Buttons: Dyed to Match!

A note from Kathleen: I'm lucky enough to get all of the dailies from Interweave every day. I spend the first 20 minutes of my day with a cup of coffee, reading all of the fantastic ideas from my colleagues, gathering inspiration for my crafting and sometimes for Knitting Daily!

This happened the other day when I saw a newsletter about dyeing buttons and embellishments to use on quilts and in mixed media projects. Cloth Paper Scissors Today editor Cate Prato and Quilting Daily editor Pokey Bolton got together and did a step-by-step tutorial, and I thought, "What about using this process to dye buttons for knitwear? I love it!"

Now you can get the perfect button every time—just dye it to match! Here's Pokey Bolton to show you how.

The Monday after Easter this year, I noticed Cloth Paper Scissors Today Editor Cate Prato brought dark red hard-boiled eggs in for lunch. Cate is Greek, and their tradition is to dye their Easter eggs a deep red.

I asked Cate how she gets them such a dark red and she said she uses dye imported from Greece. Then she added, somewhat conspiratorially, "But my grandmother used Rit."

Well, that was a surprise. I've never heard of anyone using Rit to dye eggs. On the other hand, Rit is non-toxic. And while I'm not suggesting you use it on foodstuffs, Rit is a safe, all-purpose, and easy alternative for craft dyeing.

It also so easy, I thought I'd share the basic dyeing process with you.

  White embellishments, ready for dyeing.
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  White embellishments after being dyed teal.  
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Dyeing Buttons

Note: Rit dye is available both as a powder and a liquid. The liquid dye is already mixed and it's more concentrated than the powder. So, you only use half as much dye when working with the liquid version.

You will need:

  • White buttons
  • Muffin tin or painter's pallette
  • Rit dye in the color of your choice
  • Container for mixing
  • Latex gloves
  • Tweezers or an offset spatula and a skewer (for turning the buttons)
  • Paper towels
  • Large piece of corrugated cardboard
  • Spray sealant, sometimes called "clear glaze"


1. Wearing latex gloves, measure and mix dye in a container.

2. Pour the dye solution into the cups of a muffin tin or painter's pallette.

3. Immerse the buttons in the dye solution, leaving them immersed for several minutes, or until the buttons are the color you want them to be. Use tweezers or an offset spatula and a skewer to turn the buttons a couple of times so both sides get colored.

4. Remove the buttons from the dye and rinse with water. Then wash the buttons with soap and water and rinse and dry with paper towels. Let buttons sit on paper towels to finish drying.

5. When the buttons are completely dry, place them on a piece of cardboard and spray them with the spray sealant, according to the directions on the sealant container. (Make sure you have adequate ventilation when using spray sealant.) When the buttons are dry, turn them over and seal the other side.

That's it! This process is easy and addictive. You could also dye bits and pieces to embellish a handmade bag, a pair of flip-flops, and other accessories. Just have fun!

As a multi-crafter, I just love getting inspiration like this. One of my favorite magazines for this purpose is Cloth Paper Scissors—try it today and get some fun ideas for your knitting projects!


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