While procrastinating on stitching, I tried a small thing I had been curious about – making Dorset buttons. Dorset buttons are made from floss or yarn wrapped around a ring-shaped base. What could be smaller than a single button (well lots of things – snaps, hooks and eyes, to start with, but don’t take me literally) .
I learned that originally the bases for these buttons were made of circles stamped from horn, but mine are made from plastic curtain rings. A site called The Sampler has a good tutorial. The British Button Society has a page illustrating a number of varieties of buttons. Here is a link to some history on the buttons.
Here are my efforts:
These buttons were made with craft thread from the dollar store. I think that using yarn, perl cotton, or other any unstranded heavy floss might work better. I tried a couple of different patterns to wrap the centers, and added beads to one of the buttons. The most awkward part for me was aligning the spokes so that they meet in the center of the ring; I need some more practice on that – mine are slightly off-center. I can imaging many ways to further ornament buttons, using beads, mixing threads, wrapping the center in a metallic thread, embroidering (french knots and lazy daisy in the center), wrapping with multiple threads, etc.
I found this an amusing task for several evenings. Reading through the history though, one thinks of the women who made a gross (144) of buttons per day to earn their living – not so amusing.
When I was in high school I played the bassoon. One summer I learned how to make bassoon reeds, one step of which involves wrapping the end with thread to form a sort of ball. In a way, making these buttons reminded me a bit of that. I was much better at wrapping reeds than at the rest of the steps involved in making reeds – and far better at wrapping than actually playing the instrument.
Buttons are such trivial things these days. I can go to the drug store, grocery store, or dollar store – not to mention any fabric or craft store – and buy buttons in any range of sizes, colors, makes. Plastic, wooden, shell, metal, etc. Imagine a time when buttons were all handmade, when they were a craft rather than a commodity.