Sunday, 23 December 2012

Make a Button-Tree Cushion, With Woodland Visitors

This cute, decorative cushion features an appliqued felt tree, and uses an assortment of buttons in varying sizes and shades of green for the leaves. An embroidered owl sits among the branches, while a grey squirrel scampers off around the trunk

 The design uses 4 basic embroidery stitches, blanket stitch, chain stitch, stem stitch & vandyke stitch (although you could substitute other stitches of your choice.)

You will need:

A plain cushion cover and pad
A 30cm square of brown felt
40-60 buttons of various sizes and colours
A selection of embroidery threads in various shades of brown, grey and orange
A small amount of iron-on interfacing and hemming web (optional)

Cut the tree shape below out of your brown felt, and pin it into position on your cushion cover. ( alternatively, use small strips of iron-on hemming web to keep it in place while you blanket-stitch around it ) I printed off two copies of the tree, one to use as a template, and another to use as a 'map' for my buttons later.

Trace the smaller pictures of the owl and the squirrel from the template, and transfer to your cushion cover  (or alternatively, draw them on freehand with a pencil, as I did)

Embroider the owl and squirrel using colours and stitches of your choice. I outlined my owl in stem-stitch using 2 strands of thread, & filled in the face, and eyes with chain-stitch using a single strand of thread. The body of the owl was filled with rows of blanket stitch using two strands of alternating shades of brown, to give an impression of 'feathers' laying down the body. The beak and feet were sewn using stem stitch, and individual chain-stitch 'links' for the claws, sewing through the felt forming the branch.

The squirrel's tail was formed using a strip of vandyke stitch in a dark grey to form the centre of the tail, with individual stitches added between the sides of the vandyke stitch, in paler shades of grey/cream, to give the tail a 'fluffy' effect. The outline of the tail and the back legs of the squirrel were also sewn in stem stitch, using the paler shade of grey for the tail, and the darker shade of grey for the legs, with the left leg being sewn over the felt, so the squirrel appears to be climbing round the tree.

Arranging the buttons:

Depending on the size and shapes of the buttons you are using, you will need between 40 and 60 to form the 'leaves' on your tree. Before you begin to attach them to your cushion cover, map out where you want them to go, either by placing them on the cushion cover and moving them around until you are happy with the look of it, & taking a photograph to refer to while sewing, or by laying them out on your work table, on your second copy of the template. 

Then just sew each button on, positioning it from your 'map' until the tree is full of leaves. Insert your cushion pad, sit back and enjoy!

Monday, 17 December 2012

How To Make A Vintage Button Necklace

If, like us, you have collected jars and tins containing a treasure trove of old buttons over the years, this is a great way of using some of them up, and making yourself a unique piece of jewellery at the same time. I have made about a dozen of these now in different colourways, for myself and as gifts, and they always get a positive reaction and a lot of interest when worn!

You will need:

A selection of buttons in various sizes & shades of your chosen colour
Some pliable craft/floristry wire
Jewellery making pliers and snips
A toggle clasp
1/2 metre of thin satin ribbon
A needle and some thread to match the ribbon

Using the largest buttons first, and starting from  the centre out, arrange the buttons until you find combinations you like. You can use two or even 3 buttons for each link, some may fit inside each other, while others will just layer nicely. Decrease the size of the buttons as you work towards the ends of the necklace. Once you've settled on your design, you're ready to start wiring them together.

Cut a piece of wire at least 50cm long, so you have plenty to work with. Fold  the wire in half to find the centre point, and then thread on your centre button.

Then take the next buttons from the left, and thread those next to the centre button - Tuck the buttons slightly behind the centre button, so there is an overlap.

Repeat this step with the next buttons from the right of your design.

Keep adding the buttons, alternating from side to side of your design. It is possible to use buttons with a shank, rather than regular buttonholes as a top layer if you wish, provided the bottom button has a deep central 'well' to accommodate the shank.

As you pull the wire tight, the top button will then sit flush on top of the bottom one.

Continue threading your buttons on the wire, remembering to always tuck the one you are threading slightly underneath the previous button - the slight overlap helps the finished necklace to hold it's shape and rigidity better.

When you have threaded them all, bend the piece into a slight 'U' shaped curve - the front should look like this...

....and the back should look like this.

Take the ends of the wire, and form them into small loops behind the end buttons on either side.

thread the loose end of the wire back through the next button along, so it's poking back out at the front.

Then snip the end off as close as you can to the top of the button - This will prevent any sharp edges digging in to your chest while you are wearing your necklace!

Turn the piece back over so you are looking at the reverse, and find your satin ribbon. Thread the ribbon through the loop of wire at the back of the centre button.

Working from the centre outwards, wrap the ribbon over and through the wiring so that it loops across the back of the buttons, finally threading it through the loop of wire you made at the end (The ribbon should then obscure any visible wire at the edge of the button which may have been visible from the front.

The finished back view should look like this...

...and from the front it will look like this.

All you need to do now is to sew the toggle clasp into place at either end of the ribbon, once you have decided on the length of your necklace. I've always found that these work better as a shorter necklace, with the end buttons sitting just on the collarbones -  Due to the fact that it is wired together as one solid piece, if you leave it much longer than this, it will tend to swing forward when you lean forward and hit you in the face!  Alternatively, if you didn't want to use a clasp to fasten, you could just tie the ends of the ribbon at the back of your neck at the required length.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Beside The Seaside (With free cross-stitch charts)

This is an easy-to-make cross-stitch hanging of some colourful beach-huts, to brighten up any room, and bring back memories of sunny summer seaside holidays (and as the temperature has barely risen above freezing here all day, we could definitely do with reminding!)

You will need a piece of 14ct Aida approx 60cm x 20cm, a pair of bell-pull hangers or similar, a piece of iron-on interfacing approx 51cm x12cm (the finished dimensions of the hanging) and assorted embroidery threads to match your own colour scheme.

I left approx 18 squares of Aida between the top of one beach hut and the bottom of the next, and used 2 strands of thread for everything apart from the outlining. The handles of the bucket and spade were sewn on afterwards, using large straight stitches.

Top Beach Hut

Middle Beach Hut

Bottom Beach Hut

To finish off, I folded the excess at the sides over, and secured with iron-on hemming web, then folded the excess at the top and bottom over and ironed it flat. Insert the bell pull hangers into the creases top and bottom, and pin into place, then secure with a row of cross stitch using one of the colours used for the beach huts. Finally, cut the interfacing  a few millimetres smaller than your finished hanging, and iron onto the reverse, covering the excess at the sides, and the raw edges of the top and bottom.

The design can also be used horizontally as well as vertically - try doing two rows of three in various colours, and making a  rectangular cushion, or framing it as a picture!