Saturday, March 21, 2020

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The only bright side to being stuck indoors during these crazy days of social distancing is that there's a lot more time for everyone to sew. That's why I've decided to take some of the patterns I've written over the last year for Carnival of Patchwork and publish about one a week on the blog as free tutorials over the next month or so. Hopefully this will give you something to look forward to and enjoy!

These Button Card Needlebooks are first on my list of quick, fun projects to share with you. I adore vintage button cards -- not just for the artwork on the cards but for the buttons themselves. They’re like miniature works of art, and I love looking at them. What better way to remember these gorgeous sewing notions from the past than with a cute little patchwork needlebook. Forgive my poorly lit photos today. It's been pouring rain all day, and I probably should have waited for the sun that's coming next week, but I wanted to get this tutorial out to you all as soon as possible!

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Because you’re working with such small pieces for the cover art, this is a great place to let your fussy cutting skills shine. Try doing an online search for vintage button cards to get ideas for how you want to design your own. Illustrations are perfect for the feature print at the top, and I like to use narrow stripes on either side of the text scrap at the bottom to draw the eye to the words. You can use any number of buttons you like in any formation as long as they fit inside the solid square. Linen and canvas prints will work just as well as quilting cotton. The cover of the middle book above is made with pieces from my linen and canvas stash, and I love the added texture those substrates bring to the piece.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I used wool for the pages inside my books, but felt will work just as well if that's what you have on hand. These strawberry pins, by the way, are from my friend Vickie who sells the cutest notions in her Etsy shop. It's funny to me how these are called needlebooks, but I always want to fill them full of cute pins instead...

Alright, let's get to sewing!

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial
Finished Size: 3" x 5 1/4"

From scrap of feature print, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 3’’ x 2’’ for front cover (A)

From scrap of coordinating solid, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 3’’ x 3’’ for front cover (B)

From scrap of text print, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 2’’ x 1’’ for front cover (C)

From scrap of striped print, cut:
- (2) squares, 1’’ x 1’’ for front cover (D)

From 5’’ square of white solid, cut:
- 2 rectangles, 3/4’’ x 5’’ for front cover border (E)
- 2 rectangles, 3 1/2’’ x 3/4’’ for front cover border (F)

From 10’’ square of geometric print, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 3 1/2’’ x 6’’ for back cover (G)

From 1/4 yard of batting, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 4 1/2’’ x 12’’ for interfacing (H)

From 10’’ square of floral print, cut:
- (2) rectangles, 3 1/2’’ x 5 3/4’’ for lining (I)

From 5’’ square of wool, cut:
- (2) rectangles, 2 1/2’’ x 5’’ for pages (J)

Additional Supplies: matching thread, binding clips, chopstick or turning tool, adhesive basting spray, buttons

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

1. Arrange pieces A-F as shown. 

2. Sew a D square to the right and left edges of the C rectangle. Sew this unit to the lower edge of the B square and then sew that unit to the lower edge of the A rectangle. 

3. Sew the E rectangles to the right and left edges of the unit from step 2, and then sew the F rectangles to the upper and lower edges. 

4. Sew a short end of the G rectangle to the upper edge of the unit from step 3. Use adhesive basting spray to fuse the wrong side of the cover to the center of the H rectangle. Quilt as desired and trim off excess batting to make a 3 1/2’’ x 11’’ rectangle.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

5. Arrange buttons as desired on the solid square on the cover. Use needle and thread to sew the buttons on by hand or wait until after step 10. (The timing of when to sew the buttons onto the front is up to you. If you don’t want your stitches to show on the inside of the book, then add them as your last step when you finish sewing the cover. If you’re more concerned about having an easier time turning the book right side out and pressing it, then save the buttons to the very end. You can always cover the stitches over with something fun like this iron-on fabric stamp that my friend Cheri made for me!)

6. Stack the two J rectangles on top of each other and baste them together at one short end.

7. Stack in this order from bottom to top: I rectangle (right side up), J rectangles, I rectangle (right side down). Align all pieces at the upper edge where the J rectangles are basted together and sew them together along that edge. 

8. Open up the lining so that it lies flat and place it RST with the cover, holding them together with binding clips. Sew all the way around the outside edge, leaving a 3’’ gap in the side on what will be the back cover. Backstitch at the start and finish. Trim the corners.

9. Carefully turn the needlebook right side out through the gap, gently pushing out the corners with a chopstick. Tuck the raw edges of the gap into the opening and press the book while open and flat. 

10. Topstitch around the outside of the book 1/16’’ from the edge. Close the book and press one more time. If you waited to add the buttons, sew them on now to finish.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

If you sew one of these, be sure to share photos with the hashtag #buttoncardneedlebook and tag me @fabricmutt. These look so adorable in a sewing space, and I think they make a pretty sweet gift for a friend too!

Incidentally, I posted a video on Instagram giving a few tips on surviving the quarantine with your kids at home. If you're not on IG, you can see it here. You'll get a tour of our homeschool setup, a few ideas for maintaining your sanity in a packed house, and a peek at my overflowing bookshelves in the upstairs hall. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I talked about. I'm always here and happy to help!


  1. These are SO, SO sweet Heidi! I don’t have many sewing friend, but I’m going to make a couple, at least. I’m sure I’ll find someone who will love one!

  2. Thank you so much! Hope you and yours are safe and happy, vickie

  3. Cute and clever idea; thanks for your nice tutorial. A great project for using cute scraps and buttons!

  4. Thank You for such a really cute tutorial! Just love these adorable little needle books!! Can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. That is darling! I want to make one for my hand sewing. One question- I have some wool fabric. Will the needles rust or stay clean? I just got some Japanese needles that are wonderful but not cheap so I want them to stay nice.
    Stay well!!

    1. Sue, so far I haven't had any trouble with wool causing rusting, but if you're worried at all, go with what you know will work! I hope you enjoy the tutorial!

    2. Wool is the premium fabric to use for needle books. It has natural lanolin in it. An oil from sheep that will keep your needles from rusting. All embroidery experts use wool.

      Acrylic felt is the medium that might give you rusted needles.

  6. These are very cute - love the idea. Thanks for sharing a tutorial. Where did you get your cute vintage (looking?) fabrics?

  7. Thank you so much for the very cute pattern! I am going to love doing this!

  8. I love needlebooks, and these are too cute! Hopefully, I'll get to make some in the next couple of weeks. They'd make great Christmas gifts for my sewing group.

    We homeschooled too, and we loved it. The youngest caught up to her brother, who is two years older, and went to college at 16. Homeschooled children learn so much more than public or even private schooled children, especially in the area of life lessons and practical problem solving. Keep enjoying the time y'all have together, it will pass much quicker than you can imagine right now.

  9. These are so adorable. Thank you for making my day. Hope to try making a few of these for friends. Everyone can use a pick me up right now...Big Hugs via the internet:)

  10. Thanks so much Heidi-what a great idea. I look forward to seeing your upcoming projects!😍

  11. Thank you so much for the tutorial!

  12. This is the cutest idea ever!!!

  13. Thanks so much Heidi. I've been limiting my social media recently, so I'm so glad I found your latest uplifting surprise in my inbox! I'm finding that it seems to be easier to accomplish more each day. (Not so last week.)
    Best wishes for you & your family

  14. Heidi...These are just so cute! 😍 Pins or needles it makes no matter. You're a sweetheart for sharing your tutorials 💕

  15. I've got lots of old button cards, and these needle books are so cute! Thanks for coming out of retirement for the tutorial, and I look forward to more!

  16. This is SO cute, what a fun idea! Sharing in my newsletter this week!


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