Button Embellishments

Button Embellishments
The oldest button, made out of shell, came from the area known today as Pakistan and dates to many thousands of years ago. Modern day buttons and their companion buttonhole slots in use today have clothing origins in 13th century Germany as evidenced by paintings that have survived the ages. Vintage metal buttons are found made of brass, copper, and fewer ones still found of sterling silver, gold or pewter. Some older decorative buttons were hand painted with an enamel finish. Utility buttons today are simply made of a wide range of materials, including plastic, wood, seashell or metal.

History aside, today’s utility buttons can be embellished to add uniqueness and modern flair to any lovingly finished garment. Buttons can be thought of like grown-up colorful beads with an everyday purpose!

Layered buttons – two buttons of various sizes can be layered together and used as one. They can be of coordinating colors taken from the garment design. A tiny character button (bunny, bear, flower) can be layered over a larger button for an unexpected embellishment.

Fabric covered buttons – traditionally when a garment called for covering buttons with a piece of the garment’s self-fabric, a covered button kit would be necessary consisting of a round dome shaped button shell, a button back with shank attached, circle template and a rubber mold to hold the button shell and fabric. Dritz Cover Button Kits are popular kits for covering buttons in fabric this way. Buttons can be covered without the kit by using a traditional flat 2- or 4-hole button. Cut a fabric circle two-times the diameter of the button. Place a very small amount of fiber fill in the center and run a long hand stitch around the fabric perimeter. Place button in the center, draw up thread to enclose the button, like a fabric yo-yo but with a button inside. Take a few stitches to secure the fabric on the button back.

Hand painted buttons – two toothpicks placed into the button holes helps steady them while being painted with designs. Any garments that use hand painted buttons should be hand washed or remove buttons before regular laundering or dry cleaning. Various paints can be used to decorate the buttons. A Sharpie paint pen or slender paint brush can be used to apply a painted design. Nail polish works as well and provides vivid colors. Enameled paints can be used but require a significant time to dry. Top any painted button with a clear coat like a spray-on Varathane.

Any embellished button usually will need a larger button hole for the button to pass through. Take this into account when creating the button hole. Often, when just one or two embellished buttons are used for a decorative closure, no button hole may be needed, just a large enough loop of a silken cord can go over the button and be sewn to the opposite side of the garment. Saves having to make a buttonhole especially in a fabric of exquisite design where a buttonhole might detract.

Custom garment buttons can add a surprising element to a finished garment. Hundreds of ideas can be found online for embellishing buttons. A treasured family button box may hold a surprising vintage button or two that would be perfect to add a few hand painted details to or cover with a garment’s self-fabric or memory making fabric from a long-worn silk tie or fancifully layered with additional buttons for added sparkle. There are so many ways to add pizzazz to simple store-bought buttons. Just search online for some creative ideas.

Sew happy, sew inspired.




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This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.