Make Your Own Buttons from Polymer Clay

comments (42) September 7th, 2012     

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LindaPermann Linda Permann, contributor
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The final step is to bake the buttons. Here, the solid blue and green buttons have been baked, and the others are waiting to go in the oven.
Be sure to start on a surface that can get dirty (but isnt dirty itself—you dont want to pick up gunk in your clay). If you have parchment paper, I recommend covering your work surface with that before you start.
Youll need to condition (soften) the clay to begin working with it. Break off one section of clay and roll it in your hands several times until it softens.
The final step is to bake the buttons. Here, the solid blue and green buttons have been baked, and the others are waiting to go in the oven.

The final step is to bake the buttons. Here, the solid blue and green buttons have been baked, and the others are waiting to go in the oven.

Photo: Linda Permann
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When the perfect finishing touch for a project is nowhere to be found in stores or your stash, it's time to do it yourself. You can make your own buttons inexpensively and easily with polymer clay! You can even use the clay to make a mold of your favorite button, then use the mold to make replicas of that button in any color you desire. Here I'll show you how to make textured buttons (and molds) and how to make multiple buttons from a colorful cane of polymer clay. These buttons are quick and simple, and they can even survive the washing machine and dryer. If you're not familiar with polymer clay, you can find it at most big-box craft stores near the other clays.

For the basic button, you'll need:

  • Polymer clay (Sculpey and Fimo are both good brands)
  • A clean work surface and parchment paper
  • A rolling pin (don't use the one you use for food; look for a cheapie at a dollar store)
  • Cutting tools (small circular cutters-I used thread spools-and a flat blade-I used a cookie cutter)
  • Toothpicks
  • Buttons, beads, and other textures to press into the clay
  Get all of your supplies ready, and be sure to start on a surface that can get dirty (but isn't dirty itself-you don't want to pick up gunk in your clay). If you have parchment paper, I recommend covering your work surface with that before you start.

 

  You'll need to condition (soften) the clay to begin working with it. Break off one section of clay and roll it in your hands several times until it softens.

 

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posted in: tutorial, button, polymer clay

Comments (42)

craftyjess29 writes: I was thinking about using Super Sculpey to make my own buttons (it's sold where I work). Do you know of anyway to color the clay before baking? I don't really want to hand paint a bunch of buttons after they bake, and thought it might be easier if I could add some kind of color pigment or paint to the soft clay beforehand. Thanks!!
Posted: 2:41 pm on March 20th
sews4fun writes: Your instructions are so clear and concise, a child can do this! Nothing about it is ho hum and I just cannot WAIT to try this! THANK YOU!!
Posted: 9:50 pm on March 11th
cadiddle writes: Rather than use your rolling pin that you use for baked goods, a 1 inch dowel stick (from home improvement stores) works just as well for crafts of this kind. you may have to sand it so it is smooth for your surface rolling.

Posted: 12:08 am on March 10th
CAS48 writes: What a great idea! I can make a button to match any project! I was frustrated when I came to the site from the link because I saw "Final Step" and kept trying to find the first step (too dumb to scroll down, lol)
Posted: 6:19 pm on March 9th
StudioM writes: Shanks for polymer buttons can be purchased at craft stores or online. Just glue to backs with something like E6000. Or google button shanks for online sources.

I was doing some polymer clay, but am inspired by the button article to haul it out again for some button making!

Posted: 4:44 pm on March 9th
georgiana writes: I think that those buttons would look great on a hand-knit sweater.
Posted: 4:42 pm on March 9th
lbuser writes: These are the clearest, easiest to follow instructions for polymer clay I have seen. I have several blocks of clay but my self taught attempts have been less than desirable. I need buttons for several neck scarves I made this winter. They are short and I think they will be really pretty with buttons. But the cost of nice looking buttons is crazy. I will give this a try and let you know how they turn out. Thanks!
Posted: 3:22 pm on March 9th
NancyWard writes: Hi!

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

I'd appreciate y our letting me know if that's PK.

Thanks,

Nancy Ward
http://paperfriendly.blogspot.com
Posted: 11:12 am on February 26th
seamsoeasy writes: how cute are these?? would like to know where people in the UK are getting their clay from?
thanks
aliza
Posted: 2:24 pm on February 18th
Jen1964 writes: Ooh! I can't wait to try this! One year, my son gave me a boxload of sculpey clay for birthday present (kids are so fun), and I just haven't known what to do with it.

We love making the canes and beads... but this is actually something I could use. I'm always looking for awesome buttons for my knitwear. Problem solved!

Have your thought of a way to make shank buttons? I could use beads... More ideas for creativity.
Posted: 12:02 pm on February 18th
quilties writes: This is a good tutorial, thank you! I made polymer clay buttons before, but I really like your ideas about molding premade buttons. I'll try that next time!

Posted: 9:40 am on February 18th
marytabar writes: Hi Linda, This is still a very cool lesson-thank you for sharing-
Posted: 10:51 pm on February 17th
irishwings writes: Fantastic Idea!! I've never thought of this and what an innovative way of the tools you used to make the buttons.A person could also use them to scrapbook and for home made cards.Your instructions are also great to follow which makes them easy to make.
Thank You!!
Posted: 7:11 pm on February 17th
suzeqz writes: LOVE this! I've been wanting some funky buttons for various projects but was afraid to wash poly-clay. I'm thrilled to know that I can! And I'll definitely bake for additional curing time -- thanks for that tip, too! I'm also thiknking about making shanks from heavy gauge wire, maybe embedding a small spiral of wire into the clay (same principle as rebar in concrete) with a loop for the shank left sticking out of the back of the button. Anyone tried that yet?
Posted: 7:11 pm on February 17th
CHL writes: Way Cool! I think I'll have a button party with a couple of my crafty friends!
Posted: 7:10 pm on February 17th
creativecrone writes: I love this idea. I had played around with polymer clay for a time but was never happy with it. I thought that I might move onto PMC some day but in my disappointment with the clay beads I just packed it all up and stuffed it in the closet.

But now...thanks to you...I can haul it out again. Neat buttons are so costly. Well, buttons are costly these days. I have some grandkids and you have given me some really good ideas as to how to make something special for them.

Here's an idea, PMC buttons!
Posted: 6:19 pm on February 17th
basrelief writes: I love reading up on all the polymer clay stuff, I have been sculpting with this clay for a long time, and never knew you could bake them for longer than the required time.
I once sculpted a punk rocker with a Mohawk and his hair tips started burning, although they were black, they seemed much more durable, thanx for the insight, great post...
Posted: 4:25 pm on December 16th
BLANCHED writes: THANK YOU, I WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING MY OWN AND YOUR TUTORIAL WAS SO DETAILED THAT NOW I CAN.
I ASKED MY NEPHEW IF HE WOULD MAKE ME SOME BUTTONS FROM POLIMER CLAY, AND I'M STILL WAITING FOR A REPLY.
THIS IS GREAT. THANK YOU AGAIN
Posted: 3:03 pm on October 3rd
paperrain writes: I have been wanting to do this and all I needed was your great tutorial. Thank you! These look amazing!
Posted: 4:58 pm on March 21st
laura63 writes: I love this project can't wait to try it.
Posted: 10:06 am on March 19th
Paws2 writes: Linda...I am a button fanatic and have been looking for something different to create even more buttons so you have filled that need!!! Using other buttons to imprint the clay is a terrific idea that gives you so many more options along with mixing colors..I can't wait to get started!! Thanks
Posted: 10:06 pm on March 15th
Rooty_Tooty writes: Great idea! I'm glad to see that someone has determined that these will withstand washing & drying -- Thanks, Toffy! Does anyone know how durable ink from felt markers or newprint is? I'm thinking there are some nice possibilities here for creativity.

Also, this is a great opportunity to duplicate some of the great vintage buttons that some of us own either in vintage or updated colors. I would also suggest looking for old jewelry either at home or at flea markets for great textures to replicate by pressing into your clay. In fact, just keep your eyes open & there is no telling what textures you will find that you can use. Hardware store might offer some interesting textures.
Posted: 4:36 pm on March 15th
Toffy writes: I had to add that back then I would have dusted the pan with sprinkles of cornstarch. My buttons were not to replicate but just to be creative and get the colors I wanted. I will say that the buttons made by Linda Permann are wonderful, with good ideas for replicating a particular style. Terrific buttons that she made. I did have to re-shape them after I cut them due to the smashing that happens when cut, and I didn't glaze them or sand them but left them a matte, or just as they would be naturally after baking. All this chat about this makes me want to dig out all that clay stuff and make up more...Thanks for the inspiration Linda....
Posted: 10:36 am on March 15th
Toffy writes: I made my own Polymer Clay buttons years ago out of frustration because I was decorating a 2-pc Outfit I had made and couldn't find what I wanted in a store. I had a lot of fun making them, got carried away and still have a few left. I can even sew them on with the machine. Whoopee...less hand sewing for me is the ticket. Most of them I made with only 2 holes and not 4 (for easier sewing). All were 2 or more colors and looked marbled. I probably used Fimo and or Sculpy (the first one),and baked them until leather like. I have washed and dried them in the dryer many many times and they have lasted just fine. Go for it Girls you will have a blast and be so proud of your buttons.
Posted: 10:18 am on March 15th
PolymerClayTutor writes: Making buttons out of Polymer Clay is a great idea. I have a few suggestions though. Use Fimo or Premo brand clay and not Sculpey III. Sculpey III is too brittle and will break over time.

Also bake for 1 hour at 265F instead of the 1/2 hour suggested on the package, to make sure they are properly cured. Buttons go through some wear and tear and they need to be cured for long enough to be strong enough.

Any rough edges or fingerprints can be easily sanded using wet/dry sandpaper in 320/400/600/800/1500 grits respectively.

I agree with Linda that you shouldn't use wax paper in the oven because it will melt on the buttons. If you don't have parchment paper, regular office paper will do just as well. Make sure there is no printing on the side that touches the clay, or the images will be transferred on to it.
Posted: 1:17 pm on March 14th
gracie_girl writes: Finally I know what to do with the Fimo clay I bought on sale eons ago! Really cute buttons---and with the cost of buttons now adays, a cost-viable option. Thanks.
Posted: 12:54 pm on March 14th
ktkatherine writes: This is an AWESOME idea! Thank you! :)
Posted: 11:15 am on March 14th
Loves2spin writes: What fun! I will definitely give this a try. I've never used polymer clay, but I will to make these. I love buttons and nice ones can add a lot to the cost of a project. Thank you so much!
Posted: 10:19 am on March 14th
picklini writes: I love it!
really interestin!
Posted: 9:45 am on March 14th
jekinthebox writes: goodness, but this is awesome! love it and thank you for the tutorial!
Posted: 12:01 pm on March 13th
Sunsh1neGirl writes: @5andDime: if you want a shanked button, you can poke a small hole through the center of the button before baking, and then after baking, thread a headpin (like these http://www.firemountaingems.com/headpins.asp) through and use cutters and pliers to make your shank.
Posted: 11:38 am on March 13th
LindaPermann writes: 5andDime- I'd say no to the wax paper- I think the clay might stick (and definitely don't use it in the oven).

As far as shank buttons go, I think you could easily make a little shank and attach it to the back. Any poked holes should stay open during baking.
Posted: 7:55 pm on March 12th
5andDime writes: Thanks for the great tutorial! Two questions: 1)Does wax paper work in place of parchment paper? 2)What if you want to make flat buttons with a shank? Can you poke holes in the shank part and will they stay open in baking?
Posted: 4:23 pm on March 12th
MichaelaMurphy writes: Linda, when I saw these and then Erika's post I had an evil Sistine crafter thought: what if I made buttons out of polymer clay al la Linda and then made a pillow al la Erika? It would only take 1500 man hours! Right up my DIY alley. These are wonderful--thanks
Posted: 7:01 pm on March 11th
katyjokimbley writes: these are great. i'm going to make buttons AND apply this to beads and pendants. thank you!
Posted: 6:30 pm on March 11th
dlipsky writes: I have some clay i bought for my kids, maybe I will now keep it for myself. Thanks!
Posted: 4:30 pm on March 11th
janetdawson writes: LOVE these buttons! You make it look so easy to do - might be time to haul out all the polymer clay supplies I've got stashed away and try this. I always have trouble finding buttons big enough for my handwoven pillows, so this is a perfect solution! Thanks so much for the inspiration.
Posted: 2:50 pm on March 11th
susanstars writes: Linda, how cool! those are gorgeous :)

I will definitely make some too. I've been wanting to try polymer clay and this looks like the perfect project!
Posted: 12:35 pm on March 11th
LindaPermann writes: Thanks ladies! There are sooooo many possibilities and I have barely scratched the surface here, so I hope you'll have fun experimenting. If you want to get some more ideas for shapes and methods of working, check out your local library- mine was stocked with books on polymer clay.
Posted: 12:19 pm on March 11th
PamHarris writes: Linda,these are just beautiful! I admit to not being a button person...but I just have to make these. HAVE TO!
Posted: 12:11 pm on March 11th
MaryRay writes: This is a great tutorial, Linda. I've always wanted to try this -- buttons are one of my passions and I can't wait to create some of my own.
Posted: 9:37 am on March 11th
Joannie_N writes: These are so cute! I've made beads from clay but for some reason it never occurred to me to make buttons. I'd like to try this and make the button choker from a previous post.
Posted: 9:02 am on March 11th
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