Making Custom Buttons
This is about making your own buttons to sew onto clothing you make, to replace the buttons on existing clothing, or even use as embellishments on another craft project. The homemade buttons hold up fine in the laundry (some of mine have already seen 50+ washes with no fading and no breakage). They can be round, or shaped, though shapes can't be too extreme or they don't work well with buttonholes. If you're replacing the buttons on an existing shirt, you either need to make the new buttons the same size as the old ones, or do some sewing work on the buttonholes.
All this project really needs is a modeling clay, such as Fimo*. Well, you also need an oven and a cookie sheet.
*A note on clay substitution: There are a number of polymer clay brands out there. I used Fimo, and I've heard Sculpey or Super Sculpey will work as well, but you should research any substitution you plan to make since every brand varies slightly in consistency when cured.
For a classic button, simply cut an even circle in the clay either freehand or using something round. Perhaps the easiest way to get a perfect circle is to lay an existing button lightly on a sheet of clay and cut in a circle around it with a razor. After doing this, you will need to lightly work the edges of the clay for a more rounded corner.
For more outlandish buttons, what you do will depend completely on the shape you're going for. If you have an idea (say, apples) but no idea how to make an apple, try searching online for tutorials on making apples from polymer clay. People make items from polymer clay all the time, for use in jewelry making or dollhouse miniatures, so there are a lot of tutorials out there. If that fails you, just go for it. Eventually you'll perfect it.
For uniform buttons, consider making a modeling clay mold, especially if you made an elaborate shape. Personally, I like when the buttons are each slightly different from each other, and only go with a mold if the original was way more time consuming than I want to deal with.
Adding the Holes
It's easy to ruin the button when you go to make the holes. Two or four holes need to be punched through the clay, using an embroidery needle or a mandrel tool meant for putting holes in beads. Here are some tips to cut down on the number of buttons you ruin:
- Spread the holes as far apart as you reasonably can.
- The holes in the button are usually smaller than they seem while you're working on them. Resist the urge to enlarge them. Test the holes by pulling the thread you intend to use through them a couple times.
- Put the button on the table when pushing a needle through it. Turn it over and press the needle from the other side to even up the sides of the holes.
- If the button is getting injured when you try to lift it or punch it, put it in the freezer for a few minutes.
Baking and Fastening
Follow the instructions on your clay for baking. For Fimo Soft, it's 30 minutes at 265 degrees. If you don't know how to sew on a button, you're going to need better help than I can give, but here are a few tips:
- Stick a toothpick or etc. between the button and the fabric to stop yourself from sewing it so tight it's hard to get into the buttonhole.
- Cut your thread twice at twice the normal length, fold it in half at the center, and push the little loop through your needle. There are now four pieces of thread in each pass, so you can get just as much strength from fewer passes.
- On a button with four holes, sew one side and tie it off, then sew the other. This acts as a sort of failsafe in case one thread comes loose.