Failure is always an option!

Oh kittens! How the time has flown by!

Let’s recap:

Sometime in November: I decided to enter the 2012 International Quilt Show

Later in November: I got the idea to make an outfit based on ethnic costumes; started dyeing and texturizing

Early December: Got screwed over by Karl Lagerfeld; had to change lanes

Early January: New inspiration; makin’ patterns

Mid-January – Late March: Stitches, a lot of stitches

Early April: Finished garment and mailed submission

That about wraps it up!


And now, a lesson in design from your uncle Gilbert.

There’s an old joke in craftdom that goes, just because you can sew, doesn’t mean you should. Let’s re-write that a bit…

Just because you can make patterns doesn’t mean you should.

As I made the jacket for my entry, I purposely held off making the other garment that it will be shown with. I knew I wanted it to reflect the same lines and texture, but had no idea what to put with it. I sketched, did trial drapes, researched and thought a lot about it. Eventually, this little patternmaker decided to bust out his scissors and defile some innocent muslin on a dressmaker’s mannequin. Whenever you are draping a muslin, you have to take a few steps back and look at the big picture form a distance. Unfortunately I failed to do this enough during the process and ended up with the goofiest dress in existence. I thought it was awesome, until I actually sewed the damn thing in fashion fabric. Ladies and the one or two gentlemen that read this blog, I present to you the rejected dress.

I know. It’s horrible.

I couldn’t believe what I had done. I am still in awe of my stupidity. The seams are so convoluted; following them with your eyes is like riding the Texas Cyclone at Astro World. The only defense I have of the seams is that they are all sewn on point and every junction matches.

Now the back:

I really went to town with the surface design on this puppy.

Whereas the over-the-top fabrications worked on the jacket, the base garment needed to be grounded and solid. This is more like sewing quicksand.

Side view. Oh dear.

Let’s look at the strapless top. Cue the theme song to Wonder Woman.

The mannequin just needs a pair of star-spangled panties and the look would be complete!

Needless to say, this train wreck quickly made its way to the back of my failed fabric experiment closet.

It was beauty that killed the beast.

Beauty and an overzealous patternmaker with WAY too much time on his hands.


The dress I did make for my submission is… well.. i think I’ll save that for another blog post!




Button, Button: The Third

So, I see you’ve returned…

Now that the organza is stretched and my circle is drawn, I am ready to bead.

I start with the outer edge because it gives me a barrier I know I can’t bead out of .

Now, I am in no way, shape or form a beading instructor. I bead the way I do because of how I was taught. If you are interested in learning how to do basic bead embroidery, I suggest you check out this list of YouTube videos from Beadoholique.  They show you how to do each step.

Because the seed beads are so small, you can do all kinds of patterns on the surface. They can be organized or, like I did, totally random.

We’re going to pretend you watched me bead furiously for an hour aaaaand…

Voila! The finished beading! (Actually, it only took about half a Saturday to finish all of the buttons I had to make – from start to finish.)

You see the white line around the beading? That is the cutting line for organza. I used the same two inch diameter as the fabric circle. But if you were using very bulky fabric, you could make it slightly smaller so the edges are graded. Just make sure to center the beading.

Here are all four button tops ready to go.

All cut out…

At this point I have hand basted around the organza circle.

Just like before, draw up the gathers and secure the thread tightly.

This is the top of the button once it has been gathered up and secured.

The side view. Ignore my cuticles.

All of them done!

You’ll notice that there is still some space on the buttons where they are not beaded. At this point I went back with more beads and filled in all of the gaps around the edges.

Here is one of the finished ones. You can keep going with the beads all you want, but since these were going to be sewn down, I didn’t really feel the need to do the vertical sides. I did end up giving it a picot edge (few pictures down), but the sides remained bare.

Side view of basic button with unbeaded sides

And the rear end…

Here is the picot edge I did for them.

I should have been a hand model.

You can see the edge better here.

The seed beads I used are not Delicas. They are mainly for sewing purposes or beaded fringe, so they are not all even in size.

This works to your advantage and can be very frustrating at the same time.

The picot edge is a bit varied, but it fits in with the nature of the garment.

All four of them beaded with picot edges!

Here are a couple of close-ups.

FINALLY! Sewn to the jacket front!

I used a running back stitch through all thicknesses of the front and button, keeping the facing free.

I used a fine-gauge millinery needle because it was longer than a normal sharp. The stitches run under the beads on the surface of the button.

Because the beading is so dense, you’ll never see them – just use matching thread. The end result is a very secure stitch.

Tighter shot of the front. Please ignore the fact that the front is not pressed.

Well, that’s it kittens.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

Let me know, in the comments section, if you have any questions.

Hugs and bunnies,


Button, Button: Part Deux

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand, on with the show!

These are the fabrics I selected for the buttons. The foundation fabric didn’t really matter to me because they were going to get covered in beading, so I just chose some scraps that I had left over from the main project. These are all hand-dyed cotton.

Using the 2 inch circle template, I traced out a circle on the fabric. I used a white Prisma pencil so I could see the circle clearly.

Once the fabric was cut out, I hand gathered the outer edge, much like making a Yo-Yo; only, you don’t turn under the raw edge.

All basted.

Place the Pelltex disks in the center of the basted circle.

Gather up the thread to form a tight center and back stitch the thread so it doesn’t come out. As you are securing the thread, make sure there are no major pleats on the edge of the button.

All covered!

Traditional bead embroidery is done directly to the interfacing without covering it first. I know you can dye it, but I like the idea of fabric as a backing. You’re getting a double whammy today because I do my bead embroidery on a sheer foundation fabric then place it on what I’m covering.

Here is my set-up.

I paint my own silk and the drips that end up on the counter get mopped up with scraps of silk organza. This is one of those pieces.

Here is the silk organza stretched out on my beading frame. I use this frame a lot. I got it at the Quilt Festival here in Houston. It was originally designed for needlepoint, but with the clamp attachments and a set of stretcher frames, it can easily be converted into a bead embroidery frame. If you don’t have a fancy-schmancy frame like this, you can get the same results  with an embroidery hoop. I use the giant quilting thumb tacks to secure the fabric to the frame. You’ll see a seam in the organza because the piece I had wasn’t big enough.

I busted out the trusty template again and drew a circle on the organza. I used the one inch circle because I didn’t want to run the risk of beading bigger than the covered disk. You can always add, but taking off beading is kind of terrible.

You can faintly make out the circle in Prisma pencil. I always draw the circle after the organza has been stretched.

Here are the beads I’m going to be using. I wanted to do little rows of neat color, but that got old really quickly, so I made my own little color combos, as you’ll see in the next post!



Button, Button: Part 1

Before you read this post please be advised that I apologize for the  poorly lit pictures and the fact that I need a manicure.

Well, here it is folks! The post none of you have been waiting for!


While making my submission for the 2012 International Quilt Festival in Houston, I needed to find buttons that would really make the jacket pop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any and the time to sew them on was quickly approaching. At the last minute, I decided to make my own. Since they would be decorative only (the jacket actually snaps closed) I decided to make them from beaded embroidery. I suppose you could make beaded embroidery buttons that are functional, but the button holes would have to be enormous.

I wanted to do a massive, marathon post on this little project, but with so many steps, I figured people would get bored and flee for the hills; so I’ve broken it up into a few mini posts. I’m kind of proud of myself because I actually photographed each step as I did it!


Here are the materials I used.

This is a circle drafting template. They are available at most craft supplies. I got mine at Texas Art Supply. I’ll be using the 1 1/4″ circle for my buttons. I just happen to have this template. You are more than welcome to draw any size circle you want using any method you want. I won’t judge you. Well, not to your face anyway…

This is Peltex (Its more expensive cousin Timtex can also be used). This stuff is a very dense interfacing that has a fusible glue on one side. This makes up the shape of the button. You’ll need two circles cut from this. I used a sharpie marker on the Peltex so it would show up better.

This is heavy weight buckram. Sometimes Joanns stocks it. It is a heavy cotton thread woven together then sized with glue. Since it is so stiff you can use paper punches on it. I had a 1″ punch (HA! Bruce Lee reference!) so I just punched a circle out. The buckram is only for reinforcement, so I didn’t want it to go all the way to the edge of the button, hence the slightly smaller size.

Now, we make a sandwich. Layer a piece of buckram between two Peltex disks. Make sure the edges of the Peltex circles line up evenly. Now, baste through all layers. The basting just holds it together when we press.

Now, the basted sandwich gets pressed.  I place a press cloth under and over the stack and use a cotton setting, press for a few seconds. The buckram reacts to the steam and the Peltex reacts to the heat.  Let it cool slightly on the ironing board before moving it. (Note: The peltex will want to stick to the press cloths.) The result is a very sturdy, fused button!

I an covering the button in fabric, so the basting thread being left in doesn’t really matter to me. If you were covering it in a lightweight fabric, you might want to use matching basting thread just in case.

That completes the foundation for the buttons. The next post will focus on covering them.