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cloth button

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Sewing Tutorial:
How To Make Medieval Cloth Buttons
To Match Your Clothes Or Hood

Cloth buttons are a handy and cheap way to make a good outfit even better. Cloth buttons are for both the rich and the working class and are lighter than pewter ones.

What you need:
All you need is thread, a needle, a circle roughly 50mm in diameter (I use the bottom of a short glass for a good size) and left-over fabric from which you made your garment. Most of us have that lying about anyway, so why not use it? It costs nothing extra!

Step 1
You will need strong thread (quilting cotton is very sturdy), fabric cut into 50mm diameter circles (the bottom of a shot glass is often not a bad size) and a sewing needle.

You do NOT need extra stuffing for the button. They will stuff themselves.
Step 2
Cut your thread about 60cm long and double it, so you are sewing with 30cm of doubled thread. This will give you a sturdy thread for pulling the sides of the button in later on.

Measure in about half a cm or a tiny bit more. Knot the thread in from the edge by passing the thread through the tied-off loop. If you don't do this, you will most likely pull the thread right through when you tighten it.

Okay. Ready to start!
Step 3
Do a running stitch around the circle.

You need to be in about 5mm from the edge if you are using wool or linen. Too much more and your button won't end up round, too much less and it won't be stuffed enough.

Sew all the way around to the start. If you are using silk, make your knot and sewing circle in towards the centre further.
Step 4
When you are back at the start, sew to the other side of the circle.

You will need your thread on that side when you pull it tight.
Step 5
Tighten the thread a bit so you have a bird's nest. Not too tight, though.

The edges are going to tuck underneath in a minute.
Step 6
Do NOT tighten it so much that it pulls tight like this.

This is too tight.

Slacken the thread off a bit.
Step 7
Tighten your thread enough so you can put the edge of the circle in the middle.

It looks a bit like a shower cap.
Step 8
As you tighten the thread some more, the fabric will fold inwards, not outwards.

You will need to help it fold inwards by holding it.
If you put it down, it will spring open again.

The wool on the inside of the stitching is what stuffs the button when it is tucked in.
Step 9
To start sewing the button closed, first check that the edge of the button is folded inside.

Good. Keep going.

Stitch directly opposite where the end of the thread is and pull it tight. It looks like nothing like a button at this stage. Don't be discouraged.
Step 10
Stitch back to the start.

Squeeze the button as you sew and pull the thread tightly.

Your button looks like this now. Still not like a button.
Step 11
You need to sew to sides into the middle now.

Looking at the dots in the picture: First you stitched up and down, now you're going to stitch side to side.

Keep squeezing the button in and you sew.

Don't be upset that your button looks terrible at the this stage. It will look better as you stitch. It only doesn't look like a button because you haven't finished.
Step 12
At this stage, your button will look more like a flower than a button.

You need to stitch the sticking out bits into the middle.

Again, work from across the button, stitch in, go across, stitch in.

Pull hard on the thread to pull the fabric in.
Step 13
While you are stitching the side bits in, your button will look like this.

Don't give up! It improves very soon.

Just keep finding the bit that is sticking out the most and stitch it in to the middle. Then the next bit. Keep going.
Step 14
Soon you will run out of bits that are still sticking out.

This picture shows a few more bits to stitch in, but it is looking more like a button than before.

You can see how I'm working across the button as much as I can.

You really do have to squeeze the button in and pull the thread hard as you go. This pulls everything in.
Step 15
Two more sticking out bits- top and bottom- and my button is done!

If your button still looks a bit uneven, it's because you haven't finished yet. Keep stitching everything in.
Step 16
With all the bits pulled in and stitched down, it finally looks like a button! If it's a tiny bit lop-sided, squeeze the button into a ball.

Tie a knot through the thread crossovers in the middle and knot it off.

Don't cut your thread unless you need to make all your buttons. (Say, if you're doing them at work in your lunchtime and your gown or hood is at home.) You do need it to sew your button onto your gown, kirtle, cotehardie or hood.
Step 17
Looking at the button from the side- a little, round wool berry!

While you have the thread still attached, you can sew the button onto your gown, cotehardie or hood. If you DO cut the thread, make sure you leave enough thread for sewing the button on before you cut it. It's always better to leave too much.

Remember, buttons sit on the very edge of the garment, not set in a centimetre from the edge like modern clothes.

Step 18
If you squeezed your button in and pulled the thread hard as you sewed, your button will be this size!

Happy sewing!


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