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  • Writer's pictureLisa


Group of different buttons.
Sampler of All the Buttons I Make

Have you ever bought an expensive coat or jacket that you love, but it has really crappy buttons? Of course you have. Life is too short for ugly buttons!

My mother put matching covered buttons on every garment she made. I don't know why, maybe it was easier or cheaper. I hated it! I wanted fun interesting buttons. So it was quite a surprise to me when I started sewing covered buttons on my Very

Leather, brocade, and Velvet Covered Buttons.
Leather, Brocade, and Velvet Covered Buttons

Eclectic creations. At least mine weren't made of matching fabric.

Buttons are extremely expensive, and I was buying hundreds of them. A friend, a bridal designer, suggested using covered ones. She had a button covering machine and loaned it to me so I could check it out. I'll talk about the machine in a minute. I had all these brocade fabrics, and they made beautiful buttons. Bingo!

This machine is the best of 19th century engineering. It's a heavy cast iron hand press that can also be used for grommets. Every button size has an individual die and cutter. You place the metal button cover in the die with the cut fabric and pull down on the handle. Voilà, a perfect covered button pops out! It's not super speedy, but fast enough, and a pleasing Zen activity.

Button Covering Machine
Button Covering Machine

I don't remember when I started using covered buttons, sometime in the mid 90's. People loved them and soon wanted to buy them. I didn't get around to selling them until the fall of 2015. One cold, rainy morning, at an outdoor show, a little lady clad head to toe in fowl weather gear popped her head in my tent and asked if she could see the buttons. She wanted to get there before any one else. Who knew?

A few years ago my friend V. presented me with two shopping bags filled with antique shell buttons from the 1960's. She thought I could do something special with them. These are not the thin shell buttons you find today, they are thick with a creamy luster. I wasn't sure what to do, but how hard could it be? Every few months I'd come up with a new technique to try, all failures.

One day, while working out, I was watching a DIY show about painting on glass. Glass paint...Haven't tried that. It worked! But it is quite a procedure. I sand the buttons with very fine sandpaper and layer on the paint (usually three colors), waiting 24 hours between coats. Finally, when all is dry on day 4 the buttons get a coat of polyurethane. The results are quite nice.

Group of Painted Shell Buttons
Painted Antique Shell Buttons

In May of 2020, I was looking for a new way to make buttons, and stumbled upon polymer clay. Don't know why I never thought of it before. It was a totally new media for me, I knew nothing about it. But learning is always good. Now I'm relatively comfortable with it.

Group of polymer buttons.
Some Polymer Buttons I Have Made

There are amazing polymer clay artists. I'm not one of them. I have to keep telling myself, “Your making buttons not art.” There are parameters. A button has to be a certain thickness so it won't break. It has to have holes or a shank on the back, and it has to go through a buttonhole or loop. I've had many fails, but also have produced some fairly nice buttons. Hope you like them.

Who doesn't love pretty buttons?! Do you have any favorite buttons? I'd love to see them.

Be Creative,


August 1, 2021

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