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Make Your Own Buttons

Make buttons to match your projects

Do you have trouble finding the perfect buttons for your handmade garments? Don’t agonize—make your own! Take a polymer clay button workshop or two from me, Suzann Thompson, author of Polymer Clay for Everyone, learn basic polymer clay technique, and make several stunning button styles.

I offer two 6-hour workshops for beginners, about making polymer clay buttons. Each workshop stands alone, so you can take the workshops in any order. I cover polymer clay basics and hints in both workshops. You’ll take home at least two dozen delightful, machine-washable and dryable buttons.

Even if you’ve never tried polymer clay crafting before, you are welcome to spend a day or two playing—and I do mean playing—with polymer clay.

To book one of these workshops, please email me at knitandcrochetwithsuzann at outlook dot com.

Make Your Own Buttons Workshop

Faux Lapis from Suzann's Polymer Clay Button Workshop

In “Make Your Own Buttons from Polymer Clay” (sometimes I call it “Polymer Clay Button Boutique 1”), we start with a fake or faux lapis button technique. The buttons are complete with sparkly inclusions, just like real lapis.

Easy but effective swirl buttons are next. They are quick to make and customize with the perfect colors for your garment or other project. These are my favorites.

Swirl Button from Suzann's Polymer Clay Button Workshop Swirl Buttons from Suzann's Polymer Clay Button Workshop

Millefiori is a glass technique that polymer clay crafters have taken over and made their own. We’ll do a group millefiori project, and the buttons will turn out something like this:

Group Millefiori Buttons from Suzann's Workshop Group Millefiori Button Project

After lunch, we make crazy polymer patchwork buttons and learn a clever way to use clay scraps. Here are some crazy patchwork buttons:

Crazy Polymer Patchwork buttons

Make More Buttons Workshop

“Make More Buttons,” sometimes called “Polymer Clay Button Boutique 2,” is another six-hour workshop for beginners. It is completely stand-alone, meaning that you don’t need any experience with polymer clay to take this class. All the buttons we make in this workshop are different from the ones in my other button workshop.

We start with imitation or faux turquoise, then move on to a traditional millefiori design—a flower. The word “millefiori” means “thousand flowers. When you learn this technique, you’ll be surprised at how simple and versatile it is.

Samples from Polymer Clay Button Workshop

After lunch, we tackle mica-shift, a technique that results in sophisticated-looking and subtle buttons. Finally, we make polymer clay mosaic buttons and learn clever ways to use scraps.

Previous Workshops

Here are photos from button workshops I’ve done in the past. Participants had a great time and made lots of fun buttons!


Student Buttons from Polymer Clay Button Workshop  Polymer Clay Button Workshop  Polymer Clay Button Workshop

Grade school students made these buttons in a 4H sewing camp:

Buttons from 4H Camp  Buttons from 4H Camp  Buttons from 4H Camp  Buttons from 4H Camp

We bake buttons in class. Here they are, lined up for their turn in the toaster oven.

Baking Buttons

My book Polymer Clay for Everyone is out of print, but you can buy it online. Amazon.com often has the book for one cent plus shipping. It’s a bargain!

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Crochet Flowers on Jacket Lapels

Crochet flowers from Crochet Bouquet on jacket lapels

My linen jacket needed something. It needed to be more interesting, beautiful, cool. What was a crochet flower lady to do? Break out the No. 10 crochet cotton, choose a flower from Crochet Bouquet, (see sidebar) and embellish the lapels!

If you read the last post, you may remember that one of the reasons we have Crochet Bouquet at all, is because I was sad that the crocheted flowers on commercial clothing were all so similar. Most of the crocheted flower applique patterns I found were all about round flowers.

Okay, yeah, most flowers are circular. But not all flowers! AND you don’t always see a flower straight-on. That’s why some of the flowers in Crochet Bouquet and Crochet Garden are not round, or they are observed from a different perspective.

Oval Center Rose is one of those. It has been one of my favorites all these years. I chose it for my jacket lapels. Rose Leaf, also from Crochet Bouquet, seemed right for the greenery. For size contrast, I included the Small Flower from Crochet Garden.

Crochet flowers from Crochet Bouquet on jacket lapels

I chose to crochet pink flowers, but which pink? I went to my color consultant, also known as my younger daughter. “Which colors, Ella?” I asked. “The cool pink and the minty green, or the warmer pink and the yellower green?”

“Why not use them all together, Mom?” she said.

So I did. After crocheting and steaming them flat, I sewed around the edges of the leaves and flowers, then I stitched around the oval center of the Oval Center Rose. Mother-of-pearl buttons added just the right vintage look to the grouping.

I finished it in the morning, and wore it in the afternoon to the opening of Celebrate Doilies at the Dora Lee Langdon Center in Granbury, Texas. While in Granbury, I visited a resale shop called Bella, where I bought another linen jacket. That means more crocheted flower embellishment in the future!

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SAQA Quilt Show Opens in Abilene

Antelope Horns, textile art by Suzann Thompson

Today’s Quilts: Art in Stitch, a juried show of works by Texas members of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) opens today at The Center for Contemporary Art in Abilene, Texas.

I’m pretty excited about the show, because two of my quilts are in it. Gaudi Gaillardia (below) and Antelope Horns (detail at right) are both fairly recent pieces, and importantly, they do not include any doilies. All my doily quilts are in the Celebrate Doilies show. I’m glad I had something to enter.

We live about halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene. It’s a two-hour drive to either one, but we seem to head east to Fort Worth more often than not. This show is a good excuse to go west, young woman!

Gaudi Gaillardia, textile art by Suzann Thompson

My daughter and a friend are coming along. We’re going to shop at JoAnn Fabrics and a couple of quilt shops. There’s a book festival in town, which we may look in on, before we meet other quilters for supper. Hey, you’ve got to take advantage of being in the big city.

The show runs through November 10, 2017, at the Center, which is at 220 Cypress Street in Abilene. An opening reception is planned for Saturday, September 23, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.

After that, Today’s Quilts: Art in Stitch moves to the Texas Tech University Museum in Lubbock, to be displayed through February 2018.

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Arranging Flowers for Winterling

I had to try many different flower arrangements before finding my favorite for Winterling. It was fun! Here are a few:

flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

Hmmm. Yeah, the white flowers seem too startlingly bright. So for the next try, I took the daisies off and also the big sunflower, because I thought it was too heavy and large for the composition.

flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompsonflower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

How about the one on the left?—it’s kind of minimal with a more controlled color selection. Given a choice, I usually go for fancy over minimal. The next one is alright.

flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

Thinking the sunflower might not be too heavy after all, I added it back in. Yep, I think this is the one.

flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

After pinning all the flowers and leaves in place, it was time to sit down and sew. And I mean sew for a long time.

Something kept bothering me about the Samarkand Sunflower which has a yellow center, then a white round and a band of periwinkle blue before the round of white petals. The blue band looked too plain and big. A few bright yellow seed beads took care of that problem.

flower arrangement for TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

After sewing the flowers on, I appliqued a crocheted picot vine in the borders. Each picot has a seed bead on it, which is stitched in place to keep the picot from curling. Buttons berries grow from the vine.

That does it for Winterling! Want to know where the flower patterns are from? Visit this post to find out.

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Crochet Flower Art

 TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

It’s great to have a stash of ready-crocheted flowers, because you may need them for a wall hanging, like this one.

It’s called Winterling and I’ll be posting some in-progress photos later, so you can see how I made it. While we wait for that post, here’s a rundown of the crocheted flowers in Winterling.

Flower Number 1: In the summer of 2006, I pitched a book idea to Lark Crafts, a subsidiary of Sterling Publishing. That book idea became Crochet Bouquet: Easy Designs for Dozens of Flowers. Flower number 1, the buttony sunflower, was one of the sample flowers included in my proposal.

Crochet Bouquet and Crochet Garden readers will recognize all of these flowers:

From Crochet Bouquet:

2 These deep purple leaves and their antique gold partners are “Small One-Row Leaves” from pp. 120-121.

3 The yellow flowers with black button centers are “Small Petals Around,” p. 36.

4 “Circles within Circles,” pp. 22-23. Find a step-by-step photo-tutorial at http://www.textilefusion.com/circles-within-circles-july-crochet-along/.

5 The medium sized “Primrose Layers,” pp. 90-91, with some hints and photos of an in-progress primrose at http://www.textilefusion.com/may-crochet-along-primrose-layers/.

6 You can make several versions of “Five Point,” pp. 85-86. This is Rnds 1-2 only. There’s a tutorial here: http://www.textilefusion.com/five-point-tutorial/.

From Crochet Garden:

7 Rafflesita, pp. 122-123. The step-by-step photo-tutorial at http://www.textilefusion.com/step-by-step-rafflesita-a-pattern-supplement/ will help. The Rafflesita in the middle of the bouquet is an original flower from the book.

8 “Samarkand Sunflower,” in all its sizes, pp. 60-61. The yellow beads really brighten these flowers.

 TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

9 “Forget Me Not,” pp. 86-87. Tutorial at http://www.textilefusion.com/step-by-step-forget-me-not/.

10 “Twirl Center Rose,” pp. 116-117.

11 “Any Color Pinks,” bud and full flower, pp. 96-97. Bud and flower are designer originals.

12 “Anatolian King Flower,” pp. 104-105. The bright King Flower is a designer original.

13 “Russian Spoke Flower,” pp. 100-101, another original from the book. Learn how to do the Russian spoke stitch here: http://www.textilefusion.com/russian-picot-daisy-tutorial/.

14 “Turkestani Star,” p. 70, another designer original.

15 “Perspective Daisy,” pp. 56-57, inspired by the Winterling china factory’s Zwiebelmuster.

And finally, a motif I made for Crochet Garden, but it didn’t make it into the book:

16 “Leaf Spray with Berries,” which you can make from a free pattern.

Winterling will be among the doily-themed quilts at the Celebrate Doilies exhibition, opening July 1, 2017 at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council in Stephenville, TX. More information, please visit the exhibition schedule or the Doily Heritage Project page.

close up of vase in the TextileFusion wall hanging, Winterling, by Suzann Thompson

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Snowflake Wall Hanging

step by step TextileFusion snowflake wall hanging

My sweet friend Hazel gave me a cardigan she bought years ago in Scotland. It was a pretty example of Fair Isle knitting, done with raglan sleeves. Thank you, Hazel!

The star pattern put me in a wintery, snowy frame of mind, and luckily there were just enough complete star motifs in the sweater for me to cut the long hexagons and form the points of the resulting snowflake.

Knitted scraps from previous wall hangings filled in the background. I sewed the patches together onto a foundation fabric, which won’t be visible in the finished piece.

step by step TextileFusion snowflake wall hanging

Next came quilting and binding, and I used fabrics from another generous person or people. The blue and white fabrics were in the estate of a lady from Germany. Her heirs wanted her fabrics to go to someone who would appreciate them.

I got to be that person! The link was the heirs’ former German teacher, who was also a friend of my mother’s. Thank you to those lovely people! I do appreciate their mother’s fabrics and laces and vintage handwork.

step by step TextileFusion snowflake wall hanging

As I’ve said many times, embellishment is my favorite part in the process of making wall hangings. There would be lots of button-sewing in my future.

step by step TextileFusion snowflake wall hanging

I was conflicted about which look to go for. I liked the subtle transparent and white buttons at the left of this photo and my daughter agreed. However, the bold blue buttons on the right seemed a better design choice.

Lately when in doubt, I go to Instagram. Many Instagram friends answered “Go for the bold!” Only one person agreed with Ella and me. I went with the majority.

Here are the blue buttons all sewn on.

step by step TextileFusion snowflake wall hanging

I’m still going to add transparent and white buttons around the flake. Looking forward to enjoying that zen zone of button sewing.

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A Worthy Accomplishment

A Worthy Accomplishment, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

“Art imitates life,” people say. Recently, I saw art holding up a mirror to life, and the mirror reflected much more than I can usually see with the unaided eye.

At the movies we saw a preview about a boy who draws a monster. The monster comes to life and frightens the bullies tormenting the boy. In our main feature, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a sad, desperate, and powerless person inadvertently turned frustration into a powerful external force that destroyed buildings and killed people. This force manifested as a storm of destructive particles.

At home, we watched Star Trek Beyond, where the huge, fancy Starship Enterprise is taken down by a swarm of tiny spaceships, under the command of an unhappy former Starfleet officer.

The two takeaways for me were: desperation can turn into a deadly force; lots of tiny things can take down a big thing. These two phenomena are happening in our world’s population right now.

Which brings me quite naturally, I think you will agree, to my latest wall hanging, A Worthy Accomplishment.

Our United States culture worships enormity. Large corporations, huge wealth and fame, amazing feats of technology are admired and given special treatment. In contrast, regular people who do regular thing, like raising children, cleaning, cooking, going to work every day and other essential but not very exciting or profitable things, are treated as insignificant.

It’s fine to admire amazing things, and we should also value and admire everyday work and achievement. We need to acknowledge the contribution of people who take care of all the everyday things in this country, because they are the foundation on which our society is built.

I’d also like to bring to your attention the contribution of many thousands of women (mostly) who took the time to crochet a doily to beautify their homes, or a pretty trim to make a pillowcase or coverlet more inviting.

Many of these creators would say, “Oh that’s nothing, really. It’s just something I made.”

I say, “It is something, precisely because you made it.” It is something handmade, with love or curiosity and certainly with skill. It is something to be proud of, something beautiful, something worthy.

A Worthy Accomplishment, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

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Sweet Home

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

I remember very well the sweetness and simplicity of childhood and the images from that time that are with me to this day. Children’s book illustrations and some idealized picture of home are strong in my memory. I think that’s where a lot of the designs for Cute Crochet World came from.

My current project is an exhibit called Celebrate Doilies! which will debut at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council Gallery in Stephenville, Texas, in July and August 2017. In addition to a lot of doily history (read more here), the exhibit will include my art quilts made with vintage crochet.

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

At first I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate this thread crocheted placemat into a quilt. My mind apparently mulled over this problem while I wasn’t paying attention. Some days later, my perception of the piece suddenly shifted from a placemat to picture frame. After that, it was easy to decide what picture to frame: a childlike picture of home.

Strip-piecing left over from a previous quilt seemed perfect to frame the frame. Luckily, I still had enough cut strips to fill the gaps.

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

Cute Crochet World came to my aid, with patterns for crocheting the “Cozy Home,” “Cherry Blossom” (I used green instead of pink), “Summer Sun” with clubby rays, and “Cutely Cloudy.” I made several trees and two suns, before finding the right combination of size and color.

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

When button time came around, I turned to family and friends for input on which buttons I should sew around the edge of the placemat: mother-of-pearl or blue?

My mom thought the house looked like it was on an island, the lace edges with blue underlay seemed like a beach, and the dark blue buttons were the deep blue sea. I liked this image very well.

The consensus from Instagram and Twitter was that the blue buttons looked better than white, but some friends said they thought a lighter blue might look best.

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

I posted the comparison of dark blue and lighter blue buttons. @franloveswool summarized my own feelings, saying, “This is trickier than I thought.” @fairetreasures said that the dark blue gave the piece great contrast, and the lighter blue looked nice because it picked up the colors of the house.

What to do? Mix light and dark? I tried that, but meh. Wait. Why just one round of buttons? Why not a round of lighter blue and a round of darker blue? Yes, that was the solution. Thank you, friends and family!

Sweet Home, crochet and quilt art, by Suzann Thompson

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No. 10 Crochet Cotton Flowers are Perfect Quilt Embellishment

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson, detail

I wondered and planned and fretted about how to strongly stabilize a quilt so it would hold up a bunch of crocheted flowers.

As it often happens, my projects change as I work on them and begin to understand how they are developing. So instead of my original plan of crocheting flowers with yarn, I decided to crochet with No. 10 crochet cotton. The flowers turned out to be so light, the quilt didn’t need extra stabilizing. Yay!

My collection of Aunt Lydia’s No. 10 crochet cotton had the perfect colors to make the “Five Point” flower from Crochet Bouquet (above), and “Forget Me Nots” from Crochet Garden (below).

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson, detail

You can use crocheted flowers to embellish bed quilts, too. To attach them, use sewing thread to sew all around the flower’s edge. Tack down the flower center. Use your judgement whether you need to add more stitching between the center and the edges of the flower.

Most of the time, sewing thread disappears between the loops of crochet, but use a sewing thread that closely matches the color of your crochet thread or yarn, just in case.

The wall hanging is called Evolution of Minimalism. You can read more about it at here and here.

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson, detail

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Evolution of Minimalism

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

In the late 1990s, minimalism in home décor was all the rage in England—at least that’s what we read in the newspapers at the time. Minimalist homes were clean, cleaner, cleanest! They were calm, uncluttered. Any decoration not strictly necessary for function was not allowed.

Minimalism is not my style, because I like decoration and stuff within easy reach. But I can see the attraction. It’s so full of potential—lots of surfaces to fill with books, paper, pens, vases, coffee cups.

For all the functional trendiness of minimalism, I feel that human eyes crave variation and decoration. So here’s a wall hanging all about how we may enjoy the starkness of minimalism for a while, and what happens next. Its title is Evolution of Minimalism.

In the beginning, we have the most minimal nine-patch ever. Sewn with patches of the exact same plain fabric, it is totally uncluttered. It’s so calming, so clean, so… Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

…so, well, boring. Hey, could we vary the color a little? Just to give it some interest?Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

That helped. A contrasting color would perk it up even more. But don’t worry, we can hold on to our minimalist roots by using the original colors.Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Oooo! That squiggly pattern in the middle is kind of fun. It might be even more interesting to have some texture.Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Love that single button in the middle, and the mother-of-pearl button fabric! Very subtle, how the pearl button fabric is next to the ocean wave patterned fabric. Clever. If one button is good, four buttons are better. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

The nine-patch is getting kind of old. Whoa—this log cabin block is perfect. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Do you sense a tipping point? The log cabin is turning into a log pentagon. Do I see some red? Woo hoo!Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Colors and buttons and flowers are busting out all over! Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

This is great! Lots of color! Lots of pattern! Lots of texture! It’s wonderful! Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson Wow. All this stuff is wearing me out, making me tired. Let’s clean up all this clutter and get back to basics. We’re going back to the beginning. Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

And so the natural evolution of minimalism goes.

It’s all coded in the DNA.

Evolution of Minimalism, by Suzann Thompson

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