I love buttons. Always have. In fact, although I don’t recall much about the two-year-old phase of my life, I do remember my white sweater with the little duckie buttons. I can close my eyes and see his chubby yellow body and orange feet. I can even remember the feel of the raised, painted surface under my sticky little fingers. I still love looking at all the available options there are in buttons, from vintage shell to vibrant molded plastic (much more elaborate than my old-school duckies). That said, sometimes the best look for a project is a fabric-covered button. Covered buttons are cool; there’s just no two ways about it. They add the special touch that says, “Stand back… I’m a home décor professional.” Making them with a kit is easy and inexpensive.
We prefer the Dritz Cover Button Kits. They come in the widest variety of sizes and are easy to find both in stores and online.
Speaking of size, that’s one of the few reasons to not use a kit. If you can’t find the exact size you want in a kit, you can make your own covered buttons. Read our tutorial: DIY Covered Buttons (No Kit Required).
Dritz kits do include instructions on the back of the package but even easy instructions can be further broken out into a step-by-step process with photos. You might say it helps button things up.
Gather up your ingredients
Your Dritz Cover Button Kit will include the button back (the half with the shank), the button shell, a circle template, a button mold (that looks like a little white bowl), and the button pusher (the blue plastic cylinder).
In larger kits, the circle template usually comes as a clear plastic template.
In other kits, the template may be a half-circle pattern you cut from the back of the packaging.
A few kits come with both a shank button back and a plain button back. The shank back is what we use since we are always sewing on our covered buttons. If you’re using buttons for scrapbooking or jewelry, the flat back is best.
You’ll need your fabric, and we also recommend a small square of lightweight fusible interfacing as a fabric backing – especially if you’re using a quilting weight cotton or similar. This insures you won’t see through the fabric to the metal cover beneath; it also gives the button an extra-smooth finish. Finally, you need a pencil to trace your circles and scissors to cut them out.
- Using the template, trace a circle onto the fabric and the interfacing.
- Cut out both circles and, following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric.
- Place the button mold on your work surface, open end up.
- Center the fused fabric circle over the mold, interfaced-side-up.
- Center the button shell on the fused fabric circle; it should be directly above the mold.
- Using your fingers, gently push the button shell down into the mold. The fabric should gather up around the button shell like a little pouch.
- Tuck the fabric into the button shell then cover it with the button back.
- Place the pusher on top of the button back.
- Firmly push the button back into place, which means the entire unit pushes down into the mold. You can usually hear a small snap when the back seats against the shell.
- Remove the button by pressing up on the bottom of the mold. Don’t yank it out by the shank as that could pull off the button back.
- You now have a pretty covered button ready to be attached.
If you’d rather not work with interfacing, and if your fabric is lightweight enough, you can simply use a double layer of fabric.
The steps are exactly the same.
Expanding on the above interfacing recommendation, we sometimes like to use a thin piece of batting just across the top of the button’s dome. This not only further eliminates any problem with show-through, it also gives the button a bit more dimension and softness. However, it does add thickness, which is why the batting should not extend all the way out to the edge of the fabric circle. The fabric that will be tucked up and under the button back needs to remain as thin as possible.
If the fabric you’re using is especially thick or if after doing the layering described above you have a fairly thick sandwich, you may run into a bit of a challenge with a button kit. These kits are standardized, so there will be a limit to the thickness of fabric they can accommodate and still firmly snap together.
If you have a thicker fabric, you likely won’t need an additional layer. If even one thickness of your fabric is still troublesome, consider using a different fabric in a lighter weight. Covered buttons often look even better when the button fabric and the project fabric are contrasting or coordinating colors and/or textures.
One of the benefits of covered buttons is being able to get the exact color you want for your accents. You can also fussy cut your fabric to center a pretty motif at the top of your button.
- Use the template to center your chosen motif.
- The cardboard template can also work for fussy cutting. You are just working along the fold and will need to more carefully place the half circle. Since it is not transparent, lift it up several times to check placement.
- With a fussy cut design, you want to be extra careful the fabric is gathered evenly around the button shell.
- As above, press the back into position.
- And pop out your pretty button.
Covers with teeth
There are some kit options where the button shells have little teeth around the outer edge. The button backs also look slightly different.
This type can be used with or without the mold and pusher. The teeth are designed to help grip the fabric and hold it in place so the back can simply be snapped into place by hand. When finished, both options work equally well.
If you choose to work without the tools, it helps to run a gathering stitch around the outside edge of your fabric circle. You can then pull the thread to help evenly gather the fabric around the button shell prior to snapping on the back.
Stitching covered buttons into place
Once you have your covered buttons finished, you need to sew them on. Again, the shank on the kit’s button back is standard and may seem small when you’re trying to stitch it onto your pillow front. Don’t despair! A good trick is to get your needle and thread going first. Make a few stitches right where you want the button to go to get your knot situated and your stitching secure, then continue stitching through the shank.
We used this technique on our Hexagon Corded Pillows.
It can help to use a straight pin to hold a shank button in place while stitching.
Covered buttons are often used on pillows with a tufted appearance. This means there’s a button on the front and a button on the back and the pillow is compressed between the two buttons, producing the tufted appearance.
To make sewing all the way through the pillow easier, before you try to sew on your covered buttons, use a heavy-duty button or carpet thread and a long upholstery sewing needle to stitch back and forth through the center of your pillow (or wherever your button will be placed). This compresses the filler and makes a nice little dent in your pillow into which you can then stitch your buttons.
We used this technique on our Tufted Multi-Color Pom Pillow.
Stitch on one button and then the other; don’t try to stitch them both on at once. If you’re still having challenges, try a curved sewing needle.