I have another button tutorial for you today! This is for Death’s Head Buttons, a lovely kind of thread-covered buttons that can be seen on clothes through the 18th and into the 19th century. They mostly appear on menswear, but I have also seen what look to be Deaths’ Heads on a woman’s spencer (the resolution on the photo isn’t perfect, so I can’t be 100% sure), most likely part of a riding habit. I particularly like them for waistcoats.
These are a bit fiddly, so don’t give up if you have trouble the first few times. I have made plenty of these, and I still find myself starting over! Be patient, and you will be making your own thread-covered buttons in no time!
What you’ll need:
- Thread–you’ll want an attractive thread on the heavier side. My example is made with silk quilting thread. Don’t try to use an all-purpose or fine thread, or you may be wrapping until the end of the universe!
- A needle
- A pin
- A bone, wood, or pasteboard button mold with a hole in the center. I buy mine from William Booth, Draper, or Burnley & Trowbridge.
Step 1: Wrap the thread in an ‘X’ shape
Cut a piece of thread long enough to wrap your entire button. For my 3/4″ button, I used about 4 yards. You can actually cut it when you get close to done wrapping, but I find that I get more annoyed by the thread twisting because it is still attached to the spool than I am by the propect of running out of thread if I didn’t calculate well.
Step 2: Begin your wrapping.
This is the part of the process where it is easiest to drop things. Work slowly and carefully, and be patient. Try not to be frustrated if you have to start over a couple of times. Whenever possible, support the wraps with your fingers while rotating and wrapping.
Rotate and wrap the thread twice more, so that there is one wrap across each quarter of the button. Make sure that the threads on the edge of the button are sitting neatly next to one another, not overlapping.
Continuing in the same pattern, wrap a second layer of threads.
Step 3: Place your pin.
DO NOT let go of your thread while you are doing this. Make sure you keep your tension.
Step 4: Continue Wrapping
Step 5: Anchor the wraps at the back.
Once you are sure that things are anchored well, you can remove the pin.
Step 6: Anchor the final wraps at the front.
Because the final few wraps at the center front of the button didn’t get woven into the rest of the wraps like the earlier ones do, you need to anchor them in place at the center.
At this point, make sure that everything is laying nice and smooth,
You can now tie your thread off at the back of the button, and you’re finished!
Remember: Be Patient, Move Slowly, and Don’t Give Up!