How to Make Singleton Buttonscomments (35) March 13th, 2009
A Singleton button is a kind of Dorset button, and it gets its name not from Bridget Jones, but from the Singleton family, who first made them in the 1600s. The fun thing about Singleton buttons is that you can make them from so many pretty fabrics. I love the idea of a row of coordinating Singleton buttons decorating a tote bag, or bright floral Singletons gracing the front of a simple white shirt.
What you'll need:
- Woven cotton fabric
- Plastic bone ring (I'm using a 1-inch ring)
- Cardstock (for a template)
- Washable fabric marking pen
- Needle and strong thread (see notes below)
- Embroidery floss (optional)
- Wool felt
Like a Dorset button, the Singleton is made on a ring—and we're using plastic bone rings here. You can find them in fabric and craft stores, with drapery-making supplies or with crochet supplies. They come in lots of sizes, so you can make these buttons in many sizes.
A note on thread: This is one project where the strength of the thread you use makes a big difference. I recommend using a thread with some polyester or nylon content—you'll be pulling this thread around a bit, so it needs to resist breaking.
If you're planning to use these buttons on a garment that will be machine washed, then be sure to prewash your fabric and felt beforehand.
You'll need a fabric circle that's about 2-1/2 times larger in diameter than your plastic ring. I made myself a template using the page layout program on my computer and printed it out on cardstock. You could also use a compass.
If you want to make sure a specific part of the fabric design appears on the front of your finished button, then cut a circle out of the center that's the same size as the ring.
Then, trace around the template on the wrong side of the fabric with a washable marker.
Cut out the fabric circle along your traced line. Then, place the plastic ring in the center of the fabric, as shown. Use the washable marker to draw a line about halfway between the ring and the outer edge of the fabric. You don't have to be super-precise about this; just eyeball the placement. And, you don't need to draw as heavy a line as I've done here—just one you can follow in the next step.
Thread a needle with about 18 inches of doubled thread, and tie a secure knot in the end. (I'm using contrasting thread here for visibility; you'll probably want to use a coordinating thread.) Sew a gathering stitch along the line you drew in the previous step. Placement is important here: The knot at the start of your seam should be on the wrong side of the fabric.
Your last stitch should place the needle on the right side of the fabric.
Place the plastic ring back in the center of the fabric, and pull the thread to gather the fabric around the ring.
If you want a specific part of the design to show on the front of the button, then check on this as you're gathering. Here, my circles have gone off center, so I'll slide the fabric over a bit to recenter it.
When you've gathered the fabric snugly around the ring, take a couple of small tack stitches through the gathers to lock them in place, as shown. Knot your thread, but don't cut it.
(In fact, this is a good time to mention that you'll complete most of the steps in this button with a single strand of thread. This gives the button extra sturdiness.)
Next, open up the gathered edge of the fabric, gently pressing the gathers with your fingers so you can see the hole in the center. You can also adjust your gathers a bit to even them out, if needed.
Remember, your needle and thread should still be attached to the button through this step and the next two.
Now for the slightly tricky part. Use a knitting needle or the end of a crochet hook to turn the raw edge of the gathered fabric to the inside of the button. Once you get one section turned under, the rest will follow pretty easily.
This may seem like an odd step. But it has a purpose...
...When you've stuffed the fabric to the inside of the button, it gives it some padding!
Now to tighten the fabric around the button a bit more. Pick up your needle and take two small stitches across the back of the button, as shown. Pull these tight, and they'll pull the fabric more snugly over the ring.
Then, take two more small stitches across the back, placing these perpendicular to the ones you made in the previous step. Pull these tight as well.
This should result in a button where there are no wrinkles or bulges in the fabric on the front. If your fabric isn't taut enough, you can take some more stitches across the back and continue pulling them tight.
To further anchor the fabric onto the ring, make a row of backstitches around the rim. Keep these stitches just inside the ring—in fact, when you pass the needle into the fabric, feel around in there to make sure the needle is passing right against the ring.
You can do this stitching with the same thread you're using to sew the button, or with some contrasting embroidery floss, as shown here. Take a look at the photo at the top of this post for several different approaches.
Now, if you're planning to glue your finished buttons to a project, you can do that at this point. If you'd like to sew your buttons to a project, then read on.
Cut a circle of wool felt the same size as the button. (In fact, the hole you cut from the center of your template in the first step would be a great template for this.) Sew the felt to the back of the button with a tiny whipstitch, as shown. After the last stitch, pass the needle into the felt and bring it back out at the center.
To make a shank, find a placeholder that's the size you'd like your shank to be. I'm using a small paintbrush here. Place this over the back of the button as shown, and take two stitches through the center back of the button over the placeholder.
Next, wrap thread around and around the shank. Be careful not to pull the shank stitches as you wrap.
At the end of the last wrap, knot your thread. Then pass the needle into the felt and bring it out at the side, as shown.
Cut the end of the thread close to the felt.
Variations: These buttons are really blank canvases. You could embroider on the fabric before you gather it around the ring. You could also paint the fabric with fabric paints. You could stitch around the edge of the button using other embroidery stitches, like the split stitch or stem stitch. You could also add sparkle with hot fix crystals. You could even print photo images onto fabric and make Singletons from that. Lots of possibilities!
After you make this project, show off your work to other members!
Post your project in the gallery
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