How to Make Wall Art with Vintage Fabric and Buttons

comments (7) March 10th, 2009     

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leethal Lee Meredith, contributor
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Show off your favorite vintage fabrics and buttons as well as your artistic talent!
A cluster of these pieces looks best, so make yourself a set!
My buttons were all collected from crafty thrift or reuse stores.
Show off your favorite vintage fabrics and buttons as well as your artistic talent!

Show off your favorite vintage fabrics and buttons as well as your artistic talent!

Photo: Lee Meredith
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I love collecting various vintage fabrics from thrift stores, but often there will be too little yardage for most projects, or I'll have some left over that I'd love to display somehow. Vintage sheets are a great source of cool old patterns, and with these, I usually end up with more than I know what to do with. If you have old fabrics piling up around you, as well as a stash of assorted vintage buttons, get some embroidery hoops and stitch up some crafty artwork for your walls!

For each piece, you'll need:

  • An embroidery hoop (the size is your choice)
  • Vintage fabric to fit in the hoop
  • Scissors
  • Hot-glue gun
  • Buttons (as many as you want to use in your piece)
  • Needle and thread (color to match)
  • Optional embroidery floss or other embellishments

Choose fabric with a pattern that will work well with button embellishments. All kinds of patterns will potentially work for this project—you don't have to find a fabric with perfect circles for buttons to fit in to—but just keep in mind how you can arrange buttons on your fabric choice.

Start by stretching your fabric in the embroidery hoop and tightening the hoop. Make sure the fabric is placed how you want it, and pull it all taut so it looks nice.

This particular fabric looks like it was made to be embellished with buttons.

You can do this next part either before or after stitching your buttons on, but I'll just show you now. Cut the fabric behind the hoop to about a half inch, then glue it down to the inner hoop, pulling it tightly as you work your way around.

Because hot glue dries so fast, put down about an inch of glue at a time and pull the fabric down.

Gluing the fabric down will turn the piece into a more permanent work of art for your wall. With the fabric glued to the inner frame, you could even remove the outer hoop for a different look, like a stretched canvas; I prefer the crafty look of the outer hoop.

Now the fabric will stay taut and smooth.

Pick out your buttons—this is the fun part! Dig through your stash and find just the right buttons to complement your fabric. Don't be afraid to use a complementary color or a combination you might not think would work; just lay the buttons onto the fabric to see how they look until you find the perfect ones!

This design made for easy decisions when it came to button placement, but we'll get to not-so-obvious fabric patterns below.

Sew on your buttons with a coordinating thread color—it doesn't have to match the fabric or buttons exactly, so just pick something that looks nice. I chose green thread for this design because there is green in a lot of the flowers. Now you can choose if you want to add a little extra embellishment to your piece. I chose to stitch some embroidery floss around one of the flowers, since this fabric pattern has fake stitch lines as part of the design.

Stitching along the outline of an element of your fabric design makes the pattern pop!

When working with a busy vintage fabric, I like to bring out what's already there in this way. Of course, you could also choose to embroider a whole different design onto the fabric, covering up part of the pattern and making it more personalized.

These two simple elements—buttons and a little stitching—give this old fabric a new life.

As I mentioned before, you don't have to stick to obviously button-friendly designs for your wall art. I made a piece that I really love using this vintage sheet scrap with a broken stripe design.

If there's a fabric you like, play around with placing buttons on it until you come up with something that looks good.

I decided to place buttons at every point where a stripe ends, giving the pattern the appearance that the stripes are coming out from the buttons. I chose button sizes and colors with attention to balance, keeping the sizes evenly varied and choosing mostly neutral tones with a few popping colors.

Make sure you figure out the best button placement choices before you start stitching them on.

Here's a tip: After I figure out exactly how I want the buttons to go down, I move each button onto the tabletop in the same pattern that they go on the fabric. This way I can pick up each button, in order, and know exactly where it's meant to be sewn down. Another tip: When sewing down several buttons as on this piece, I use a long piece of thread and stitch them in groups, tying the two ends of each group together. This can make for longish pieces of thread that might be a little loose, so the buttons might get loose (not a big risk since they won't be used as in clothing, but still). So, I stuck a little drop of hot glue behind each button to hold the thread tight so that won't happen.

This method is much easier than cutting and tying a separate piece of thread for each individual button.

For my third piece, I chose a pattern featuring pictures of sewing machines—not good for obvious button placement. I could have just stuck them around randomly, but I chose to make lines of buttons following three of the vertical lines in the pattern.

If there's a fabric you like, find a way to make the buttons work and turn it into art.

I chose one line of black buttons to match the fabric, one line of a neutral brown for some warmth, and one line of bright red to make it pop!

I sewed all the buttons on with black thread to match the black fabric pattern.

Now just find the perfect place to hang your work(s) of art on your wall!

A cluster of these pieces looks best, so make yourself a set!


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posted in: fabric, vintage, embroidery, buttons, art

Comments (7)

alhambradesigns writes: If you’re looking to create a unique handmade feature wall or have a unique ceiling rose then take a peek at

Posted: 12:57 pm on March 7th
DaniV writes: I had some vintage quilt pieces so used a came out really nice and I plan to make two smaller ones when I find more hoops....this is a Christmas quilt so is in shades of red and green, think it turned out rather well
Posted: 4:17 pm on March 21st
silverhawk319 writes: got a ton of fabric from the 60s and 70s finally a use besides quilting.
Posted: 8:27 pm on March 19th
CatherineG writes: I really like this project because it is a great way to dress up an apartment on a dime! Thanks!
Posted: 4:37 pm on March 15th
xperimentl writes: I've had some scraps that I couldn't part with that would look adorable in a tiny hoop with buttons. Thanks for the inspiration.
Posted: 12:22 pm on March 11th
sagerchatter writes: Awesome! I happen to be finishing my own fabric/needlework embroidery hoop to adorn the walls and was brainstorming for final touches. This is perfect!
Posted: 12:24 pm on March 10th
Jen_W writes: I love the idea but I absolutely adore how you chose to use the buttons, letting the fabric lead your design. Each piece is so distinctive.
Posted: 1:08 am on March 10th
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