This project is a real example of crafty serendipity. I've been noodling with this stiffened-fabric idea since June, but with one thing and another and another, haven't gotten around to posting it.

When I finally went to photograph this tutorial, I realized the season was changing, and I'd need to switch from the summery fabrics I'd been using to something more Fall-appropriate. And that fabric switch totally transformed the project.

Anyway, here's how it's done...

To begin, you'll need a number of things handy:

  • A bunch of woven-cotton fabric squares (I'm using 2" and 1 1/2" ones here, but - experiment!)
  • Some fabric stiffener (I like Stiffy, and there's also Aleene's.)
  • A work surface (wrap a piece of cardboard tightly with plastic wrap, and tape it to the back.)

Pour some stiffener into a shallow dish. Have some paper towels at the ready - things will get messy!

Saturate a square of fabric in the stiffener, and lightly wipe away the excess. There should be a film of stiffener over the surface, but you should be able to see the pattern through that.

Place the square face down on that plastic-wrapped surface. Gently fold the four corners in to meet at the center, as shown. You'll have plenty of time to adjust them so the resulting shape is nice and square.

Some fabrics will fray a little during this process, and leave little threads sticking out at the corners, Don't worry about this right now - we'll deal with it later.

Stiffer fabrics have a tendency to pop up in the center. If this is happening, just dip your finger in the stiffener and place a dot of it over those four corners, as shown. It'll vanish when it dries.

I like to let the pieces sit a few minutes, and then gently plump up the squares by pinching them on the sides a bit. I think they're prettier if they aren't totally flat.

Make as many pieces as you need, and leave the whole thing to dry completely. This will probably take overnight.

When it's all dry, you can gently peel the squares off the plastic wrap. Sometimes it helps to slide a thumbnail under the edge to get it started.

...And now, we'll trim off those bits of frayed thread! Now that the fabric is stiffened, you won't see any more fraying.

If you find a little ridge of dried stiffener at the edges of your square, just scrape it away with your thumbnail.

So now you have all these design elements to mix and match. You can combine different sizes, fabrics, and configurations to make all kinds of pretty things.

I'm arranging these fabric tiles with the four folded-in corners facing up, by the way.

...And then we'll add some buttons, which makes things even more interesting.

So, to assemble these tiles into jewelry, we'll sew them. The stiffened fabric is still stitch-able, but I'd recommend keeping a thimble and a pair of needle-nose pliers handy - they help push and pull your needle if it gets stuck.

First, we'll sew a button to this tile. Let's hide the knot in our thread under the button. Just pass the needle down through the center of the tile. These tiles are quite stiff now, but still, handle them carefully. Try not to bend or crush them.

If you wiggle your needle a bit as you press it into the stiff fabric, it'll go through more easily.

From here, sew on your button as you normally would. Once you've made the first set of needle holes, you can keep using them for the rest of the stitches.

(Incidentally, I love using a contrasting thread with the button. I'm working with doubled thread here, but that can be fiddly. Single thread works great, too.)

To finish the thread, pass it under your stitches on the back of the tile, and then knot it.

Here are a couple variations on this idea. When I want to stack up several tiles into one piece as you see here, I'll follow the same steps to hide the knot under my button, but then I'll also take a couple stitches through all the tiles. That helps hold them in place while I sew on the button.

And also, I prefer sew-through buttons for this project overall, because they'll stay flatter against the fabric. However, I found this shank button in my stash - it has a really shallow shank, so it worked well.

I like using simple methods to convert these pieces into jewelry. You can easily sew on a jump ring, as seen here, and then add it to a chain or neckwire.

Or, you can pass a needle through the top edge of back tile, as shown here. This allows you to suspend the piece from waxed thread, narrow ribbon, or (in this case) pearl cotton.

You can totally use these tiles in clusters. In fact, you can make a whole lot of other things besides jewelry! Consider these ideas:

  • They'd make a cool garland.
  • You could make some interesting holiday ornaments.
  • They'd make pretty package toppers or gift tags.
  • They'd also be cool card embellishments.
  • They'd be an interesting dimensional embellishment on a curtain
  • Ditto for a lampshade.

What other ideas do you come up with?

I was teaching a button pendant class at a wonderful local shop called All My Favorite Things over the weekend. And in chatting with the shop's owner, Melanie, I stumbled onto this fun little idea.

You've likely seen this style of button necklace. Well, this project replicates that kind of stringing, only with wire.

Wanna play? Get yourself a pile of small buttons (say, 3/8" or smaller) and some 24 gauge craft wire. It helps to have some wire cutters and needle-nose pliers handy, too.

Getting Started

I like to begin by laying my letter out in buttons first. This helps me decide on the size and shape, and figure out whether I have enough buttons. (Incidentally, I like two-hole buttons for this project, but four-holes would also work.)

Then, cut about 18" of wire. Bring one end of it up through the back of your first button, leaving a 4" - 5" tail.

Stitch the other end of the wire - the longer end - down through the other hole in the button, and pull it snug, like this.

From here, you'll be working with the longer end of the wire. Pass it through the back side of the next button (either hole).

Slide this new button along the wire until it rests against the back of the first button. Then, stitch the wire back down through the other hole again, and pull the wire snug.

Repeat this process to add more buttons. (Of course, you can use buttons that are all the same color if you like - I like the contrast of two colors.)

Careful of kinks!

...But I would like to give you a little wire tip: as you're pulling these wire stitches through, this thin wire will often try to twist itself, like this.

Be careful of these twists! They can cause your wire to form kinks, and kinks will cause the wire to break.

So, any time you see the wire twisting, stop and gently un-twist it. In fact, as you're pulling these wire stitches through, you'll probably fall into a pattern of pull, untwist, pull, untwist, pull. It becomes very easy after the first few buttons.


Soon, you'll have a strand of buttons as long as you need.

Here's an important note: if your letter will be made of one open strand, like an "S" or a "C," then your button strand should begin and end with top-facing buttons, like the blue ones in this photo.

But if your letter involves connecting the ends of the strand, like an "O," then you'll need one end to be top-facing and the other end to be bottom-facing, so they can be wired together.

If that's confusing, jump to the "Letter Assembly" section below.

Now we need to secure the ends of the wire. Take the excess wire at one end of your button strand, and work it into the space between the two rows of buttons. (You can always bend the buttons around a little if you need to.)

Pull the wire taut so you can't see it anymore - and pliers really help with this. Then, feed the end of the wire back between the rows of buttons and through some of the wiring between them as well.

There's no exact science here - you just need to wind the loose end of the wire firmly between the buttons a couple times. You want to get it a little entangled in the wiring you've already done while stringing the buttons. And most importantly, you want to pull it tight enough that it disappears between the buttons.

When you're done with that, cut the end of the wire close to the buttons. Use the pliers to bend the tiny cut end out of sight.

Repeat this process to finish off the other end.

Then you can bend your strand into a letter shape!

Incidentally, if the buttons at the ends of the strand are a little floppy, you can fix that by giving them a little mash across the wire-stitch with your pliers.

If you want to turn your monogram into jewelry, you can use two large (8-10mm) jump rings. Wiggle one into place around the internal wiring of your strand, and then close it.

...Then add a second ring to accommodate a chain or cord.

Or, you can do like I did here - these doll buttons were way too tiny to manouver a jump ring into. So, after wiring the ends of the strand together in an "O," I just made a tiny wrapped loop from one end of the excess wire.

(Incidentally, these tiny buttons are awesome looking, but rather fiddly. I'd recommend making your first monogram from larger buttons.)

Letter Assembly

If you're making a letter that has two pieces, like this "D," you can string them up separately.

As you string, you'll want to pay attention to how the buttons will fit together. For example: here, I know I'll need those pink buttons at the ends of the back of my "D" to tuck into place over the purple buttons in the curve.

Here and there, you may find that you have to remove a button from the end of a strand so the pieces will fit together.

...See how they fit here? And then you can wrap the excess wire at the ends around between the buttons, like we did earlier when we finished the blue strand.

What will you make?

I think these little guys have lots of possibilities! In addition to pendants, they'd be really cute as a dangle on a handbag. Or, as a package tie-on. Or, imagine a curtain for a child's room, with a fringe of button letters.

(Okay, okay, that last one might be crazy-talk. But it would be really cool.) If you make some of these, I'd love to see what you do with them!

This little project was born on a recent trip to the Goodwill Outlet, locally known as The Bins. I stumbled onto a huge pile of paperback books with nice, lurid covers, and thought they'd make great picture frames.

Here's a view of the inside:

So, here's how to whip one up:

Start by measuring the book. Then, use that measurement to size a couple photos in your computer. They should be a little smaller than the page size. Print them out on photo paper.

Take your paperback and divide the pages in half.

Secure the top and bottom of each half with binder clips, as shown here.

Cut yourself a template for the frame opening. The size will depend on how your book is laid out, and whether you want any of the text to show around your photos. When you have a template you like, center it on each page and trace it in pencil.

Use a metal ruler and a nice, sharp craft knife to cut along your traced lines. Cut into the book a couple times - you want the blade to pass about 1/8" to 1/4" deep through the pages.

The beauty of this little project is, you can cut as many openings for photos in various sizes and shapes as you like.

Carefully remove the centers of the cut pages until you have a well as deep as you like. Save those cut-outs for collages!

Remove the binder clips. Position your photo under the window, and glue it in place with some glue stick.

Now, open the book at about a 45-degree angle. Put the binder clips back on, but in this configuration.

Depending on the condition of your book, you may need to place a binder clip in the top edge of each side, as shown. How can you tell if this is necessary? Take a look at the right-hand side of the book here. See how the pages are bowed out a bit in the center? We need them to lie flatter against each other. As you can see on the left-hand cover, a binder clip presses them together nicely.

Now, brush a generous coat of Mod Podge over the edge of the pages. The glue will seep into the pages a bit and bind them together. Let this coat dry, and add a second coat.

Don't worry about brushing any glue under that binder clip. Instead, put on two coats around the clip first. Once they dry, slide the clip to one side and brush two coats on the remaining area.

If you have enough binder clips, and a something to prop the sides of the book up with, then you can Mod Podge the top and bottom edges of the book simultaneously.

When the top and bottom edges are dry, then repeat the process to coat the sides in Mod Podge. Again, work around the binder clips initially, and then slide them aside to finish up.

Allow this step to dry, and then remove all the binder clips. The book is now rigid, and holds itself open at an angle. Voila!

The book cover/photo combination possibilities are endless. And you could also use this frame for artwork. Oddly, I can also see these frames, made from romance novels, bearing a photo of a bride and groom - and being used as table decorations at a (rather hip) wedding.


My pins and needles really take a beating, and I've noticed that they're all dulling a bit. So I thought I'd try to make a pincushion that's also a sharpener.

This is based on those little strawberry-things that dangle from the tomato pincushions. They're filled with metal filings, and you poke your pins into them to sharpen.

I didn't have one of these, but I did have some grade 00 steel wool. So I made up a pincushion (the adorable design from Joelle Hoverson's book) and put this together.

Steel wool comes in pads, so first, I unrolled one...

...And tore it up a bit. (Makes a huge mess, as you can see.)

Then I stuffed my pincushion with it. I got two pads in there, and then had to stop. I probably could have used a half-pad more, but:

...I got worried about how much my raw edges were fraying. (Next time, I'd put some Fray-Check on them before stuffing.) Also, I got worried that my fingerprints were wearing off.

Anyway, then I finished off the pincushion. Yeah, it's a little wonky.

But, I've been testing pins and needles, and it works great! Just a few passes in and out, and they're nice and sharp again. Cool!

Obviously, this pincushion is way too large for such a project, but I needed an excuse to make it. (You definitely do not want to store your pins or needles in a cushion like this - they can rust.) What would be perfect, though, is those bottle cap pincushions!

I was teaching a card-making class over the weekend, and the nicest woman ever said to me, "Have you tried making boxes from your old cards?"

Well, I hadn't, so she showed me the coolest method for converting an old greeting card into a spanking little gift box. And not only that, at the next day's class, she brought me a pile of blank greeting cards, so I could show this to the next Church of Craft meeting. Unbelievably kind! Thank you so much, Deanna.

So, this technique is so exciting, I had to share. You may not be ready to look at Christmas stuff yet, so just imagine a Halloween card in its place if you need to.

Start with a greeting card. If there's writing on the inside, you can glue-stick some paper over it to cover it up.

Cut the card in half along the fold.

Take one half of the card. Trim about 1/8" off of one long side, and one short side. (If you have a paper cutter, of course, use that.) You do this so that the bottom of your box will be slightly smaller than the top, and they'll fit nicely together.

Now, make a score 1" from the edge on all four sides. (If you have a paper cutter with a scoring blade this is easy. If not, you can use a ruler and a bone-folder, or even a ruler and an empty ball-point pen to make the scoring.)

I've marked my score lines in heavy pencil here, so they're visible in this tutorial. You probably won't want to make any marks on your card.

Fold the card along all four score-lines. Then, score and fold the other half of the card in the same way.

Now, at the shorter ends of each piece of card, you're going to make two small cuts, where the two folds intersect. The second photo explains this better than I'm doing.

Put a little tab of double-stick tape on each of the resulting flaps.

Now, fold up the long sides of your box, and fold these tabs in as shown.

. . . And fold up that end flap and press the tape to stick it in place.

Make the other half of the box in the same way, and presto!

I can see these for little gifties, but also for cool holiday-dinner favors/placecards. And keep in mind that you can vary the size and depth of these by simply changing the location of your scores. You can score 2" from each edge, for example, and get a much smaller, deeper box - suitable for a gift of homemade truffles.

Okay, here's the how-to for a Glove Monster. This is a guideline, really -- your monster will emerge out of your gloves on its own. Do not attempt to stop it.

The gloves I'm using come from my local Fred Meyer chain store. They're knit, with no leather or reinforced patches on them. They're about a buck a pair most of the year. You can, of course, also use thrifted gloves, either odd or paired.

So, my first step is to look at the glove, and its five fingers, and decide which fingers should stay and which should go. Sometimes it helps to put the glove on, and bend your fingers around.

Next, cut off any fingers you don't want for your monster design. (But save them! They'll make valuable appendages later!) And while we're here, see how much taller my glove has grown? I found that the ribbing at the wrist was actually two layers of fabric, so with a careful cut, I was able to unroll it and get more fabric to work with, Maybe your gloves have such hidden treasures, too.

Now, where you just cut those fingers off, you'll want to sew the holes closed. And I advocate a pretty sloppy, exposed, and Frankensteinian kind of sewing for this. They're monsters, after all! Your seams will just look like so many monstrous scars.

I'm using good old six-strand embroidery floss here, and all six strands at that. I start by passing the needle through only one layer of the glove, so that my knot can be hidden inside.

A simple whip stitch works well for this project -- and better still if it's in a wildly contrasting color, and your stitches aren't too even. I believe that monsters hate being too fastidious.

When I finish a row of stitches, I like to pass the needle through the last stitch twice, pull this little knot tight, and then stick the needle into the fabric, so I can pull the end of the thread to the inside of the glove, and cut it off in there.

Next, you can begin stuffing, using plain old fiberfill, or any other stuffing medium you like. Stuff any fingers you've left in place first, and then stuff the hand. As you do this, the body of your monster will begin to come together. As I was stuffing this one, I began to see that the ribbing would make a dandy head.

When I'm making glove monsters, I use a simple gathering stitch do do most of the shaping. You can just make a great big knot in your thread, and pass the needle out from the inside of the glove, so that knot is hidden inside. Then, make a simple in-and-out stitch like this, all the way around the glove. Don't finish off your thread - leave it hanging for now.

. . . When you pull your gathering stitches tight, then voila! Neck! Just take a couple little tack stitches to keep the gathers from pulling back out. (By the way, you can also run a gathering stitch up an appendage. When you pull it, the appendage will curl.)

These gloves are really stretchy, too, so you can stuff them as much or as little as you like, and change their proportions. You can stuff in some lumps and bumps if you like. I decided here to make a really large head.

I closed the top of the head with another gathering stitch, by the way.

Now, it's Appendage Time! Take those fingers you cut off previously, and stuff them. And if you're using a pair of gloves, you can cut some fingers off the remaining glove, and stuff those too. Have some fun deciding where they need to grow out of your monster.

You attach those appendages with the same whip-stitch method. Just start your thread in the appendage, so your knot will hide in there . . .

. . . And stitch it to the body. Sew on as many appendages as you like, wherever they belong.

You can use parts of fingers as well. I decided that this monster needed a little snout, so I nipped the top off one of the fingers on my other glove, and sewed it on. I also gave my monster a foot for its one leg this way.

From there, it's all embellishment. I'm a big fan of size 6/o seed beads for this project. They make great teeth and toenails.

You can sew on or glue on just about anything you like. I find myself liking the low-temp glue gun for adhering things like googly eyes, or felt cut-outs. (I also seem to be developing a preference for an odd number of eyes on my monsters.)

You can also raid your button-jar, scrap yarn, and other oddments. The possibilities are endless.

That's all there is to it, really. If you get stuck, your monster will tell you what to do. Just ask it.