Updated with another style (Rib in) on 12-23-16
First off, there are several other tutorials and articles filled with photos of period examples out there...that's where I learned it from. They have decent information...but not very good step-by-step photos of the process--which is what I am publishing here.
The two articles I primarily made use of were one by Cathy Snell--her article on Making Buttons. It covers a variety of period button styles, with brief tutorials on self-stuffed cloth buttons as well as a number of different thread wrapped buttons. There aren't a whole lot of period images, and the photos of her work aren't the best (it is an older webpage).
The other is from Katerina's Purple Files webpage, and has quite a few different examples from period. The photographs and instructions for the process are much better, but still leave out steps. Go read it for examples, since I don't plan to cover that.
At the moment, I am only covering one style--simple, visible ribs; I should say here that (after publishing, of course) no period examples of the "rib out" wrap have yet been found. If you know of an example, please share in the comments! I would like to point out that I am doing one major thing differently than them, and using self-stuffed cloth buttons (link to a tutorial) as my base, rather than a wooden bead--the decision was made due to the depressing and despicable lack of wooden forms of the right size to be locally found. In all honesty, I suspect using a cloth base made things much easier--the ribs didn't really slip.
When forming the ribs, remember you don't want to pull them tight, just snug enough to keep them in place.
Until you round the equator of the button, you can shift how close the rows are in order to even things out--so make sure that you make the adjustments then (to help prevent the bottom from ending funky).
Thankfully, the very base of the button won't be particularly visible when worn... Each button took about 30 minutes to cover, and is about 15mm in diameter. Perl cotton was used, silk would be more period.
Ribs In, the more period basic button:
If you are using a woolen base, as I am, it is important to get this as close to possible to the center.
Web Covered Buttons:For the second type of Elizabethan thread wrapped button, I decided to go with a style based on the decidedly web-like ones on page 43 of PoF. This isn't the only place they show up, but is the first one I spotted.
The style is worked over a wooden core (again, I used a woolen core because of the availability...or lack thereof...of wooden beads of the right size), with a black silk velvet covering, and a web of black silk threads over that. As usual, note that there may and probably are better ways to get the desired finish, especially since the method I used didn't get as close as I would have liked.
Needed for this project are:
- Wood or woolen button blanks.
- Circular blanks of the covering material. A fine silk is probably best.
- Stout thread for gathering.
- Floss for the covering.
- Tapestry needle.
- Jewelry pliers, if you're unlucky.
Tightly wrap the stem a couple of times to cinch the covering down tight. You will then run a number of stitches back and forth, tightly against the bottom of the button to anchor the covering.
Snip the stem of the blank, as close as you can without loosing stitches.
It may help to use a leatherworking type awl to start a hole if you are working on a woolen base as I have.
detached buttonhole stitch. In this case, the buttonhole stitches are worked on the foundation thread. The stitch itself is worked much the same as your normal buttonhole--wrap the thread around the needle the way you usually do, but making the stitch rather loose. You will want to anchor it with your thumb where you want to put the next foundation thread.
Remember, every time you do so, you want to use the same hole, especially in the top.
Wrap per normal, and loosely pull it tight. Oxymoron? Maybe, but that is what you need to do. The knot itself needs to be taut, but the stitch should be a loose loop.
When you reach the last one, and the button is almost covered, you will not make a foundation thread. Instead, you will use the original, first thread.
Run your needle under the foundation and buttonhole loop, and use the opposite side to form a blanket stitch. Pull it loosely
Alternately, you can run your needle under, then come around and pick up the fresh stitch between the two vertical threads.
Finished buttons. They are in two colours because the top four buttons (probably the only four, really) on the inspiration for my jerkin are contrasting gold.
Bibliography:La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia. Bottone (Buttons). http://katerina.purplefiles.net/DOCO/buttons.html . [Accessed 7-11-16]
Cathy Snell. Making Buttons. http://www.employees.org/~cathy/buttons.html . [Accessed 7-11-16]
de la Bere, Sabrina. 3 Raised Stitches in Elizabethan Embroideries. http://www.bayrose.org/AandS/handouts/Raised_Stitches.pdf . [Accessed 10-18-16]
p.s. If you liked this article and are curious about other covered button styles, I also have a tutorial on the later Georgian style of fabric covered buttons, common to the 18th century.
© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. Photographs of my work may not be duplicated.