people (and pets) who live in the home. It’s basically just supposed to be stuff she will see every day!
Sigh … so special. I’ve never had so many feelings finishing up a DIY before!
Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Opening photo by Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.