Cute Buttons

Check out the dude on the left! The one with the teeth?  Pretty scary-looking, huh, but once you cover those hooks with fabric and snap the lid on, you end up with a plump cutie that will match the garment you’re making perfectly, and all at a cost of 30p plus some scraps of your fabric and time.   

My “button blanks” came from a curtain furnishings store and measure 17mm wide.  To cover them, I made 35mm discs of interfaced gingham (the lid of a Berocca tube proved a perfect template!).  The interfacing is a good idea if you’re after plumpness and solid colour.  Without it, the metallic surface of the button would reflect light through the fabric, if it’s of the thin kind.  If you don’t want your button to have the bulk of interfacing, you could paint the button surface in a suitable shade of opaque nail varnish.

Gertie’s tutorial was invaluable in providing the other tip for a creating a professional finish.  With your machine, make a gathering stitch (i.e. loose tension, longish stitch) round the edge of the fabric disc, leaving tentacles of thread hanging.  Pull on the bobbin tentacles till the disc morphs into a little cap.   Now place the toothed button into the cup, pull on the bobbin threads some more and hook all of the fabric onto the teeth as tightly as possible.  Snap on the back (press hard with your fingertips rather than your nails) and when you hear a cute, satisfying click, you’re done.  

I deliberately made one button without using Gertie’s method, by pressing a flat disc onto the teeth.  It didn’t look as good (notice the gathers around the edge) so it’s really worth those extra 3-4 minutes to make the caps! 

The dude on the left is the slacker!

Now I’ve discovered these, I’m going to grab some more button blanks and use them in craft projects: to decorate bags, adorn hairclips, or any other suggestion you may care to throw my way.  Probably not a good idea to give them to babies and pets though….



Polly Jean

New glad rags needed!  My daughter is going to quite a few parties this month (oh, to be invited to so many parties….) so I wanted to make her a couple dresses which she’ll wear with her usual happy aplomb and which will enable me to try out some design ideas I’ve been curious about for a while.  

In making this flower-printed dress, I was after a self-tutorial in the making of Leg of Mutton sleeves.  Now, some of my favourite sewing bloggers are doubtful, snickering even, of LoM ever coming back into fashion –  which might be a relief if your shoulders tend towards the broad.  But I’ve grown to love this look on PJ Harvey

As surprising in her costumes as she is in her music, for the last few years Polly Jean has worn long, narrow dresses winged starkly by Leg of Mutton sleeves and I’m quite admiring of how this transforms her slender silhoutte into one that’s aloof and  imposing.  

My version of the sleeve didn’t turn out quite so dramatic so no definitive recipe for Leg of Mutton yet, but here’s what I did to the sleeve block to get this high, slightly cupped version.  

Firstly, I made the dress block and the sleeve block by following Winifred Aldrich’s instructions in “Metric Pattern Cutting”.  I cut the sleeve block into two: the Upper Sleeve to cover the shoulder and the bicep, and the Lower Sleeve to stay in its original narrow form. 

The Upper Sleeve is the grey area in this image. 

This I slashed and spread to add 4cm of extra width to the original width of 21cm (I could have been more generous!).  I added 0.5cm to the top of the sleeve (marked “added fullness” in the picture) before adding the sleeve allowances. 

The other design idea I wanted to try is to add a scalloped line in a contrasting fabric on the dress front and back.  I tried to cut a pattern with a scalloped edge to join to another of the same but the result was rubbish.  In the end  I had two identical pieces of the blue satin sewn right sides together and the seam allowances clipped very close to the seam line.  This was turned, pressed, then topstitched onto the bodice which looks ok but is rather bulky and a bit trying on the zip in the back. If I were to attempt this again, I’d use appliqué instead.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had more success with scallops (do forgive another culinary pun).