Make Your Own Tiny Hand-Knit Cover Buttons

tiny knit covered buttons finished front

 

These are the buttons I made for my Talamh sweater.  I found some factory-made buttons covered with knit fabric in my button stash as I was starting the sweater, and the idea stuck.  When I finished the sweater, I knew I wanted buttons covered in my yarn, so I made some.  Afterwards, it occurred to me that I might have been reinventing the wheel here, but searching Google and Ravelry turned up nothing like these, so here are the directions!  At the end of the post I’ll also include some links to other ideas I did find, in case these aren’t quite your style.  As always, click on any of the photos to enlarge for a closer look.

 

Knitting the Cover

Pick your buttons to go inside the knitted cover first.  They should be a little smaller than you want the finished button to be, and ideally a similar color to the yarn you’re using to cover them.

These buttons are knit in the round from the center out.  Since they are tiny, there are only a few rounds before you decrease, and secure the knitting to the button.

You want the button fabric to be tight, so that it will be sturdy and the button underneath won’t show through.  Use a much smaller needle than you usually would with the yarn (even if your yarn is thicker).  Here I used size 1 needles, after using size 4 with the same yarn for the sweater.  I’ve illustrated using double points, but of course you could use two circulars or a magic loop if you prefer.

Start by casting on four stitches, using Judy’s Magic Cast On, or another method that starts seamlessly from the middle (this one from Cat Bordhi is also good).

 

tiny knit covered buttons cast on

 

If you increase 4 stitches per round, it makes a flat circle of knitting.  I learned this from Daniel Yuhas’ book, Knitting from the Center Out.  Since a flat circle is my goal here, I knit into the front and back of each stitch, for 8 total stitches in the next round.  (If you aren’t sure how to knit front and back, otherwise known as kfb, just Google it—more tutorials than you’ll ever need will pop up.)

 

tiny knit covered buttons 8 sts

 

Increase 4 stitches again in the next round (ie: knit into the front and back of one stitch, knit one stitch, repeat those two actions around).  At this point I switched some stitches onto a third needle, to keep my little circle from getting too stretched out where the needles join.

 

tiny knit covered buttons 12 sts

 

Since my button is tiny, I only needed one more round of increasing 4 (knit front and back, knit 2, repeat around, for a total of 16 stitches) to reach the size of my button.  You can compare the amount of knitting you have to your buttons, but it can be hard to judge without finishing.  Luckily, these only take a few minutes to make, so it’s easy to try another one if the first one isn’t quite right.

 

tiny knit covered buttons 16 sts

 

When the button is the size you want, start decreasing, so that the knitted fabric will cup around the edges of the button smoothly.  If your button is bigger and/or thicker, you may want a plain round before you start to decrease, but for these little guys I found it made the cover too baggy for the button, so I went straight from an increase round to a decrease round.

I did one round of knit 2 together, knit 1, repeat.  You can see how the cover begins to puff up in the middle as the edges draw in.

 

tiny knit covered buttons decreasing

 

On the next round, I knit every 2 stitches together, until there were 5 stitches left.  If you have a lot more stitches, it may take a couple more rounds of decreasing.  You also want there to be enough fabric on the back of the button so that you can pull these few stitches together at the center back.

When you have just a few stitches left, cut the yarn, thread the end on a sewing needle, and pass it through the remaining stitches.

 

tiny knit covered buttons needle to yarn

 

Knitting Meets Button

At this point the actual knitting part is done.  There are a couple more tricks I want to show you as we sew it together, to make the button come out really nice.

First, before you start to cinch up the knitting around the button, take the sewing needle from the end you finished knitting with, and thread it on the end left from casting on.

 

tiny knit covered buttons yarn tail inside

 

Open out the little circle so the inside of it is clearly visible.  Use the center yarn tail to cinch up the first stitches from the cast on, if necessary.  Then sew around in a little spiral, starting near the center, piercing just the backs of the knitted stitches (use a sharp needle).  This secures the tail, and adds a little extra cohesion to the stitches that will be the button front.

 

tiny knit covered buttons inside spiral 2

 

When your spiral is done, trim the inside tail, and thread the outside/last knitted with tail back on the sewing needle.

 

tiny knit covered buttons ready for button

 

Place the button in the middle of the circle, and draw the edges up with the remaining tail.

 

tiny knit covered buttons gathering back

 

Pull the last stitches tight together in the center back, which hopefully will snug the whole cover nicely around the button.  If it’s too loose or too tight, just start again, make another one with modifications.

Once your cover fits your button, secure it by taking a stitch through one hole in the button, out to the front side.

 

tiny knit covered buttons stitching through button

 

Then take a stitch back, aiming to enter the knitted fabric in the same place you came out (so as not to leave a stitch on the surface) but angle the needle so it goes through a different hole in the button.  You’re putting a loop of yarn through the button itself, to secure the knitting in place.

 

tiny knit covered buttons stitching through button 2

 

I think this technique would also work with shank buttons, you would just want to take a few stitches around/through the shank instead.

Lastly, I stitched around the edges of the back side of the button, adding a little more yarn and securing the stitches there.

 

tiny knit covered buttons reinforcing back

 

Tada!  A tiny knitted covered button, ready to go.

 

tiny knit cover button back finished

 

I sewed these on using a variation of my usual technique (I updated the photos on that post just this week, and love how they came out): sewing through the yarn on the back of the button rather than through the button itself.

 

knit cover buttons sewing on 1

knit cover buttons sewing on 2

knit cover buttons sewing on 3

 

I’d love to try making some bigger buttons using this techinique, too.

 

More Ideas

As if that weren’t enough, when doing research for this post I stumbled on a few other fun things.  Actually, I fell down a bit of a rabbit-hole of cool ideas for DIY covered buttons, both for sewing and knitting, and another post is probably coming soon.  In the meantime …

Kate Davies has a lovely clear tutorial for yarn-wrapped buttons that come out looking sweet.

What about embroidering a design with your yarn on fabric, and then covering a button with that?  There’s a tutorial here on The Purl Bee.

There’s always traditional thread-button techniques, like these from Threads Magazine. Full disclosure: I long ago tried and failed to make sturdy buttons using similar techniques, but I’m pretty sure it was user error.

You could also knit a circle from the bottom up, rather than from the center out, increasing and decreasing at the sides, and then gather it over a button or use a commercial button form.  There’s an example on Knit Darling here. She uses a cover button kit, and rightly points out that those don’t work in small sizes with thick fabrics.  I think you could gather a smaller size over a regular button and secure it something like the second part of my technique (but I haven’t tried this yet to be sure).

 

Not that there aren’t beautiful buttons out there, but especially during this season when we’re surrounded by encouragement to over-consumption, I just love the idea of putting the final touches on a project myself, made with bits and pieces I have around the house. Here’s wishing you all a restful, creative December!

 

New DIY Kits on Etsy, Plus the Hats are Back …

 

Hello all!  I’ve been using my computer time for the last week or so working on brand new stuff … if you can call ideas that have been rattling around in my head for a year or more “brand new” … but they now exist, in real life!  Or at least on the internet.

 

SRCR title page blog

 

Brand new: instructions and materials so that you can make the some of the scarves and blankets I’ve been making the last couple of seasons from cashmere ribbing!  I’ve laid it out for you, with lots of tips on sewing the ribbings, plus directions for three projects.  Make one of these, or make a totally new design of your own!

The color combos I found in the ribbing box are pretty great.  Get these now if you love them—there’s more good stuff in there, but the next batch will be different.

 

4 ribbing colors 1014

 

Plus, Fiddleheads hats are back for fall.  There are some new, incredibly cute pictures of children who shall remain nameless modeling them.  It’s worth a click just to see them all.  And—sigh—I think I said I wasn’t going to do this, but then I suddenly needed to, so I did—I modeled the adult size myself.  The kids are SO much cuter!

 

two friends

 

I’ll be back soon, with more cool stuff!

 

DIY Crib Rail Covers for Teethers — A Tutorial

 

So apparently, small teething children will chomp down on wooden crib rails like beavers.  I really had no idea until, visiting our dear friends at the end of the summer, I saw the evidence first hand, little teeth marks right through the wood finish.  My friend the mama was thinking about ordering some covers for the crib rails, but I knew we, ok I, could easily make some, and I would get to sew!  In August, after months away from my sewing machine, this seemed like a gift from the universe, plus it would be so useful and cute for friend mama and her little one!  I’m going to share my notes and method, which should work for any crib, below.  This is a fairly quick project, so if you are still looking for a gift for a young family, it could be a good one.

 

crib rail protectors onTo make up for only having quick snapshots of this project (did I mention there was a baby involved?) I’m making it my illustrated post for this month.

 

First things first, I measured the crib.  I wanted the covers to go around the whole rail easily, so I added a little extra ease to my measurements.  The back rail is against the wall, apparently too awkward an angle for little one’s head to chew, so I didn’t worry about that one.

crib rail protector mathI know that the quilt batting (which I want here for padding) will shrink a little bit, probably not enough to affect the width, but for the length I’ll include a bit extra.  I usually use 1/2″ seam allowances, which I did for the width.  I decided to use 1″ seam allowance on each end for the length, since that is where I am likely to want more wiggle room.  To figure out how much fabric I need, I made another diagram, since I’m really a visual thinker.

crib rail protector fabricSo here are the supplies I got, including a little extra fabric for shrinkage, since it’s 100% cotton:

Two yards fabric (Modern Bliss design #13662 by Robert Kaufman)

One yard super wide cotton quilt batting, for two layers of batting in each cover

Eight yards of totally beautiful soft cotton ribbon for ties

All of this came from Stitchin’ Post in Sisters, OR.

 

When getting ready to sew, don’t forget to preshrink your fabric!  Wash the fabric and dry it the same way you (or the recipient) plan on treating the finished project.  I also put the ribbon through wash and dry, in a lingerie bag, just in case it was going to bleed any dye, etc., since a baby might be chewing on it.  I didn’t pre-shrink the batting.  The package it came with says it will shrink 3%, which will give the covers a bit of that puffy quilted look once they are washed.  After washing, I ironed the fabric and ribbon to get rid of wrinkles and make it easier to measure and work with.

Cut or rip the fabric and batting into strips 10″ wide (or the width you picked for your crib), and then divide them for the length of the covers, as in the diagram above.  Take one fabric section with its corresponding batting to the crib, make sure the size seems close, and decide where you want to put the ties and how long they should be.  We decided on 7″ for each tie, which divided fairly neatly into 8 yards, 20 ties with two sides each.  I just cut the ends of the ties at a diagonal to keep them from fraying, and left the other end, which will be sewn inside the cover, squared off.

I pinned the ties to one side where I wanted them to go, and then with the fabric off the crib, folded it in half to match and pin the matching tie. It’s helpful to leave just a bit of each tie sticking out beyond the fabric, so you’ll be able to see where they are when you’re sewing.

Make a fabric stack for each cover, with two layers of batting on the bottom, then one layer of fabric (right side/public side up) with the ties pinned in place (I pinned them in the middle too, so that they wouldn’t shift around and get caught while sewing).  Then top with the other side of the fabric, right side down towards the ties.

crib rail protector sandwichHold the whole sandwich together with a few pins, and sew down each long side with a straight stitch, 1/2″ from the edge—our planned seam allowance.

Each time you come to one of the ribbon ties (which you’ll know because the ends are sticking out) sew over it, then back up and sew forward again, so that there are three lines of stitching holding each tie in place.  Blend back to your seam allowance line, and keep sewing to the next tie.

crib rail protector sewing ribbonOnce you have sewn down both sides, turn the whole thing inside out and tada!  The batting is on the inside and the ties are on the outside.  I had thought I would trim the batting from the seam allowances, but when I got to this stage it didn’t seem necessary.  I just pressed everything in its new orientation, smoothing things out and using the iron with steam.

Check the size of the cover on the crib, the fold the ends to the inside to get the length you like.  I decided to stitch them closed by hand, using a ladder stitch which picks up a little fabric from each side.  It just looks better, and I can also add a line of stitching near the ends when quilting so that the hand stitches won’t take much strain.  The white UFO near my fingers in the photo is the head of a pin . . .

 

crib rail protector sewing ends

 

All that’s left is the quilting!  I don’t usually quilt; I’m too obsessed with the properties of different fabrics, their drape as a 2-D material wraps a 3-D body, and the possibility of walking around all day protected and flattered by garments I made.  I do see how quilting is perfect for something like this though, and I don’t mind the quilted look, but it does bug me when the stitching totally contrasts with the fabric, especially when I like the fabric as it is.  I decided to use the diagonals in the print as guides for my quilting stitching, and not to worry about them being exactly all the same.  It gave the covers more of a modern look, which the mama and I loved.  I did check the batting instructions, which said to quilt no more than 8″ apart, and make sure the maximum distance between my lines was not more than that.  I quilted to one end, checked the measurements and then did a second round.  I didn’t have access to a walking foot, so I spread the fabric and batting sandwich outward from the foot with my hands as I went, and it worked just fine.

 

 

crib rail protector finished

 

I just loved making these, mostly because at the time I was thrilled for the chance to take a project from idea in my head to finished object in my hand!  I’m sure I could have looked up someone else’s directions, but I didn’t want or need to, and I love how my version came out.  I played with the balance between making something as good as I can, because it’s for my best friend’s baby, and going with the flow, letting it be a bit inexact and show its handmade-ness, because it’s the real world, and because I always think handmade things are the most beautiful.

If you try this project, I hope you’ll agree, and have as good a time as I did!  Happy week everybody!

 

Hemming Jeans Part II, with Catch Stitch Tutorial

 

In my last post, we went over how to shorten your jeans, or other pants, keeping the original hem intact.  We left off with the jeans the length you want them, and a little fold of fabric on the inside.  That fold may have cut and overcast edges, or not, depending on how much you needed to shorten the legs.

First, let’s neaten up the thread ends left from sewing the hem by hiding them, and then trimming.  Get out your hand-sewing needle and thimble.  (Any time that the fabric I’m sewing is thick or tough, I use a thimble to protect the finger I’m pushing the needle with.)  Thread your leftover tails onto the needle, and take a stitch between the layers of the fold.  If the ends are short, you may need to put the needle into the fabric, and then thread the tails onto it.  Pull the needle through, and clip the tails where they emerge.  This keeps your stitches from pulling out later, and also keeps the thread tails from showing.

 

Jeans hem ends

 

This next thing I’m going to tell you to do is not exactly industry standard.  It’s better!  If you’ve ever had your jeans hemmed at the store where you bought them, they probably sewed them in a similar way to what I showed you in the last post.  At the store, for some reason, they usually turn the fold of extra fabric up and stitch it in place.  I think that looks weird, and like the jeans have obviously been hemmed after the fact, since the bulky fold of fabric is not where you would expect it to be for the hem.  It looks much more natural if you fold the extra fabric down, where the original hem is.  Try folding it both ways and see what I mean.

So, if we turn the fabric fold down, how to keep it there?  You could stitch beside the original hem stitches by machine, either with thread that blends into the jeans fabric, or a contrasting thread you like.  However, that’s a lot of layers of denim to sew through, and it’s likely to be difficult for your machine, and cause some skipped stitches and broken thread.  There are some times when using a hand stitch really is quicker and easier, and I think this is one of them.

Then hand-sewing stitch I like for this is called a catch stitch.  It’s designed to do just what we want here, to keep two layers of fabric in place against each other.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 1

 

I used a doubled thread, to make the stitches a little more resistant to abrasion.  Get a piece of thread no longer than twice the length of your arm.  Thread it onto a sturdy hand sewing needle (choose one with a little more metal around the eye if you can, it will be less likely to break in the thick fabric) and knot the two thread ends together.

You want the knot to be on the inside of the fold, so stick the needle in there, and bring it out a little way away, on the outside edge of the fold.

Catch stitch crosses back on itself as you sew it.  To do that, you’ll make each new stitch further along in the direction you are sewing (away from you or to your right in the pictures) but bring the needle in and out going the opposite way (towards you or to your left in the pictures).  Hopefully this will make sense as you read through the next few steps.

Make the first small stitch in the original hem.  Go through only the first layer of denim, to make it easier, and so that the stitches won’t show on the outside.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 2

 

Make the second stitch in the fold, again taking a small stitch through just one layer.

 

Jeans hem catchstitch 3

 

Continue alternating taking a stitch in the fabric fold and one in the original hem.  Make each stitch towards you/to the left, then move a little bit away from you/to the right, and to the opposite side to take the next stitch.

When you get to the seams, you may want to make the stitches smaller and/or closer together, since those areas are thicker and more likely to flip up.

What if you run out of thread?  No problem.

 

Jeans hem backstitch

 

When you get near the end of the thread, secure it by taking two small backstitches a little way apart.  It’s fine to only go through one layer of fabric, and the stitches can be tiny, as long as they loop back on themselves.

Bring the needle out a little way from the second backstitch, and snip off the thread where it emerges.  Get a new length of thread, and tie a knot in it.  Stick the needle inside the fold (to hide the knot again), and bring it out where you left off stitching.  Keep stitching around the hem until you reach the place where you started.

 

Jeans hem new thread

 

That’s about it!  Backstitch again when you get to the end, to secure the thread.  Bury the ends and clip them off.

Enjoy your new hemmed pants!

Hello Sewing Machine—Behind the Scenes, and Acknowledgements

 

So today, a bit more about my new e-book, how I made it, and some well-deserved thanks to those who helped out!

 

 

HSM page 6 small

 

My first idea to make this book revolved around a cartoon sewing machine, and adding real thread to my drawings.   I thought it would help explain how all sewing machines are (in a lot of ways) pretty much the same.  I hoped that the thread would show up, and look like thread, and add a fun element of style (it did!).  But I knew that I needed more detail to explain some things.  For months I was stuck, thinking that I needed photographs, and not figuring out how to make them as good as I knew they would need to be.  That’s when my husband Bryan (a professional photographer) suggested maybe I didn’t need photos at all.  After all, instruction manuals of all kinds are still full of illustrations.   Sometimes they are even clearer than photos would be.  The more I thought about this, the more I thought he was right.  I started drawing, and then I knew he was right.  In an illustration, everything that I would like to be in focus is so, and the visual emphasis can be wherever I want it to be.

 

bobbin winding treadle small

This has got to be my favorite drawing in the book.  To find out what’s going on, you might have to get yourself a copy!

 

As I drew, I took some snapshots for reference, so I wouldn’t have to keep moving my hands back and forth and get them in the same place again, etc.  I also took a couple just to show my process and progress.

 

HSM paper sewing

Sewing thread onto a drawing of my mom’s treadle sewing machine, using that same machine!

 

The fact that Bryan suggested doing these drawings points to another really important thing about Hello Sewing Machine, which is that I didn’t make it by myself.  In fact, sometimes it seems like I didn’t make it all (despite the weeks of drawing, months of writing and editing, etc.), but more like I stood in the middle and brought together elements from everyone and everything I knew, things which already existed, and they coalesced and became this book.  I now understand why authors seem so passionate about their acknowledgements!   Mine are in the book, but I’m going to post them publicly here too.  Lookout!  Thanks below:

 

HSM desk chaos

Desk reaches maximum level of chaos, near the end of the drawing phase.

First and foremost, thanks to my mom.  She made most of my clothes when I was little, and created fabric magic right before my eyes.  Not only that, she taught me to sew, too!  She gave me access to all kinds of creative tools and supplies from the time I was old enough to hold them.  When I grew up, she bought me a sewing machine I couldn’t afford on my own, and I’m still welcome to anything and everything in her sewing room at any time.  I absolutely would not have the skills I do now without her in my life.

A close second for thanks is my husband Bryan.  Besides the idea to illustrate this book, I also leaned quite heavily on his knowledge during the design and layout phase.  Every day I lean on his love and support, and the fact that he believes in me.  I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life and our many adventures together.

 

HSM page 32 small

 

Also many thanks to Van and Charlie Odegaard, for letting me teach sewing to real live students at Odegaard’s Sewing Center!  I’ve learned at least as much as I’ve taught.  And I would like to thank Jena R. and Michael K. for the music. I listened to a lot of music during this project, and the CDs they gave me were like friends keeping me company.  Thanks to Brian S. for a great idea in word processing—it worked!  And last but never least, my truly amazing proofreaders: Kelly, Tom, Wendelin, & Lauren.

I’ve been as much humbled as excited by this whole process.  Both are great feelings!  I hope to continue to share the love here.  More soon . . .

Start Sewing with my Brand-New E-book!

 

HSM cover small

 

It’s the reveal of the super-secret project I’ve been working on for so long!  And it’s safe to say I’ve never been as excited about a post, or a project, as I am about this one.  Nearly a year ago, I had an idea to make a tutorial that would get people started sewing.  It would assume the reader knew nothing, and explain as clearly and approachably as I could make it, how sewing machines work and how to use them.

Well, it’s here, today!  Hello Sewing Machine is a PDF e-book, available for instant download from my Etsy shop!  I’ve spent the past year dreaming about it, writing it, drawing the illustrations, editing, doing design and layout, and learning so much about all of the above as I went.  It’s kind of unreal to finally see the finished product on a screen in front of me.  

 

HSM in progress

 

So, do you have a sewing machine sitting in your closet?  Would you like to get it out and start sewing?  Do you already sew, but you have someone you’ve been wanting to teach?  Do it today!  This guide will get you going.  It has everything you need to know about how your sewing machine works.  I want Hello Sewing Machine to be a bridge between would-be sewers and all the patterns, sewing blogs, fabric stores, everything that’s out there to help you make whatever you want.  All you have to do is take the first few steps to get started!

 

HSM page 7

 

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m a firm believer in handmade, and that by being makers, we make our lives better in just about every possible way: more connected, more sustainable, more grounded, more satisfied, more joyous.  It’s my hope that this little book will give more people the tools they need to realize those benefits in their own lives.

 

HSM page 13

 

I’ll be celebrating this release with some very relevant beginning sewing posts (including an all new one on hemming jeans) plus some other very exciting things, so watch this space!

 

Felt Flower Tutorial is Now on Craftsy

 

Hello!  So, you may have noticed that blogging here has been at a more, um, measured pace than usual, even for me.  That’s mostly due to a new project I’m working on, which I’m so exited about, sweat breaks out on my upper lip every time I start thinking about it – no kidding!  More about that before long.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I found a great new platform for my felt flower tutorial.  It’s called Craftsy – the folks who run it have done a great job recruiting well respected authors in all kinds of crafts to teach their online classes, plus they are making a significant effort to support indie designers such as myself in their pattern shop!  The best part for customers is that you don’t have to wait for me to email you the pattern, you can download it instantly.  Just click on the picture at the top of the post.

Um, if you like it, tell all your friends!  As they say on American Routes, “If you don’t like it, don’t tell nobody!”

 

Finished flowers