How to Make Buttons

Five Methods:Self Cover ButtonFabric ButtonEmbroidered ButtonWooden ButtonResin (Plastic) Button

While buttons may be a dime a dozen, the purchased ones aren't nearly as fascinating and enjoyable as those made yourself. Moreover, the more exquisite and interesting buttons are often not that cheap, and when adding a whole row of them to your knitted or sewn project, the costs soon add up. To make your craft or sewing more unique, and just for fun, consider making your own buttons.

Method 1
Self Cover Button

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    Purchase button molds or formers. These are available from craft stores, haberdashery departments and fabric stores. They're usually made from plastic or metal and can be easily covered in the fabric of your choice. Be aware that these buttons are only suitable for thin fabric that is flexible enough to wrap around the mold.
    • Choose the size according to what your garment needs.
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    Cut the fabric following the template. The packet should include relevant sizes of templates for the button mold. Simply cut it out, place on the fabric and trace around it using a fabric marker. Then cut around the marks.
    • If you're using transparent fabric or very delicate fabric, also cut a lining layer to go underneath the fabric.
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    Using needle and thread, work a running stitch around the circle. Leave a small edge to the outer side.
    • When done, pull both ends of the thread gently to create a small gather. Don't pull tightly yet, you'll do that in the next step.
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    Place the front piece of the button mold or former into the middle of the gathered fabric circle. Pull the gathered threads together tightly at the back of the button.
    • Tie the ends of the thread together. Trim to remove excess thread.
    • Make any adjustments needed to keep the button aligned in the center of the fabric circle.
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    Make the backing for the button.
    • Cut a round circle slightly less than two times the button's diameter.
    • Fold this circle into a quarter circle. Snip the end off the quarter to make a hole for the button shank to go through (this will be dead center). Apply anti-fray spray to prevent unraveling of the cut threads.
    • Work running stitch around the whole circle edge.
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    Put the button's back piece into the center of this circle. Gently pull the threads to gather. Shift to ensure that the holes align. Tie tightly and trim off any excess thread.
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    Place both pieces of button together. Align the shank on the front button piece with the hole on the back button piece and push into place. You should notice a click or a snapping together.
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    Repeat for as many buttons as you need.

Method 2
Fabric Button

Fabric covered buttons are ideal for matching with your existing clothes, or at least complementing the same hues and texture. There are various ways to make a fabric button; here you'll find the instructions for making a Singleton button.

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    Decide on the button's diameter. It can be any size, just as long as you make the circle of fabric two and half times the diameter of the ring you're using (see next).
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    Make the former. This is the circle shape that forms the basis of the button.
    • Place the ring onto a piece of strong card. Draw around it on the card.
    • Measure a circle out from this ring circle that is two and half times the diameter of the ring.
    • Cut out the circle, including the middle ring (if there is a motif, the middle ring allows you to center it properly).
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    Put the card template onto the fabric that is being used for the button, right side up.
    • If the fabric has a motif, center this inside the ring hole.
    • Draw around the motif with fabric marker and around the whole circle too.
    • Remove the card template and place it at the back/wrong side of the fabric. Tuck the fabric around it to form the circle for measuring against.
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    From the ring circle, measure and mark a new circle exactly halfway between the ring circle and the edge of the large circle.
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    Remove the card template and run a gathering stitch around this newly marked line.
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    Put the ring on the wrong side of the fabric. Pull up the gathering fabrics to encompass the ring but leave a small hole in the center. Push the raw edges of the fabric inside the button through this small hole, while holding the sewing threads to one side. Use the end of a knitting needle, or similar item, to push the fabric edges in. This excess fabric stuffed inside gives the button a plumped-out effect; if the plumping is not sufficient for your needs, add extra stuffing.
    • Tie the thread ends off securely without cutting them.
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    Use the thread ends for securing the back. Sew a herringbone stitch in a circle (like going around a clock), around the back of the button hole, to pull the gathered fabric taut over the ring. Secure the thread and cut.
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    Return to the front of the button. Using new thread, sew a circle of back stitch just inside the ring. This keeps the ring firmly in place on the outer of the button.
    • You can finish the button by sewing blanket stitch over the back stitch and around the ring. This is optional but can look very effective.
    • The thread used here should complement the outfit or item that the button will be used on.
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    Secure the thread and knot. Trim off excess thread.
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    Finished. Make as many more using the card template as are needed. The more you make, the easier this will become.

Method 3
Embroidered Button

Embroidered buttons are a labor of love, as they can be a little finicky, but they look fabulous and the more you make, the faster you'll be able to finish them. The one suggested here is a very simple chain stitch flower shape but as you get better at these, don't be afraid to try more elaborate styles of embroidered buttons.

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    Slip the fabric into the embroidery hoop. Lock in place as you'd normally do when embroidering.
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    Draw the button templates onto the fabric. To do this, draw around a button using fabric marker, straight onto the fabric. Draw as many buttons as you're making but be sure to leave ample room around each one for adding the fabric to the self-cover button.
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    Thread the needle with a single strand of embroidery thread. Knot one end.
    • The color depends on your choice of flower and the fabric background.
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    Sew the first petal. Bring the needle up through the center of the button circle (A).
    • Sew back down close to where the needle emerged for A, leaving a small loop in place.
    • Bring the needle back up through the loop this time, a little way away from where you first brought up the needle, B. The intention here is to make a petal from the loop, so how far away from A that your needle emerges depends on the diameter of your button's circle.
    • Pull the thread through gently. Anchor the stitch by taking the needle to the back over the loop (just above B).
    • Pull the thread through and bring the needle up at A again.
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    Work the next chain stitch petal from A. Emerge across from B but at the same length as B, to form C petal (A-C). Repeat as above for the first petal, to form the petal and return the thread to point A.
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    Work the next chain stitch petal. Emerge across from C to form D petal (A-D). (You are working around the flower to add petals; what you can see now should look like a Y shape.) Repeat as above for the first petal, to form the petal and return the thread to point A.
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    Work the fourth and fifth stitches midway between C & D and B & C. Keeping the distances even is important for balance.
    • More petals can be added for an eight-sided flower if wished.
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    Finish with a French knot in the center. Repeat for as many buttons as you're making from this hoop of fabric.
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    Remove the fabric from the embroidery hoop. Before cutting to add to the self-cover buttons, ensure that you have cut enough fabric around all sides to be caught within the button mold.
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    Make up the buttons as for the self-cover button method outlined above.

Method 4
Wooden Button

If you're handy with woodworking tools, wooden buttons can be a great way to use up scraps of precious wood. There are many ways to make wooden buttons and toggles, but one simple method is use a thick piece of dowel or a nice thick twig.

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    Put the thick dowel into the miter box.
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    Saw the dowel at an angle of 45 degrees. Discard this first piece as it will not be the right shape.
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    Mark the width of the buttons as desired. Return the wood to the miter box and cut the next button to this width, keeping the angle intact. Repeat for remaining buttons.
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    Put the first button onto a piece of scrap wood. The scrap piece simply protects the surface from the drill when you're making holes.
    • Mark two or four evenly spaced thread holes across the button.
    • Drill out the holes with a fine drill bit.
    • Repeat for remaining buttons.
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    Brush off drill dust. Sand the surface of each button with fine grade sandpaper.
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    Embellish if wished. You can etch, burn or color the button as desired. Or, simply leave it as it is.
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    Seal the button. While you don't have to do this, it's useful for protecting the wood from the elements and being washed. It may depend on the wood type––some woods are more durable than others but many wood types, including dowel wood, will benefit from being coated with matte acrylic varnish. Let dry completely before adding another coat; two coats is recommended.
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    Done. The buttons are now ready to be stitched to your garment or craft item.

Method 5
Resin (Plastic) Button

This type of button is molded.

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    Work on a flat surface. Cover the surface with newspaper or other material to protect it. Don your mask and gloves.
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    Prepare the mold. Pour the resin into equal parts A and B in the plastic or paper cups. If coloring, do so now in part B (follow the package instructions). Then pour part A into Part B and mix well.
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    Pour the smooth, well mixed solution into the button mold. Work quickly, as most resins set very quickly, starting to set within a minute or so.
    • Wipe away excess resin from around the button or on any tools before it sets.
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    Wait. The resin will turn from clear to solid plastic.
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    Press the button out of the mold gently. If you're happy with it, it's set to use. If not, try another one. Repeat for as many buttons as you require.


  • Other kinds of buttons you can make include knitted or crocheted buttons, clay buttons and lacework buttons. Beaded buttons are also a nice thing to make if you enjoy beading but they do require knowledge about beading to ensure that they stay in good shape for frequent use.
  • Many natural objects or favorite bits and pieces can be re-purposed into buttons too. One of the easiest ways to transform a plain, flat button is to glue on an interesting small object. Use strong glue to ensure it can handle wearing and being washed.


  • The more fragile the button, the greater the need to wash an item adorned with it by hand. This needs to be taken into consideration when adding fragile buttons to everyday wear that requires frequent washing. What might be fine for a wedding dress may not be so ideal for a cardigan worn all through winter.

Things You'll Need

Self cover button:

  • Button molds or formers (plastic are best as they won't rust during drying or when wet)
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Anti-fray spray
  • Fabric

Fabric button:

  • Ruler
  • Strong card
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Fabric
  • Needle and thread
  • Brass curtain ring (or similar)
  • Fabric marker
  • Special thread for front (if desired)

Embroidered button:

  • Self cover button
  • Embroidery thread (cotton)
  • Fabric of choice, must be suitable for embroidering on
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fabric marker
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery needle

Wooden button:

  • Thick dowel, such as a broom handle or similar; or a thick twig that is strong
  • Miter box
  • Saw
  • Scrap wood
  • Drill with small drill but fitted
  • Sandpaper, fine grade

Resin/Plastic button:

  • Smooth-on resin (kits available from craft stores and online)
  • Mold (make your own, buy one or obtain a vintage one)
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Mask/respirator
  • Plastic or paper cups
  • Paper towels
  • Disposal bag

Sources and Citations

  • Susan Beal, Button It Up, (2009), ISBN 1-60085-073-8 – research source
  • Sarah Beaman, The Button Maker, (2005), ISBN 1-84340-277-7 – research source

Article Info

Categories: Sewing