buttons…not just for sewing anymore!

14 05 2010

the humble button is typically associated with sewing and other needlework crafts, but it’s become a great addition to many other crafty projects. if you want to add extra dimension, interest and texture to your projects, here are some ideas on how to effectively use buttons.

buttons come in all shapes, sizes, colors, designs, and textures. there are old and vintage buttons, brand new shiny buttons, novelty and fancy buttons, buttons made of varying materials and with different textures, big buttons and small buttons. in fact, there’s a minefield of opportunities out there for creative crafters willing to consider the potential of buttons.

having a simple button (or a collection of many!) on your projects helps provide another area of visual interest. something that would otherwise just be flat is gjven a new dimension, and buttons made of different fabrics, plastic, wood, or shell aid in giving it a new texture.

buttons are great when used on scrapbook pages, on handmade mini books and journals, on handmade cards, handmade bookmarks, in altered art projects or on home décor items. they can be used randomly to add a splash of color, or fit in with the color scheme of your project, or they can be used to create patterns, shapes or designs.

round buttons, for example, make an ideal flower center, or could be used to represent a letter o when you’re spelling out words or names. your imagination is the limit!

finding buttons

if you’re after a specific color or size of buttons for use in a particular project, then the best option may be to buy those particular buttons.  but if you don’t have an exact button type in mind, there are other ways of finding something suitable…and sometimes just having a fancy button generates a spark of an idea for a whole crafting project!

some places you may find buttons include:

  • you may have odd buttons lurking around the house, as spare buttons are often provided when you buy clothing. put all the spares in one place so you can delve in when you need inspiration.
  • look out for old or vintage buttons being sold at markets or fairs.
  • odd buttons are often sold at charity shops and you can find something interesting.
  • mixed packs of multicolored or textured buttons can be found in sewing and craft shops.
  • if you’re getting rid of any old clothing, you could remove the buttons first!
  • all sorts of old buttons can be found if you search through the listings of online auctions, or at  traditional auctions.

securing buttons onto your projects 

there are a variety of ways in which buttons can be safely secured onto your projects. if the buttons you’re using have one, two, three or four holes on the top – as traditional buttons do – you can always use them in the way they’re designed to be used and sew them on to your work. sewing in this way works well with paper, and can make a piece look unusual.

alternatively, if you’d like it to look like it was sewn on (but don’t want the hassle of stitching) you could always thread through a small piece of cotton into the holes, then tie them at the back. the button can then be stuck onto your work instead. all sorts of types of glue will work with buttons, although it does depend in part on what the individual item is made of. as a rough guide, sticky dots, glue sticks, 3d foam, silicone glue, and a good all purpose glue will all work with buttons.

relatively flat buttons work best with the sewing on or gluing methods, but if you have any that need to be secured via a small loop at the back, they can be used too. for example, you could secure them by using headpins (as traditionally used in jewelry making) or by threading them onto a piece of wire or thread and hanging them across your project.

buttons can bring projects to life and are great fun to use, so button up, buttercup!

i got my eyelet set on you

21 04 2010

at first glance, eyelets might not seem like something that goes hand-in-hand with crafting, but they can and do! in recent years (thanks to the introduction of much better eyelet setting tools), the humble eyelet has become widely used within the craft world. 

eyelets have become a form of embellishment that’s widely used in various paper crafting techniques. what are they?  basically a type of fastener with a hole in the middle. an eyelet setting tool is required in order to attach them to a surface, such as paper, card, metal or fabric, but once they’re in place they can be used to thread ribbons through, to tie the front of a card together, to make a hanging object, or anything you can dream up!

eyelets come in all shapes and sizes – they can be round, square, novelty shaped and plain, patterned, shiny, dull or metallic.  there are teeny tiny eyelets, medium sized eyelets and really big ones…so whatever your project, you’re likely to find an eyelet that will suit the purpose. good craft shops are well stocked with eyelets and you can either buy them in packs of one design or color, or as mixed variety packs.

essential tools

to use eyelets in your projects you will need an eyelet setting tool. there are various types of eyelet setters available and the more recent varieties (e.g. the crop-a-dile) have made setting an eyelet a whole lot easier than it used to be.

some of the more traditional eyelet setters involved the need for a hammer, whereas others involved a little device that is pressed down. modern eyelet setters are much more easy to use, don’t involve the need for a lot of pressure and can even be used by school age children.

when you’re setting an eyelet, and especially if you’ve not used a setter before, it’s best to try it out on a protected surface before applying to your finished product . you’ll need your eyelet and then just follow the instructions that came with your particular setter. the general idea is the same – make a hole, then set the eyelet – but the method involved varies slightly depending on the type of setter you have.

using eyelets in creative paper crafting

eyelets are very versatile and open up a whole new world of innovative design ideas. they can be used in a wide variety of ways, including:

on cards – eyelets can be used on the front of gatefold cards, with ribbon threaded between them and tied so the card can be opened and closed nicely. or they can be used elsewhere on other sorts of cards, either purely for decoration or with ribbon threaded through.

on scrapbook pages – as with cards, eyelets can add a new dimension to scrapbook pages and play both a practical role and add a decorative element.

on altered art projects – eyelets are ideal for altered art projects. as setters work on surfaces such as plastic or metal, eyelets can be used on decorative metal boxes, on covered buckets or tins, on altered stationery items and to make items such as ribbon holders. basically anywhere where you need a hole and want it to be finished off to a high standard so it won’t tear, get worn out or look untidy in a few months time…use an eyelet!

dorset buttons

26 03 2010

dorset buttons are a very old style of button that’s handmade from embroidery floss or yarn and wrapped around a ring-shaped base. 

cutest little things ever.

they look great anywhere…on a knit or crocheted sweater, on a bag, on a hat, or if you can’t part with them…stashed away in a special drawer. 

you can also glue a pin-back on a dorset button and wear it as a fun accent. 

best of all, they’re way easier to make than they look!

materials needed:

plastic drapery rings (shown here are size 1 3/8”)

yarn or floss

embroidery needle with a big eye and a dull tip


how to:

cut a very long piece of floss or yarn.  dorset buttons are usually made with one continuous piece of floss, so you need enough to complete your whole button.  i usually measure out the length of my arm three times, and that’s plenty.  thread this piece on your needle.

you’ll need to capture the loose end of your floss underneath the stitching you’ll be doing in just a moment.  so lay the end of your floss against your drapery ring, as shown.

now you’re going to cover this ring with blanket stitches.  so, still holding that loose end in place, bring your needle up through the center of the ring.

pull that entire length of floss through, until you have just a small loop showing.

now stick your needle through that loop.  pull the thread the rest of the way through, until it’s wrapped snugly around the ring.  repeat this stitch over and over again, making sure that as you pull each stitch tight, it’s sitting right next to your previous stitch.

the photo below shows two important things:  first, after you’ve covered about ¼” of your initial loose end in blanket stitches, you can cut the rest off and then keep stitching.  second, you may notice that the ring is turned over…just a personal preference…some prefer to stitch from left to right once the loose end is covered. 

keep blanket stitching until you’ve covered up the entire ring.  if you’re doing it right, you should see a nice little seam developing along the edge of your ring as you work.

note that if you’re using a pearl cotton floss as shown here, it will take a while to cover up the whole ring.  the process is much faster with crewel or yarn.

once your ring is completely covered, then it’s time to slide that little seam from the outside of the ring to the inside.  just work your way around, moving a section at a time.

now you’re ready to make some spokes!  this is the only tricky part of the process.  you still have a long, long tail of floss attached to your ring.  and now that you’ve rolled the seam to the inside of the ring, the end of your floss is now facing toward the inside of the ring as well.

wrap this tail of floss over the ring several times in order to form six equal spokes of floss.  to begin, pull your floss across your ring as shown below, wrapping it around the back of the ring and back up to where you started.

now wrap the floss behind the ring again, but this time, you’ll wrap toward the front from a new location, 1/6 of the way around the ring from your first spoke.  don’t panic when the spokes don’t line up. refer to this picture:

keep wrapping, placing each spoke at 1/6 intervals, until you have six spokes.  these spokes should be wrapped very snugly around the ring and should meet in the very center of the ring on the front.  (on the back, they’ll look all weird…don’t worry about that right now.)

now that you have spokes, they need to be anchored in place and the back of the ring needs to be aligned with the front. do this by making a few tight stitches around the center point of all these spokes. 

here’s how.  hold your ring so you’re facing the front side.

bring your needle up on one side of the center point.  thin you stitch down at the opposite side of the center point and pull this tiny stitch tightly.  as you pull, you’re also pulling the center point of all your spokes toward the exact center of your ring.  like magic, the back will begin to align with the spokes in the front.

good deal!  now for the easy part…covering those spokes with a series of backstitches.  choose a spoke to begin stitching on.  bring your needle up from the back of the ring to the front, and bring it up just to the left of this spoke.  now take your needle back down through the ring, this time just to the right of the spoke.  you’ll end up with a tiny little stitch that wraps over the top of the spoke.

move forward to the next spoke, and do the same stitch.  the photo above shows the path of your needle.  keep working in this manner, taking one backstitch around each spoke and moving around and around the wheel.  within a few rows, you’ll see a little pattern emerging.

when you’ve filled in the whole center of the button with stitching, it’s time to tie off your thread.  by this time, you’ll have stitched your way out to the edge of your button.  just pass the needle under about ¼” of the yarn you blanket stitched around the ring initially, then cut the loose end close to the button.

hint:  when making these with pearl cotton, it might be helpful to switch to a smaller needle for this last step.  if you’re using a thicker yarn, your embroidery needle will slide easily under the blanket stitches…no problemo.

extra credit:

now that you’ve got the basic technique down, you can start playing with variations!  for example:

do your backstitching in a different color than your ring and spokes.

wrap your wring with two different colors of floss at the same time for a mottled effect.  sounds too complicated?  try using variegated thread or yarn!

make some stitches around the ring in a contrasting color.

sew beads onto your finished button.

turn your button over so the backstitching looks more like basketweave.

setting my eyes on eyelet setting

17 11 2009

eyelets blueeyelets have been a part of all of our lives since birth.  remember some of those first pairs of shoes?  yeah, eyelets held your shoelaces. 

 great little marvels, eyelets. 

here’s some info on eyelets and setting tools, and what progress has been made over the years in terms of eyelet setting.  much easier now than back in the day, that’s for sure.

eyeletsetter1check out this non-industrial eyelet/snap setter, which was probably used to add eyelets or snaps to children’s clothing.  maybe craft projects too.  but you’d be really limited where you could place the eyelets, because the tool would reach only ¾’ in from any edge, be it paper, leather or cloth.  although the setter itself was virtually silent, i could practically hear the groans of the user as (s)he squeezed the tool with all their strength to set an eyelet or snap.  oh, if one could only put an eyelet anywhere one chose, and with ease…

welcome to the 1990’s

hello leather hole punch, self-healing mat, hammer, and eyelet setter! now i can set an eyelet anywhere!  only problem was that the smaller the eyelet, the more difficult it was to find a smaller punch and setter.   this type of eyelet setting was noisy, but long gone were the days of the ¾” edge restriction.  many crafters started using eyelets at this point because of this newer, “easier” method.

i remember banging away on eyelets with my hammer long into the night and the honey saying from the bedroom, “can you maybe set those eyelets in the morning?!?” bless my sweet man’s patient soul.

eyeletsetter2before too long, martha stewart came out with an eyelet setting tool kit, which of course i had to snatch up.  then Making Memories introduced their eyelet setting tools and 3/8” eyelets in 20+ colors. Screw you, martha, and your wishy washy silver, gold and copper eyelets.  although still noisy, i still held out hope and would often tell the honey, “why can’t they just come out with something that is quieter and easier on the hands…like a hole punch, but for eyelet setting?”

yeah, if i had a dollar for every time i had a thought for “they”. millions, i say.  millions. 

the new-and-improved versions

about five or six years ago, there was a great jump in the evolution of eyelet setting.  three companies introduced a single setting tool that eliminated the need for a punch tool, setting tool and hammer. good on them, I say, and if you’re not ready to part with your clikit, instant setter or silent setter for a crop-a-dile, then don’t.  keep it, and get a crop-a-dile too! 

if you’re in the market for an eyelet setting tool, here’s the lowdown on the clikit, instant setter, and the silent setter:

karen foster design – clikit

this is a spring-action tool that punches holes, sets eyelets and embosses with a simple handle push.





the clikit releases about the same amount of pressure as a hammer, but with a little less noise.  it comes with 10 interchangeable tips, two sets of different sized eyelets and a setting pad in a slide-top wooden box. 


if punching letters into metal is your thing, additional embossing alphabets are available with complete instructions and diagrams included in the box. nifty.

making memories – instant setter


the instant setter is spring-loaded, tension-adjustable, easy on the hands and a little less loud than the clikit.  it does still make some noise, so don’t get all excited.  the instant setter comes with three interchangeable punching tips (1/16”, 1/8” and 3/16”), four setting tips and a setting mat, which is all neatly tucked into a metal box. 


the handle is comfortable to hold and use, and each letter die from the stamping die set fits easily into the tool head.  simple to follow instructions on the back of the package. 

provo craft – silent setter


a quiet eyelet setter…no noise, and ergonomically designed.  but like anything “ergonomically designed”, it can take some time for your body to adjust to a new way of doing things.  doesn’t screw up the shape of the back of your metal eyelets the way some other setting tools can.  the set includes a zippered case with a setting mat, three punch tips and three setting tips in micro, standard and large.   


all you need is a medium to firm push downward and a slight rotation of the tool to securely attach an eyelet to any layout or craft project.


works best on aluminum eyelets.    



if you don’t yet have a crop-a-dile, stop waiting.  durable, easy to use, quiet, feels good in your hands, and you can set eyelets all night without waking your partner.  works on paper, leather, plastic, metal, chipboard, acrylic, fabric, and wood. 

only down-side to the original crop-a dile is that you can’t reach the center of your pages or projects…it can only punch about 3” in from the edges.  for most projects this is fine, but if you do need to reach the middle, you’ll need one of the other tools as well or the newfangled long-reach version of the crop-a-dile called the “big bite”. 

again, a point i made to my honey one day…“why don’t they make one where you can reach further into the middle of the page?”  i swear there are product designers following me and stealing my product ideas.


this bad boy even works on metal pails!

in sum

like most inventions, each new product solves a different problem posed by its predecessor. still can’t decide what to do? here’s some thoughts:

if you’ve got an old gripper tool, keep it because it sets an industrial snap, and most newer products don’t.

if you’ve got some of the early making memories tools (or those from other companies), why not donate them to a local school for student use? that’d be most appreciated.  

consider purchasing the karen foster clickit because it will easily set non-aluminum, heavier eyelets, it has many tip options, and cool alphabet embossing options. 

consider the making memories instant setter for its simplicity, comfortable handle and great box.

purchase the provo craft silent setter IF you’re looking for something quiet without a lot of bells and whistles.  just remember it won’t sent heavy-duty eyelets, so you may eventually end up purchasing something else that does.

purchase the crop-a-dile. this handy tool punches through just about any material and it’s easy to use.

never smile at a crop-a-dile

1 10 2009

never tip your hat…

enough singing for one day.  besides, you’re going to smile REAL BIG when you get a load of THIS crop-a-dile!

cropadile 2 big bite gromulets2


oh yeah, kiddies…check it out. 

what is that wonderful goodness?  it’s the “big bite crop-a-dile II” all in one tool.  punches, sets AND snaps.  use it for setting eyelets and snapping grommets of all sizes, and it also punches through paper, leather, fabric, plastic, thin tin, and chipboard. 

i’ve got to try it out on felt, and my bet is that it’ll work.  it’s got a 6″ punching reach, so you’re no longer limited to setting eyelets and grommets toward the edge of your projects anymore. 

cropadile 2 big bite gromulets


if only this was around when i was a kid!  if you love paper, this is something you don’t want to be without!

embroidered buttons

26 09 2009


embroider your own buttons?  sure, why not!

materials needed:


small patterns (or draw your own freehand)

something to transfer the design onto fabric.  (you can use transfer paper or just freehand the design with a pencil)

embroidery supplies: scissors, floss, needle, etc.

small embroidery hoop

fabric scraps

fabric button kit (can be found at any fabric or craft store and is fairly inexpensive)
now…get ready to transfer your pattern to one of your fabric scraps.


if using transfer paper, layer the fabric, transfer paper, and image in that order.

trace the pattern with a pencil, then place your fabric inside a small embroidery hoop, centering your design.




you probably won’t want to use more than 2 strands of floss, since your pattern is so small.

after cutting your piece of floss (an arm’s length or shorter), separate one or two stands of floss and then thread onto a needle.

now you’re ready to get stitchin’!



once you are done stitching, remove the fabric from the hoop.








cut a circle around your stitched design.

be sure to leave plenty of room around the design—the circle should be at least an inch larger than the button you are going to use.




place the circle of fabric inside  the larger plastic cup.



push the domed piece of metal down into the cup with the fabric underneath. it will be a tight fit, but push it all the way down.

center the design and push it into the cup.


here’s what it will look like after you push the domed piece of metal down into the cup:


cut away any excess fabric around the edges. you want it so that you can tuck in the ends of the fabric. too long is better than too short, and you can always trim the fabric if it’s too bulky.



place the back of the metal button inside the cup, shank side up.

place the smaller cup (open side down) inside of the larger cup, on top of the back of the button, like so:


push down with a little bit of pressure

until you hear the back piece pop into place.

remove the finished button from the cup. voila!


sew the buttons onto a jacket or tote. you can also cut the shank off the buttons with pliers and glue on a pin backing to make a brooch or add a magnetic strip for a cute magnet.

button flowers

25 07 2009


buttonflowers2to make a button flower, you’ll need 5-6 smallish matching buttons, a larger button for the center, and if desired, a small button for the center of the big button.

the key to making these is the glue. what does not work is hot glue, craft glue, and e6000. 

make sure the glue you use is meant for beads, glass, & plastics!

make a ring out of your matching smaller buttons. make sure the flattest side is facing up, this makes a better surface for adhering. place a small dab of glue on each button.


place the center button on top – flat side against flat side.  you can make the flowers with the ridge side up on the bottom layer, but it holds better with the flat side up – it’s your call.




use your imagination to come up with all sorts of cute combinations!


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