Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The History of the Button

Button card from Sears & Roebuck, 1961

For some reason, I'm fascinated with buttons! I've even put them on quilts. I love the shapes, colors, sizes.....the sound of them in a glass jar, the stories they've been around name it. I have a jar of buttons that I bought at a garage sale once. It had many old buttons in it. Then I inherited my grandmother's and great grandmother's button jar. I love those buttons! My great grandmother was married in 1906, so there could be some really old buttons in there!
Sampling from my grandmother and great grandmother's button jar
Many were clipped off of shirts and dresses during the Depression to be used again and again. You didn't waste anything! Some of them still have a small part of the original shirt or coat or dress still attached!
More from the button jar


Buttons have not been around forever. The earliest buttons that were used on clothing were from the Indus Islands about 3000 years ago. They were made of seashells and had holes so that they could be sewn to clothing. They were used more for ornamentation than anything else. It was not until the 13th century that some brilliant German came up with the use of buttons as a means of fastening a garment closed! (Before that, you were either sewn into your clothes or tied in!) 
Buttons became like jewelry. Artists created buttons that were beautiful, one of kind pieces. The wealthy showed off by using many buttons on their clothing. There were even royal decrees limiting the type of buttons you wore to those suited to your social class! 
By the 17th and 18th centuries, buttons were being produced in many different materials and shapes. Beautiful buttons were produced in France and Germany, but England soon became a front runner in the production of buttons. Buttons could depict hunting scenes, portraits, family crests, or anything else that an artist might paint, carve, mold, or embroider on a button. 
As the American revolution neared, the colonists showed their American patriotism by buying only American made buttons instead of the British buttons they were accustomed to. Buttons were crafted from wood, pewter, brass, and  papier mache. Paul Revere made buttons in silver. Phineas Pratt, a well known maker of piano keys, made buttons in ivory. 
In the mid 1800's, button production was in its "Golden Age". Mass production meant that it was possible to produce buttons in quantities never seen before. Not long after this, the sewing machine became a common tool of many homemakers who needed buttons for the garments they produced at home. The button was now readily affordable, but the artistry was disappearing.
From 1860 to 1900, the Charm String became popular among young girls. They started by stringing a large button on a string. This was the "touch button". After this they added buttons from friends and relatives. The goal was to string 1000 buttons on their string. When the 1000th button went on, their true love was to soon come and "sweep them off their feet". (Of course, in some circles, it became a popularity game and it was said that if the 1000th button went on, the girl would be a spinster.) So much for superstition!
Buttons have stuck around despite the invention of zippers and hook and loop tape! (I'm glad we don't have to button our shoes anymore, but that's a different story.)
I think you'll always see a jar of buttons in my sewing room!

Yesterday, Annie of Ruby Slipperz had a great post about buttons that you can read   here  . I had this post written already. Take a look at her buttons and read what she has to say about those she has inherited, too. Buttons often have warm memories attached to them! You might take another look at what you have in your button jar!

Don't forget about the giveaway! You have until July 6 at midnight, CST.  To enter, go to this page  
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Lunch Bag or Purse Tutorial and a Giveaway!

 I was looking through a sewing book from the 1940's that had a description of what they called a "Miser's Bag". It was basically a bag formed by a tube with a circular bottom and a drawstring at the top. I thought it would make a great lunch bag, so I used the basic idea and added my own touches to give it a little more appeal! 

To start with, you need a few things:
 Fabric - (fat quarters will work) Although I have specified the the fabrics I used, use any fabric you want! I have shown other examples at the end of this post. You will need:
Black with cherries:
 21" x 6 1/2" strip 
Red Cherries:
21" x 5" strip , bottom body of bag
21" x 3" strip , casing
14" x 4" strip, handle
7" circle, bottom of bag
Lining (red check):
21" x 13", body of bag lining
7" circle, bottom of bag lining
Felt or batting (for inner lining to give body and insulation)
21" x 13"
7" circle, bottom
Ribbon -
1 yard of red for drawstring
various 3" pieces to coordinate with bag fabrics

1. Gather your materials and cut your circles and strips the sizes given above.  (Note: I show green fleece, but when it was too stretchy, I changed to felt as the inner lining. Batting also works!)
2. Fold the 3" pieces of ribbon in half and pin along the top of the red cherry 21" x 5" strip, raw edges at the top. Mine are spaced about 3/4" apart.
3. Pin the top of the bag (the 21" x 6 1/2" strip of black) right sides together over the ribbons.  Sew together with a 1/4" seam.
4. Press seams so that ribbons face down.
5. Right sides together, sew 5/8" side seams.
6. Using a 5/8" seam, sew the circle bottom (red cherries) to the tube formed when you sewed the side seams. Sew right sides together. Turn the bag right side out. NOTE: You can also sew the bottom circle on BEFORE you sew the side seams. This may be easier for you because you have a little more forgiveness if your circle is not quite the right size. You can then adjust the side seam to make the circle fit!
Stack the felt or batting circle with the lining circle. Sew as one piece, sewing just as you did for the outer bag - sides and then bottom, 5/8" seams. Do not turn.
8. Put lining inside bag, making sure the bottom goes all the way to the bottom of the outer bag. The top will be longer than the lining. You will be trimming it later.
9. Zig-zag together around the top of the outer bag.
10. Trim away the excess lining and inner lining.  

11. Taking the 21" x 3" casing strip, fold in half and press well.
12. Fold in the raw edges 1/4" on one long side and each end  and press.
13.With right sides together and sewing a 1/4" seam, sew the unturned side of the casing to the top of the bag.
14. Using 1 yard of ribbon, (cording would also work), lay the ribbon inside the casing and turn the casing to the back.
15. Pin the turned edge to the back over the seam. Sew down by hand.
16. For the handle, take the 14" strip of the casing fabric and the 13 1/2" strip of felt. Lay the felt in the center of the wrong side of the fabric strip. Turn the edge of one side and each end and press. 
17. Bring both long sides over the felt, making sure the turned edge is on top. Sew  down the middle and across both ends. I made two rows of seams. Do whatever you want here, but be sure you catch the edge of the folded side in it.
18.Pin to the center back (opposite where the ribbons emerge from the casing), straddling the casing, and sew on, anchoring well!
That's it! You have a cute little lunch bag or purse to show off. Change it up by changing fabrics,leaving off the ribbons, putting in piping, adding lace, piecing flying geese along the bottom, or whatever else you might think of. You can change the size, but you'll have to do the math. The strip has to be long enough to go around the circumference of the circle, taking into account the seam allowance.

Here are a few variations you might want to try. The flowers are sewn on before the side seams.
I'm a guest blogger for Madame Samm today (June 27)! If you go  to Sew We Quilt @ Stash Manicure, you will see a tutorial for the little recycled denim bag. 
    Because you took the time to visit me today, I'm having a little giveaway. All you have to do is leave me a comment for a chance to win. For a second chance, let me know you are a follower (either a new one or an existing one-  Please do this in a separate comment.) That's all you have to do.  Contest will close Wednesday, July 6, at midnight (CST). What do you have a chance to win? How about 2 patterns of your choice (to be shipped) from B.Bumble & Co.  (this includes new patterns on the What's New page) plus my new little bee pin cushion kit. See it here .
Have fun! Thank you for visiting today!!!
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Stuffing a Pin Cushion

Miss Bumble Pin Cushion

 What do you stuff a pin cushion with? Many of you use fiberfill. It is available, cheap, easy to use. BUT, the down side is that it is so lightweight, your pin cushion can be sent flying through the air with just a flick of the wrist! It does absolutely nothing for your pins and needles either! It is really difficult to stuff the cushion firmly enough with fiberfill to easily hold the pins and needles.
I've been working on a new pattern. It is a  little bee pin cushion and will come as a kit. You will have the materials to make 2 pin cushions. Two little gift cards with a cute little verse will be included. While working on the design, I started thinking about stuffing. I was using cotton, which is okay, but still not perfect.
So I went on a search. What are other people using as filling for pin cushions? Here is what I found, in no particular order:
  • 1. crushed walnut shells (sold in pet shops as bedding for reptiles)(This is what I am going to try, by the way.)
  • 2. fine bird gravel
  • 3. sand, fine not coarse
  • 4. wool roving (the natural lanolin is good for your pins and needles)
  • 5. hair from your hairbrush (the natural oil in the hair is good for pins and needles)
  • 6. yellow split peas  or lentils
  • 7. dryer lint (Hmmmm....I don't have pets. This could work.)
  • 8. steel wool
  • 9. bran from a pet shop mixed with lavender (bran has natural oils and lavender has a good scent)
  • 10.  water softener rock salt
  • 11. bar of soap (I've actually used one for pins before but you can't "stuff" a pin cushion with one!
  • 12. polar fleece cut into tiny bits
  • 13. smashed coffee beans
  • 14. old ground coffee
  • 15. pencil shavings (the graphite supposedly acts as a lubricant to your pins and needles) (Does it leave a residue or does graphite sift out???? I have no idea.)
  • 16. fine sawdust, but not from pressure treated or exterior wood! 
  • 17. dry grass clippings
  • 18. husks from oats, buckwheat or wheat
  • 19. thread and fabric clippings
  • 20. "raw" cotton (from the boll) 
There are a few ideas that come to mind from historical accounts of mattress stuffing such as horsehair, feathers, straw, dandelion fluff and even Spanish moss!
I picked up a little pillow for a couple of dollars that is filled with little styrofoam pellets. I think that would work if stuffed tightly (although it wouldn't give the weight I would like.)
Notice that I am not endorsing any of these ideas. Some might work beautifully and some might make a mess! Some might need to be placed in an inner "bag" to keep dust from seeping out. 

Are there any other ideas out there? What do you use?
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grandson's Room and a New Pet

 Tah-Dah! Of course, you have to use your imagination a little. His "big boy" bed is not here yet, so we just built up his youth bed with a suitcase and tried to give the effect of a bigger bed. There are things I would change - I would make the road signs bigger, for instance, but I leave in the morning so I need to just call it finished. My grandson loved it and that is what counts.
I've been sitting here listening to what sounds like far away barking. Then it dawned on me - I'm hearing my grandson's new pets! Fire bellied frogs. He named this one Harry. (I couldn't quite get him in focus because I was shooting through glass, but I think you can see his beautiful coloring. His stomach is bright red-orange!) I can see a quilt design here. Hmmmm............
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Monday, June 13, 2011

A Bedspread out of a Drop Cloth (Because I Promised)

 I promised to tell you how to make a bedspread out of a canvas painter's drop cloth ($8.99 at Lowe's).

Start with a canvas drop cloth. Put it through a wash in the washing machine. I used warm water and detergent and dried it in the dryer.
I made a large rubber stamp of a dirt bike (my grandson's request) using a sheet of crafter's foam. I used two layers to make sure it was high enough to stamp well. I glued it all on a piece of plastic (the type signs are sometimes made of). You could use wood or any other firm surface. I "loaded" it with crafter's acrylic paint and stamped the surface of the canvas. You could use a purchased rubber stamp or you could let your child put hand prints all over it. Use your imagination. I think simple fused shapes would be nice. Or decorate it graffiti style!

 I asked my grandson to pose on it so people would know it goes on a bedspread. He is pretending to be asleep. I went back and outlined the shapes with a Sharpie. I wish I hadn't, but it was too late. I liked it better before I did that! 

I had my granddaughter sew pendants while I turned and pressed them. 
This is a peak at what we're doing with them in the "dirt bike" room for the grandson.

I've spent all day painting and adding a few touches to the walls. I'll show you the complete room when I finish. 
 Just to show you what I am dealing with in trying to get this room completed before I leave Thursday morning, I turned around just now to see this tugging at my sleeve! Good thing I had my camera handy!
While fighting off villains, I've decided that instead of a bedspread I am going to use the cloth as a special tablecloth or picnic cloth. The  colors did not come out as bright as I needed them to be. I like the idea though. I think I can tweak it and make something really nice. Maybe some Celtic knots in black? Some Primitive Embroidery? (It does have the feel of linen when washed!) I think I'll come up with a different use and show you later.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Quilts From My Past

Since I'm in California for another week, I thought I would photograph some of the quilts we are pulling out of packing boxes here at my son's house.
 Little Red Riding Hood - Made for my granddaughter in 2006. I made this while with my husband on a 2 month long stay in Golden, Colorado. We were in a hotel room and I had a little sewing machine to use. The story is embroidered around the perimeter of the quilt in the center panel and the yellow border. If you enlarge the picture you may be able to see the wolf hiding behind her. (Hint: it's head is on right between her head and the basket and it's rear is on her left.) It is very subtle (on purpose). The large "prairie points" can be unbuttoned as a game. Behind each is something she might have seen in the forest. Where is the wolf?

Scrap quilt, 2007. Absolutely everything in this quilt was from scraps- including the batting. Fleece on the back was left over from a blanket project. This is about 50" x 45". Made for my grandson.

A stack and whack quilt made in 2003 for my granddaughter. 

Blanket/Quilt made for my grandson when he was an infant (just a few short years ago!). I Although you can't see it in the photo, the center panel is "floating" with the help of ribbon tabs that connect it with the outer borders. (Just some of my experimenting). It has a fleece outer border. Here is the back, all fleece:

 Stay tuned and I'll show you how I'm making a bedspread out of a canvas drop cloth! (unless my idea totally fails!)
See you later!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Painting a Mural with My Granddaughter

The mural we painted together. We haven't even put the baseboards down yet! I think she needs a palm tree in the corner instead of the topiary tree. One thing at a time, though! (She is ready for softball practice.)

Another day of tropical island decorating. We unpacked all the moving boxes in the bedroom and got started finishing the mural. My granddaughter said, "You should add a hula dancer, Nana!" I said, "Okay. Draw one off as big as a piece of paper and we will put it up." She ran off to draw her girl. She called out at one point from the other room, "Nana, I have to start over. My girl is so skinny she can only have one coconut!" (She is 8. She was not trying to be funny.) I immediately sent a text to my sister to tell her of the cute remark. You can't have a one coconut hula dancer, now, can you? 

I traced her drawing onto the wall and she painted it in. At one point she remarked, "I can't believe my drawing is going to be on a wall!"
Here is the flamingo window. These are curtains she already had and wanted to keep. (I tried to talk her into long white ones, but she really liked these!)
Here is a close up of the hula dancer. She was so excited, she decided she needed to add a dolphin in the water! I know this mural would make ME smile!
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