Friday, 20 February 2015

Making Silk Fabric Covered Buttons

I bought myself a new toy.  I'd say it was an impulse buy, only I must have lurked around looking at it on eBay half a dozen times.  Then I pressed BUY - impulsively selecting not just the button making machine, but also a die mould and a bag of button blanks to fit in it. Delivery from China was really quick, though coinciding with the festive season, so no chance to play about til the kids had gone.  Before Christmas, I made a couple of ties out of the silk scarves I contact dyed last summer.  The left over strips and scraps were too good to throw away, yet too small to make anything much.  This machine's only instructions were a series of pictures online.  When the tops of my first silk covered buttons popped off faster than I'd got them on, I cursed myself rotten for buying a pig in a poke .

Reading other websites, I guessed the button blanks needed a bulkier fabric to grip tightly, but the whole idea had been to use up my precious silk.  After potching about with other stuff from the rag bag, I discovered the silk would snap on securely when laid over thick cotton interlining left over from making curtains.  Mustn't have too much fabric trapped inside the shell for a proper closure, nor so little that an edge comes loose.  Forget cutting a perfect circle, make a square that is just a fraction wider than the outer diameter of the die mould and clip off the corners.  To shove the button shell down centrally with an equal amount of fabric round all sides, I used the end of a big wooden spoon.

The whole lot stays inside quite securely when turned upside down onto the base of the die, which has the button back inserted.  Crunch down the plunger on the machine and it clamps the two parts together.  Not quick or easy, but the buttons are sound, very neat and pleasing.

It is a rare thing to find a quality cast off in our local charity shops, but I like to have a nose about on a Saturday morning while himself is doing something manly, like going in the bank or having a haircut.  He has ceased to loiter impatiently on the pavement and will even come in with me, trying on this huge coat, which proved too big across the shoulders.  Since it was made with yards of real woollen twill, at £10 it was a bargain for me to carry home in triumph.  The fabric survived a much needed turn in the wool wash cycle and after a press with the steam iron, I decided to repair all the ripped lining and keep it as a greatcoat.  Who ever owned it had had hard wear out of it.  Must have been a big bloke who got bigger, because all the buttons had been cobbled back on right at the edge of the front opening. Such an intimate thing, a coat.  The right hand pocket had been used most, because that was torn out.  I pictured the previous owner striding

over a stile ripping the lining above the back kick pleat and pulling the right shoulder stitching out while manhandling stock.  Though I sewed back a good few seams, the twill fabric had no tears at all.  Incredible stuff, wool.  I haven't any idea how old this coat may be, it has no label except a tag to hook it up which says Made in Britain. Let's call it twentieth century.  Now it is back in action with handmade buttons, ankle length on me.  How my vintage look impressed the seagulls while I was out beach combing, oak leaf dyed silk buttons glimmering in the wintry sunlight.  

Only now, himself has decided that with a jumper underneath and the buttons in the line where they were supposed to be, the coat is a good enough fit for him.  
After all, he did see it first.


  1. A good match..and a new life for the coat!

    1. We will have a tussle over who wears it out shopping this morning. I'll win.

  2. That is a lovely new life for a gorgeous looking coat Fran


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