Over the past couple of Saturdays I’ve been doing a short course at Morley College with the delightful name of ‘Buttons, Toggles and Frogs’.
In fact the course would have passed me by totally if I hadn’t noticed the lovely display case of samples in the foyer of the building I do my millinery course in.
It was taught by Debby Brown, with whom I did a year long Experimental Textile evening course about four years ago, so I knew it was likely to be good. Debby is a very experienced and inspiring teacher always providing loads of samples, materials and ideas to stimulate the imagination. My favourite sort of class – where I get lots of ideas and the chance to play, with some expert help on hand if I need it.
If I had tried to take in all the ideas that were on offer I could easily have gone into overload and so I went mostly with embroidered and painted/printed buttons – just one toggle to get the idea of it and no frogs at all! I also skipped on the buttonholes – which judging by the frustrated noises coming from the two students on my table was probably a wise move. (They were trying to use something called ‘gimp’ to strengthen a handmade button hole as in the picture above and I think it kept slipping.)
I started out with Tudor stuffed buttons which were made by gathering a small circle of fabric around a brass curtain ring, and stuffing it, then backstitching around the inside of the ring. After that we were free to embroider what we liked – there are a couple of examples in the final photo of a sunflower and a strawberry (why I chose that horrible pink fabric as a base heaven only knows!!). The final step was to make a loop on the back by reinforcing a loop of two or three strands of strong thread with buttonhole stitch.
On the second Saturday we used the heat press to print on fabric for covered buttons. I’ve used this before and it always throws me that the lovely subtle colours in my paintings come out much more psychedelic when they are printed. Still an interesting idea though.
My final effort was a strawberry made around a template of pelmet vilene, once again stuffed with wadding. I used a form of needlelace to make the leaves and was really pleased with the result. I can see that if I ever get my act together to do another craft stall or put items on my Etsy site buttons will be making an appearance in some form.