Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Decorating with Buttons

This year, I have been determined to spend more time creating projects that allow my creativity to blossom. Of course sewing and embroidery of all types feed my creative need, but there's something about doing a project for the sheer pleasure of creating, if for no other reason than to celebrate the season.

When my sisters and I were young, my mother came home with a bag of shiny ribbons of varying widths, sparkling sequins and beads, richly woven trims in myriad of rich colors, and dozens of Styrofoam balls. She then went on to explain that since we didn't have the money to purchase ornaments for our tree, we would make them instead. Then, she proceeded to dump a mound of old Mardi Gras beads onto the dining room table and encouraged us to find our favorites among the glittering finery.

This ball was made with swirls of bright white shell
buttons alternating with swirls of dark shell buttons,
all held in place with white pearlized pins.
The red silk satin ribbon was added after.
In those days, Mardi Gras beads were constructed of beautiful mercury glass and polished beads from Czeclosovakia so they were treasured for their beauty and collectibility and rarely thrown out. Some necklaces were created with crystals in monochromatic colors while others jumbled combinations of beads with no compatibility except for being grouped together in the same strand. Long sections of tubular glass beads strung together with round glass baubles were plentiful but fragile so few survived the day intact. I coveted those necklaces with multiple strands of seed beads in a single color that invariably became the crowd favorites too and were highly sought by all parade goers. Mardi Gras, or Carnival as it is known to native New Orleanians, was quite a different event then and the "throws" were much more appreciated than the inexpensive plastic examples of today's beads.

The wreath begins with a small round styrofoam ring.  Three-fourths of an inch wide silk satin ribbon was swirled around the ring on the diagonal and pinned in place. To mark the position of the buttons, I used a dark color thread and wound it around the ring, then taped it in place. It was easy to re-adjust the position of the thread when necessary. Lastly, shell buttons were placed along the thread with pearlized pins (1" length), and then the thread was removed. The bow and streamers were added last.
The homemade ornaments we created turned out to be our favorites for years to come and the time spent creating with my sisters and mother will never be forgotten. So, this year, I sat down to create my own rendition of homemade Christmas ornaments and invited my niece to join in the fun. I decided to use buttons and ribbons, of which I happen to have amassed large quantities. Here are the results.

Editors note: This holiday season, I hope you take a few moments to create memories with your loved ones while creating special heirlooms to enjoy for years to come. The important thing to note is that my mother let us choose the colors, beads and ribbons WE liked and didn't interfere with our designs, allowing us to enjoy creating entirely on our own. Her role was feeding us inspiration to create.

This ornament began with a solid layer of ruby red buttons covering the surface and held in place with red pearlized pins. Brighter buttons of red, pink and fuschia were added and held in place with red and light pink pearlized pins.
Begin this ball with wide silk satin ribbon pinned around the widest point, then add shell buttons to the surface with pearlized pins. Heart pearl buttons are sprinkled on top of the round buttons inside the gaps with pearlized pins. Irredescent sequins were added to the small gaps and attached with sequin pins. The bow was added last.



  1. Those are fantastic!! The ornaments would make great Teacher gifts.

  2. What a wonderful idea! I have tons of buttons in what I call 'man drawers' you know those little drawers in a chest used to hold nuts and bolts. I'm gonna start making these for next year. Each year I make an ornament for everyone in my family for their tree! Thanks for the inspiration! <3

    1. Sounds great! Can't wait to see what you have come up with.