How to Make a Fabric-covered Belt Buckle

Maxant fabric-covered buckle kit - csews.com

I love fabric-covered belt buckles! So when I saw this kit at Lacis in Berkeley, I bought it right away. I had only seen some vintage buckle kits at second-hand places. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you can order this kit and other styles and sizes (square, circle, rectangle) from Lacis’s online catalog. Just go to this page and type in “hand cover buckle” into the search field and several buckle styles will appear. (Prices range from $3.20 to $9.)

It’s very easy to cover a buckle with this kit. However, I think it works best with lighter weight fabrics. My fabric was medium weight cotton and going around the corners was a little tricky. The metal of the buckle is very light and easily dented so be gentle!

Here’s what you’ll find inside once you open the kit: two buckle pieces (fabric goes over the larger piece and the other piece fits inside the back, holding the fabric in place); the metal prong goes into the belt holes/eyelets; and that white thing is a double-sided piece of adhesive that you stick to the fabric.

Fabric-covered buckle kit pieces - csews.com

Instructions are on the back of the kit. You remove the center part and then peel off one side of the double-sided sticker and place it on your fabric. I placed my sticker on the bias so it would go around the curves more easily.

Fabric to cover belt buckle - csews.com

Then I cut around it and removed the remaining bit of paper, revealing the second sticky side, which goes over the buckle.

Adhesive on fabric for belt buckle - csews.com

Then I placed the buckle in the dead center of this piece of fabric, clipped the inside corners, and began sticking the fabric to the buckle. I began with the corners and stuck them down. I didn’t think about clipping the curves until I stuck the corners down. Oops. Note: clip your corners so the fabric isn’t so thick in those areas.

Sticking fabric to belt buckle - csews.comAttaching fabric to belt buckle - csews.com

Then I went around the edges and stuck the fabric to the buckle like so.

Back of fabric-covered buckle - csews.com

After that’s done, you put the other buckle piece on top of the fabric-covered one…

Back of fabric-covered buckle - csews.com

and then you put the circular part of the metal prong in the center and use pliers to close it and you’re done!

Fabric-covered belt buckle - csews.com

I bought a yard of cotton/rayon Petersham ribbon for the belt. It’s rather thick, which was perfect for my purposes. And I loved the royal blue color. A couple of years ago I got this Dritz plier kit (on sale!) to install eyelets and snaps but I never used it. So I finally took it out of its packaging, discovered that it came with a few blue eyelets, which I then installed on the ribbon, about an inch apart from each other.

Pliers for eyelet installation

It’s pretty easy to use. Just mark where you want the eyelets to go, use the pliers to punch a hole, place the eyelet on the pliers and then put it over the hole and squeeze the handles.

Pliers for rivets - csews.com

I was nervous I was going to screw it up but I just took a deep breath and squeezed and it worked! And in case you’re wondering, here’s how I finished the belt…

Finishing ribbon belt - csews.com

which then needed a snap installed to keep it from flopping down because of the added weight of the folds on the end.

Eyelets in ribbon belt - csews.com

Have you made a fabric-covered belt buckle before? I made one once but I was totally fudging it. It looked fine on the outside but it was a total mess on the other side. I just cut some fabric and hand sewed it on the back – thus the mess.

How to make a fabric-covered belt buckle - Maxant buckle kit

What Color Is Your Basting Thread?

Green swiss dot fabric - basted

I’ve basted fabric together using thread that matches and thread that’s a contrasting color. When I’ve used a contrasting color I usually pick black or white for two reasons:

  1. I always have plenty of those colors on hand, and
  2. it’s easy to see and then remove the thread.

However, the benefit of using matching thread is that it’s not as critical to remove every single stitch of basting thread because it blends in with the fabric. And in some cases, you may just want to leave it in – something I never thought about doing until I read Natalie Chanin’s book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. I made a tunic from that book, which features patterns for clothes that are all hand sewn, and it calls for you to baste stay stitches around the arm holes and neck area (still need to do a post about that hand-sewing experience). And she says you could just leave the stay stitches in place if you want – of course that’s assuming you are using matching  thread. When I basted this Swiss dot fabric for my Fall for Cotton project, I decided to go with matching thread. So what color is your basting thread? Do you use matching or contrasting thread?

A Tale of Three Threads

Three green Gutterman threads

Vintage Swiss dot voile
The photo of my fabric on my iPhone

A couple nights ago after I ran an errand after work, I remembered that I didn’t have any thread yet for my Fall for Cotton project. I finally decided on using my vintage Swiss dot voile fabric to make Decades of Style pattern 1940s Girl Friday Blouse. I would be near Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics so I could stop by there BUT I didn’t have a swatch on me. What if I wanted to start sewing that night? I had a photo of it on my iPhone but I knew that could not replace a swatch because photos are just not a good substitute for the real thing. The color could be way off. But I thought I could get in the ball park. So I went in the store, took a hard look at the green threads and decided to pick three threads (Gutterman 752, 785, and 788). Between my memory and the photo, I thought I could get close.

Before I paid for the thread, I told the lady that I didn’t have a swatch and she just said, bring back the thread you don’t use along with your receipt and we can give you your money back.

When I got home, I checked each thread against the fabric. Any of them could have worked because my fabric wasn’t just one shade of green. It turned out that the best match was the darker green, Gutterman 788.

OK, so the lesson is: Take fabric swatches of all your current projects and put them in your purse, wallet, or somewhere you can access them anytime you’re out. You never know when you’ll run across a button, zipper, or contracting fabric!And if you don’t have that swatch, you may not be able to make a decision.

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Tutorial: Centering Fabric on a Covered Button

Covered buttons are a really nice detail. You can buy covered button kits at any fabric store or online at Joann Fabric and Craft or from Etsy sellers [search “covered button kit”]. But how do you center an image on a covered button when the kit doesn’t let you see the fabric on the other side?

This post assumes you already know how to cover a button. But in case you haven’t done it before, here are some handy tutorials I found online: “How to Make a Fabric Covered Button” from Cass Can Sew; “How to Cover Buttons with Fabric/Ribbons” from Ribbon Unlimited. They each include plenty of photos. The only difference is that they each cut squares of fabric whereas I used a circle.

My challenge was that I wanted to center a little flower on the button – and my Dritz covered button kit included a white (opaque) rubber mold piece that wouldn’t let me see whether the flower was centered after I pushed the fabric and front button piece into it.

There are covered button kits with a clear rubber piece but that wasn’t for sale at my local fabric store. But I really wanted to finish my top and I didn’t want to wait and order something online. (The Cutie Stuffs Etsy shop sells covered button kits with the clear mold piece. I ordered a larger covered button kit from Cutie Stuffs last year.)

My fabric and the covered button pieces
My fabric and the front and back button pieces

 

Covered button kit
Covered button kit

So I thought about how to solve this problem. I drew two lines perpendicular lines through the center of the button pattern (see above photo, my blue lines are a bit faint). The back of the Dritz kit included a circle on the back of the package that you cut out and use as a pattern for your fabric.

Then I drew two perpendicular lines through the center of  the flower I wanted to center on the button.

Mark center of fabric

Next I placed my button pattern on the marked fabric and lined up my markings.

Line up pattern with fabric

I traced my circle, cut it out and placed my front button piece in the center of my fabric circle, pushed it into the white rubber holder. Then I put the button backing piece on top and pushed those pieces together with the blue plastic tool.

And voila! Covered buttons for my top – the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes (a Craftsy sewing class).

Fabric-covered buttons - finished

Here’s a detail of the finished top with the buttons attached. Soon I’ll be writing a post about making it.

See the covered button in between the collar pieces?
See the covered button nestled in between the collar pieces?
Tutorial - How to center fabric on a covered button, covered button kit

Choosing the Right Thimble

My thimblesLast fall I began doing a lot more hand sewing and I quickly realized that a thimble could be pretty useful. But what I didn’t know was that the most important part was choosing the right thimble.

I had a metal one that I got a while ago but when I tried it on, it was too tight – uncomfortable!  Not only was it too small, it dug into my callus. Previously, my hand sewing had been limited to sewing buttons, making small repairs, and hemming so I really didn’t need to use a thimble. But once I started embroidering last fall and then hand sewing some garments, I really needed a thimble.

Last year I bought a cheery red “jelly fingers” thimble, which was made out of a translucent rubber. However, I got the wrong size because it kept slipping off when I began using it. I confess it was an impulse buy because I liked the color. But I only paid a couple bucks for it at Lacis in Berkeley, which has the biggest selection of thimbles I’ve ever seen.

Adjustable thimbleAbout two months ago I tried an adjustable thimble, this was one that had an opening on one side. I got this one at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. You put it in hot water to soften it and then put it on your finger so it would set to your size. This seemed workable. It put less pressure on my callus but still wasn’t that comfortable.

My thimble finger is the middle finger of my right hand. How do you know which is your thimble finger? Well, pay attention to which finger you use as you push the needle through your fabric. This is your thimble finger.

For a while I just didn’t didn’t bother with a thimble but the skin around the tip of my middle finger was getting sore. And after hours of hand sewing without a thimble, the skin around that area was getting tough and the needle end had poked through my skin a couple times (ouch!) when I was sewing through four layers of knit fabric. (Yes, this was the state of my finger last week.) At that point, it’s pretty obvious which finger needs a thimble!

Clearly I needed to get another thimble but I really didn’t know what I should try this time around. So last Friday I tweeted (@csewsalot) “Any using a thimble they like? Tried gel, metal & plastic but they’re not very comfortable.”

And I got a couple responses! Linzee Kull McCray (@seamswrite), who blogs at Pearl the Squirrel, tweeted: “I  like the ones that combine gel and metal–best of both worlds.” Angela (@sewmentalmama), who blogs at Sewmentalmama, tweeted: “Mine are porcelain! So not practical – but leather is worth a try” and followed up with another: “I remembered seeing a leather thimble pattern by @threadsmagazine See what u think! http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00077.asp

Some of the thimbles for sale at Lacis in Berkeley
Some of the thimbles for sale at Lacis in Berkeley

I do have some leather scaps but I didn’t feel like making a thimble just yet. So the following day I went to Lacis and looked at rows and rows of thimbles. Frankly, I had no idea there were so many different variations, ring thimbles, palm thimbles and thimbles made out of horn, brass, leather, nickle, and more. I tried on a horn one but that wasn’t comfortable (pressed into my callus). So I looked for a gel and metal version.

Gel and metal thimbleLo and behold, I found one! I tried it on and it felt great. I bought it and began using it later that day. It’s definitely the most comfy thimble I’ve used so far. The gel is flexible and the metal top works well to push the needle through. Definitely worth the $9 I paid for it.

What’s your favorite thimble?