Thread wound Dorset buttons date back to the mid-18h century when dorset button making was a booming cottage industry for families, prison inmates and orphans throughout southern England. John Ashton’s button machine put the whole lot of them out of work in 1851 but the machine-made button still has nothing on these beauties!
Dorset buttons are easy to make and they add a ton of old school flair to your winter coats, vests, dresses and blouses. Here’s how you do it:
1. Start with a ring the size of your desired button. Many places recommend plastic bone rings. I have no idea what a bone ring is, so I just took some wire, wrapped it around a 1" diameter pipe a couple times and called it good. Your mileage may vary.
2. Pick out what thread you’re going to use. I chose a mercerized perle cotton in black. You could also use yarn or regular embroidery floss – it all depends on the scale of your button. I wanted to fill mine in relatively quickly, so I used a heavier thread.
3. Hold the tail of the thread along the ring and begin wrapping the ring in blanket stitches. (Note: You may recognize this technique from friendship bracelet making, if you’re a dork like me!) When you get near the end of the ring, wrap the tail of the thread along with the ring to secure the beginning of your work.
4. Done? Ok, now push the ridge formed by the blanket stitches in towards the center of the ring. Leave your needle threaded.
5. Wrap the thread, now pointing in towards the center of the ring, around the bottom of the button. Continue wrapping around the ring, turning the ring a quarter turn each time, until you’ve wrapped a total of 4 times, forming 8 spokes. The spokes will look a little wonky at first, especially on the back – that’s OK. You’re going to gather them in the center in the next step.
6. Make a little stitch in the center to gather all the spokes together in the center. Wrap it in several places if need be – just get those spokes all to meet in the center of the ring.
7. Once you have a nice looking set of spokes, you get to start wrapping the individual spokes. If you have ever make a God’s Eye, you already know how to do this. Basically, start by passing the needle to the right of the first spoke you intend to wrap. Now, bring the needle back up on the left. Move on to the next spoke on the right, working clockwise. Pass the needle on the right, bring it back up on the left – keep going until you’ve filled up the whole button!
8. When you’re done, bury your thread in one of the spokes and cut the tail off. Attach the button to your garment by making a couple stitches through the center of the button.