DIY Wedding

DIY Wedding

How to Make Singleton Buttons

comments (35) March 13th, 2009     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Singleton buttons are similar to covered buttons, but their construction gives them a nicer heft and finish.
These buttons are made on plastic bone rings, which come in lots of sizes.
You can use any solid or printed woven cotton to make a Singleton. You can even place the fabric design precisely where you want it on the finished button.
Singleton buttons are similar to covered buttons, but their construction gives them a nicer heft and finish.

Singleton buttons are similar to covered buttons, but their construction gives them a nicer "heft" and finish.

Photo: Diane Gilleland
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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
  • Scissors
  • 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.

Cut a fabric circle that's 2-1/2 times larger than the diameter of the ring.

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.

Draw a line halfway between the ring and the outer edge of the fabric.

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.

Sew a gathering stitch along the drawn line.

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.

Pull the thread to gather the fabric around the ring.

Place the plastic ring back in the center of the fabric, and pull the thread to gather the fabric around the ring.

Adjust the fabric on the front of the button as needed.

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.

Anchor the gathers with a couple of tack stitches.

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.)

Open the gathers to reveal the center hole in the back of the button.

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.

Gently turn the raw edges of the fabric to the inside of the button.

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...

With the raw edges turned to the inside, the button has more height.

...When you've stuffed the fabric to the inside of the button, it gives it some padding!

Take two stitches across the back of the button. Pull them tight.

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.

Take two more stitches at a 90-degree angle to the first ones. Pull these tight.

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.

Backstitch along the inside edge of the ring.

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.

Whipstitch a felt circle to the back of the button.

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.

Make a shank by stitching over a placeholder, like this paintbrush.

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.

Wrap the shank with thread.

Next, wrap thread around and around the shank. Be careful not to pull the shank stitches as you wrap.

Knot the thread at the end of the last 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.

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!

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posted in: embroidery, buttons

Comments (35)

elliotnash writes: These buttons are marvellous. My daughter has two old teddy bears which need some sewing up. I suppose I'll fix them and add some buttons like these. That will definitely give them a fresher look.
Posted: 2:45 am on August 20th
Katzpawz writes: Would it be ok to use this pattern for Holiday craft fair sales? They are adorable!!!
Posted: 6:20 pm on April 16th
Babie writes: I am going to make either the Dorset or Singleton buttons to put on a weskit (historical vest) I am making for my husband. Great instructions, thanks.

Posted: 9:37 am on March 27th
KCBabblesOfBaubles writes: Thank you so much, Diane! I am so excited that now I have two new ways (including your Dorset tutorial) to embellish my Kanzashi!!! :D
Posted: 11:11 pm on January 21st
CrochetCait writes: So great! I've been looking for a perfect button for a blazer I'm making but have had no such luck finding a match. Now I can make buttons galore for EVERYTHING! Thanks so much!
Posted: 9:16 pm on January 9th
Bettsi writes: What a fun idea! I cherish every scrap of fabric, so this is terrific. Thanks, Diane!
Posted: 11:09 pm on August 13th
envol47 writes: fantastic idea ! I will try to do it today ! thank You very much
read You soon as possible !
Posted: 3:08 am on August 11th
limonene writes: Very cute!
Posted: 1:57 pm on July 6th
LindyLu writes: Thanks for suggesting something that will take the little bit of embroidery that this beginning stitcher makes and turns it into an eye-catching and interesting accent.

And they're buttons! Who doesn't love buttons?

By the way, I am stubbornly sticking with the association of Singleton buttons with Bridget Jones. It just makes them even better!
Posted: 3:20 pm on June 9th
LunarFaith writes: omg this is actually sumthing real !! i m learning and thank you ~ (^0^)
Posted: 4:34 am on June 4th
VictoriaNorth writes: NancyWard,

Linking to our posts is not a problem at all and it is much appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed the project.
Posted: 10:26 am on May 19th
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: 2:46 pm on May 18th
whimsy_chidori writes: This is an awesome tutorial, thanks so much.
Posted: 8:59 pm on May 7th
KDora writes: It's a fantastic idea! You are on my blog. :)
Posted: 2:57 am on April 21st
lorrwill writes: BRAVO! Your buttons looks awesome and your instructions are totally clear. I think I can do this. Thanks for taking the time to do this!
Posted: 1:54 am on April 20th
myn writes: This is great! Where can the plastic bone rings be purchased? Thanks for a great tutorial!!
Posted: 7:23 pm on April 7th
Supercool writes: I am just in2 buttons at the mo, and cannot make..or buy on ebay enough of them!
I am gonna make some of these...I will cut up some old ties I got for 20p each!And just left in the drawer (like we crafters do)
Posted: 11:43 am on April 7th
KimberlyJDC writes: I'm running to my scrap fabric right now! Thanks for another invaluable tutorial.
Posted: 11:01 am on March 31st
beaderonboard writes: I Love It!!
What a great idea, I can't wait to try it.
Thank You for sharing.
Posted: 2:54 pm on March 22nd
JohnWLennon writes: Ingenious!
Posted: 2:00 pm on March 22nd
PamHarris writes: These remind me so much of buttons my great grandmother (your great, great) made for many of the garments I remember her wearing. She taught me something similar except there was some kind of middle section the ring was placed over once both were covered with fabric. Very complicated - I never learned!

These are simply beautiful, and allow a seamstress to create buttons from the same fabric they are making a garment from. I so totally prefer this method over those button kits you can buy in the findings section.

Love this!
Posted: 1:20 pm on March 21st
SewDanish writes: I love them! They are really lovely. I'll have to try them out, sort of like now :-)They would be a great little project for one of my textile groups. Thanks.
Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies
Posted: 3:24 am on March 21st
paperrain writes: This makes me happy. I wonder if it can work as well if I don't use wool felt? I have lots of felt scraps, but I wonder if they are not opaque enough. This is groovy.
Posted: 1:54 pm on March 17th
sewfunky writes: I'm really loving making these buttons - thanks so much for the detailed tutorial...

mine are on my blog;
Posted: 4:34 am on March 17th
JennieC writes: Aaack - I think I've thrown out rings like that because I didn't know what to do with them. I'm always grabbing those grab bags of wonder at the thrift stores, the contents of somebody's Grandma's sewing closet. Anyhow - this is a FABULOUSLY detailed and DELIGHTFUL post.
Posted: 10:12 pm on March 16th
artsycraftybabe writes: These are great! I can't wait to give them a try.
Posted: 9:51 am on March 16th
Hausmaus writes: Thank you so much for this tutorial! "Coverable" buttons are very expensive where I live, and this is going to be a great use for all my pretty scraps.

Posted: 3:09 pm on March 15th
sllvncookie writes: You did it again,great things,,,""Cookie'''
Posted: 10:50 pm on March 14th
walkinthewoodsllc writes: These are super-charming!
Posted: 4:08 pm on March 14th
gracie_girl writes: Great idea, so pretty and fun! Very well presented...What a novel idea!
Posted: 12:42 pm on March 14th
garnetnm writes: Thanks for the info and tutorial. I have been wondering what to do with some special small fabrics I've been saving. So I'm going to make some of these buttons today.
Posted: 9:13 am on March 14th
imnotyrbabe writes: super cute ^^.. cant wait to try this ^^
Posted: 7:29 am on March 14th
brookebethany writes: You made such beautiful buttons, I'm sure many of us will be tempted to try this. Thanks for a wonderful tutorial - it is nicely photographed and the explanations are very clear and well worded.
Posted: 9:51 pm on March 13th
rabid_designs writes: Now THIS is an utterly wonderful idea. I have tons of those rings and didn't know what to do with them. Thank you so much, they're beautiful!
Posted: 9:22 pm on March 13th
susanstars writes: Diane, you are a button genius. I love this idea! Your singletons are beautiful :)
Posted: 5:42 pm on March 13th
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