Simple Button Making
Siân suggested in her feedback on Chapter 5 that I consider working with a cooler blue, indigo type of purple together with the lime, as shown in some of my samples, rather than the warmer red-purple I had mainly been using to date and, as I look at these early chapters, I can see that my colour scheme was becoming a bit chaotic, so this chapter and the next represent a transition from the original colour scheme to the new one. There are example of both here, since I started working on this chapter and Chapter 8 before I read Siân’s comments. The refined colour scheme is certainly more individual and more contemporary, as Siân noted – by Chapter 9 I’ll have dyed some more fabrics and threads in the more bluey purple. I’ve been having the usual problems with colour reproduction. Regardless of what the photographs suggest, there is no royal blue and no banana yellow in the buttons. They’re all various limes and purples.
Button ‘core’ shapes
Image 1 shows buttons made from a variety of core shapes wrapped with different fabrics and threads.
Travelling down the columns from top left:
- foamcore shape covered with cotton quilt batting, than with dyed cotton fabric with a free-motion spiral stitched onto it;
- small button made from a strip of purple fabric wrapped round and round itself then wrapped with lurex thread;
- another small button made from a polystyrene ball in a circle of crystal organza gathered around the edge with seed beads stitched randomly over the surface;
- foamcore shape, again covered with batting, then with dyed cotton fabric with stitched with an all-over pattern of small spirals in lurex thread;
- triangular foamcore shape covered with batting, then greeny-yellow silk fabric, wrapped with purple lurex threads (it isn’t banana-yellow in real life);
- another foamcore shape covered in batting then silk fabric and wrapped with lurex threads;
- a wine-bottle cork covered with nylon tights, then silk fabric and wrapped with purple (not blue) thread;
- a foamcore shape covered with batting then silk fabric, wrapped with crystal organza strips (see image 2 for intermediate stage) then with different threads in two directions at right angles).
I’ve generally tried to bias-cut the fabrics relative to the shape being covered to try to get them to mould better. This was mostly successful except for the green shape with the purple spiral, and that was due to puckering from the stitching.
Dorset button structures
I’ve made a few of these, as Image 3 shows.
The top left, bottom left and bottom right samples are all variations on the more conventional Dorset button, with buttonhole stitch, laying and weaving all done in pearl cotton over a purchased curtain ring. The top right sample was made the same way, but I made a long wrapped cord, beginning at the centre, and laid and couched it in a spiral. The centre top sample is made with herringbone tape I space-dyed wrapped around the curtain ring, then silk ribbon dyed in the same batch more or less randomly wrapped across and around the foundation. The centre bottom sample, a bit more quirky, has an almost fluorescent lime green, shiny rat-tail braid wrapped over the curtain ring, then beaded using two sizes of seed beads right around the edge. The laid centre was made from purple gimp, and looks a bit like the face panel from an old-fashioned diving suit.
The first set of these, in image 4, are simply fabric strips decorated in some way, wrapped and tied.
From top to bottom, left side then right:
- A graded strip of lime green cotton fabric bonded to a woven interfacing, edges decorated with zigzag machining using a purple lurex thread then rolled up;
- a graded strip of purple silk fused to the same interfacing with edges turned in, then seed beads hand-sewn along the edges, rolled up and stitched (image 5 shows an intermediate stage with the beads sewn on – sorry, it’s a pretty dodgy photo with my shadow in the way);
- a straight strip of lime (not banana yellow) silk fused to interfacing, edges turned in, rolled, then with a frayed strip of purple crystal organza added in and stitched at the end;
- purple cotton fabric – a straight strip frayed, a narrower strip of interfacing added, rolled, then a trip of gold kid added and stitched in place at the ends;
- some purple felt I printed as a collagraph (image 6 – more on this later) cut in a strip, rolled then end stitched in place;
- another strip of purple cotton fabric I cut to varying widths, frayed, foiled with Vliesofix and gold foil, then rolled and wrapped along the centre with gold machine thread.
Then it became really interesting. I had a variety of fabrics I thought would melt, so I painted some sheets of Tyvek with acrylic ink and also gathered some metallic coloured Lutradur, acrylic felt, tulle, crystal organza, metallic threads and wires. Images 7, 8 and 9 show the resulting toggles before and after cooking.
All the beads in this group were zapped with a heat gun. From left:
- tapered strip of purple acrylic felt and a wider strip of gold tulle rolled together then wrapped with gold DMC machine thread;
- tapered strips of green and purple Tyvek rolled together and pinned;
- tapered strip of purple felt rolled with wider strip of gold Lutradur and then wrapped with gold DMC machine thread;
- tapered strip of green-painted Tyvek with a narrower strip of purple-painted Tyvek wrapped together and pinned;
- purple Tyvek rolled then wrapped with enamelled wire with seed beads threaded on it.
Again, all of these were zapped with a heat gun. From left:
- green Tyvek was rolled into a cylinder; purple Tyvek was then rolled around the outside then wrapped with gold DMC thread;
- strips of green and purple Tyvek were rolled together and wrapped with some silver thread from my stash;
- green Tyvek and purple Lutradur were rolled together then wrapped with purple lurex Gutermann machine thread;
- I cut a fringe into the edges of strips of purple and green Tyvek of uneven widths; these were then rolled together, purple Lutradur rolled around the centre, and wrapped with enamelled wire ;
- green Tyvek and a strip of purple crystal organza were rolled together then wrapped with a length of Madeira silver stranded thread.
All of these were produced using a soldering iron to make patterns. I attacked the ends first to secure the shape, and melted the seam. From left:
- green Tyvek and a piece cut from a purple chiffon scarf rolled together and pressed with the point of the soldering iron;
- purple Tyvek with a spiral pattern drawn on it with a gold Sharpie, rolled with a strip of gold Lutradur then incised with a wave pattern;
- purple felt with a strip of gold foil applied to it using Vliesofix and a not-too-hot iron, rolled then tiger strips drawn into the surface with the soldering iron;
- green and purple Tyvek rolled together and a sort of check-plate pattern made by pressing the soldering iron into the surface at alternating angles;
- purple felt and purple Lutradur rolled together, then a pattern of spirals and dots made with the soldering iron.
I did take all of these outdoors to do the ‘cooking’, just to avoid exposure to fumes. The fabrics were, in order of meltability from greatest to least, tulle (I just had to show it the heat gun for it to disintegrate), Lutradur, chiffon scarf, crystal organza, felt, then Tyvek. Because the Tyvek melted most slowly, it was possible to control the effect with more precision. The ones with lots of thread wrapping certainly work better for melting with the heat gun than the ones without – a couple of the samples in image 7 look more like bird droppings than buttons (!). I can’t say I like the effect of the tulle on the left-hand sample in image 7; it looks like manky old cobweb. I do, though, like the samples in which the Tyvek has melted more deeply in spots, revealing concentric circles of colour – the sample with the seed beads in image 7, and the fringed sample and the one to the right of it in image 8. I also like the wired samples where the Tyvek has shrunk away from the wire and left a ‘cage’ effect. The Madeira silver thread (right hand sample in image 8) does not withstand the heat as well as the DMC machine threads; however, it has produced an interesting ‘antique’ appearance that I like. I was happy with all the soldering iron samples in image 9. It’s fascinating watching the metamorphosis, and these are techniques I’ll definitely use again.