How to Make Bead Embroidered Buttons


Inspired by a Beading Daily Reader

Today's post marks a Beading Daily first: my challenge project for Beadwork's June/July issue was directly inspired by one of you! When Beading Daily reader Bethany sent me an email asking me about creating jewelry using her grandmother's buttons, I started thinking about button jewelry. Many of the instructions I found on various websites mentioned cutting the shanks off the buttons. I knew I couldn't ask Bethany to do that to an heirloom collection.


While I was mulling over an answer to Bethany's email, I received the extremely cool challenge kit from Ornamentea which was filled to the brim with brass components, including some brass rings. I immediately thought of creating my own button bracelet. Instead of using ready made buttons, I decided to craft my own using bits of fabric and seed beads. Jump rings were used to attach the brass rings to the button shanks. I found that by threading multiple jump rings through the button shanks, I could limit the amount of movement in the bracelet and keep the buttons facing the right way.

Above: The Fleur de Perle bracelet I created for the June/July 2008 Beadwork challenge. See the magazine for three more creative projects (earrings, a hair ornament, and necklace) made with these brass components.

3 Methods for Creating Beaded Buttons


 Method #1: Freeform Bead Embroidery
Sew beads directly onto fabric in whatever way pleases you. Try varying the size and shape of the beads for added texture. Experiment with stitches like backstitch or seed stitch. Cover as much or as little of the fabric as you like. There are some beautiful examples in Beading on Fabric by Larkin Jean Van Horn. Best for: The spontaneous, free-spirited type of designer who likes to design as she goes.

At left: A beaded button by Larkin Jean Van Horn.

Method #2: Bead Embroidery on Paper
This is the method that Amy Clarke Moore used in the Little Star Ornament and in the book Beaded Embellishment. Amy's method involves drawing a design on paper, laying the paper on top of the fabric, and then embroidering over the paper, matching the colors of the beads to the colors in the drawing. Best for: The deliberate designer who plans her designs in advance and has a specific end result in mind.

Method #3: Beadweaving, then Bead Embroidery
In the Fleur de Perle bracelet, I created circular peyote stitched circles and and then sewed them onto the fabric. The two different sizes of seed beads (11s and 15s) cause the beading to ruffle a little. I like this effect, but if you don't, then just stick to one bead size. See Bead Embellished Buttons for project details. Best for: Designers who have commitment issues. (You can move the beadwoven piece around on the fabric multiple times before deciding to stitch them to fabric.)

Many Possibilities

There are many possibilities with these beaded buttons: use a single button for a pin, create a pair for earrings, or string several together for a bracelet. Or use them for hat decorations or purse closures.  You could even use them in a more traditional sense to replace boring buttons on a sweater or jacket. Have fun!

My First Interview (Gulp!): If you've been a Beading Daily reader for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I love to do interviews. Designer Jean Yates was the very first person brave enough to put me in the hot seat for a change and ask me about my life as an editor/designer. Check out the interview on Jean's blog. Thanks, Jean!

Michelle Mach shares free beading projects and tips every Friday on Beading Daily.

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