If you’ve been reading along here in the past week, you’ll know that I made these woven tweedy buttons to match my tweedy sweater. Want to make some of your own? Read on!
[A note about tools: If you are brand new to polymer clay, you should still be able to do this technique, however I do recommend that you have a craft-dedicated pasta machine. It is possible to do the project without it, but it's much nicer to do the project with it. You can get a brand new Atlas at amazon.com, or you can keep an eye out for one at a garage sale or thrift shop if you're patient. An Atlas is more expensive than the ones made specifically for polymer clay use, but this is definitely a case of "you get what you pay for."]
A strong clay such as Premo! Sculpey, Fimo, or Kato Polyclay is recommended over a more brittle clay like Sculpey III.
The colors listed below are what I used for my green buttons. If you want to match a particular yarn, you will need to choose other colors (see below).
- 1 package Black
- 1/2 package Leaf Green
- Tiny bits of Red, Blue, Yellow, and White
- Pasta machine or other rolling tool
- Clay blade or other cutting tool
- Round 3/4-inch cookie cutter
- Plastic wrap
- Knitting needle or other hole-poking tool
- 1/16-inch drill bit (optional)
- Sandpaper in 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 grits (optional)
- Buffing cloth (optional)
Matching your clay colors to your yarn
For this particular project, I got lucky. The green straight out of the package was a perfect match for the green of my sweater. Still, I have enough experience mixing custom colors, that I have a few tips to share.
First, choose a packaged color that’s as close to the color of your yarn as possible.
Study the two colors next to each other. In what way are they different? What colors could you add to your clay to bring it closer to the color of the yarn? Could it use more blue? Is it too dark? Maybe you need to add some white to the mix.
Add small amounts of new color to your ball of clay, mix it all together well, and compare the clay to the yarn again. Repeat the process until you have a clay ball that matches the yarn closely enough to make you happy.
Do the same for all of the tweedy bits. In my case, again, I was lucky to have primary-colored tweed that I could use straight out of the package. If you do have to mix custom colors for the tweed, don’t go overboard. You really only need a very tiny amount of clay for these.
Having trouble matching colors? It’s easy to be thrown off by the shine of the clay. You can kill that shine by adding some texture to the clay. Press your clay into some mesh, or dab it all over with the bristles of an old toothbrush. That should make the clay more matte, like the yarn is, and it will be easier to compare the colors.
Building the woven sheet
Condition the black clay and your main color. If your main color was custom-mixed, it is already conditioned by virtue of the mixing process. Also, it’s not necessary to condition the clay for the tweedy bits, as you’ll be using such tiny pieces.
[A note about sheet thicknesses: Because there is variation among the different types of pasta machines, Maggie Maggio and Sage Bray are working to develop a standard of measurement for pasta machine thicknesses using playing cards. Use their chart to determine which of your pasta machine's settings correspond to the correct number of playing cards.]
Roll the black clay out to a thickness of 8 cards. Cut off about 1/4 of the sheet and set the rest aside. Roll the smaller piece through the pasta machine on the 4-card setting.
Roll some of your main color out on the 3-card setting, and place it on top of the 4-card black sheet.
Drop tiny pieces of your tweed colors on top of the main color, pressing them gently to make sure they adhere.
Run this whole sandwich through the pasta machine at the 4-card setting. You should now have a layered sheet with a speckled color on the front and black on the back.
Trim the jagged edges from the sheet and cut it into strips, roughly 1/4-inch wide.
Using the thick black sheet as a base, begin to weave your strips as shown.
Place the first strip vertically. Roll it back, and place a horizontal strip underneath. Roll the vertical strip back in place.
To place the second vertical strip, roll back the horizontal strip you just placed, insert the vertical strip underneath, and roll the horizontal strip back in place.
To place the second horizontal strip, you’ll need to roll back the most recent vertical strip, but not the vertical strip next to it. Place the second horizontal strip over the first vertical strip but under the second (rolled back) vertical strip.
Continue in this manner, placing strips over and under the strips that are going in the opposite direction.
As you lay the strips down, you can press them gently with your finger at the top to help adhere them to the sheet, but be careful not to press anywhere else. You want the strips to be easy to move so that you can pull them back as you weave in new strips.
Continue weaving the strips until you run out of strips or you run out of room on the base sheet.
You now have a woven sheet that will be the basis for a number of buttons.
Forming the buttons
Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the weave, and press down with your hand using even pressure throughout. Don’t be afraid to really rub firmly. You want to maintain the woven look, but at the same time let the pieces smoosh into each other a bit.
With the plastic wrap on top, align your cookie cutter over an attractive section of the sheet and press down, being sure to cut all the way through the clay. Gently peel away the plastic wrap, re-position it, and cut another button. Repeat until you have as many buttons as you need.
Using the knitting needle, poke two holes in each button, making sure the holes go all the way through to the back of the button. (If you are going to use a drill bit later, there is no need to poke all the way through.)
Use your finger to gently smooth any rough edges and fingerprints off of the button. The smoother it is before baking, the less you have to fix after baking. It really is much easier to get rid of imperfections while the clay is soft and pliable.
Bake the buttons according to the manufacturer’s directions on the package.
Finishing the buttons
If you want to, you can stop here, and your buttons will be perfectly use-able. I prefer to pretty them up further.
The first step is to make the holes uniform. I drill them by hand using a drill bit that I embedded into a clay handle. You can also use a Dremel for this, but I find it easy enough to do it by hand.
Next, wet-sand the buttons. Periodically dipping the button and the sandpaper in a small tub of water, sand the button with 400 grit. Take the time to remove any rough spots. The job of the 400 grit sandpaper is to get rid of as many imperfections in the button as you can. Really work on it until it feels smooth, then move on to 600 grit. The job of the 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 grits is to remove the sanding marks left behind by the previous grits. By the time you get to 1200, the button should feel super smooth.
The last step is to bring up the polymer’s natural shine. I found that the material on my couch is a really good buffer, and it just so happens that I have an extra swatch of it that I can use as a buffing cloth. Denim or terrycloth works nicely, too. Rub the button vigorously back and forth across the cloth to get a nice satiny shine. Of course, if you want a super shiny shine, you can’t go wrong with a buffing wheel.
Sew your button onto the garment and you are finished!
If you have any questions at all about the process, please let me know and I will do my best to answer them! Stay tuned for two variations on this technique: Heathered, and Variegated.
If you’d like all three Yarny Button tutorials in one handy eBook format, you can snag a copy below. I appreciate your support!