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Make Your Own Buttons!

Mar 24, 2010

Checkerboard Buttons on the Flashback
Coat Dress by I-Hwa Ho

Have you ever thought you'd NEVER find the right buttons for a project? I have, and it's frustrating!

Your project is done and ready to wear, but you don't have buttons yet, and you can't find them anywhere. You know the right buttons are out there somewhere, but where exactly is a mystery.

I've looked for buttons on my travels and in every fabric store in my zip code, and I have quite a stash, but sometimes the right buttons still elude me.

We just released the 2003 issues of Interweave Knits on a compilation CD, and as I was paging through the CD, I came upon a little sidebar about making your own buttons (called Checkerboard Buttons), and I just had to share it with you.

The project that uses these buttons is called the Flashback Coat Dress by I-Hwa Ho, and it's definitely worth a look—it's called the Flashback because it's a flashback to the 60s—a thigh-length coat dress that you can wear with your go-go boots! (Or tights and your current cool boots...)

The Checkerboard Buttons are placed down the front and on the cuffs of the Flashback Coat Dress. Any of us can use this method and end up with the most perfect buttons for whatever project needs them!


Checkerboard Buttons
Adapted from 50 Heirloom Buttons to Make by Nancy Nehring (Taunton Press 1995, now out of print)

Cut four 1 1/2" (3.8-cm) and six 1⁄2" (1.3-cm) circles out of cardboard (or thin plastic, such as a yogurt cup lid). Cut a 6-yard (5.5-m) length of yarn and thread it on a tapestry needle. Beginning at center of wrong side of form, wrap yarn around cardboard circle from top to bottom two times, then again from side to side two times (Step 1).

Turn form over and rotate it 45 degrees so that previous wraps form an X. Working from top to bottom, wrap yarn around form from side to side 10 times for large buttons (Step 2) and 8 times for small buttons, covering the cardboard between diagonal lines of X.

Working right to left, wrap yarn 10 times for large buttons and 8 times for small buttons around form from top to bottom, using needle to weave yarn over upper half of horizontal threads and under remaining threads a total of 5 times for large buttons and 4 times for small buttons, then under top group of threads and over bottom group an equal number of times (Step 3).

End by fastening off yarn on back of button.

Isn't it amazing how many applications our favorite fibers can have? I hope you'll try making these buttons, and that you'll enjoy the latest Interweave Knits CD Compilation!


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2003 Interweave Knits CD Collection

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on Mar 28, 2013 6:34 PM

This is a great pattern! I take buttons off of old garments (great yard sale rummage!) Also goodwill is a good source...where ever you can find the right size for your project... and do this on the buttons as a base..that way you don't have to worry about paper or rough edges.  I had fun with one jacket and made the buttons different was fun and unique!

ValarieA wrote
on Mar 25, 2010 7:03 PM

I use plastic "donut disc things" that i get at the hardware store - comes in all sorts of sizes.  I think they may be called washers.

ArtfulSoul wrote
on Mar 25, 2010 6:02 PM

Wow!  Love all the additional ideas in the comments. Printed out the instructions from my 2003 CD (purchased recently).  Thank you!

Nelly wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 5:45 PM

Thank you so much.  This is great.  The next sweater I make I'm going to make these buttons.  I also think the plastic is good so it can be washed.

Thanks again.  Eileen

blueagate wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 3:42 PM

Thank you for this wonderful button pattern and thanks to all the ladies who suggested using a plastic base.  

JenniferB@73 wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 1:04 PM

I cut mine out of the lids of plastic containers and if they are sharp and I'm worried about whether the edges will cut my wool, I warm the edge of the circle up with a candle flame.  This blunts the edges and I don't have to worry about frayed yarns.  Be careful not to get your fingers in the way - use tweezers to hold the circle.  Also, do it in a well--ventilated room, or out on the balcony - the warmed up plastic can give off toxic fumes.  Finally, make sure you have some water handy - some plastics are flamable, so experiment, and have fun!

Jennifer B, Kamloops BC Canada

PeggyT@3 wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 12:07 PM

might I add to cut the circle from thin plastic, like a margarine tub lid.  Then your buttons will be as fully washableas the rest of the sweater

Romi wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 11:23 AM

These are very cool, but wouldn't be washable! How about using a piece of heavy duty plastic, needlepoint canvas or a self-cover button as a form?

Handyann wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 10:37 AM


These  are great and it will be brilliant to have bespoke, matching buttons for my makes.

Just a thought - these card-based buttons will have to be removed for washing and will be likely to get grubby themselves, but if the base circles are cut from thin plastic, the buttons can be washed along with the garment.

Ann (UK)

spaldingb wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 9:24 AM


From the interweave Knits index, the Flash coat dress was in Interweave Knits issue Spring 2003 pages 30-33. This is also available on the 2003 Interweave knits CD compilation.

on Mar 24, 2010 8:44 AM

I 100% agree with SherreW - why spend the time making the buttons from cardboard, when the first time you wash the sweater, the cardboard will turn soggy and disintegrate or mold?

Save a lid or two from your favorite food - cottage cheese, large containers of yogurt, cool whip, Ralston oatmeal, etc.  All of these have lovely large plastic lids you can easily cut with a pair of non-sewing, non-yarn dedicated scissors.  

Trace or draw your design on with a sharpie, cut across the rim, then cut out nice, neat, and quickly, for a long lasting button base!

I've used the clear, see thru cool whip and Ralston oatmeal lids for decades to make quilt, applique, and stencil templates - they work great.

on Mar 24, 2010 8:11 AM

While 50 Heirloom Buttons to Make may be out of print and copies are selling for absurd amounts on Amazon and eBay, those who own Amazon Kindles can download a copy for less than $10.  

I'm making Dorset Buttons for many of my projects.  Buttons are fun to make!

ElizabethD wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:54 AM

I love this idea! But with cardboard at the core of the buttons, I bet they're not washable, are they? Any thoughts on that?

alena@5 wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:44 AM

Excellent idea - thanks! I usually crochet when I need a particular button, but this is a fresh approach - I think I'll try it soon.

lisajan wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:42 AM

The article says, "The project that uses these buttons is called the Flashback Coat Dress by I-Hwa Ho, and it's definitely worth a look" - I've been trying to locate the pattern, with no luck.  Any suggestions?

RondaL@3 wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:25 AM

How to you attach them to your garment???

Blubunny wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:19 AM

I've made them with plastic circles as suggested by SherreW. It works very well.

SherreW wrote
on Mar 24, 2010 7:02 AM

Wouldn't you want to make the base out of plastic like the sides of plastic milk carton so you could wash it.   Cardboard doesn't seem very durable.