Thursday, October 1, 2015

Button Box Treasures

My neighbors just gifted me with a wonderful button box FULL of treasures! I've never been able to pass up an old button box, and whenever I find one at a garage sale, thrift store, or second hand shop (if the price is right) it usually comes home with me.

Most button boxes come with some special button treasures inside, like this vintage brass CPD coat button.

Or these gorgeous old glass buttons.

And my personal favorite, brightly colored vintage plastic buttons.

Inevitably, button boxes that have been collecting and holding buttons for a long time end up containing other small treasures, too. Things that are picked up and stashed in apron pockets in the course of everyday life end up tossed in the button box to save for later. Also, little things with big sentimental value sometimes end up in a button box, like a favorite bead from a broken necklace, one of a special pair of earrings when the other is lost, or a sparkly jewel popped from costume jewelry.

Like this super duper teeny tiny lapel pin with a crest including the letters "M W A" inside. Wht it is - I have no idea! But, it was obviously a treasure to the woman who stashed it in with her buttons.

And these little treasures were in the button box, too!

I've been gathering vintage button stashes for so long now that I've noticed a pattern to what other treasures I'll find inside. Here are some things I've found from the many button stashes collected along the way:

Lingerie pins and broken or mis-matched jewelry.

Marbles and steel ball bearings.


Random game pieces.

Various small metal what-not's.

And guitar picks.

I've started keeping all of these extra treasures in a jar near my sewing machine, and added in my own little treasures as well. Among my personal favorites are a tiny Pikachu I found on the ground maybe 12 years ago (he used to live in my jewelry box with my earrings, but is much happier in the treasure stash jar), and a county pet tag from a favorite best-friend-kitty cat who lived a very long life and is now passed on.

Do you have a button box, jar, or drawer? What other treasures are in with your buttons?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Quilted Scissors Holder Tutorial

The inspiration for my quilted scissors holder came directly from Vicky's Fabric Creations Folded Fabric Scissor Holder Tutorial. Vicky's clever scissors holder features a custom monogram on the front, and is made from two pieces of fabric.

This version of the scissors holder features two layers of fabric quilted with thin batting, making it perfect for storing and protecting your favorite scissors or sewing tools. It's so super easy to make, you'll want to stitch one to gift to everyone you know who loves to sew.

1 81/2" x 11" plain piece of paper
Paper or craft scissors
Sewing machine with walking foot
Rotary cutter, mat, and clear acrylic ruler
Two fat quarters of fabric (one for each side of the scissor/tool holder)
One scrap of cotton batting 10" x 12"
Matching threads
Iron and ironing board

First, make the pattern for the scissor holder.

Grab the piece of paper, ruler, pencil, and paper/craft scissors.

Begin by folding the bottom edge of the paper over to meet the left edge, resulting in a triangle. Crease the folded edge well.

Fold the creased edge again over to meet the left edge of the paper - and it will almost look like you're making a paper airplane. Crease the folded edge well.

Open the folded piece of paper like so.

Using the ruler and pencil, mark a line on each of the folds. Next, number each section made by the folds starting with number 1 at the top left of the page, moving to the right. There will be 4 numbered sections.

Now take section #1 and fold it over to meet the line between section #2 and #3.

Take sections #3 and #4, and fold them across the folded section #1.

And finally, take section #4 and fold it back along the crease - and you will see the pattern start to take shape.

Fold the pointed end of the pattern over to meet the top edge of section #4, just like in the photo above. Crease the fold well.

Open the folded end, and cut along the crease with the paper/craft scissors.

Open the folds, and there you have your pattern for the scissors holder.

The very last step in making the pattern is to mark about a 3 1/2" opening along the left edge of section #1. This opening is used to turn the scissors holder right side out.

Great, you've got your pattern all ready to go! A few quick tips before we move on to sewing.

  • When grabbing fabrics to use for the scissors holder, try to find two fabrics that really contrast against each other. This will make the different sections of the scissors holder really pop when the project is completed. Think different colors or complementary colors, one big print and one small print, one light or one dark, etc.
  • Try to use a medium to lightweight cotton for this project. Home dec weight fabrics or similar (like denim or canvas) will make it nearly impossible to sew through the many folded layers.
  • Use a thinner batting for this project - I used regular Warm and Natural with great results. Stuff that's thicker will make it too difficult to sew through multiple layers.

Let's sew the scissors holder.

Place the two pieces of fabric for the holder right sides together, and pin your pattern piece on top. Using a rotary cutter and ruler, add 1/4" to the outside of the pattern when cutting (for the seam allowance).

After cutting the fabric, roughly cut the batting scrap to fit - we'll trim it down after stitching. Pin together through all layers, making sure to leave open the space marked on the pattern for turning. Stitch with a 1/4" seam allowance from the edge of the fabric, pivoting at the corners. Use a walking foot if you have one (the walking foot will help move the layers through the sewing machine to prevent bunching up or puckering).

After stitching, cut the batting even with the fabric edges. Clip all corners and notch the pivots of the inside curved stitching as pictured above.

At the opening, grab between the two pieces of fabrics, and turn the scissors holder right side out. Use a point turner or chopstick to gently push out the corners. Press flat, turning the opening under 1/4".

Next, quilt as desired. You can do any quilting design you choose! I used my walking foot to do some straight lines.

Make sure you quilt a few stitches over the opening, which will eventually be stitched to the inside of the scissors holder, hidden from view.

Next, find your paper pattern again, and line up the quilted scissors holder right on top of the pattern.

Use the pencil line between section #1 and #2 as a guide to fold over section #1 as show. Press well. Then press again - press the heck out of it!

Line the scissors holder back up with the pattern again, and use the pencil line between section #2 and #3 as a guide to fold over as shown. Press, press, press, and press again.

Fold the last remaining section back over the top, and you will see the scissors holder finally take shape. Press. Press again. Press from the back, too!

Open the pressed scissors holder up, and stitch section #1 down at the very edge of section #2 still using the walking foot. 

Now flip the whole thing over, and stitch section #4 down to section #3 at the very outside edge with the walking foot.

Fold the scissors holder back together, and you will see there's only one seam left to sew along the left hand edge and bottom. I stitched close to the very edge using the walking foot.

If you are having issues with your sewing machine handling all of these layers, then you may want to hand stitch the side seam, and add a few strong tacking stitches to the bottom edges to make sure the bottom of the pockets stay closed.

The finished holder will easily fit three pairs of scissors! But I've found that I like to also add a few of my most-used tools to the holder as well as the pairs of scissors I can't live without. That's a small pair of thread snips, a chopstick, a large pair of dressmaking shears, a sewing gauge, and a vintage tool that doubles as both a crochet hook and bodkin.

And it all fits quite nicely!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Vintage Sewing Shadow Box with Museum Wax

I have a couple of boxes of vintage and just plain old sewing stuff. Orphaned sewing machine feet and accessories, notions, tools, all that kind of stuff. It's been floating around in my sewing room for years, just collecting more junk. So I found a shadow box at a thrift store recently and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make a home for some of this old sewing stuff.

I'm using clear Museum Wax to hold all the small stuff firmly in place within the shadow box. My previous career (before working for BERNINA) was as a Curator and Collections Manager, and we often used Museum Wax to hold small or fragile objects in place for exhibit. It's pretty sticky stuff, and has recently been marketed for use in securing objects in earthquake zones.

First, I spent some time playing around with the old sewing junk in the shadow box to see how it would best fit. This particular box has a lot of really small compartments, so the vintage sewing machine feet and accessories worked really well. Once I had the old junk all laid out in the box, I set to work securing it all with the Museum Wax.

In the jar is a small wooden scraper which is used to dig out a small bit of the wax. It's pretty stiff at first, but as you work it in your hand it becomes soft and pliable.

The wax is also soooooooper sticky, and I've gotten in the habit of using only one hand to work with the wax so my other hand stays clean to pick up objects. It's so sticky that it will leave a bit of residue on these metal parts if I accidentally have a bit on my fingers when pushing them down in place.

Once I decide where an object will go in the box, I figure out what parts will be touching the box - and this is where I put a few small balls of wax. Then, while the wax is still warm and pliable, I
push the object down in place.

And after an afternoon of carefully securing each little object in it's own special place...

...which seriously DID take all afternoon, I've finished a nice little sewing shadow box.

So, not only have I almost emptied out that sewing junk box, I've also got a great new sewing shadow box to hang in the living room (or front room, if you're from Chicago)!