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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 Charm Lace

Our bookshelves have filled with books of instructions for the cutest ever crocheted flowers, leaves, and other motifs. What can we do with all those sweet little things? We can make Crochet Charm Lace, a beautiful lacy cloth that uses up our yarn leftovers of all weights and textures.

Crochet Charm Lace Sun and Bluebird Doily

The best things about Crochet Charm Lace:

Crochet Charm Lace with Twirly Rose

  • You can make projects in any shape and size.
  • You can use up leftover yarns and reduce your stash.
  • You can mix together all kinds of yarns and weights of yarn.
  • Other than trying for a “firm” gauge, gauge is unimportant.

You can learn this fun technique in my 3-hour workshop about Crochet Charm Lace. In the workshop, we make a small table mat, like the Forget-Me-Not project below. To book the workshop, please email me at knitandcrochetwithsuzann at outlook dot com. You can crochet the motifs yourself as homework, or purchase motif kits from me.

Crochet Charm Lace with Forget Me Not Flower

Here are more Crochet Charm Lace projects. Enjoy!

Crochet Charm Lace in Interweave Crochet, Spring 2015
Dogwood Scarf. Photo credit: Interweave Crochet/Harper Point Photography

Crochet Charm Lace from Noro magazine
Credit: Noro Knitting Magazine Spring/Summer 2014, photo by Paul Amato for LVARepresents.com

Crochet Charm Lace Trillium and Violet Leaf Scarf

Crochet Charm Lace Television Scarf

Crochet Charm Lace Snow Globe

Crochet Charm Lace Pineapple Table Runner

Crochet Charm Lace Rose Poncho

Crochet Charm Lace Dream Home

Crochet Charm Lace Daisy Table Mat

Pink Crochet Charm Lace Scarf from Crochet Garden

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Studying Yellow

This article was written for a magazine that went out of print before publishing it. It seemed a shame to keep it to myself, so here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.

Yellow crochet, the start of a doily

Sunshine, cowardly, lemon, journalism: yellow is many things. I was surprised learn that yellow is also “difficult.”

A friend took a creative color workshop with a well-known knitting instructor. Each student chose one color to study for the day. “But don’t pick yellow,” said the instructor. “It’s difficult.”

I scoffed at this, but to my amazement, I later heard the same pronouncement at an international quilt show.

Well, I say if a color is allegedly difficult, working with it is the only way to learn to use it well.

So let’s take a look at yellow together, and then you can use these methods to study any color you may find difficult. The best part is, no color wheels are necessary.

Basic Steps

Decide which specific color you want to study.

Yellow ranges from pale creams (yellow + white) to rich olive shades (yellow + black). Yellow school-buses are really orange-yellow, while fluorescent yellows have greenish overtones. Given the large variety of yellow, I concentrated specifically on brilliant yellows.

Observe your color in different surroundings.

Look for your color in nature, in human environments, in magazines, quilts, your own home, photos, museums, and books. At this stage, the goal is to gather lots of information about the color, and avoid judging the color combinations you see.

Answer these questions about the color and its surroundings.

  • What other colors are near the study color?
  • Are the nearby colors lighter, darker, or similar in tone to your color?
  • Do you see shadows or highlights that enhance the study color?
  • What are the proportions of the various colors?

Answer the questions in words rather than just taking a visual impression in your brain. Writing answers on paper may help you focus on words, rather than just relying on a mental snapshot.


Make sample swatches.

Knit or crochet samples with the color combinations you observed. This is your chance to try out some interesting stitch patterns. I still use Barbara G. Walker’s treasuries of knitting patterns. For crochet, my favorite is Harmony Guide to Crocheting Techniques and Stitches, by Debra Mountford, editor (1992).


Yellow in Nature

Yellow wildflowers along a caliche road

We have lots of yellow out here in rural Texas, and so I took some photos for this study. Here’s a picture of a county roadside near our house.

I wrote answers to the questions listed above:

The lemon and orange-yellow flowers are surrounded by deep yellow green and paler dusty green leaves; also light brownish gray dried leaves. The caliche road and the earth are light beige with pink undertones, but very bright. Flower centers and shadows are dark. Shadows aren’t exactly black. The amount of yellow is small in comparison to the greens and browns.

Just so you know, you may not like how your samples turn out. I didn’t like this one.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

Going back to the original photo and my own words, I realized I didn’t include the deep shadows that added contrast to the scene. Here’s the next sample with the deep shadow color added.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

I didn’t like this one much either, but I have learned not to let this put me off. Making these samples was not a waste of time. I learned something about these colors together. They may be perfect for a wall hanging someday. They may look better in different proportions. They may look a lot better to me in a few years.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

But it was time to move on.

Like you see in this picture of nightshade berries and a grasshopper, yellow in nature is often seen with black, gray, and various shades of brown. Sometimes a tan or grayish bird has a surprising patch of yellow feathers.

Here are knitted samples of yellow with grays and tan.

Yellow knitted with grays and tan

They’re okay. I won’t be making a garment with these colors, probably. But the yellow and gray combination makes a pretty good wall hanging!

Yellow knitted with grays and tan

Next time: Yellow Around the House.

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Open Studios at IQF-Chicago

I was happy this year to present three Open Studios sessions at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. It’s great to talk to so many interested and enthusiastic people.

For “Quilting Sweater Knits” I hurried up and prepared two more minis in my Yellow Circle series.

 Open Studios—Quilting Sweater Knits  Open Studios—Quilting Sweater Knits

“Tropical Sunflower,” at left, was pieced and ready to quilt. For the one on the right, the pieces were pinned to the foundation but not yet sewn. I may name that one something like “Searchlight in a Blue Norther.”

 Open Studios—Quilting Sweater Knits

On the third yellow circle mini, closest to the viewer in this photo, I demonstrated how to piece knitted fabric onto a foundation.

 Open Studios—Flower Arranging for Quilters

On another day, we practiced “Flower Arranging for Quilters.” Two different groups of Open Studios participants came up with possibilities for my new wall hanging. I like this one a lot. I liked the other one a lot, too.

The wall hanging’s working title is “Blue Onion,” because the inspiration was my mother’s Zwiebelmuster or Onion Pattern china.

 Open Studios—Doilies in Your Quilts

Finally, I showed how to include doilies in quilts using several samples, including this new wall hanging, “Red Vases.”

Whew. That was a lot of prep. But it’s a good thing, because often the most difficult part of a project for me is starting it. True, I was going to start these projects eventually, but because of the Quilt Festival, they’re already begun.

Now all I have to do is finish them.

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Shop, See Art, Learn at Quilt! Knit! Stitch!

Double Bullion crochet workshop

The Quilt! Knit! Stitch! show in Portland OR next month is going to be great fun! I’m looking forward to taking a folk embroidery workshop and shopping at the market.

In addition to lots of three- and six-hour workshops and the retail market, the event includes exhibits of textile artworks. My own TextileFusion exhibit–knitted, embellished quilts–will make its national debut there. Yay!

I’m the crochet teacher, offering these workshops:

  • Full of Bullion (Stitch, That Is). The double bullion picot petal flower above is one of our samples for this class.
  • Pretty Picot-rama
  • What to do with Grandmother’s Doilies
  • Crochet Charm Lace

Please go to www.quilts.com for more information and to register.

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April 18th—Create a Piece of TextileFusion All Your Own!

First I have to tell you this story. When Lark Books contracted with me in 2006 to write Crochet Bouquet, my editor sent me a stack of pictures of crocheted flowers from the internet. “Here’s some inspiration,” she said, more or less.

I looked through the pictures she sent, and saw my very own wall hanging–Shards 2: Sometimes, the one you see in the photo above! One of my mixed-media quilts had crossed over into the realm of inspiration. It was a good day!

And now, back to the present. Since I use lots of fiber techniques in my wall hangings, I call them “TextileFusion,” which combines knitting, crochet, quilting, and embellishment.

Join me on Saturday, April 18, 2015, to learn how the TextileFusion technique has developed over the years. Then make a small piece of TextileFusion of your very own!

The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (520 South First Street, San Jose, CA) will host the workshop from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 18th of this month.

Read more about the TextileFusion workshop and register soon at: https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=4c411e

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

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TextileFusion Workshop, San Jose, CA, April 18th

Try your hand at TextileFusion in a workshop

on April 18th, 2015
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

at The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
520 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113

This sample quilt is similar to what we will be making. It started as a thrift store sweater.

Register and read more about it here: https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=4c411e

After a colorful slide presentation about how TextileFusion techniques came to be, each of us will make a small knitted, embellished quilt from an old sweater. In case you’re wondering—yes!—we will cut it up! You will need scissors, pins, hand-sewing needles and a non-lace sweater (preferably wool or cotton) that you don’t mind cutting up. Skills required: simple hand sewing, sewing buttons.

I hope you will join me and my lovely assistant (daughter) for this quick mixed-media exercise.

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

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Mosaic Memories Monday: Moments with Barbara Walker

It was at the Interweave Knitting Lab, October 2012, in Manchester, New Hampshire. I was teaching a class about how to knit mosaic patterns and design your own. The workshop participants were enthusiastic and they were close to completing our first mosaic sample: a dotty heart pattern.

Barbara Walker

All at once, the door opened, and in walked a small white-haired lady wearing a sparkling mosaic sweater. We saw, as if in a dream, Barbara Walker, the first champion of the mosaic knitting technique, the developer of a very clever mosaic knit charting method, the designer of many, many mosaic patterns. All this and much, much more.

Barbara Walker's bag

Barbara examined the mosaic samplers and graciously allowed us to photograph her and her lovely sweater and bag. She never uses a sweater pattern. She just decides which stitch motifs to use, and then knits from the top down.

She left us star-struck, and we continued our workshop with renewed vigor.

Barbara was the keynote speaker for the conference. I wouldn’t have missed her speech for anything. She produced several treasuries of knitting stitch patterns, which to my mind are the foundation for all modern knit stitch treasuries and the inspiration for many knitting patterns we’ve seen in books and magazines for the last 30 years.

A 1952 graduate of University of Pennsylvania, Barbara wrote for the Washington Star newspaper for years. The paper closed two or three years after she left. At some point, she took two classes in medieval history, where, oddly, no mention was made of the Inquisition. This got her started researching the history of religion. Among other things, this study resulted in the publication of her thoroughly engrossing encyclopedias of feminine symbols and mythology.

Here are a few lines from Barbara Walker’s speech, which made me admire her even more:

Regarding the relative creativity of the people in the room:

“You have probably knitted as much as I have, but you didn’t keep count. You are as creative as I am, but you just haven’t put it in books.”

Regarding how she was able to produce so much:

The television broke. About six years later, she called a repairman. “I got a lot done in that time,” she said.

“I was always solitary. That’s how I got so much done.”

And finally,

“I want to surprise myself. I don’t want to be bored.”

Thank you, Barbara Walker. Your work has made a large and lasting impression on my life.

Suzann and Barbara Walker

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Third Grade Art Days

Third Grade Textile Art

I was the lucky one on October 23! My daughter Ella and I spent a busy morning with third graders at an Austin-area elementary school for Art Days. This is Ella at the beginning of the day.

Parents spent weeks organizing and preparing for Art Days, funded the purchase of most of the supplies, and organized visits by visual artists, musicians, actors, and authors. (Thank you, Carolyn, for inviting me!)

Our work room was all ready to go with a gallon of school glue and an 8 x 10″ canvas for each student. Ella and I brought buttons, beads, sequin trims, felt, and crocheted bits and pieces. After a while, the supplies got scattered around a little by those hard-working third graders.

Third Grade Textile Art

I had lots of…let’s call them crocheted beta-flowers–the prototypes for the flowers that became part of Crochet Bouquet and Crochet Garden.

They’ve been sitting on my storage shelves for years, because I couldn’t imagine throwing them away. The third graders made excellent use of them. Look!


Third Grade Textile Art

I am absolutely thrilled and amazed by every single one of these compositions. The colors, the enthusiasm, instinctive design sense–oh my.

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

This is “Superman with a Zipper.” See the green sequin “S” for Superman?

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

The mother of the student who decorated the canvas at the bottom left, guessed correctly that it was his, without first seeing his name on the back. “Those are the colors in our playroom!” she said.

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Can you tell that two friends decorated these canvasses?

Third Grade Textile Art

Look, right in the middle is a “Mumsy”-prototype from Crochet Bouquet, and a “Baby Cornflower” from Crochet Garden in the top right corner.

Third Grade Textile Art

This is a “Byzantine Beauty” from Crochet Garden. I crocheted several different versions of that flower before finally getting it right.

The young lady that created this design was quietly confident. She studied the canvas, rummaged around in the piles of supplies, and came back with exactly the right piece to accent the Byzantine Beauty. She repeated the process until she was satisfied.

Sixth Grade Textile Art

Ella finally got to decorate her own canvas, after helping third-graders all morning.

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Sign Up Now 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. Beginners are welcome!

The buttons in the photo above are Swirl Buttons, which we’ll make in class. You can match your Swirl Buttons to any yarn or fabric.

Mosaic knit fish rug

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 fishy rug is from a picture that my daughter Eva drew when she was seven years old. Think of the precious drawings you could capture in knitting after taking this class!

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!

Updated 2016 to correct a link.

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