How to Make Your Own Shrink-Art Buttons

comments (19) March 1st, 2009     

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susanstars Susan Beal, contributor
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These buttons are simple traced circles, colored and edged with plain or decorative scissors in two sizes.
These larger buttons have a repeating flower pattern drawn on them with black marker—you can freehand draw or trace any design you like, or color them in a solid color.
Youll shrink the buttons on aluminum foil right in your toaster oven.
These buttons are simple traced circles, colored and edged with plain or decorative scissors in two sizes.

These buttons are simple traced circles, colored and edged with plain or decorative scissors in two sizes.

Photo: Susan Beal

Hello! I am so excited to announce that I have a new craft book coming out this week, Button It Up, published by The Taunton Press. To celebrate, our wonderful editor Michaela suggested that we put together a month of button-themed projects in all different crafty genres. So after making more than 60 projects with buttons for my book, I thought I'd switch it up and actually make a set of the buttons themselves!

I used shrink plastic to make pretty pet tags a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd use this versatile, magical substance to whip up a set of buttons, too! This is a super-customizable project—make any color, size, or style of buttons that you dream up. This tutorial is designed to make sew-through buttons (with holes drilled through instead of a back shank), and remember, this plastic is lightweight—perfect for fun decorations or craft projects but not as ideal for garment fastening or weight-bearing spots. I made mine somewhat oversized for a project I had in mind, but of course you can make yours as big or as small as you like!

What you'll need:

  • Shrink plastic sheets
  • A round template to trace, larger than your desired size (remember, your pieces will shrink down to less than half the original size after baking)
  • Scissors or decorative-edged scissors (I used scalloped and plain for my sets of buttons)
  • Standard hole punch
  • Sharpie or other marker if you want to make them colorful
  • Foil
  • Toaster oven

Trace and cut your button shapes with plain or decorative scissors.

1. Trace a circle or other shape lightly onto the shrink plastic sheet. Cut it out using the scissors of your choice. Remember, the original size of the plastic will shrink to less than half the original size. I used a larger and a smaller set of lids to trace for two different button sizes, and used scalloped scissors to cut the larger circles and plain ones to cut the smaller circles.

Mark the places where you want to punch your button's holes.

2. Using a ball-point pen or pencil, lightly mark two or four spots on the front of your circle, where you want the button holes to go. (I used four for each of mine.) Use a standard-size hole punch to make these holes in a symmetrical pattern. The holes will shrink neatly just as the shape will, leaving it the perfect size for stitching or slipping a jump ring or wire through the holes of your decorative buttons.

Punch the holes in symmetrical patterns of two or four holes.

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posted in: how-to, buttons, easy, button it up, shrink art, shrink plastic

Comments (19)

Nodan writes: The buttons you make are unique, the pattern on them make the common buttons unusual.
Posted: 3:30 am on April 3rd
Posted: 3:42 pm on October 3rd
VictoriaNorth writes: NancyWard,
Of course it is alright to post a link to this tutorial. I'm glad you enjoy the project.
Posted: 9:51 am on June 15th
NancyWard writes: Hi!

Today I posted an entry on my blog with a link to this tutorial.

Would you let me know if that's OK?


Nancy Ward
Posted: 10:11 pm on June 14th
CarlaT writes: WoW! I think I can do this one
Posted: 3:46 pm on March 23rd
Doggie101 writes: This is totally cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 8:02 pm on March 9th
susanstars writes: also, a quick note: I used white shrink plastic sheets but you can also buy the clear/"frosted" style which are nice to color over. (Both of them are easy to see through and trace onto, it's kind of personal preference which one you like the look over better.) I think the repurposed #6 plastic would probably come out more like the frosted does, since it starts out clear. I have to try that!
Posted: 3:52 pm on March 9th
susanstars writes: thank you SO much for the comments, everyone! I am so glad that you like the idea - I loved making this little set of buttons for fun and I would love to see yours if you try it too!

I did use the Shrinky Dinks brand of shrink plastic (if I remember correctly - the package is in the other room). I bought mine at Collage, a store here in Portland, but you can find it at Michaels for sure. That's a great tip about the #6 plastic!

Jan, I haven't washed these, but if you make a sample one you might try hand-washing it first to see how it does - depending on what marker/ink you use I think it could have very different results. You could also add a stronger sealant to cover and protect the finish - I'll see if I can find any suggestions for what would work best to make them more durable. I am using mine for jewelry so I hadn't thought about this stuff until now.

Again, thanks so much for the nice words and feedback!
Posted: 3:39 pm on March 9th
gracie_girl writes: What a beautiful idea! I love the floral black and white ones. Someone mentioned using #6 plastic...Do you mean the rigid clear plastic strawberries come in? [As opposed to the cellophane type of plastic?] Great idea!
Posted: 11:08 am on March 9th
Hwilkes501 writes: You can also make shrinky-dinks out of #6 plastic... like what strawberries, deli trays or pastries are packaged in at the grocery. Just check the number in the triangle & make sure you use NUMBER SIX ONLY!
Cute buttons. I've been working on the button coaster lately & this would be a great twist on it!
Posted: 4:48 pm on March 8th
phunkymama writes: Most major crafts stores should have the shrink plastic. It may even still be "Shrinky Dinks" brand. I think it's usually in the rubber stamping aisle at Michael's. I'm sure there are online sources as well.
Posted: 9:05 am on March 8th
seafield writes: I love the buttons and want to make some .
But what is shrink plastic?
What is it normally used for?
It does not look like the clear shrink-wrap used to cover food.
Posted: 12:32 am on March 8th
path1126 writes: Great project, but where do you find the shrink plastic sheets? I don't remember seeing them in years!
Posted: 1:34 pm on March 7th
Mcdsk9s writes: What a great idea to find the perfect button for a project! I did have the same question as BluGinhm about washing, as I was going to use them instead of tying a quilt that will be used as a bedspread. I was going to sew on some pretty buttons instead of tying the quilt. (yes, I got the quilt idea from this website!)

I am thinking that if you use permanent markers, the buttons made from shrink plastic should wash well. What is your experience?

Thank you for the great idea!
Posted: 12:08 pm on March 7th
prpldy writes: I've gotta make some of perfect!
Posted: 9:06 am on March 7th
Jrsjewels writes: This is great! Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 8:46 am on March 7th
Cindy_Gimbrone writes: Love your sweet shrink plastic buttons. What a great project and so many ways you can decorate the buttons.
Posted: 7:44 am on March 7th
BluGinhm writes: Hi Susan,
I love this idea! I was wondering if these would be okay for clothing embellishment? Can they be laundered?

Posted: 10:45 am on March 4th
PamHarris writes: Susan, this is a brilliant idea! And I love the results.

Congratulations on another beautiful book. Well done you!
Posted: 11:05 am on March 1st
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