I really like my granny smith Everyday Cardigan and the Rustic Buttons I made to go with it, but despite this I very rarely wear it.
For two years that sweater has been mostly languishing in my closet because I made the buttons too thin for the buttonholes. Every time I try to wear it, the buttons slip out of their holes anywhere that there is even a tiny amount of stress put on the area (yoke, I’m looking at you!)
It’s just not a good look. What’s more, it is impractical. Generally speaking, I wear a sweater because I want to be warm, and that’s hard when the front keeps popping open.
I would have addressed this two years ago when I made the sweater and the buttons, but I have this irrational hatred for sewing on buttons. I would rather learn to live with less-than-perfect buttons than sew on a new batch.
At this point, I think that I have proven to myself that it is not always possible to just “live with it.” I’ve been thinking that it might be nice to wear a sweater of my own design to Rhinebeck this year (instead of wearing my newest knit as originally planned), and that thought has finally finally spurred me into action on this button debacle.
And do you know what? It took about 10 minutes to fix the buttons. I’m such a big baby. I should have done this two years ago!
Here’s what I did (and what you can do, too, if you ever need to add thickness to a polymer clay button).
Tools and Materials
- polymer buttons that are too thin
- sharp little scissors (for cutting the buttons off of the garment)
- raw polymer clay in a color that goes well with the buttons
- liquid polymer clay
- needle tool
- pasta machine (optional but helpful)
- drill bit
- needle and thread to match garment
Liberating the Buttons
For each button you want to remove, slip the scissors under the button, and being careful not to cut into the sweater itself, snip the threads holding the button on.
To make it easier to see where to position the buttons once they’re ready to go back, try to leave a few of the cut threads sticking out on the button band, if you can. You can also mark the spot with a locking stitch marker, if you have one.
Condition your raw clay, and roll it out on the pasta machine at a medium thick setting.
Squirt a bit of liquid clay onto the sheet. By “a bit” I mean “way less than pictured.” My bottle of clay went a little bonkers when I first squeezed it.
Use your finger to spread the liquid clay over the entire surface of the sheet.
If you over-did it with the liquid clay like I did, just use a paper towel to wipe off the excess. We’re not looking for the sheet to be wet, rather we want it to be tacky to the touch. If the surface is slippery, then you have too much liquid on the sheet.
Place the buttons on top of the sheet and press gently on each button to adhere it to the sheet.
For each button, place the cutter over the button and push through the sheet below, making sure that you have fully cut through the sheet.
Don’t worry if the cutter eats your button (it ate all six of mine). Simply push the button out of the cutter and place it back on the sheet inside the cut circle.
Once all of the circles have been cut, slowly peel the sheet off of the work surface. It should come up in one piece, leaving the newly-backed buttons in place.
If you find places where the cutter didn’t cut all the way through, just use the cutter again in that spot.
Poke the needle tool through the button holes and into the raw backing clay so that the button holes will be extended.
There is no need to be too precise with this, since you can drill smooth holes all the way through after baking. These are simply pilot holes to help the drill bit go in more smoothly.
Carefully slide the blade under each button and release it from the work surface.
With your fingers, gently smooth out the edges where the baked and raw clays meet, and make sure that the raw clay is fully adhered to the baked button.
Bake your buttons according to the polymer manufacturer’s directions.
Once the buttons have cooled off enough to handle, drill your holes. I took the opportunity here to enlarge the original holes, which is why you see both green and black shavings. If you are satisfied with your original holes, then you would use a drill bit the same size as before, and would only be drilling through the new clay.
Using the old threads (or stitch markers) as a guide, sew the improved buttons back where they belong.
It might be a good idea to make sure they work in the button holes before you sew them all on!
If they’re still not thick enough, you can repeat the entire process above as many times as necessary.
And there you have it. A simple method for beefing up the size of your too-narrow buttons.
The instructions for the original buttons can be found here. And the knitting pattern, if you want a sweater like this one, can be found here.
I’ve actually done quite a few button tutorials around here, so if the idea of making your own buttons intrigues you, be sure to check them out. In particular, the Beginner Button Class should be of interest to those of you who don’t have any polymer clay experience or tools.
I’m still going back and forth over which sweater to wear to Rhinebeck, but this one is definitely more of a contender than it was yesterday 🙂
7 thoughts on “Salvaging the Rustic Buttons”
Oh my – so wonderful and the buttons are gorgeous on your lovely sweater. I’m so glad you can wear it now. I totally get your dread of the the task. I’d rather sew an whole new dress than to hem it. I once gave to my sister a stack of Coldwater Creek slacks to prevent hemming them up. (My sister & I both have short legs.) :^)
It’ll be so fun to wear your own sweater – from start to finish – to Rhinebeck! Enjoy!
Thanks for sharing this with us. How do you get your buttons to look so nice and polished when you finish?
[…] you’re one of those individuals who’s ALSO made buttons you’ve used, here’s a post on how to fix an improperly sized […]
I am curious, can PC buttons go through the washer and/or the dryer?
Yes, they can! Though, if you use surface treatments (like powders or some paints) you’ll want to put a layer of translucent liquid clay or some other sealer on top to protect the decoration. Plain clay, though, is fine to go through the wash.
There are good reasons to thicken a button or other object, and I appreciate your tutorials (which I just found this evening…). However, if it’s just buttons that keep coming undone, you can also tighten the buttonhole. Use matching thread to sew together a little bit of the end of the buttonhole that’s away from where the button usually sits when in use. (Or close a little of the action end of the buttonhole, if you also want to shift the button’s position a touch.)
Thanks for the tip!