Button Sampler Mini Quilt


I recently reviewed a wonderful book called 120 Original Embroidery Designs by Yoko Saito for the CT website.  I am an admirer of Yoko Saito’s prolific work, especially her skillful use of Japanese taupe fabrics, and own several of her books. I was especially drawn to this one because of the way she combines creative fabric selection, patchwork, appliqué, and embroidery. You can read my book review here.

The cover of the book shows a lovely example of her style. She incorporates the design of the background fabric into the appliquéd and embroidered floral arrangement resulting in a beautiful watercolor effect.

Yoko Saito is well-known for her purses and bags, as well as other small quilted projects. Below, she inserts the floral design into a purse with lovely effect.

The following examples from 120 Original Embroidery Designs further illustrate the author’s style:

A Charming Keepsake Box


A Japanese Taupe Color Palette Wall Hanging

At the end of my review, I mentioned a darling 6″ square mini quilt sampler combining patchwork, buttons, and embroidery that I wanted to make. Well, I made it and I love it!

I started by selecting, cutting, and piecing nine 2-1/2″ squares into a Nine-Patch. Six of the nine fabrics are yarn-dyed woven fabrics from Japan. I used two colors of  100% cotton linen and one square of osnaburg to be consistent with the texture of the yarn-dyed woven fabrics. Since I wanted to use a 7″ embroidery hoop, I sprayed 505 Spray & Fix to adhere the Nine-Patch to a larger piece of batting. I planned to embroider through both layers.


I prefer to use pearl cotton thread for embroidery but could not find the range of cream to brown colors in the taupe palette that I wanted. I found some colors in #8 pearl cotton and used two strands of DMC embroidery floss for the other colors. For this project, I ended up using only three colors: tan, dark brown, and a light teal green that worked well with the color of the center button and threads woven into the center fabric. Adding a light green, blue, or pink is common in the Japanese taupe color palette.

Besides the hoop, fabric, batting, thread, and buttons, other supplies included a #24 chenille needle, my favorite thimble, and a needle threader with an end for larger threads.

Ann-Button2 - Copy

I generally followed the author’s suggestions for embroidery stitches, adding a few embellishments of my own. I quickly discovered I needed the assistance of Perfect Circles to enable me to me make, well, perfect circles as stitching guides. Also, please note the embroidery stitches at the seam intersections – they helped secure the fabric to the batting and added an interesting design element. The author provides other examples of enhancing patchwork with embroidery in 120 Original Embroidery Designs.


I marked the circles with a Pilot Frixion pen which easily disappeared with a gentle steam from my iron afterwards.

Pilot Frixion pens – available at office supply stores


After completing the embroidery, I sewed on eight of the buttons with the light teal green pearl cotton. My husband removed the shank from the unusual old gold button I found in my grandmother’s buttons. I glued it on with a permanent fabric glue intended for adding “jewels” to fabric. I made a small sleeve and added binding cut on the bias from the same fabric as the center square. Finally I got to hang my button sampler mini quilt on a scalloped wire stand.

Yep, I love it!


I think my next project from 120 Original Embroidery Designs will be an enlarged version of the floral arrangement on the book’s cover. I think it could even be framed as artwork!

Oh, by the way… If the use of Japanese taupe fabrics and color palette are new to you or you want to explore them more, please read Yoko Saito’s Japanese Taupe Color Theory. It’s amazing, informative, and inspiring!


  1. Stephanie - March 19, 2015

    Those are so adorable. I had looked at that book and now am going to have to buy it and try the projects. The mini button quilt is such a nice focused project for different stitches. I could see how easily it would work in any style and color of fabric. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ann - March 19, 2015

      It was an unusual, fun, quick project and works great on the 6″ stand we sell. This book and her Color Theory book are my two favorites of hers. We had a Japanese foreign exchange living with us this fall. I asked to go to Yoko Saito’s quilt shop outside of Tokyo and get a selfie with her and tell her how much I enjoy her work. He balked but maybe….

  2. Mary Agnes - March 19, 2015

    You’ve reminded me how much I love to do hand embroidery. I’ve got to get back to it and maybe with one of Yoko’s projects. I saw something on line about two doctors (a shrink and a hand surgeon) who believe that working with your hands can relieve symptoms of depression. Gotta get stitching. Thanks.

    • Ann - March 19, 2015

      My Grandma Willie Ann, born in Oklahoma in 1900, always told me “Busy hands, happy heart!” She was a wise woman! It has always be been true for me. Please check back Wednesday 3/25 for my blog… I made over a 150 Yo-Yos on trip for a family funeral.

  3. Rene Bolton - March 19, 2015

    this is simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Anne Tarren - February 2, 2018

    I love the simplicity of your work and love the taupe colours, also the wire stand, where could I get a stand like that?