I’ve always wanted to make a busy book, the kind that help children to engage with something in a more tactile way, and when I discovered Nancy’s simple, genius pattern, I knew I had to make it. I decided to make two, one for Maria and one for my goddaughter Chavvah (as an aside, I wrote books for my goddaughter Marigold’s first five birthdays or so, and even though I can’t catch up with that for Chavvah as my time is a little less free now, I think this counts for maybe two or three). This one is Chavvah’s. I’m a rebel when it comes to following patterns, as you’ll see if you check out the original, so some of the designs are tweaked, and all of them are stitched a bit differently, in the (perhaps ridiculous) hope that they will last through a couple generations of children. I chose the colors for the pages based on the ones another customer of Nancy’s used – I loved the chocolate and butterscotch and cherry colors together. I made most of the decisions for changes based on my observations of and interactions with Maria throughout the celebration of the Mass.
Cover Page – Told you, I’m a rebel. I didn’t want to cut out a ton of little letters and stitch them on for a title page. We often arrive at church nearly an hour before Mass starts, and besides making sure everyone is ready and checking to see if we can help out anywhere, it’s a great opportunity for quiet prayer time (sometimes it seems as if all of Maria’s quiet is used up during this time!), so I decided that a stitched on rosary would be suitable. My niece Noelle designed this one.
Processional – I used a palm cross from Palm Sunday for the processional cross. They’ve been floating around and driving me crazy, so I was happy to find a good use for a couple! I adapted the vestments a bit to try to reflect what the kiddos are used to – added a chasuble to the priest and gave the crucifer a cassock and surplice.
Opening blessing – Making this little book for the priest to hold was so fun! I love how it closes with a thread and bead clasp and can be opened – such a clever idea! Again, I added a chasuble for the priest. I really wanted to spend the time stitching orpheries onto the chasubles with metallic thread (because how awesome would that be?!), but my family reminded me that it is my duty to feed them. Whatevs.
Readings – I can’t remember exactly why I didn’t go with the original lift-the-flap option; probably mostly to save time (which is a silly reason, especially considering some of the other decisions I made; still, Maria approves) . Stitching text is so enjoyable (when there’s only a bit of it like this). I trimmed the lector’s Bible to make it look a little more like an open book; I was afraid would make the piece too small to work with, which is amusing, considering what’s coming up in a few pages.
Creed – I used embroidery thread to connect the symbols for the Persons of the Trinity rather than pipe cleaners, as I was a little nervous about sneaking some from my husband’s desk. Ha! I like the way the thread looks, though.
Offertory – I think the wheat was my favorite piece to stitch for this entire project. Partially the color (which shows up truer in subsequent photos), but partially just that there’s something so pleasing about the shape. I switched from a loaf of bread to a host and added a drop of wine for this page.
Elevation – added page alert! One of the things I love about the Mass is that it is so clearly for distractable humans (children and adults alike!) There are so many points in the Mass that call us back to focusing on what we’re all here for: to offer all that we are and have, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Father. And in turn, what are we given? The Son, Himself! I designed this page to capture the moment the chapel bells call to us, “Look up! Thy Lord and Saviour draweth nigh!” I love the way it turned out. There were a ton of little pieces, and it did take a long time to cut out, but I sewed the page in my head so many times before I had a chance to do it for reals that it went quite quickly and smoothly.
Consecration – I decided to sew the pages back-to-back to make the book less bulky, and one of the things I love about it is that these two pages face each other. The page with the chalice and host was the most terrifying because 1) cut the page straight down the middle 2) sew on a zipper and 3) stitch it to the next page. I freaked out about this page for so long, but when I decided to cut the chalice and host before stitching them on and to stitch on the zipper by hand, it wasn’t so bad. I just didn’t want to mess up, as this, I think, is the very heart of Nancy’s brilliant design.
Our Father – I adjusted the children’s posture to reflect what Maria is used to for prayer at Mass, and had the added benefit of not having as much to cut out. Score! The girls’ chapel veils are actually lace flowers that were originally on my mama’s wedding veil; I’ve had them for some time, and never had the perfect opportunity to use them… until now.
Ecce – I added this page, too, which not only works for “Behold the Lamb of God!”, but also enables the children from the previous page to go forward to receive their blessing or to be communed! That’s Maria’s favorite part.
Sign of the Cross – how clever is it to have this little girl with her arms free so that one can teach her to cross herself? (Of course, Maria doesn’t think she needs that so much as long as John’s hand is within her reach). Again, the veil I added is from my mama’s, and I put cuffs on the sleeves to hide the ends of the threads.
So there you have all the pages! But wait! There’s more! Some handy things I learned :
- When tracing pattern pieces before cutting out, use washable markers. Be careful to remember to flip anything that needs to be a mirror image.
- Don’t make stitches too small, as they will get caught in the felt and get nasty.
- If you like the aesthetic appeal of handstitching, it doesn’t take too long to stitch the pages together, and it gives you more control over how well lined up the pages are.
- If you’re afraid of botching up the pages by punching holes in them, there is an alternate form of binding: take a blank page and wrap it around the raw edges of the end page. Stitch along it, then repeat with each page following. Finally, hold all the finished pages together and stitch them clear through. You’ll want to do this a few times; it will be hard work and take a lot of thread, but it will be sturdier. Here’s how it looks for me:
Have you made Nancy’s fabulous pattern? How did it work for you?