This is a project I’ve been wanting to make for quite a while. If you’ve visited my shop, you’ll know that I work with quite a lot of scrap fabric, and that I’m always up for a good project to help use up the extras in my stash. I have a lot of pieces of fabric that are beautiful - and in some cases sentimental - but are far too small to make anything with, and I’ve been resisting cutting them up just to use for my coasters, baskets, or weaving projects.
One day it occurred to me that Little Forager would probably really like some magnetic letters to play with. He’s been getting really good at his alphabet, and even has started to recognize some very small words. Initially I thought of those typical plastic ones that almost everyone had on the fridge, but thankfully before I went out and bought them, I realized that there was nothing stopping me from making some!
Most of you know by now that I’m a proponent on low/zero-waste living, and that if I can avoid buying something new that is plastic, I will. You’ll also know by now that I’m always up for a good DIY project, and this one turned out so well I wanted to share it here! I also have the letter template I use available for free download (made available as a free digital file in my shop) but if there is a font you particularly like go ahead and make your own version! I will say that this was about the narrowest I would want the letters to be, because if you are going to be putting magnets inside you need quite a bit more width than you think.
As far as sourcing your materials, I would encourage you to reuse as much as possible here rather than buying 26 pieces of brand new fabric just for making these. You could even recycle some old clothing you have that is too worn out to donate in good conscience. You do want to consider that the magnets need to be strong enough to hold through the layer of fabric you choose. I just used regular “flexible magnets” that I found at Michael’s, but there are stronger options, and some of my fabric was almost thick enough to need it. I also only used one magnet per letter, and afterward I wished that for some of the letters I had included a couple more (for example: M, U, V, S, G, or any of the other letters that were more of a longer shape with few connecting points). In the end I am very happy with what I made, and I am actually giving a set of these away on my Instagram feed, so head on over there for more details about that!
The process for making these was pretty simple, although some of the curvy letters were more tedious to sew than others. You’ll want to be very patient with the letter G, for example. I chose to (mostly) match my thread colour to my fabric, but that isn’t technically necessary. I just have a large stash of that from other projects. I also used leftover polyester batting to make them quilted. If you don’t have this, I do recommend using something to make the letters stiffer. Even with the batting I found that a few of the ones I made with thinner fabric could have used some interfacing to make them hold their shape a little more. It’s something that’s not super noticeable, but having made them I might consider changing that next time. I also have the photos in a bit of a different order than the steps I’m going to list below. The reason for that is half way through making them I realized I could save myself some work if I did all the sewing before I trimmed the edges.
Making your letters:
Print out the template linked below, or make your own with your preferred font.
Cut out two pieces of your main fabric per letter. It is easiest if you do this all at once by folding the fabric so that if there is a right side (the side of the fabric that is intended to be seen) they are both facing out when you cut.
If some of your fabric is very thin, you might want to consider cutting out two pieces of interfacing for the letters that will need it. Iron or baste these to the necessary pieces.
Cut one piece of fibre fill, quilt batting, or other repurposed fluffy material per letter, but don’t cut right to the edge of the pattern piece, or cut out any of the holes in the middle of the letter. This will be easiest if you leave a bunch hanging over the edge to trim later. I actually just pinned my cut out letters straight to the fibre fill, and cut roughly around them to get these pieces.
Make a sandwich with the quilt batting in the middle, and the fabric letter pieces on the outside with the right sides facing outward. Sew around the edge of the letter keeping about 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Make sure you leave an opening where you want to insert your magnet(s). Don’t forget to sew around any of the inside parts of the letter like in the letter B for example.
Insert your magnet(s), and sew the opening you left shut. If your magnet isn’t in the perfect position at this point don’t worry - you can still move it around later if you need to.
Sew around the letter one more time so that you have a double row of stitches all around. This will help to prevent excessive fraying, although you will find that there will still be a little bit, especially if your chosen fabric has a looser weave. Again don’t forget to go around the middle parts of the letters that need it.
Trim your letters (this will likely include trimming the edge of the fabric as well as the excess fibre fill or batting) very close to the second row you sewed while being careful not to actually snip any of your stitches. If this does happen make sure you go over that area again and try to reconstruct your stitches so your letter doesn’t come apart.
Please keep an eye on these from time to time as your child plays with them, and check for holes, stitching that has come apart, or some other structural integrity. You don’t want the seam to come apart and have the magnet free, as there is a very real health risk for children who swallow magnets.
Note: clicking the above “add to cart” will prompt you for a credit card number, but this is not required since the product is free. Just skip that part and click continue!
Let me know in the comments, or contact me if you have any more questions! I’d love to hear all about how it turned out for you! Again, please do look over your letters periodically for wear and tear that might lead to holes where the magnet could fall out. I hope you have as much fun making these as I did!