Tag Archives | Buttons

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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Crochet Comets

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

At our 2015 Dublin Rippers quilting retreat, my friend Donna challenged us. She had a black plastic bag full of fabric. We had to close our eyes and reach into the bag. We had until the next year’s retreat to make something from the fabric we drew from the bag. She said we could make anything we wanted. It didn’t have to be a quilt.

My fabric was a tiny print that gave an overall impression of a kind of pinkish gray. It reminded me of the night sky.

Weren’t there a couple of yellow and white doilies in my collection at home that might make good comets? I went home to my doily collection and, yes! There they were.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

To get an idea of scale, I photographed the doilies and the gray fabric, plus some yellow fabrics that I planned to use for the comet tails. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to digitally build the wall hanging, cutting and pasting the images of doilies and fabric.

I put several stars in the sky, just to give me an idea of how they would look. In the real wall hanging, I would use more stars and they would be a lot fancier. And I’d sew on a bunch of buttons as smaller stars.

Photoshop Elements has a click-and-drag tool for drawing boxes and circles and, hey—stars! I clicked on the star shape and dragged the first one. It was black, because that was the last color I had used. I changed the color, and the next stars were yellow.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

The sketch was pretty rough, but it served its purpose. I could tell that the quilt would have to be about five feet wide to give the doily comets and their tails enough room. The horizon and a few houses gave me an idea of proportions between sky and earth.

I started laying out the quilt top, stopping only to buy a length of fabric to go between the dark earth and the lighter sky. As I worked and laid out the doilies and houses and moon, I got a feeling. It was definitely located in my chest. It was a feeling of inevitability that seemed to squeeze my heart.

The feeling was that the sketch might be rough, but it was perfect the way it was. Any attempt on my part to fancy things up, would not make the finished product look any better. As I worked I came to know this without a doubt.

So the quilt is as close to the sketch as possible. I did fancy up the comet tails with buttons and beads, but the sky is plain, except for the appliqued stars, including a black one.

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, by Suzann Thompson

The back is made from scraps, many of which were giveaways from my quilting friends. It is quilted in mostly parallel, curving lines. That took a long time.

This was my first mostly-fabric quilt with raw-edge applique and very simple piecing, and I learned a lot. It is also the biggest quilt I have made so far.

Crochet Comets is on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, until April 23, 2017. Starting July 1, it will be part of the Celebrate Doilies! exhibit, making its debut in Stephenville, Texas, at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council River North Gallery. (Details here.)

 step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Crochet Comets, 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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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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Finally Finished Red Vases

Four a day flower sewing worked well for Firewheel Meadow, so I started with that regimen until a more urgent project distracted me.

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Red Vases

While appliqueing flowers (not my absolute favorite job in a wall hanging), I listened to The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Listening helped me stay focused, because I really wanted to hear the next chapter and so I had to keep on sewing.

At last, all the flowers were sewn in place. My friend Peggy said, “Those bluebells need something. How about beads?” Again, a different perspective helped. I added the beads.

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Red Vases

The wall hanging rejected all but a few of my attempts to add buttons. A Gail Hughes green button nestled comfortably among leaves, a polymer clay button was a good flower center. But mostly, the buttons were too showy and they detracted from the flowers.

Okay, so… less showy buttons?

Yes!! I hid small tan buttons among the flowers, adding texture and interest, without drawing too much attention.

Red Vases is finished, and it will make its debut at the Town and Country Quilt Guild Show in October. Peggy said, “It will win a ribbon.” That would be nice!

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Red Vases

The crocheted flowers and leaves on Red Vases are from my books Crochet Bouquet and Crochet Garden. To purchase these books, please follow links on the sidebar to amazon.com.

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Afternoon: Flower and Button Arranging

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Afternoon

The blue and orange Czech Festival Flowers (from Crochet Garden) made me think of hollyhocks and other tall flower stalks. For ideas on how to arrange with tall flowers, I typed “tall flower arrangements” into Google Images. My screen was filled with interesting, beautiful examples.

My favorite type of arrangement was where the tall flower stalks were surrounded at the top of the vase by a ring of different flowers. It was like they had a collar of smaller flowers.

Once all the flowers were crocheted and blocked, I tried several arrangements, photographing each one, like the one at right. I chose the best arrangement and started sewing flowers in place. Even then, I continued to fiddle with leaf placement and filler flowers.

step by step TextileFusion wall hanging, Afternoon

Then there was the matter of buttons. Once again I photographed different button placements so I could compare and choose the best, which was the one at left. I was very pleased with the black button centers on the yellow flowers (“Aster-oid” from Crochet Bouquet).

My personal rule for this wall hanging was “no pink.” But I couldn’t resist sprinkling my dayglow pink buttons across the flower arrangement. They looked so wonderful, so delicious, so mouth-watering (as my mom would say), the no-pink rule evaporated.

TextileFusion wall hanging, Afternoon, detail

Afternoon was finished in time to hang at the Town & Country Quilt Guild’s exhibit at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council (Stephenville, TX) in the final months of 2015 and in the TextileFusion exhibit at the International Quilt Festival (Chicago, IL) in April 2016. It still needs a couple of tweaks, but there’s time for that later.

TextileFusion wall hanging, Afternoon

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Memories Monday–Recycled Sweater Vest

TextileFusion vest made from recycled sweater

I placed a darkly colorful man’s sweater on the thrift-shop counter. The cashier looked at me apprehensively. “Do you realize this sweater is 100 percent wool?” she asked.

Yes, I did. That’s why I bought it! Frankly I was amazed that such a wonderful sweater was still on the shelf, but apparently the wool content wasn’t as attractive to other people. The price was right, too—about five dollars.

Wool is perfect for TextileFusion projects. It takes heat well, which is important because I stabilize the knitted fabrics with fusible interfacing. Since wool threads tend to cling to each other, wool is good for cutting into pieces.

For this vest, I cut the facings and hems off of a commercial sewing pattern, and used it to cut vest pieces from the sweater. I stabilized with fusible interfacing and machine stitching. My current favorite mother-of-pearl buttons were perfectly subtle embellishment for the vest. I added other buttons and trims, too.

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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 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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