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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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Throwback Thursday—Eva’s Button Cloth

We played with polymer clay a lot in the late 1990s. It was a great way to pass the time during the frequent rainy, gloomy days in Sheffield.

The compelling thing about polymer clay is that after you model a project, you cure it in the oven at a fairly low temperature to make it permanent. The colors stay true, it stays the same size. You get what you make. I wish every kid (and lots of adults) could experience the joy of it.

During these times, I designed polymer clay projects for magazine articles and for my first book. I made lots of buttons, so four or five-year-old Eva did, too. She used the different tools and cutters, and sometimes repurposed my millefiori off-cuts. I made this cloth to showcase her buttons, and it hung on her wall for years.

Two things stand out in my memory of those days. As we worked one day, Eva asked, “Mama, what if I become better at this than you are?”

And the other was when she finished the large button in this detail picture. It has nine or ten sew-through holes. “Mama, it’s going to take you a long time to sew on this button, because it has so many holes.”

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Four Flowers a Day

Crocheted Firewheel Wall Hanging

The Firewheel Meadows quilt is due at the 2014 Threads of Texas Quilt Show on October 1. So far, I’m making steady progress toward the finish line by appliqueing four flowers a day onto the quilt. See the flowers at the left of the picture, with the petals curling up slightly? Those are the ones I sewed today.

At four a day, I’ll finish with the flowers on September 16, which gives me plenty of time to do more embellishment, sew on the label, and finish the hanging sleeve. AND finish two other projects by the end of September!

Oh, but some days it’s difficult to sit down and sew four flowers. I’d rather be doing something else, like reading stuff on the internet or sneaking a game of 2048 on my daughter’s iPad.

The process is character-building. Yes, that’s what it is.

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Firewheels and Buttons

Oh, those challenging firewheel centers! The dark, bloomed-out flowerets are around the outside of the center, while the yellow, currently-blooming flowerets are toward the center of the center. Clearly this calls for homemade buttons!

Making polymer clay buttons

Luckily, I had company in this button-making adventure. Ella and I gathered materials and got to work. She researched polymer techniques in the classic text Polymer Clay for Everyone, by her mom. Woo hoo!

Ella made a jellyroll cane with turquoise and pearl, and wrapped it in purple. Slicing the cane is the most exciting part! We both love how it reveals the design inside the cane.

“What are you going to do with those pretty buttons, Ella?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” she said.

Like mother, like daughter!

Ella's handmade jellyroll button slices

My buttons were a little different. I made a Skinner Blend, a very clever technique which shades two or more colors into each other. You start with two colors of clay fitted together diagonally like this:

Skinner blend buttons

*Fold the piece in half as shown in the picture, and run it through the pasta machine.*

Skinner blend buttons

Repeat between *s until the blend is even.

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

I rolled the resulting blend starting at the yellow end. This made a cane of clay that shaded from yellow on the inside to burgundy on the outside. Thinking the buttons needed an even darker border, I blended some burgundy with black and wrapped it around the cane.

Handmade buttons for crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia flowers

The button centers look good! The best part—I cut buttons for the large flowers, then reduced the cane and cut button slices for the medium-sized flowers, then reduced it some more and cut button slices for the small flowers!

Ella and I used the scraps to make miracle beads and scrappy buttons.

“What are you going to do with all those scrappy buttons, Mom?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” I said.

Like daughter, like mother!

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Sign Up Soon for Taos Wool Festival Workshops in October

Polymer clay buttons

The Taos Wool Festival is always the first full weekend of October, with workshops starting a couple of days ahead. This is a great time to be in the mountains of New Mexico. The autumn colors and crisp weather are just wonderful.

This year I’m offering three classes at Taos:

Polymer Clay Button Boutique, all day Friday, October 3. You’ll go home with lots of colorful, pretty buttons, ready to use. They’re machine washable and dryable.

See the blue and orange buttons in the lower right corner of the photo above? We’ll make those as a group project. So fun!

Mosaic knit saguaro cactus

How to Knit Mosaic Patterns and Design Your Own, Saturday afternoon, October 4. After this class, you’ll be able to knit any of Barbara Walker’s many mosaic patterns, and you can design your own! Read more about the workshop here.

This mosaic cactus motif is one of my earliest original mosaic designs. I still like it a lot!

Knit Cables, Bobbles, and Braids workshop

Cables, Bobbles, and Braids, Sunday morning, October 5. You’ll learn how to do these stunning knitting techniques, but more importantly, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of these textural wonders. You’ll go away ready to twist and shout!

Please sign up for classes before September 1, 2014, at www.taoswoolfestival.org/workshops.

This notice is also on my other blog, but with different pictures. Enjoy!

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine from Polymer Clay for Everyone

Happy Valentine’s Day on this Flashback Friday. The big polymer clay heart is from Polymer Clay for Everyone (see sidebar). For a blast from the future, have a look at my other blog, where you can see some motifs from my new book, Cute Crochet World.

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Sonja Knows What to Do With Buttons!

Felt penny wreath wall hanging

What in the world can a person do with bunches of buttons?

My friend Sonja, who owns the “Two Olde Yoyos” shop on Etsy, knows! She made this wreath wall hanging in the penny-rug style, then added hand-made polymer clay buttons (by me!).

It is so pretty, I bought one for myself. At the moment I write this, there’s one more penny wreath wall hanging at Sonia’s Etsy shop. She also has lots of mini-quilts and more, at very reasonable prices.

The Knit & Crochet Show

“But wait,” you may be saying, “How can I get hold of some hand-made polymer clay buttons?”

You can make some! In fact, there’ still time to sign up for my polymer clay button workshops at The Knit & Crochet Show next month in Reno, Nevada. For more information, please visit this site: http://www.knitandcrochetshow.com/

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To Button or Not To Button?

I had to smile when I read this comment from an Amazon.com reviewer, about Crochet Bouquet.

And why are so many decorated with buttons? No, no, no, no, no.

Truth be told, we are fortunate that there were so relatively few buttons in Crochet Bouquet. I held back on the buttons. I restrained myself. It wasn’t easy. Like I said, we’re lucky there weren’t more.

Why?

Because I love, love, love, love, LOVE buttons! They make me feel rich! They add interest and weight to my designs! They are cool to the touch when you run your fingers through them, and they make a nice, soft, clicking-clattering noise when you pour them out of the button jar. They come in so many varieties, it seems one will never run out of buttony options.

Newspaper Valentine by Suzann Thompson

You can see for yourself the buttons that embellish some of the flowers in Crochet Bouquet. (There will be a few button embellishments in my new book, Crochet Garden, too.) Let me show you some of my other buttony creations.

The heart wall hanging above is my “Newspaper Valentine.” (Three guesses as to why it’s called that!—think back to your childhood.) In addition to the many buttons used as trim and hidden in the background, I created stylized flowers on the heart using black and white buttons. (Thank you Sharon, for the buttons!) Bandanna designs inspired these button flowers. If I remember correctly, “Newspaper Valentine” has over 200 buttons on it.

Money Tree, by Suzann Thompson

My friend Kipling McFarland and I are working on a project together, and this is one of the designs I made for it. It’s called “Money Tree.” Remember how I said that buttons make me feel rich?

The black buttons on the ladybug wall hanging were meant to echo the spots on a ladybug’s carapace. I think there are nearly 90 buttons on this wall hanging, and I was very disappointed at the time that the level of buttons in our button jar didn’t seem to be affected by the loss.

Polymer clay buttoncloth, by Suzann

I make buttons, too. This is the button cloth I created to take to my button workshops. It is knitted on my trusty Ultimate Sweater Machine, added to batting and a fabric backing, and machine-quilted. I sewed a sample of each different kind of polymer clay button I have made onto the button cloth.

There’s oh, so much more. If you are interested, you can find more buttony projects on my blogs and website.

I’ll close with this happy thought: I can love buttons and use them on everything, and you can choose

  1. to cover everything with buttons, like me (yes, yes, yes, yes, yes),
  2. to use a moderate number of buttons (yes, yes, maybe, no, no),
  3. to use buttons sparingly (yes, maybe, no, no, no),
  4. or never to use buttons at all (no, no, no, no, no).

It’s a win-win situation!

Crazy Polymer Clay Patchwork Buttons, by Suzann

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Polymer Clay Button Cloth

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth

Polymer clay buttons are so much fun to make! They’re colorful and pretty. They’re machine-washable and dryable. Button-lover that I am, I have enjoyed making these little beauties since the 1980s. The buttons started accumulating. How could I display all those buttons? A button cloth!

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth, up close

Since there were so many colors of buttons, I needed a colorful button cloth. Borrowing a color-meandering technique from quilter Jinny Beyer, I arranged the hues of the rainbow in different shades and tints.

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth, up close

Using the wonderful Ultimate Sweater Machine and yarns from my collection, I knitted blocks of color, alternating with cream and white, and with black and gray at the beginning and end of each strip. I used the join-as-you-knit method to add new strips of color blocks.

After blocking the knitting, I added quilt batting and fabric backing. Then I quilted it and added binding all around.

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth

Now to sew buttons onto the cloth! It took a long time to work through my backlog of buttons. After that, whenever I made a new button style or color-way, I sewed a sample onto the cloth right away.

It’s such a fun piece to show. I always take it to my button workshops. People are surprised to learn that all the colors are the colors of the clay—no paint!

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Crafty Nautical Flags

nautical flag trinket box in Polymer Clay for Everyone

Nautical flags are happy and colorful, and I just love them. But not only that, they actually spell stuff! I mean that each flag represents a letter of the alphabet.

In Polymer Clay for Everyone (my first book—oh yes, I love polymer clay, too), nautical flags decorate the top of a marine trinket box (pages 70-71). And guess what!? They spell T-R-I-N-K-E-T-S.

nautical flags spell E-A-T at Long John Silver’s

Next time you are near a Long John Silver’s restaurant, look for nautical flags that spell:

E-A-T H-E-R-E

Imagine that. “Eat” is on the tall sign, and “here” is split in half on the long sign across the front of the building.

nautical flags spell H-E-R-E at Long John Silver’s

nautical flags spell D-U-C-K at Disney World

When Eva and I were at Disney World with her schoolmates several years ago, we saw this float in a parade. It spells D-U-C-K. (The K is hidden in shadow at the bottom left-hand corner.) Whose float could that have been?

Someday I’m going to knit nautical flags into an afghan. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Garter stitch, I think. Then it will be up to you to unravel the hidden meaning.

P. S. The flags at the Krusty Krab restaurant in SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons don’t spell anything. They’re made up versions of nautical flags. Yay! It fits in with the theme of being able to have a campfire underwater!

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