Buttons buttons who's got the buttons? A Button-Making Tutorial!


So I have been getting a lot of requests on how I have been making my own buttons for the recent outfits I have been making!

And I gotta tell ya: I'm hooked on them!!  I have been trying to find excuses to add button plackets to things (slightly masochistic I know ;-) so that I can make more buttons!  
Let's first talk a little about the benefits:  
  • They are wayyyy cheaper to make your own buttons.  For the cost of a mold which can range about $2-$10 and the cost of polymer clay (which I usually get on sale for $1.30 a block!) you can make a LOT of buttons from one block of clay.
  • There is a huge array of polymer clay colors and you can mix colors, add varnishes or glosses, add glitter (which I LOVE)
  • It just feels that much more handmade.  I'm so proud of each and every button I've made and I am reminded of it's uniqueness from the prints on the back from my thumbprint :-)
  • It's something you can make with the kids and it doesn't take any more equipment than a tootpick, oven, and baking sheet.
  • There are some very very unique button molds (and some that I think might be able to be made into buttons.).  Etsy has the best selection and shipping is usually very cheap.
And you can of course make buttons from epoxy resin as well but I haven't gotten any yet (well, that's sort of a lie... that's what I asked for Valentine's for ;-)
So let's go over my process, from start to finish, on making your own buttons!!!!

here are my molds (all from Mold Muse on Etsy)
And my glitter collection
And my clay collection (I'm so proud)
The type of polymer clay doesn't matter as long as you can bake it.  Baking it is what will make it super hard.

So I needed to make a button for my little one's Valentine's Day dress (but since I have to work tonight, I will take a bonafide photo-shoot tomorrow since that's when we will be celebrating)
I start off by using my favorite mold (it makes these beautiful 5/8" buttons), some hunter green clay, and some glitter.
First, if you want to add glitter, this is what I do:
I tap out a little bit into the mold first.  Make sure your opening is not to big at all.
Then pinch off a dime size of clay and knead it to get it soft (this one was already a "soft" clay so I didn't need to do much)
Start pulling off pieces of your kneaded clay and position them in the mold around the buttonholes, making sure every bit is covered.
I actually had pulled off a little more than I needed so just put that back on your larger block of clay.
Start pressing down the clay really well and make sure that you work it into all sides.  I usually use my thumbs for this.
When I feel that it is sufficiently patted, I pinch in the sides a little (then pat a little more) so that I don't have any over hang (don't use anything sharp, ahem, that's how I got that teeny gash on the one side)

This the button fully filled.  
Next I use a toothpick to surface the holes.  I usually pat carefully around the middle till I can see a faint indentations of the button holes (can you spot them in this pic?) and then use the toothpick to push the clay to the sides.
And this is my button, ready to be popped out of its mold.  See my thumbprint??

Then just pinch the back of the mold and let the button pop out on its own.
Here's the button all ready for the oven!

don't judge my awful baking sheet.... Sephira likes to hide our kitchenware around the house
 Put the button(s) on the unlined, ungreased sheet.

Bake the buttons at 265 degrees for about 20-30 mins... do not exceed 35 minutes or there might be slight scorching.  And by all means, do not be alarmed that the buttons are not firm right out of the oven.  They will totally firm up within about 3-5mins.  I think it goes without saying but handle the buttons with care, on their way to the baking sheet and after you remove them.  Until they are hard, you want to make sure you don't distort the button shape.

So this is the button all baked and ready to be installed!

And looking at it next to my fabric, it is a pretty close to perfect match.
It's important that you seal your clay immediately so there isn't any drying out of the clay.  I used masking tape but I usually use scotch tape and then seal all of my clay and molds in a Ziploc bag.
Here's my button, upside down next to my other buttons.

And here it is added to the mix!

These two were made at different lengths of time.  The one on the left was 20 minutes and the right was 30.  You can see the slight difference in the color.
Some glitterific buttons I made for a very special Valentine dress...
Edit:  to learn more about polymer clay and working with it and the safety issues check this website out!

Okay!  So that is all the info you should need!  Yes they are washable and yes, totally addicting!!!  I would love it if you added your buttonmaking pics to my flickr pool, sewn for your chibis. And by all means if you have any questions ask away!!!  Until then!!

17 awesome sauce comments:

  1. YES! This is so awesome! I love it. And you have a flickr pool!

    Man I can't wait until my mold gets here! We're going to be button-making it all up in hurr!

  2. Thanks for showing how really easy it must be :) It's very tempting to give this a go!

  3. This looks great I can't wait to make my own buttons!!! Thank you sooo much.

  4. i love you buttons, will they withstand the wear and tear of a prefab button?

    1. Polymer clays differ a lot. Some are stronger than others. SculpeyIII is the softest and weakest one, and the least desirable for this. The harder the clay is to knead, the stronger it will be when it's baked. For buttons, Fimo classic is the best. There will be a weak point along the line where the holes are, and it can snap of the clay is weak. I have been making buttons for decades, so I know by trial and error.

  5. I am a polymer clay artist, and I would like to give you a couple tips. NEVER use polymer clay with anything that will touch food later. Put foil on your baking sheets, rather than allowing the clay to touch them, and don't work on a kitchen counter or dining room table. Dedicate any utensils that you use on the clay to the crafts room, and never use them for food again. Polymer clay is poly vinyl chloride (PVC) in its unheated stage. It is malleable plastic, and it can have BPAs, which they recently took out, but there are tons of it in storage, so it will be a long time before all of that is gone. It's the same thing that your plastic water pipes are made from. The chemical leaches into about anything it touches. Especially if you have children, you should use safety measures to keep them from being exposed to this toxic and dangerous chemical.

    I have ovens in my garage that are dedicated to polymer clay to keep the fumes from contaminating my indoor air. You might not need to go to that extreme unless you decide to start making buttons to sell. If anyone thinks I am being overly cautious, I ask you to stop long enough to do a search about poly vinyl chloride and see some of the hazards that it poses. It is a great art medium, but if you do art, you probably already know that most art supplies have health risks, even if they are minimal. Please take this particular one as a serious health risk, and do everything you can to lessen your exposure.
    Vinyl gloves are used by many polymer clay artists to keep from absorbing the chemicals through the palms of our hands, which are a mucus membrane.

    Also, polymer clay will not dry out, like you mentioned. I have it sitting in my art room 24/7. It's not a water based product. It is a petroleum base, and has a oil-like component that will ruin many surfaces, and even dissolve some plastics. The main reason to cover it is to protect anything that it might touch. And to keep dust from getting on it. The best thing to do is to wrap it with plastic wrap, or put it into a sandwich bag. Those plastics will be compatible, and not dissolve. If you put it in a plastic container, such as tupperware, you might find a sticky mess later if the polymers eat into the plastic. If it's set on paper, the paper will absorb the oils and make your clay hard. That is actually a trick that polymer clay people use to firm up clay that is too soft or tacky.

    I hope that this helps, because whenever I see a post about clay, and see kids in the pictures, it worries me. The package says that the clay is non-toxic, which just means that if you eat a block of it, you won't drop dead. But it doesn't say that it might not cause long-term effects later. It's plastic. It should stay out of our bodies.

  6. Thanks Debbie for the wealth of additions!!!! Don't worry, I don't plan on selling buttons. At this time that is very much not my intention. I only make what I use with a couple of batch exceptions. And most of the time I make less than five buttons at a time, so I have never had any fumes issues. I never actually knew there was an aroma since I never held one up and took a dedicated wiff. Good to know the clay won't dry out! I read on one polymer website the opposite but they may have been talking of a different brand.
    And the kids are NEVER around when I make them (I don't believe they're there in any of the making of pics of pics) and as far as the ingestion, I'd be plenty more worry about them eat ANY button; not just polymer. That red one is suuuuuuper secured down on the little ones dress. And that baking sheet is old (which should probably just be thrown out, right :-) so that's been my dedicated "button only" baking sheet. It doesn't get used for anything else. And good tip about gloves. I'm only making them on a project pertinent basis :-)
    Once again, thank you for your input. It adds a lot of helpful info! Glad you stopped by!

  7. Hi I love this tut on button making! I have a question what do you use to seal the buttons? I am new at this and would very much like to try it
    Thank you

  8. Oh, great question, do they need to be sealed?

    Where do you get such a great deal on your FIMO clay? This looks like so much fun!

    1. So I've yet to get into sealing but I probably will soon! I've seen buttons finished with wood varnish and gold dust and there is actual sealant you can get, but I have not. I've washed them and had no problems!! Oh! And Jo-ann's! That's where I get my clay!!!

  9. Great tutorial. Very interesting topic. thanks for sharing.

  10. How fun. You mention washing the clothing without problems, but how about a dryer? My only experience with fimo type clay or sealing was Valentine's day this year. I had found some jewelry clay on sale and bought a few colors. I mixed a few colors so that they didn't blend but had that tie died look. Then I used some clay "cookie" cutters and cut out hearts, adding a hole for the finding. I did use a furniture polyurethane after baking. It worked but it took FOREVER to dry. I would love to know what others use as well.

    1. Yes when using polyurethane it takes a very long time to cue properly. But as far as just plain Fimo in the oven buttons, I have a few things that mistakingly made it to the dryer but the clothes and buttons were fine. I was more annoyed that things I usually hang to dry made it into the dryer ;-)

  11. Just found your post as I've recently become interested in making some of my own buttons & beads. Love the addition of glitter! Leaves me wondering what will happen if I combine fimo with little shells..... I'm looking forward to some serious fun!

  12. Just found your post while I was researching how to make my own buttons for a hand knit sweater. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew about the dangers of PVC but did not know polymer clay was the same thing. I will be much more wary of how I handle it from now on.


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