Dorset Buttons first came to my attention while browsing through Pinterest. I thought they’d make pretty pendants and so after some research I gave the heirloom craft a try for the monthly Craft Room Destash Challenge. The idea is to use stuff you already have to craft something new. We can spend $10 on supplies but I didn’t need to purchase anything this time.
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In the 16th century fasteners grew more complicated than tapes or loops and ropes. Buttons became a must have decorative element on clothing for the rich and they were used almost to excess by the 17th century. Instead of wood, bone or horn, Dorset buttons were wrapped with fine thread and were less likely to snag expensive fabrics like silk.
The button making business became a cottage industry and supported entire villages until the Industrial Revolution. There were people who made the buttons and were paid by the piece and others who supplied materials or delivered the completed buttons. The book shown above was written to preserve the history of the craft and details the making of a couple styles. I found it interesting but it’s a history with an appendix of how to make the buttons rather than a handbook. There are also intriguing parallels between the cottage industries of the 17th and 18th centuries and the rise of internet commerce and the blogging industry today…topics for another post.
Other than re-enactors searching for authenticity in their costumes, Dorset buttons are more decorative than functional nowadays. The craft is enjoying a resurgence along with other needle and weaving crafts.
To make your own Dorset Buttons you’ll need:
- Rings of various sizes (I used curtain rings and split rings)
- Embroidery thread or fine yarn (I used a fine cotton yarn but feel crochet or embroidery thread is better for the more elaborate Dorset buttons)
- Needle suited for the type of thread or yarn to be used
Step one: Measure a length of thread (between 10 and 15 feet for a 3/4″ split ring) and begin to wrap the outside using a blanket stitch. The thread can be doubled to make the length easier to handle. This is called casting. When the ring is covered you can push the ridge formed by the blanket stitch to the center or leave it as I did.
Step two: Wrap the ring to create between 6 to 12 spokes. It will look like a hot mess but don’t worry.
Step three: Use the needle and a simple cross stitch to organize the wraps into spokes. You can use the tip of the needle to move the threads around the ring if necessary.
Step four: Use the remaining length of thread to weave around the spokes in a pleasing pattern. You can change colors and add beads. Unlike the beaded crochet bracelets I made for the last challenge, it’s better to add the beads after the button has been wrapped and centered. Secure your ends with a spot of glue or clear nail polish. Add a jump ring and some cord and you’ll have a custom made pendant to go with your new dress.
There are actually two sets of threads available for weaving, a front and a back. For the smaller and thinner buttons they can be worked as one unit but for the buttons worked on a curtain ring you can work with only the front group. In the photo above the two patterns are the same stitch worked in different ways. The one on the left is more like a weave with the needle wrapping the spokes from the top. The pattern on the right is called a Wheel and the spokes are wrapped from underneath.
You will find a lot more information and inspiration at Henry’s Button Blog and on YouTube (not all of these videos are in English but you can follow along). This is one of the better videos as the maker is creating buttons for a costume.
I’m amazed at this craft and the elaborate results some of the crafters have been able to achieve. I’m really inspired to learn more about needle weaving and lace making…and I have plenty of materials in my stash to work with!
Every month, a group of bloggers challenge each other to create a new craft or project from their own stash of goodies! Check out some awesome creations you might be able to make from your own stash! #CraftRoomDestashChallenge