If you want to use thinner fabric, you’ll need to add a couple layers to add thickness. You might think about using a layer of canvas with something very thin on the top. Otherwise the fabric will tear in the machine. You can also use thin fabric with mylar on top. That works really well. But I think it sort of defeats the purpose of using fabric. I like the texture most. I worked with one customer who makes the cutest mirrors using nifty printed fabrics. She chose to use mylar on top because it protects the fabric from getting dirty. For her project it was all about the print, and not so much about the texture.
Making fabric buttons with mylar is easy. It’s just like making buttons with paper. It’s the fabric buttons without mylar that give people the most trouble. So for this tutorial we’re casting off the mylar and doing fabric only!!
For this project I’m making multiple size buttons with red canvas. I have a skirt that is missing buttons, so I’m going to replace those with pin-back fabric ones. Then for fun, I’ll be making some big ones for decorations.
First we have to tackle circle cutting. There are many ways to go about this. The least expensive and most time consuming method is of course cutting by hand with a pair of scissors. This is a totally fine way to go, except if your cuts aren’t exactly perfect circles, you’ll have a lot of excess fabric to trim off the finished button. Which, actually, you’ll have some excess fabric to trim no matter what.
The next option is the Graphic Punch, which is what many people start out with and already have for paper buttons. This is really not a good option for fabric though. It’s really hard to get the fabric through the plates (though I try with all my might as you will see below) and then the cuts aren’t great. It’s not easy to use with fabric.
My personal favorite choice for cutting fabric is the Adjustable Rotary Cutter. It was super easy with the canvas, but with more delicate fabrics, you might have to spray a little adhesive down to your work station to prevent the fabric from moving and bunching. Or you may have to resort back to hand cutting. But again, the canvas was problem free with the rotary cutter.
So, now that you’ve decided which method you will use for cutting circles, it’s time to get all of your supplies together.
- A model 100 Button Maker
- A model 1313 Graphic Punch
- 1 inch button sets
- Red Canvas
- Cuticle Scissors or Toenail Clippers (which actually work better than Cuticle Scissors) for cutting the excess fabric from the finished button
- Packing Tape
- A Skirt in need of new buttons
1. In order to actually get this piece of canvas through the plates of the graphic punch, I’m applying a strip of tape to the end. That will fit through the plates and allow me to pull the canvas through without it getting all bunched up.
I actually had a hard time with this. I was able to do it ok with the model 1313, but as you will see later, I gave up and switched to the rotary cutter for the larger sizes. This method would probably work fine with thinner fabric.
So I basically made a tail of tape. I applied a layer of tape to both sides, made it as flat and bubble free as possible, and cut off any exposed stickiness.
The fabric now has a tail of tape that will fit through the punch and allow you to pull it through and cut circles.
3. Next, press your button. Load the shell (smooth side up) into the take up die (the one on springs) and place your fabric on top of it. If you’re using mylar place the mylar on top of the fabric. We’re not using mylar in this example.
Press your button like normal. Click here for basic button making instructions.
4. Next we need to cut off the excess fabric. Sometimes, if your circles are really perfect, and you’re really lucky, you won’t even have any excess fabric to cut off. But usually you will and in that case, toenail clippers work really well. They’re curved so they hug the contours of the button amazingly well. I couldn’t find mine, so I’m using cuticle scissors instead.
For the 3-1/2 inch buttons, I tried and tried and tried to use the tape method to get fabric through the the model 4000 graphic punch. But it just didn’t work. The fabric was too thick to fit in between the cutting plates. So, I switched to the adjustable rotary cutter. It worked way better.
Then I added the 2-1/4 inch buttons to the faux pockets and lined the hem with 3-1/2 inch buttons for a whimsical fun fabric button skirt! Then I made little matching cuffs from sweat bands and 1 inch buttons.
I reused some of the buttons from this skirt and put them on the vintage dress pictured at the beginning of this tutorial. Functional fabric buttons are great if for no other reason then you can swap and replace them to fit any style!!