14 September 2010

I Dropped a Bag of French Knots!--a tutorial

My grandpa owned a coin operated arcade game business, and consequentially always had bags of coins he carried in and out of the house [also consequentially, I'm really good at Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Asteroids.]  When building my dad's childhood home, my grandpa set buffalo-head nickels into the wet red cement on the front porch, as though he had dropped a bag on the front porch and they rolled and scattered across the surface.  He put weights on the bottom of each to prevent his porch from being "robbed".  My aunt's boyfriend didn't know this and brought his chisel one night.  Chisel marks were left in the cement, but so were the coins.

Do you ever get those ads for your local fabric store where all the notions are 50% off?  When I see those, I get off my button and load up on, well buttons!  But not from the button section, at least not from their mundane selection that does little to peak my interest.  I much prefer covering my own buttons.  I like to spice them up with embroidery; this one inspired by the dispersed change on the porch.  And guess what.  These buttons aren't even going to see a buttonhole.  I know, could it get any more exciting?

There are two readily available types of covered button kits.  One that includes "tools" and one that "requires no tools".  I had always grabbed the tools included kit, but depending on the embroidery work, the other one may be your best option.

What you'll need:
Covered Button
Small Embroidery Hoop
Lightweight fusible Interfacing
Embroidery Thread [just regular DMC floss]/needle

I used the "no tools required" type on this project because of the amount of embroidery work that is raised above the fabric.  Using the one without the cradle or tools, will keep your embroidery work from being crushed.  On the back of the covered button kit will be a template for the size of fabric you need.  Trace this onto your fabric with a contrasting colored pencil--doesn't matter what kind because it won't show in your final button.  Place fabric tautly in hoop and tighten.
For this covered button I did only one type of stitch: the french knot.  With your needle on the right side of the fabric, wrap the thread [I used the complete thread, not separating any strands] twice around the needle.

Holding the wrapped thread on the needle with your finger, place needle almost in the same hole it came through.

As soon as the needle is partway through the fabric, tighten the wrapped thread and push the needle all the way through.

Repeat, keeping your first knots touching, getting further and further apart as you work your way from the center.  When design is complete, cut along the circle you drew.

Place fabric with wrong side touching the front of the button.  The package says to use an eraser to secure the fabric, but I just used my fingernail [very carefully!]  Pull the fabric toward the back and pull down for the prongs to catch it.  Press the remaining button back piece in place.  For this, I actually did use a tool.  I put a piece of scrap fabric over the edge and worked my way around the perimeter with some needle nose pliers, pressing the edges firmly, until the whole back was secure under the prongs.

For another button, I pulled out some silk embroidery thread I picked up in Korea.  There were SO many colors to choose from and these are the ones I chose to bring home.   An online source with a great variety of solid colors is Marion.  

This is called the trellis stitch.  Draw a grid and make very long stitches, going back and forth, following the lines.

Make the stitches across the opposite way.

Secure each intersection with a little diagonal stitch.

This is the order you will combine your little button sandwich.  The cradle piece, the embroidered circle, the front button piece, the back button piece, and the pusher tool.

Don't feel badly that your precious embroidery is being all mushed up.  She will be a beauty upon emerging. 

Press back button piece in with pusher tool [the blue thing.]


This one will adorn some fair locks.  Thread a small hair rubber band through.

Thread one loop through the other and pull secure.

When you're in the mood for something not quite so ruffled or bowed, this is the perfect, simple, yet stunning accessory.

Oh!  And what did I do with my massive button?

I can't seem to get enough of these high waisted skirts.
Made from wool, I added piping by cutting the side pieces at an angle and adding 1/2" seam allowance to each piece.

Continue posting your project photos here and link your blog posts here to be entered into a giveaway by me!  I have loved to see what you've been trying for the first time and your interpretations of projects here!


  1. that's beautiful!! you look stunning in the skirt.
    i've just started doing hand embroidery and loved hearing (+ seeing the pictures) about it. any more tutorials on that coming up?? ;-)

  2. Um, so yeah, I want that entire outfit. BEAUTIFUL!!!

  3. Oh, love this. Now I have a couple ideas for my new house. Thanks!

  4. So fun, Katy! We live too far away from each other. We could have so much fun together.

  5. GENIUS you are!!! I would have never dreamed this up! THANKS!

  6. LOVE the whole outfit. I like highwaisted skirts, too. It's so classic and flattering

  7. Beautiful embroidery, and beautiful skirt! I love both projects! Did you use a pattern to make the skirt? If so, could you tell us what pattern it is?

  8. Your button hair pieces are awesome!

    I had the same question as Sheri- did you use a pattern for that gorgeous skirt?

  9. Beautiful! I love what you did with the buttons, and I love the skirt! I'd love to know if you used a pattern as well. Great stuff. You really are a genuis:).

  10. I love covered buttons as well, but I'm not sure that I have the patience (or skill) to finish them like you do. They are fantastic.

  11. These are beautiful! How many hours a day do you spend sewing & stitching??

    About the buttons - perhaps you could purchase them on ETSY

  12. Do you have a photo of the actual porch with the nickels! I love that story...my husband's grandfather had the exact same business!!!

  13. @Natalie--If I'm able to complete it, I do have another hand project in the works.

    @Sheri, Emily, and Christy--the pattern I used was simplicity 5351 view C, but brought up the waist line so it was more fitting and made my own straight waistband that is 3" finished (so cut it 7" for 1/2" seam allowance and folding in half= 3").

    @Tricia--you can do it! Especially the trellis stitch. That only takes a few minutes. Just try it out!

    @the momma--since school is back in session I spend a fair amount of time in the carlines at two different schools=perfect time for handwork. I just bring snacks for the littlest ones and we are quite content to be confined!

    @Elizabeth--the first two photos are the very porch in my story! I'm sure your husband's grandpa and mine knew each other!

  14. I've always been crafty, and a sewer, but for some reason hadn't covered my very first button until last week. It's addicting, I love it! Thanks for the new ideas. I love those yellow shoes, BTW!

  15. Shut up! Did you really make that huge button that adorns your skirt so perfectly?! Wow. You are really good.

  16. Just recently subcribed to your blog and I had to drop in to say that skirt is SPECTACULAR!!! Wow. Fabulous work. The button really makes it incredible. Did I say wow yet?


  17. Wow! I love that black skirt with that button. So classic! Thanks for a great tutorial.

  18. I just found your blog and this tutorial is amazing! I have been wanting to covering buttons and embroidery so this is pretty perfect. Thanks for posting this!

  19. What a GREAT tutorial! Thank you! I am making a black jacket for a sewing class and need a single button for the front. This would be perfect! Brilliant idea.
    Wonderful blog! I bookmarked it the moment I stumbled across it. You have great ideas and with such a big family to look after are so generous to share so much with us. Thank you!

  20. hi really nice tutorial for me... i usually think" how they make these pretty buttons" but i learned it now. Thank you

  21. A crafter after my own heart. I have had a fasination with buttons since early childhood. Found inspiration on your blog. Thank you!

  22. came over from I Am Momma, and I love your site! These buttons are rad and that jumper redo was awesome!


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