Oh My Buttons!

My new craft group sometimes runs workshops, usually taught by one of the members, and I immediately signed up to make my own knickers because why wouldn’t you?  That class is planned for October and, as I’ve tried before and failed, I’ll be interested to see if I can make a decent pair of apple catchers under instruction.

As we now live in Dorset and are lucky to have an expert in smocking and Dorset Button making it seemed a no-brainer to sign up for Rosalind’s class for beginners.  (Ros made the buttons for the most recent Poldark series so she knows what she’s about although, sadly, she didn’t get to personally attach them to Aiden Turner).

This was the tempting display of some of the different buttons that can be made employing this heritage craft.

The choice of colours was a dilemma for me but, as usual, I was drawn towards the blues.

First you do ‘the casting’ which means wrapping the ring (brass in this case) with the thread using a blanket stitch.

We made a Cartwheel Button so ‘the laying’ involves making the spokes and ‘the rounding’ involves weaving round those spokes until you’ve filled the gaps.

I found the hardest bit was ensuring you got the ‘hub’ of the wheel in the centre as you can tell in the photo below.  The pink one was my second practice piece and was even more off centre than the first one.  Still, if I knew what I was doing I wouldn’t have needed to do a workshop would I?

There were six of us in the class and we all managed a couple of buttons which wasn’t bad in the couple of hours we had.

While we were working and weaving, Ros told us about the history of the Dorset Button and, if you want to know more, you can read about it on her website here.  I was interested to hear that – reputedly – King Charles I went to the chopping block wearing jackets adorned with these buttons.  He wore the jackets to stop him shivering in the cold in case onlookers thought he was quaking with fear – as I most certainly would have been.

Anyway, Ros sells the supplies to make more buttons and, although I don’t really need another craft in my life, this one needs very little in the way of equipment and it isn’t expensive and it is also very portable andthere were kits! 

So, of course, I had to buy one.

Luckily, I have a drawer full of different colours of cotton perle thread – I don’t remember why – so, the next day, I made another button to fix the method in my mind and, this time, I got the centre almost right.  Maybe it’s because I remembered to put my glasses on which, for some reason, I hadn’t done at the workshop.


Today it is gloriously sunny and beautiful so I am going to sit in the garden with a book and, just maybe, a brass ring or two and some needle and thread.

Have a lovely weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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  1. #1 by claire93 on July 17, 2021 - 12:12

    looks like the six of you all learned very quickly!
    and once you put your glasses on, wow, you really got it centred!

    • #2 by tialys on July 17, 2021 - 13:54

      Wonderful inventions those glasses 🤣

  2. #3 by wendyfromthewest on July 17, 2021 - 13:26

    Oh my – I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Dorset Button! I can imagine they are quite addictive! I wonder if it’s too far from Devon to take a class? 😂

    • #4 by tialys on July 17, 2021 - 13:55

      I may never buy a button again!
      I’m sure they make Dorset buttons in other counties – I definitely remember one of my readers doing a class and she lives in Yorkshire.

  3. #5 by CurlsnSkirls on July 17, 2021 - 15:39

    Thank you for teaching me about Dorset buttons, Lynn. They look marvellous! 💕
    Mind you, I can imagine times when off-centre might be exactly what’s needed…
    (But then I never favoured nor watch the latest Poldark, so you might want to discount Poldarky comments.)

    • #6 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:17

      I must admit, I preferred the original series although it was long ago and far away so my memory might be playing tricks on me.

      • #7 by CurlsnSkirls on July 18, 2021 - 22:31

        Lots to be said for youtube . . . 😉

  4. #8 by simplylive1452 on July 17, 2021 - 15:51

    OH My! Your buttons are lovely.
    My husband and I watch a TV show called Escape to The Country and I believe I saw this button making on one of the shows. Perhaps you live close to where the filming was.
    Thanks for sharing, these button remind me of ones my Grandma used to make.

    • #9 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:15

      Yes, I didn’t catch it myself – possibly it was broadcast when I still lived in France – but I’ve just Googled that episode and the lady shown on the programme is another local expert in Dorset Button making, Anna McDowell. We moved to West Dorset in November last year (after living in France for 16 years) and it’s a stunning part of the English countryside so, no regrets! I thought it would be fun to learn a local heritage craft but I won’t be doing the classes on smocking – there’s a limit!!

  5. #10 by magpiesue on July 17, 2021 - 18:06

    Oh fabulous! I have always been intrigued by Dorset buttons. I’ve come very close to trying my hand at the process. Part of me is afraid that once I begin I won’t want to stop. Your lovely sunny yellow button turned out beautifully.

    • #11 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:07

      You should give it a try – you probably have all the equipment you need already and there are quite good tutorials online. It’s quite relaxing.

  6. #12 by katechiconi on July 17, 2021 - 21:47

    Great results for your first try! I have just one question: How are you supposed to attach them to the garment? Do you sew through that beautiful central spoke, or do you pick up just the threads at the back, or do you have to make a sort of attaching loop at the back, or what? I’d be so dratted proud of them I’d be afraid of spoiling them!

    • #13 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:06

      Yes, the way the threads are worked at the ’rounding’ stage make quite a thick, tight centre at the back and you would end your working thread off by running it through a few of the stitches or leave it hanging centrally to attach it to something or make a little shank with the thread. I made a little twisted loop on the back of the yellow one but I need to look up a method for making it look more like a proper shank before I make some to put on an actual item.

      • #14 by katechiconi on July 18, 2021 - 11:40

        Aha. That makes sense… I love the idea of a dark, plain shirt adorned with a row of brightly coloured Dorset buttons down the front. Sadly, it will never happen if I make it!

      • #15 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 14:01

        That sounds pretty. You could keep your eyes open for a plain shirt in the charity shops (Australian version) and make the buttons which are not difficult and would be a doddle for you.

      • #16 by katechiconi on July 18, 2021 - 21:17

        They’re called Op Shops here (‘opportunity’), and are you *sure* I could make them? Seems a bit delicate and fiddly and I am notoriously clumsy…

      • #17 by tialys on July 19, 2021 - 10:20

        Nonsense! You can do anything. 🦸‍♀️

      • #18 by katechiconi on July 19, 2021 - 12:16

        Um, knitting, tatting, crochet… all no-nos.

  7. #19 by kathyreeves on July 17, 2021 - 23:41

    I’d be all over those kits too, what cool buttons!

    • #20 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:02

      They’re pretty aren’t they. I wouldn’t want to make twenty tiny white ones to go on a wedding dress or anything but it probably means I’d always make my own buttons for knitted or crocheted items now.

  8. #21 by tinaor on July 17, 2021 - 23:59

    Great fun! A good friend gave a few of us a mini class on making dorset buttons once – it was quite addictive! I know she has continued to make heaps herself and uses them to decorate felted pots and wall hangings and to wear as brooches too.

    • #22 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 11:01

      Yes! Our teacher, Ros, had replaced the buttons on her denim jacket with some, had a key ring, a brooch, earrings, etc. etc. I think they would look nice incorporated in hand made cards, for instance. It’s tempting to keep making them as I do have lots of cotton perle colours which I bought ages ago for something that escapes me now and have just sat in a drawer ever since. I can get some more brass rings from Ros next week and, as they’re only 10p each, I won’t have to break the bank for this particular current obsession.

      • #23 by tinaor on July 19, 2021 - 14:07

        Breaking the bank for crafting – that’s a dark hole we all try and avoid – though occasionally it’s very hard!

  9. #24 by cedar51 on July 18, 2021 - 03:06

    Looks like you’ve on a winner – and having something portable for those down times – even better. Your beginner efforts look marvellous – and anyone seeing them and not knowing the technical aspects would be as impressed as we are…

    • #25 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 10:57

      It’s something for which I don’t need to buy any more supplies for and perfect for doing when you just want to see an end result fairly quickly. The thing that scares me about the kit I bought isn’t the button making per se but the French knots forming the posy of flowers as embroidery is something I don’t do.

  10. #26 by Lewis Seares on July 18, 2021 - 10:21

    They look fabulous and your craft group sounds great fun. Now I’m off to find a craft group round these parts..

    • #27 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 10:54

      Good luck – it’s a half hour drive to mine, down some pretty twisty roads but it’s worth it when you find like-minded people.

  11. #28 by DawnGillDesigns on July 18, 2021 - 10:42

    gorgeous. I’m going to see if she sells online. Thanks for sharing

    • #29 by tialys on July 18, 2021 - 10:53

      Yes she does Dawn. If you click on the link, I think you can buy directly from her website and she also has a Folksy shop. I’m going to get some more of those little brass rings from her but I’ll ask her to bring them to next week’s craft group. It’s a lovely craft – not too demanding, relaxing and portable and they would be lovely on a knitted or crocheted garment instead of the usual plastic ones.

  12. #31 by Lynda on July 19, 2021 - 12:39

    I’ve seen these before, but didn’t know what they were called and didn’t know they came in so many wonderful designs. I would have liked to have been in that class. Maybe I can find instructions on Youtube? So glad you shared this!

  13. #32 by Wild Daffodil on July 20, 2021 - 12:30

    Your buttons look fabulous. Being a Dorset girl, I made Dorset Buttons at school. Don’t know why I haven’t used them for knitted kids clothes. When I was a teen, they were considered old fashioned and definitely NOT trendy, so I sort of discounted them then, and have not revisited … that might be about to change!

    • #33 by tialys on July 20, 2021 - 17:05

      Yes! I think they’d look lovely on some little cardies. What goes around comes around doesn’t it? I think flares are back in now – that’ll be their third go round in my lifetime. 🤣

  14. #34 by Born To Organize on July 20, 2021 - 18:24

    I’m not sure I knew what a Dorset button was before your informative post. They’re gorgeous and full of possibility. I think your second button looks like a setting sun with it’s off-center. I wouldn’t have thought it amiss till you pointed it out. It’s nice to see you jumping in with both feet to the local scene. Clearly you’re having fun.

    • #35 by tialys on July 21, 2021 - 13:58

      You have to don’t you? Otherwise I’d be Billy No Mates which would be a bit sad.

  15. #37 by nanacathy2 on July 27, 2021 - 22:25

    I am a big fan if Dorset buttons and you are in the right place for them. Really pretty.

  16. #38 by craftycreeky on August 1, 2021 - 10:25

    I’ve fancied having a go at Dorset buttons for a while – I love those with a bunch of flowers. Your buttons look fab.

    • #39 by tialys on August 1, 2021 - 20:09

      It’s funny. I know one of the bloggers I follow went to a Dorset Button workshop and did a post about it and I could have sworn it was you.
      I am already fretting about doing the French Knots for the flowers – as you know, embroidery isn’t my ‘thing’. I’m sure I’ll get help at the craft group though – they’re a generous bunch with their knowledge.

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