Lisa Kokin paints with buttons. This artist cleverly combines them in a variety of colours and shapes to create human, animal and abstract forms. Materials like imitation sinew and waxed linen are used to create web-like connections which hold everything together. She is among many artists and crafters who enjoy exploring the versatility of these decorative disks.
Children are also drawn to making things with buttons, no doubt because of their delicious colours and shapes. In this project, they’ll also be able to practice a bit of sewing, which isn’t a bad thing considering one day they’ll actually leave home and be faced with the daunting task of…are you ready… sewing on a button. It’s not that it’s difficult, but if you’ve never been shown…
- 1 sheet of stiff felt (available in stores like DeSerres and Michaels)
- sewing needle
- thread or imitation sinew
them in interesting ways. Children should be old enough to handle a needle and thread.
1. Stiff felt provides the perfect base for this project because it’s strong enough to support many buttons, but soft enough to poke a needle through with ease. A small piece is good to begin with, but obviously it can be any shape or size. The colour doesn’t really matter since it will be covered by the buttons.
You may already have buttons you can use for this project hanging about your house. If not, they can be found at sewing supply shops like Fabricland, or the many stores which line Queen Street West near Spadina Ave, if you’re in Toronto. More Than Just a Yardage Sale held annually at the Textile Museum of Canada is also a great place to find them inexpensively, and Courage My Love in Kensington Market also carries an interesting selection.
2. For sewing, we used 100% cotton thread in black, but any type or colour will do. Make sure the needle you choose is on the thicker and larger side, to make things easier for little fingers. I also recommend sewing with doubled up thread, to help keep the buttons securely in place.
Teach children to thread the needle by cutting a long piece of thread and putting one end through the hole, and pulling it until both ends meet. Hold them together, wrap them around your finger, and roll them a bit to make a knot.
When sewing a button on, hold it in place on the top side of the felt, and push the needle through one of the holes from underneath. Pull all of the thread through, and then poke the needle through another one of the holes. Continue 2 or 3 times until the button is well secured, then move on to another one. When the end of the thread is near, simply teach children to tuck the last little bit into the underside of the felt using the needle, without coming through to the other side. There’s no need to tie a knot. Make sure when poking the needle through the base, that children don’t cover the button holes with their fingers, or they could be in for an unpleasant surprise and poke themselves with the needle.
When sewing on the first layer of buttons, select larger ones, and make sure you position them so they don’t overlap. Once the felt has been covered, begin adding buttons in a variety of sizes on top of the first layer. This time, you’ll also be connecting them to other buttons with the thread, creating a web-like design (see photos). Keep adding buttons until you’re happy with how it looks. You don’t necessarily have to use just one colour of thread. Different colours combined together can work as well.
Have a look at these links for more interesting work with buttons: