Hand Made Buttons
If you're like me, then you may be at risk of button hoarding. I love the colors, textures and artistic value inherent in a beautiful button. Whether they are a hundred years old or fresh off the shelf, it doesn't matter. There is a use for every one. While some are beautiful in their simplicity, others are one of a kind and intricate.
After much frustration and time spent hunting for the perfect button, in the correct size and quantity for knitwear designs, I have fallen into the world of handmade buttons. The lore of originality and having the exact button for the project, like a cherry on a sundae as the perfect accent, is freeing.
When designing a button there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
*The size, shape, and thickness of the button
*The texture to compliment the garment
*The desired color and finish
*The durability and washability
Buttons can be made of almost anything. A cross section of a branch, a stone or an antler will give an earthy feel. A button made from shells will evoke feelings of summer. Then there is the complete freedom of clay.
If you decide to work in clay keep durability and washability in mind. I recommend polymer clays like sculpey(c)(produced by Polyform Products Co.) when handcrafting clay buttons. The possibilities are endless. Not only do they come in a large range of colors (or you can blend your own) but they also make actual silver clays should you want a high end button.
Keep in mind a button usually needs to go through a buttonhole so shape matters. You will want the buttons to be the same thickness and roughly the same shape. Certainly round or square buttons travel most easily through the buttonhole but other shapes may be considered. In the event the button you most want will not pass through the buttonhole, you can still use it as a decorative button. In this case you would sew the decorative button on the outside and either a simple button (if there is a button hole) or a snap (if there is not a button hole) to the inside of the placket.
Polymer clays are soft and pliable before baking but become hard and durable when baked. You will need enough thickness for durability but not too bulky so as to make it hard to button. Beyond that, have fun with it.
Layering the clays, then rolling them up and slicing the resulting log gives beautiful spirals of color. By clumping balls you can make flowers. The possibilities are endless. Once the buttons are formed, then it's time to make their holes. Generally two holes work well but you can make as many as you like. Keep in mind, the more holes the weaker the button. The holes should be close enough to be tidy and to properly secure the button on a garment. The tip of a skinny knitting needle or a yarn needle works well to make the holes. Start by pushing the needle straight into where you want the hole. Then by going around in tiny circles with the needle it is possible to make a clean round hole. Be sure the hole is large enough for a needle to pass through so you can sew it on when it's completed.
Carefully read the baking instructions on the clay packaging. Generally the oven is set to 275 degrees. Most of the time 20 minutes is adequate to cure the clay. Let it cool before touching as it will be hot and a little rubbery at first. Don't overbake since the clay will burn. If you want glossy buttons then brush on a polymer clay glaze and let it air dry.
Remember, there are no mistakes only creativity so have fun with it!