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DIY Wedding

How to Make Dorset Buttons

comments (52) March 4th, 2011     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Dorset buttons have a long history. With a little practice, you can make them in lots of variations.
This kind of button makes a cute embellishment for all kinds of knit and crocheted garments.
You can make your Dorset buttons with embroidery floss for a glossy finish, or wool yarn for something softer looking.  
Dorset buttons have a long history. With a little practice, you can make them in lots of variations.

Dorset buttons have a long history. With a little practice, you can make them in lots of variations.

Photo: Diane Gilleland
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The Dorset button has a long history, originating in the 18th century in Dorset, England. Originally, they were made on a disc cut from the horn of a Dorset Horn sheep, which was covered with needle-worked thread. Later, button makers began using metal rings as the basis for these buttons. We're going to make a simple form of Dorset button called a crosswheel, but there are lots of different styles, some of them involving intricate weaving. Once you have these basics down, experiment—the British Button Society offers some inspiration.

What you'll need:

  • Plastic bone rings (see note below)
  • Yarn or embroidery floss (see note below)
  • Scissors
  • Large-eyed, blunt needle
A note on bone rings: You can find them in fabric stores, with curtain-making supplies, or in craft stores, with crochet supplies. For your first Dorset buttons, I'd recommend using a fairly large-diameter ring, like a 1-1/2 inch. I make most of mine with a 1-inch-diameter ring.

A note on yarns and flosses: You can make Dorset buttons with all kinds of yarns or embroidery flosses. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see buttons made with six-strand embroidery floss, pearl cotton embroidery thread, worsted wool yarn, and cotton crochet thread.

I'll be making a button here with some pearl cotton, because it's crisp and easy to see. For your first buttons, however, I'd recommend using a worsted-weight yarn—it works up much more quickly.

buttons Learn how to make buttons:

• How to Crochet a Button
• How to Make Singleton Buttons
Make Your Own Buttons from Polymer Clay

How to Embroider Your Own Buttons


Hold the end of the thread against the ring.

To begin, you'll need a very long strand of yarn. I usually start with a piece that's the length of my arm, times four. (That's about 100 inches.) Thread one end of this strand onto a needle, but don't tie a knot. The two ends of the strand should not be joined.

Place the other end of the strand against the bone ring, as shown. The end of the yarn should be under the ring, and the leading end should pass over the ring.


Cover the ring with blanket stitches.

We're going to cover the outside of the ring in blanket stitches. To make this stitch, bring the needle up through the center of the ring. Pull it through until you have a small loop of yarn, as shown. Pass the needle down through this loop, and pull the yarn away from the ring to tighten the knot.


With about 1/2 inch of the ring left to cover, place the loose end of the yarn along the ring.

Repeat this stitch over and over to cover the ring. Periodically slide the stitches along the ring so they're packed firmly together and no plastic is showing between them. (You'll quickly develop a rhythm for this, and the process goes pretty fast. I can usually cover a 1-inch ring in about 15 minutes.)

When you've worked your way around the ring to a point where there's about 1/2 inch left uncovered, then it's time to cover up the loose end of the yarn you started with. Place that loose end along the ring, as shown, and hold it there with your nondominant hand while you continue blanket-stitching.


Continue blanket-stitching over the loose end.

Finish covering the rest of the ring. When you're done, leave the needle end of the yarn attached to the button, but trim off the short end that's now sticking out between the stitches.

Notice here how the ring has a seam all along the outside edge—a seam created by those blanket stitches.


Move the outer seam to the inside of the ring.

Carefully slide that outer seam toward the inside of the ring. I find it easiest to do this in stages. First, I push all the stitches so the seam ends up along the middle of the ring, and then I push them to the inside.

When you're done with this step, the leading end of the yarn will be pointing to the inside of the ring, as shown.


Wrap the yarn around the bottom of the ring to the top.

This next bit is the tricky part. Essentially, we're going to wrap the yarn around the ring four times. Each wrap will be at a different angle, so we'll end up with eight "spokes" in the center of the button.

To begin this process, take that leading end of the yarn and wrap it over the front of the ring, around the bottom, and back up to the top, as shown.


Wrap around the ring again, placing the second wrap one-quarter turn to the right of the first.

Next, wrap the yarn back around the bottom of the button—only position this wrap so that it's one-quarter turn to the right of the first wrap.

(So, to clarify, in the photo above, the first wrap is now at a 45-degree angle. The second wrap is to the right of the first one.)


On one side of the button, the four wraps will join in the center.

Wrap the yarn around the ring two more times, placing each wrap one-quarter turn to the right of the previous one. You'll end up with a button that looks like this on one side: The four wraps join in the center to form eight spokes.


On the other side of the button, the wraps will join closer to the edge.

On the back of the button, those four wraps will join much closer to the edge of the button. But that's okay—we'll fix this in the next step.


Pass the needle through the spokes closest to the edge of the ring.

Face the side of the button where the spokes aren't centered. Pass the needle down between the two spokes that are closest to the edge. Pull the yarn all the way through, then give it a tug. It will gently pull that off-center side of the button to the center.


Pull the yarn to center the spokes on both sides of the button.

When you've pulled all the spokes so they meet in the center, pass the needle down between the two opposite spokes, making a little stitch across the center. This will hold the spokes in place—but you'll still need to hold the leading end of the yarn firmly until you've started weaving on those spokes. That's the next step.

(Incidentally, you can make more than eight spokes in your button, if you like.)


The weaving stitch: Bring the needle up on the left side of the spoke and down on the right side.


Now to cover those spokes. The weaving stitch is very simple: Pass the needle up through the button on the left side of the nearest spoke. Then, bring the needle back down on the right side of the spoke. Pull the yarn snug around the spoke.

Move to the next spoke on the left, and repeat that stitch—up on the left side, down on the right. Repeat this process, working your way counterclockwise around the button.


The weaving stitch will begin covering the center of the button and forming the crosswheel pattern.


After you've worked your way around the circle a few times, you'll begin to see the crosswheel pattern emerging.

If you're making a one-color button, then just keep working this weaving stitch until you've covered the entire center of the button. Then you can use the finishing step at the bottom of this post.


To add a new color, place the end of the new strand alongside the old strand.


However, just for fun, I'll show you how to add a second color to the weaving! Cut about 70 inches of a contrasting color yarn. Remove the needle from the original color and thread it onto the new color. Then, lay the ends of the two strands next to each other and use your fingers to anchor them against the back of the button for a moment.


Continue the weaving stitch with the new color.


Continue the weaving process with the new color. When you've finished one row, take those two loose ends you've been holding and place them along the back of the nearest spoke. Keep holding them there while you weave a few more rows.


The two loose ends will be caught in the weaving stitch.


Here's a view from the back of the button. When you stitch around that spoke, those loose ends will be caught in the weaving, which anchors them. When you've finished the button, you can cut them off close to the work.


Pass the needle under the weaving on the back of the button to finish.


When you've covered the center of the button with weaving, flip it over to the back and pass the needle under the back of the weave. Then, cut it close to the work.

Incidentally, if you like the way this side of the button looks, you can use it this way instead.

To sew this button to a garment, use a matching thread or floss and stitch right through the center of the button a few times.

Variations: Once you've mastered this technique, try adding more spokes, or varying the pattern of the weaving stitches. If you look at the large turquoise button at the top of this post, you'll see that I added a little embroidery around the edges and in the center. You could make a button from two thin strands of yarn in two different colors, worked together. You could add some metallic thread accents. And your buttons can also turn into things like jewelry elements, collage pieces, embellishments for sofa cushions—there are so many possibilities! You might also enjoy these beaded Dorset buttons.

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Comments (52)

Cteleisha writes: I discovered your tutorial as I was researching Dorset buttons. I've acquired some historic Dorset buttons and I'm just fascinated. Your how-too inspires me further . That's so much for the information...can't wait to "dive in."!!!!!
Posted: 11:50 am on February 2nd
sewnigel writes: Really want to give these a go...
Posted: 5:58 pm on January 30th
sewnigel writes:
Posted: 5:57 pm on January 30th
Bumble_B writes: I have just made one of these it turned out ok for my first attempt, thanks for the tutorial .
Posted: 8:30 am on December 1st
jacqsierae writes: I'm experimenting making Dorset buttons.
Only made 2 so far...and they sure are fun to create.
My daughters are simply amazed at this technique!
Posted: 3:25 am on October 8th
EchoLin writes: Great idea, love them.
Posted: 2:56 am on April 16th
Lola2001 writes: These look really great but look very hard to make
Posted: 8:04 pm on February 9th
princessdg writes: please tell us which kind of buttons you STARTED with?

Posted: 1:32 pm on January 14th
ngetsxai writes: nice buttons, how to make that?
Posted: 1:15 am on September 26th
Doggirl3 writes: Thanks for the tutorial cute buttons.
Posted: 4:22 pm on April 26th
shawnajo writes:
Posted: 5:11 pm on January 27th
turningchain writes: these are awesome!
Posted: 8:36 am on January 24th
craftybegonia writes: Really nice, and it provides such an open door to creativity!
Posted: 5:19 pm on December 7th
TrimBowRibbon writes: Good, more ribbons and thread in www.trimbworibbon.com
Posted: 12:32 am on November 9th
belleeven writes: how festive! and the shape could become a number things to go with any style (snow-flake, umbrella, bicycle wheel, turtle shell, polka dot, eye ball, monogrammed button...) - what a great, easy way to customize your buttons. thank you! :)
Posted: 3:52 am on October 3rd
mslear writes: This is a great idea. I am sorry the instructions do not include the picture at the beginning of the article. Since I am on a limited income, it would be very nice to have the printed instructions with smaller pictures and type so that I would not need to print 11 pages. The items on page 11 could have been added to the bottom of page 10 very easily.
Thank you for a very good idea.
Posted: 4:35 pm on September 9th
sunny808 writes: These are so pretty. I've seen these on sweaters and always wanted to learn how to make them. Thanks for the tutorial showing me how to do it.
Posted: 2:03 am on August 20th
Whatchamacallit writes: I'm a fan. Will definitely make some of these. So many possibilities! Thanks so much for sharing!
Posted: 10:36 pm on May 19th
keridog writes: just made four of these today and attached key rings Hopefully will be able to sell them at the country market on thursday
www.stitchesfromwales.com
Posted: 5:46 pm on May 2nd
samsstuff writes: I remember making something like this, as a child. Thanks for the reminder about these fun buttons!
Posted: 10:59 pm on March 11th
KellyKlem writes: These are FANTASTIC!
Posted: 5:47 pm on March 11th
BarbinParis writes: Great tutorial, I can't wait to try. Do you think I could eventually use the plastic rings from water bottles? My mission is to find uses for all sorts of stuff like that, that ends up in landfill and in the oceans. Perhaps you could give me a pointer or two on how to do that (those rings are not as sturdy as the ones you use in your buttons).

thanks again!
Posted: 10:42 am on March 10th
doodah_mama writes: I have been making these for about a month now! I searched for hours to find a way to "make" buttons after I got tired of making Singleton buttons. Though time-consuming, they get easier and allow room for creativity. Thank you for posting!
Posted: 7:22 am on March 6th
KnittingBirdy writes: Why can't I print this out? It will only print the first page.

Great method and great instructions. I would love to share it with my knitting group.

Posted: 11:17 pm on November 2nd
PattianneM writes: WOW, a neat craft to use instead of the hours surfing trying to find the perfect button for a crocheted outfit!
Posted: 1:31 pm on February 21st
queenietoo writes: What a wonderful idea very neat
Posted: 6:54 pm on October 29th
sllvncookie writes: Sundays Child wrote thought were condoms ,can't you see going store ask for one ole time pretty condoms,,lol,lol,lol,--Cookie
Posted: 10:27 pm on September 30th
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?\

Thanks,

Nancy Ward
http://paperfriendly.blogspot.com
Posted: 9:22 pm on July 21st
launenat writes: Hello, my name is Laura, I love your page, my revenue is terrible and I have resorted to an online translator, I put a link to my site: wwwt.tialaurita.com to your page, so that my friends can see your nice work, greetings from Cancun

Posted: 3:29 pm on June 8th
LunarFaith writes: much yays for these cuteyhs - luv 'em
thank you ~
Posted: 4:36 am on June 4th
akkadesign writes:
Hi!
Thanks a lot for the tutorial! I have been experimenting with this. Have a look at the gallery:

http://www.craftstylish.com/item/48299/dorset-button-hair-clips
Posted: 9:13 am on May 30th
TheVeganCraftress writes: Well now I'm addicted to another craft! These are so fun and quick! thanks for the tutorial.
Posted: 11:53 pm on April 7th
paperrain writes: WOW! These are great! These can be sewn on anything and they are so light. Thanks for the tutorial.
Posted: 5:06 pm on March 21st
Barefootbeader writes: Great instructions and illustrations. I'll be teaching a workshop on making them this weekend & will give the students the link to them.
Posted: 11:39 am on March 17th
OriginalNancy writes: wow...a new addiction. These are super fantastic. Thanks I think!
Posted: 1:22 pm on March 15th
CraftyJoan writes: It is often so very difficult to find attractive and appropriately sized buttons to finish off a project. Now I don't have to worry about it. Thanks so very much for this wonderfully detailed instruction on the process. A set of buttons would also make a wonderful Christmas present.

Ya Hoo!!!!!

Posted: 11:11 am on March 15th
applik writes: really pretty! I have a stash of these plastic rings and a boxload of different yarns. These have definite possibilities!
Posted: 11:05 pm on March 14th
sllvncookie writes: These are soooo pretty.And the way you tut-or-tutorial it great.Now if I can only do this.I'm not much of crafter but learning,Thanks to ladies like you all.Thanks,, Cookie in Va.
Posted: 10:43 pm on March 14th
patmargcar writes: Thanks! I remember these buttons from when I was a child!
Posted: 10:26 am on March 14th
vbrock writes: What fun! I can imagine a bunch of uses for these little jewels. Speaking of...beads, pearls, crystals, etc could be added to embellish them. Thank you Diane, for the nicely done tutorial. I definitely am going to try these!
Posted: 8:58 am on March 14th
TheArtfulDogger writes: Just want to say thanks for such a detailed, well photographed tutorial. And, for making something that I've seen before, but never knew the name of! They are cool.
Posted: 6:36 pm on March 10th
Osheen writes: Thank you for sharing, I love the way you made these Dorset buttons, a very useful item to be used in our knitting and crochet items.Osheen
Posted: 6:43 am on March 10th
SundaysChild writes: Okay .. I have to admit, at first glance I thought they were condoms! tee hee

Thank you, what a great tutorial, these are lovely .. and I agree with the other poster .. awesome fingernails. :-)
Posted: 12:50 am on March 10th
gracie_girl writes: Thanks for sharing. Mom used to make buttons for crocheted things with the little plastic circles...I don't know if they were crocheted, or if they were "Dorset" buttons. Good instructions...
Posted: 11:32 am on March 9th
PamHarris writes: These are seriously gorgeous! And the potentials for use seem almost limitless. Beautiful photos. Can't wait to make one or two or three....
Posted: 5:19 pm on March 8th
sewren10 writes: very detailed how-to,thanks for sharing.
Posted: 11:20 pm on March 7th
susanbrownknitting writes: Great tutorial and what utterly fabulous fingernails you have!
Posted: 4:01 pm on March 7th
PoochPal writes: Wow..glad to know how these lovely buttons are created. May have to give it a go. Thank you!
Posted: 9:05 am on March 7th
Janesdesigns writes: Love it!! Thank you for sharing.
Posted: 1:36 am on March 7th
Miba writes: That's awesome! I have to figure out something to make so I can put those on it!
Posted: 7:43 pm on March 6th
CalPatch writes: these are amazing, and i've never seen the likes of them before! thanks diane; i'll have to try them out!
Posted: 2:45 pm on March 6th
Jen_W writes: So gorgeous! Thanks for the tutorial.
Posted: 12:53 pm on March 6th
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