Making Notes: Button Push Pins

I have lots of buttons. See:

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Some of them are ones I have bought specially for things I make. Some are ones I have cut off clothes I no longer wear. Some, I suspect, have been handed down from my mother and grandmother. But my button collection exploded last Christmas (or maybe even the one before) when I happened to mention to my husband that buttons are really expensive and he might like to buy me some as a present.

Well, he bought a job lot! Which was nice, except that too many of them were black, and not enough of them were matching pairs or trios. So I have struggled a bit to find uses for them.

Then the other day, loitering in a stationery shop, as I often do, I saw some drawing pins and realised that they could be cheered up by the addition of a button. I’ve since googled of course and discovered that I am not the first person to do this. But that doesn’t matter – there are, after all, no new ideas.

So I tipped all my buttons onto my desk and spent a happy hour sorting out sets of five. And today I have spent another hour or so sticking buttons onto drawing pins.

I used plain, cheap drawing pins – the golden type that you find in most offices and schools, which break your nails when you try to pull them out of a notice board. These pins have a slightly rounded head, and some of the buttons aren’t completely flat on the back either, so I decided that silicone glue would be the best option for keeping the two together – on the basis that it would fill up any gaps.

I tested my plan with a set earlier in the week, and they seem to be pretty strongly attached – certainly firm enough to cope with normal use.

So here’s my little collection of button pin sets:

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I will leave them to set for a couple of days. When they are completely secure I will probably have to take a scalpel to some of them to clean up the results of over-zealous gluing. And then they will be done – a simple and relatively cheap little craft.

Now I just need to work out how on earth I am going to package them!

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Making Notes: Sock Monkeys

This is probably one of the more ambitious items on my Christmas present list, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected, and I quickly got hooked.

I first saw a sock monkey just a few years ago, although apparently they have been around in America since the 1930s. It was love at first sight, and I couldn’t wait to make one of my very own. I looked around for patterns and instructions and hints and tips, and finally decided I was ready.

This is the pattern I use for cutting the socks*:

Sock Monkey Cutting Pattern

*Other methods of cutting are available. In particular some (possibly more authentic) versions make a longer tail by using the full length of the sock, but that must also make the arms thinner. Personally I think the half tail length is sufficient, particularly when using adult sized socks, but it’s an option to bear in mind.

Now some clever people could no doubt work out exactly how to put their monkey together just using the diagram above. But I am not that good at sewing, so I searched some more and found this excellent step-by-step tutorial. There is a tremendous amount of detail here, which I found extremely helpful. Even after making a number of pretty successful monkeys I still went back to the tutorial every so often to double-check things like the positioning of the nose and arms.

There’s not much I can add, but I do have a few tiny tips:

  • You don’t need a sewing machine to make a sock monkey. I sew all mine by hand, it doesn’t take long.
  • Stripes can be a bit intimidating when you are just starting out.  Although it might help you to line things up it also means you can tell when they don’t!
  • Don’t forget that any patterns on the sock will be upside down once you make it into a monkey. I have made one monkey (see below) using patterned socks, and I did manage to work out how to amend the cutting out in order to stop the flamingoes from standing on their heads, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it.
  • I think it’s worth using decent quality socks. They tend to make the finished article feel softer and cuddlier and are also more forgiving of any little stitching slip ups.
  • In fact, it’s worth using decent quality everything. Your sewing experience and your finished article will be so much nicer if you have sharp scissors, good quality thread and specialised soft toy stuffing.

My Sock Monkey Gallery

Sock Monkey the First
My first ever Sock Monkey

This was my first ever attempt at a Sock Monkey, and the fact that it came out pretty well says something for how easy it is to do. I went for spots rather than stripes, and a contrasting heel and toe. This wasn’t top quality though, made with cheap socks and some stuffing I pulled out of a cushion on my sofa because I was too impatient to wait until I could get to a haberdashers to buy the real thing.

Stripey Sock Monkey
Stripes

There were a few more monkeys between the first and this one, so by now I felt able to cope with stripes. This was made for my teenage niece so I used brightly coloured socks from one of her favourite shops. It does look a bit on the thin side – I have a tendency to under-stuff – but in this case it helps stripey monkey to fit into my niece’s suitcase while she is off travelling.

Mini Sock Monkey
Baby Sock Monkey

A tiny sock monkey made using baby socks, for 12-18 months I think. This was made for an adult, but would also be great for a baby (although for safety you would have to use something other than buttons for eyes – small pieces of felt can work well.)

Our Wedding in Sock Monkeys

The ultimate sock monkey creation: our family as sock monkeys. This represents our wedding, and the groom monkey is actually made out of the socks my husband wore at our wedding. The eyes are buttons from the cuffs of his wedding jacket. (The hat was a misguided attempt to lighten it up a bit, and has since been lost.) The bride monkey is patterned with flamingoes because we were married at the Flamingo Hotel (that’s the one I had to reverse the cutting pattern for.) And the baby monkey is our little boy, who was at our wedding too (oops!)

Now it’s time for you to give it a try – but be warned, once you start, you won’t be able to stop.