A Great Way to Archive Your Heirlooms

Archive your heirlooms with a keepsake scrapbook

Archiving Your Heirlooms by Nancy McEvoy

Occasionally, a family heirloom is discovered in a cedar-lined chest, wrapped in tissue and accompanied by a note that records when it was made, from what fabric it was made, who wore it and why. More often then not, however, a vintage garment is found in a musty attic with little or no knowledge of to whom it belonged, leaving family to ponder not only which ancestor wore it, but also how on earth it should be laundered and maintained. Fortunately, today’s modern technology – computers, printers and sewing machines – make it fun and creative to put together a lasting keepsake booklet for each and every garment we make.

This tutorial from designer Nancy McEvoy will show you how to do just that; the article first appeared in our January/February 2007 issue of Sew Beautiful. It all starts with some scraps of the fabric and trim left over from the garment in question. Photographs of the child or person for which the garment was first made can be included on the inside cover pocket, or printed onto fabric and used as one of the pages in the booklet. Additional pages with information and photographs can be added as the garment is passed down and worn by other family members. Care and storage instructions for the garment should also be added. A keepsake scrapbook is not only a thoughtful idea for future generations, it would also be a lovely gift for a new bride who is planning to preserve her gown or a new mother whose baby has just been christened.

Materials List

Sample size book finishes 4-inches square.

  • Embellished fabric for cover – 9-1/2- x 5-inches
  • Plain fabric for underlining and lining – two 9-1/2- x 5-inch pieces
  • Cotton quilt batting – 8-1/2- x 4-inches
  • Embellished or plain fabric for pocket – 9-1/2- x 3-1/2-inches
  • Two 10-inch pieces of 1/4-inch silk/satin ribbon
  • Package of June Tailor’s® Computer Printer Fabric™ sheets
  • Glue Stick
  • Poster board or lightweight, thin cardboard – two 4-inch square pieces
  • Needles, pins
  • All-purpose thread to match pages
  • Bodkin or bone folder for turning out corners
  • Computer with word processor and printer
  • Rotary cutter, mat and ruler for cutting pages
  • Small brass safety pins
  • Small swatches of fabric, lace and trims from garment to include in booklet


Dimensions are given for a 4-inch square book. However, any size book can be made as long as printable fabric sheets will accommodate size desired.

Book Cover

The cover is made up of six layers: The outside cover, which is embellished to match the garment; the underlining layer, which may be omitted if the outside cover is very thick or opaque; a layer of cotton batting; a layer of cardboard to stiffen the book; the inside cover lining; and finally a pocket to hold a picture or newspaper clipping.

1. Embellish outside cover to match garment and cut to 9-1/2- x 5-inches (Photo 1).


2. Embellish pocket to match garment or use plain fabric folded and cut to 9-1/2- x 3-1/2- inches (Photo 2).


3. Using glue stick, affix poster board squares to wrong side of cotton batting leaving a 1/2-inch gap between cardboard pieces (Photo 3).


4. Iron and starch one 9-1/2- x 5-inch piece of fabric for underlining. Center cotton batting/poster board piece on wrong side of underlining fabric with batting side to fabric. Using glue stick, apply glue to all four corners of underlining fabric and poster board. Fold corners over batting and poster board at a 45-degree angle and adhere to poster board (Photo 4). Using glue stick, apply glue to 1/2-inch seam allowance on all four sides of underlining fabric and fold seam allowance over batting and adhere to poster board (Photo 5).



5. Place embellished cover piece over underlining and wrap seam allowance to inside and glue to poster board. On one side of cover, center one 10-inch piece of pink silk/satin ribbon, aligning one end with edge of seam allowance. Hand stitch ribbon to seam allowance of cover (Photo 6). Repeat, adding a 10-inch ribbon to other side.


6. Place pocket piece on top of 9-1/2- x 5-inch lining; right sides both facing up, aligning bottom and sides. Pin together. Using a long machine straight stitch (L = 4.0), baste sides and bottom of pocket to lining with a 3/8-inch seam allowance (Photo 7).


8. On basted lining, press 1/2-inch seam allowance to wrong side of fabric on all four edges. This will create an 8-1/2- x 4-inch lining with pocket. Place lining on top of cover, wrong sides together and hand whipstitch all around edge (Photo 8).


Book Pages

The pages are created in the computer and then printed to June Tailor’s® Computer Printer Fabric. This special fabric is made for printing pictures and images for quilts, pillows, scrapbooks, etc. Two memory book pages can be printed on one 8-1/2- x 11-inch piece of fabric paper.

1. In word processor program of your choice:

Either set margins as follows:
Left Margin: 4-1/4-inches from left edge of paper
Right Margin: 1-inch from right edge of paper
First Top Margin: 1-inch from top of paper
First Bottom Margin: 4-inches from top of paper
Second Top Margin: 6-inches from top of paper
Second Bottom Margin: 9-inches from top of paper

Or, create two text boxes:
Text box size: 3-1/4-inches wide by 3-inches tall
Place first box 4-1/4-inches from left hand side of paper and 1-inch from top of paper. Place second box below first box 6-inches down from top of paper.

2. Type desired information: Samples include a title page, an introduction, design information, fabric information and lace and trim information. Books can accommodate six pages of text.


3. Print out pages on plain paper to test and proofread. When test print is successful, print out and set ink according to manufacturer’s recommendations for fabric paper. Using a rotary cutter, mat and ruler, cut pages to 8- x 4-inches making sure that there is a 4-1/4-inch margin to left of text box, a 1/2-inch margin to right, and a 1/2-inch top and bottom margin (Photo 10).


5. Unfortunately, printable fabric is not “on grain” when it is attached to paper backing. Due to this, fabric can fray badly when backing is removed. To mitigate this problem, examine grain of fabric on paper. If it is tilted to left – loosen edges in a clockwise fashion starting at one corner and sliding a pin between fabric and backing all the way around page and then remove remaining of backing from center area. If it is tilted to right, loosen in a counter clockwise fashion.

6. To place pages in correct order, it is important to pay careful attention to which pages are sewn together! Press and starch pages 3 and 4 and pin right sides together, tops aligned. Leaving 1-1/2-inches open at bottom for turning, sew around page using a 1/4-inch seam allowance (Photo 11). Repeat with pages 2 and 5. Repeat with pages 1 and 6.


7. Turn pages, clip corners and turn through opening at bottom of each page using bone folder or bodkin to push out corners. Press and whipstitch closed bottom opening. There are now three, double sided, 7-1/2- x 3-1/2-inch pages.

8. Align three pages in order, one on top of the other with title page on top. Double-check this step, as it is very easy to get pages in wrong order! Mark center of first page very lightly with pencil at both top and bottom of page. Using a very long, straight stitch (L = 5.0) baste three pages together down center of page and tie off ends (Photo 12). Fold along stitching line and press.


Book Assembly

1. Center pages on inside cover and pin in place. Close pages (but not cover) and hand stitch pages and inside lining together along center using small ladder stitches (Photo 13).


2. Using pinking shears, cut out 1- x 1-1/2-inch rectangles of fabric from garment and pin to left-hand side of fabric page with small brass safety pins. Cut 1-1/2-inch pieces of lace and pin to left-hand side of lace/trim page. Tuck a picture of garment or a newspaper clipping in front pocket of book.

3. Tie ribbon into a bow and store with garment.

Nancy McEvoy’s sewing designs and techniques have been published in Sew Beautiful and Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazines. She’s also appeared on Martha Pullen’s series, Martha’s Sewing Room.

Here’s another article with tips on preserving and cleaning heirloom garments.

Plus, here are some more products you may enjoy from our online shop:

Nancy McEvoy’s Luminesce pattern is perfect for the little girl in your life.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes gives you advice for how to organize, distribute and preserve boxes of photos, papers and memorabilia inherited from a loved one.

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