Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Making 18th Century Shank Buttons - Metal Ring Method

I  saw an extant dress in a traveling exhibit in Tampa, and one of the 1790s gowns featured fabric covered shank buttons with metal ring backs/shanks. Of course, I was unable to examine the buttons too closely, but I think I have devised a great way to recreate them with modern stuff. Plus, this is a much better alternative for people who dislike the thickness that comes with "fabric mound" shanks comprised of all the cinched up fabric.

*regular flat, sew-through, buttons.
*small metal rings. I used jump rings that are sold in the jewelry craft section.

Step One: Sewing the a metal ring to the back of the button. If using jump rings, be sure not to stitch right over the split in the metal, as the ring might come off.

Step Two: Cut fabric rounds wide enough to fold around the button without overlapping too much. You don't want the fabric to end up covering the ring.

 Step Three: Sewing a gathering stitch around the circle. Gather up the fabric, trapping the button inside. Be sure to keep the metal ring standing up and accessible.

Step Four: After cinching down on the button, wrap over all the fabric with needle and thread until it is flat and covered. This doesn't look pretty. The back of the button will look like a Frankenstein stitch nightmare, but that's okay. No one can see it =) After I do this, I like to squirt on some fray check.

At this point you can grab the metal wring and turn it so that the split in the metal is close to the button and not near where you will stitch the button to the garment. It's unlikely the split will cause the button to come off its threads later.

Conclusion: Since plain old flat buttons are everywhere and easy to obtain (I recently got almost 1000 of them in an old pickle jar at a thrift store), and metal jump rings are also dirt cheap, this is pretty cost effective way of making nice, period appropriate shank buttons =) 

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