General info & types
Shanks & attachers
Holes, Stress
Washing & drying, etc.
Misc. ideas, info
Websites ... many examples


General info

Buttons are fun to make with polymer clay!
...They can be functional or decorative... have shanks or
have holes ... be sewn or glued (for dec.ones), and be any shape or use any polymer technique.
....Many knitters, weavers and sewers like to make the buttons for their creations as well, and they can be used decoratively on quilts or clothing as well.
...And don't forget to make toggles for sweaters, jackets, totes/purses with clay
...and can also use buttons for "learning toys" for kids (like learning to button). Patty B.
...making items for cloth "books" for kids

The stronger clays are better for use as functional buttons (Premo, Kato Polyclay, FimoClassic, Cernit)
....Sculpey clay isn't good for making functional buttons because they can break too easily (unless they're thick rounded balls) ... but Sculpey can be OK for making decorative buttons though if they're not thin or ever stressed.
...the newest version of FimoSoft is not as weak as Sculpey, but still not as strong as FimoClassic, Premo, Kato or Cernit

For added strength, I like to bake my buttons longer than the minimum time I bake 30 min at 275° (for Premo or the Sculpeys) regardless of how thin the buttons are... and if more than 1/8" thick, I usually bake even longer. Patty B.
...for baking longer, especially for clays except Kato, may be best to use an enclosed or partly-enclosed baking method so the colors won't darken (see Baking > Darkening)

Old buttons or others you find around the house (or at thrift stores, still on clothing) can be used to make great molds too.
....those molds can then be used to make buttons from clay
......(and also, casts from these molds can be used in many other ways as decorative onlays on beads or vessels, etc.)

I sometimes give my buttons a raised rim around the edge by pressing a the flat end of a round rod (just smaller than the diameter of the button) onto the center of each button (before punching out the holes), so they resembled real buttons (these were tiny buttons I'd made for tiny fabric vests)
...a fake rim could be created by pressing a tube (slightly smaller than the button) on the button
.......or a domed center could be created with the tube by placing a sheet of plastic wrap over the button before impressing

cane slices can make good buttons (or other small items) for use on quilts or quilt blocks ...or on clothing
...for my quilt group's annual Christmas quilt block exchange long ago, I once appliqued (or maybe just used adhesive webbing since it was only for the wall?) a large "pine tree" of green-on-green fabric, onto a background of two joined fabrics (white for snow on the ground, and sky-with-stars above)
..........I then attached about 20 quilt-theme cane slices to the tree as "ornaments" ... think I put a short eye pin in the top of each (somewhat thick) slice, or else I had put a hole in the top front of each, then sewed it to the fabric so each would dangle a bit (...could have glued them on instead, I suppose, especially if I'd used a strong white glue like one for attaching jewels to fabric like Gem Tac, Jewel-It, etc.). .
..........I also made these slices (or buttons could be used) into ornaments for a small artificial xmas tree (to which I also added a tiny pearl garland). Diane B

Therese May uses lots of polymer slices & small beads (as well as ordinary buttons) on her very heavily embellished wall quilts

Missy's tiny, sculpted or molded 3-D shapes made as buttons, then attached to needlepoint scene... a Halloween tree... (pumpkins, cat, witch, ghost, bat, spider)

Joy's online video lesson on making very simple clay buttons with some impressions (then painting over with acrylics)

bicone shapes can make good buttons too... and can range in size from large to small
... bicones can also range in shape... from fairly flat & wide (slightly domed, like a slightly pointy lentil) to "tall" & slender (bulging in the middle), depending on the technique used (... that last type would be good for toggle type buttons)
...textured bicones (wide and slightly domed) can definitely look like buttons... they can be used whole, or cut in half so the backs are flat
(....for info on making all these bicone types, see Beads > Bead Rollers > Bicones using flat-surface roller)

some of Mary W's drawer knobs look like buttons...rounded flattish balls, or flattened bicones
...base clay is often caned, other surface pattern, or textured... second and third gradually-smaller dimensional layer or shape on top (some look like butttons)
...she also has a contrasting-color small clay rope around the outside edge of some

To form a flattened dome shape for my buttons, I use two adjacent sized circle cutters..... I cut out my "core" with the smaller one, then cut out my surface design with the larger.... I lay the larger over the smaller, and press down all around
...lentil halves... I made some lentil shaped beads (and the halves were not going to fit right without a lot of sanding) so instead I embellished the dome halves with flower canes
...for creating a shank on them, I've considered either gluing a large shanked button on the back, or creating my own shank but worried about how I can reinforce it. Hope
......for these I would suggest using a plastic-coated paper clip.. cut off a U shape and stick that into a half ball of raw clay that you have pushed into the back of the dome ... coat the inside of the dome with a slight smear of liquid clay to help the baked and raw pieces adhere well ...bake. Patty B.

polymer fauxs of all kinds can be fun for buttons too ... faux jade, ivory, turquoise, coral, wood, metal, etc, for example .... many natural materials can be simulated with polymer clay
... embossing powder inclusions in translucent clay used for (roughly shaped) buttons

"carved" shell buttons.... You can carve, stamp or texture into pearly-white shell clay (created with one of the opal, quartz, or abalone, etc., recipes on the Faux-Many page)
. . . if the resulting low lying areas are antiqued or back-filled with white Rub 'N Buff, white acrylic paint, Diluent-thinned white clay, or even white Pearl Ex or Fimo Pulver in liquid clay or a finish like Varathane, it will resemble carved shell buttons, etc.

texturing, or texturing then highlighting or antiquing are popular too

Shanks, attachers, etc.

Buttons can be formed on top of those metal button forms that are normally covered with fabric, that way the shank is already there.

You can also buy special button shanks:
... the metal shanks from Fire Mtn. are easily buried in the clay before baking, and provide a nice smooth back which is quite strong with a low profile (they could also be glued on after baking with a strong glue, but since I tell people they can launder and machine dry my buttons, I prefer to embed. Patty B.
.....Fire Mountain Gems... is another place to get metal button backs in two sizes ( 6 and 10 mm)...good quality and price
.......product codes: 63-7823FN 6mm gold-plated pkg 100 $2.59, 63-7825FN 10mm gold-plated pkg 100 $3.84.
.......for silver plated: 63-7842FN 6mm pkg. 100 for $2.00, 63-7826FN $2.80 for 100. Patty B.
.....Rio Grande (has them ... metal or plastic? Sarajane
.....WeeFolk has 3/8" acrylic shanks for 10 cents

make your own shank
...with a U shape of wire embedded in the back
.....if I make them out of half-round brass wire.... I can get any shape I want
.....can also use plastic-coated wires of all kinds
.......on the button back, I inserted a small loop of color-coordinated, plastic-coated telephone wire which I think will hold nicely because its coating bonds well to the clay.
.... I also make
my own button shanks from plastic coated paper clips (some cheap ones have a tendency to shrink on the wire during baking and expose the wire, so do a test first by cutting one in half and baking it for the recommended time.... the good ones will just bond their plastic with the clay.Patty B.
...some people also like to use craft wire orTwistee wire to make their shanks, but I prefer the stronger wire inside the paper clip. Patty B.

I use tiny screw eyes for button shanks. ....Before curing the clay, I screw the shank portion into the back of the button until the bottom of the eye is level with the back, then use a dental pick to press clay around the bottom of the eye. I've never had one come out. Nancy Ward
Irene and Tara's lesson on making shank buttons with screw eyes after cutting clay balls in half (website gone)

I don't make very many buttons with the holes in them for clothes; instead I make buttons with an (acrylic) shank (polymer is glued onto clear shank) ...they are then sewed onto fabric, wovens, & quilts.
...I like to use shanks because holes can compromise both strength and also the pictoral area. If I do buttons with holes, they are more decorative than functional ---as a former costume designer/seamstress, I'm made well aware of the stress difference between the two!
.......make sure the holes are a tad farther apart than on regular buttons if your button is thin -- that can be a breaking point (more on holes below).

For my shank, before baking I turn the button over and carve out a space to fit in the lower half of a heavy jumpring. Then I backfill over the jumpring opening and bake it. ....this is a shank button that is extremely strong.. . . I used to put the shank in with phone wire instead of a jump ring, and while that looked great and I could match up colors, it wasn't strong enough. Louise

I wanted shank style for my molded button, but didn't feel like messing with cutting wire etc. to make the shank.
...I grabbed 2 (?) flat-faced, smaller shank buttons and pressed it into the back of the molded pc, and shaped the pc around the button slightly...gave the bottom a bit of a dome shape.....came out great
...then baked at 275 ..the real buttons held very securely...couldn't even pull them off to reglue for security. Donna

Button backs can be glued to the back of the button with Zap-a-Gap instant glue and use the accelerator called Zap Kicker (or presumably any superglue with an accelerator ---see Glues > Cyanoacrylates). This gives the glue a stronger bond and is a tip from Sarah Shriver who used to make buttons which she shipped across the country. Her buttons started coming apart because of the change of air pressure when they were shipped by air. The Zap Kicker made a stronger bond and they stood up under the pressure change. Patty .

The backs of those buttons intended to be covered with fabric would be great, but they're very expensive.... instead, I pop backs off
(of old covered buttons?)
......the fronts don't matter since they're coming off the only thing that needs to match is the size of the button, and the color of the metal
......I'm finding them for between 1-3 cents each so it is much more cost-conscious than buying the fabric-covering button sets.
...What about thrift stores and dresses/jackets they might have, etc.? Diane B.
...I also watch Ebay for bulk button sales, and grab them when I can. Last batch I got was 2000 7/8" buttons for $15.
...Also, check your local fabric stores for miscellaneous button bins where they're selling odds and ends.... I know a local mom-n-pop store that has a big bucket of misc. buttons. I go through the bucket about once a week and pick out the ones that will work. Talia
...(same?) I use the back half of hollow shank buttons...and pop the fronts off with a small pair of jeweler's flush cutters.
......then I either squeeze liquid clay into the cup of the button shank, press the uncured button in place, and bake
......or I bake the buttons first, then cement them into the cup with E6000.
......haven't had one fall out or break yet, and I have some customers who are pretty darned rough on them. Talia

Jane S's shank buttons

PoRRo's buttons and method for making her own clay "shanks"
-- place a rectangle of clay on back of button, with a toothpick under it... bake... remove toothpick (website)

large clay buttons with several safety pins on the back (each held with rectangle of clay) to hold them on stage costumes (soldier) securely, flat

If you need to put them on something that must be dry cleaned, put a wire shank in them so that they can be attached to the garment with button pins. These safety-pin-like gadgets, available through such mail order companies as Clothilde and Nancy's Notions, allow you to remove delicate buttons or other decorations prior dry-cleaning.
.. Make the button removable by attaching a plain button to the back with a "shaft" of thread between. Put buttonholes where the buttons would normally go and pass the plain button through that and then the pc button through the front. When you clean the garment, remove the buttons. Sally B.

Holes ...and Stress

Some people just use a toothpick, or a rounded needle of some kind (like knitting or tapestry), to first poke each of their holes in the raw clay, then enlarge it by "pushing" the clay to the side by making small circling motions
..... I don't usually like to use that technique though because it doesn't give as clean-cut a hole, the holes may not be exactly round or exactly the same, and the clay may need to be flattened again a bit around the hole.

What I prefer to do is use some kind of small round "cutter" to make my holes
.... there are several possibilities for "cutters" to use in this way:
1. small plunger type cutters you can buy at craft stores or by mail order called Kemper cutters; they come in various shapes, including round, and also in different diameters... those are probably the best because they cut well, and the cut-out clay can be pushed out of the cutter with the attached plunger
2. or, short metal or plastic cutters for baking or for clay (in various shapes), but without a plunger or a back
3. the most-accessible "cutter" though would a drinking straw since they cut very well
....straws can also be found in very small diameter sizes (like coffee stirrers) all the way to very large ones (like those from McDonalds or a smoothie or shop that sells "pearl tea")
4. other round stiff things could be used as well --from metal tubes found at hobby stores, to rolled paper tubes (which are surprisingly strong if they have a lot of layers)
....for any cutter without a plunger, however, there is the problem of removing the clay from the straw or the tube
...... with straws, one way is just cut off a bit of it after making each hole, then use the fresh edge for the next cut (the cut-off bit will fly though, so hold it against a little wall of something if you don't want to chase down all the bits later)
.......or try blowing out the clay (this may work best if you've used a release on the straw or cutter --cornstarch or water, e.g.)
.......or find something to use as a plunger (like a wire, or better a rod or tube of some kind which is just slightly smaller than the tube you cut with
These are all ideas for a single cutter used 2-4 times on each button
....for exact or exactly repeatable hole positions, you could make the holes through a template you make, or you could make some kind of impressing or marking tool, with the number and spacing you want as a guide
......or you could rig up a custom multi-cutter of your own using several straws or paper tubes or metal tubes, etc.... the tubes would need to have some kind of spacer in the center to separate them, but that could be as simple as a fat marker or a square wooden rod, etc.
(......for more details on each of these kinds of cutters, see Cutters)
(......for more info on making holes, see Beads-Holes)

Holes can also be drilled after baking with a tiny drill bit (perhaps embedded in a polymer handle)... baked clay actually drills very easily
...these holes will be very clean cut.

I find that using the tip of a philips screwdriver makes really cute "x" type button holes. Syndee

Some one suggested using two holes, angled inward toward each other (rather than straight up and down) to decrease the stress on the clay between the holes.... mostly important if the buttons will actually be used as buttons (rather than being decorative)

Another thing to think about is where the buttons are going to be used:
....I wouldn't recommend 2-hole buttons for stresspoints such as waistbands. ...the thread may eventually cut through the clay (I learned this from experience!)..... so buttons with shanks may work better in this situation.. Margaret

One thing you can do for two-hole buttons to increase strength and/or to prevent the thread cutting through and losing the button is to embed a store bought button inside your polymer button
... or press your store button onto the bottom of your raw clay button
....for smaller buttons, you can use men's shirt buttons, then use the two diagonal corner holes. LynnDel

Washing & Drying, etc.
(plain clay, or with finishes or surface treatments)

My (non-extensive) research says: anything but dry cleaning. They machine-wash fine, and I've heard the tumble dryer is o.k.

All polymer clays but Sculpey III (and now the new formulation of FimoSoft) should be fine in the washer and dryer --those clayers are too brittle for stressing in either one (could break or chip), and also for stressing with wear (and thread stress in button holes)

....though you probably could get away with very thick or ball-like buttons made from those weaker clays?, since the problem is mostly with thinner or projecting areas
(Premo, FimoClassic, Kato Polyclay, and Cernit should be fine)

I made 30 test buttons in Fimo, Premo and Kato clay. They had metal shanks, polyclay shanks and two holes.
....These were stitched onto small pieces of denim, and put in with every washing and dryer load I did (usually cotton high heat)
... after 25 times through the wash and dry with the jeans, ect, they looked great. ...there was no wear, even to the ones with acrylic paint antiquing. vrjames

I've made and used and washed and dried Fimo and Premo buttons with not a break yet! Good luck – LynnDel

Buttons will actually polish up a bit when they're worn & washed/dried.

metallic (mica) powders (like Pearl Ex) and real-metal powders like Fimo pulvers washed off, even when glazed once with Varathane
...but "stains" made with
acrylic paint or Pearl-ex, mixed with Varathane, did NOT wash off --held up nicely. Sarajane

I made buttons with (alcohol-based) Pinata inks and Kato translucent clay, using no finish
....I ran a test through the washer and dryer ... they came out great fading or bleeding of the inks (the inks will smear or bleed on uncured clay, but once baked I can't get it to come off)
(...I've also applied these inks to baked clay, and though it does wipe off easily with alcohol, it can leave a stain on the clay.) Geo

If you have put Future on buttons, or jewerlry, be careful of strong detergents!!! . . .
...I tried washing them in dish detergent to get the soot off and it turned all the future covered beads to a milky cover!!! I eventually threw them all into a bowl of dishwasher detergent and it took all the future and the soot off and left me with my beautiful beads again!!! Leigh
Be careful of the stronger (laundry) detergents such as Tide too. . .they will fade or somehow remove the coloring quite a bit on certain t-shirt photo designs, and may be equally strong on bead finishes. ....I was told that All was one of the gentler detergents....maybe Cheer too?

(another test with liquid finishes to see how they would hold up --wash-and-dry)
... buttons were made of Premo, Fimo Classic or a mix... buttons were sewn on a knitted cotton swatch in 3 groups:. 1 was finished with Future... group 2 with Varathane ... group 3 had no finish but were sanded and buffed
.........also one of the buttons in each group had gold leaf mixed into the clay
.... I threw the swatch in with every load (regular to heavy duty) of laundry I did for the past few weeks (20 times)
.... I used cold water wash and Tide with bleach or regular tide.
... then they went in the dryer ....sometimes on high heat and sometimes on medium.
The Future (group 1) was gone after 3 washings.
The Varathane VDE (group 2) is still holding strong (though maybe more than one coat would be good?)
The unfinished group (group 3) is fine.... and the buffed finish is still as good as new.
...I have had no chipping or breaking of any of the buttons so far.... and the gold leaf is still there in all 3 groups. Jeanette

Did someone suggest re-baking the Future (250, for 5-10 min) to increase its seal?....sounds like a reasonable idea to me.

I had only heard to be careful of hot dryers or strong detergents with Futured items

Don't use bleach, for sure! Sarajane H.

One advatage to polymer clay buttons is that colours won't run/rub off & ruin clothing


To sell at the local knitting shop, I made an assortment of sizes and shapes
... their favorite size was the larger (1 1/2" -2") holed button... people use these on bulky sweaters and coats.
...I have also started making large toggle buttons (2" long) I am anxious to take to the shop. Linda H.

At the bead shop ..shank buttons have been popular for customers to use as a toggle/button closure for beadwork designs
...also for beadwork, the smaller sized pieces with few holes seem to work best. Linda H

selling & display
...I sew my buttons onto cardstock squares, in matching sets. Trina
...I stitch 5-7 buttons on a business-size card ( info & my contact info are printed on the card)
......the card is then put into a plastic bag (with a hole if I need to hang it). Patty B.
...I use a quilter's punch to attach my buttons to the cards (this is a needle punch that sends a plastic 'tack' through fabric of a quilt sandwich to hold it in place for later quilting ....(and like Patti, I sell most of my buttons for $1 each) Dianne C.

My pricing runs about $1.00 per button (in packs of 5-7 buttons)
.... this is a bit low, but if you look at the price for decorative buttons, but until buyers know how durable they are, it is hard to charge more. Patty B. Patti, I sell most of my buttons for $1 each. Dianne C.

I sell my buttons at fairs with matching earrings. Trina

I teach my button class at a store that also teaches quilting. It is a wonderful extension of the craft. Trina

I made a "pin" that I wanted to wear at the throat (it has a dangle) and I put a button cover on it. I wear it only with a blouse that buttons to the throat, but it really makes the outfit.
...(I suppose a person could plan to wear something that way, and deliberately SEW a button onto a garment in position for this use, as well.) Sherry B.

Denise just made some interesting impression tools from buttons.
....she took buttons, and pieces of old jewelry, and pressed them into the end of a cone of clay (so the cone is the handle.. and the button is on the end).
...You can just press the button into raw clay for an impression anywhere you want'd be really easy to cover a whole piece with a design this way... or just a border
.... AND you're not getting a second generation impression from a molded piece, so it's going to be a nice detailed image.

My buttons are caned, tho' I've also experimented with molding & braiding.

Violette's many green-brown molded? buttons, laid together chock-a-block on an "artist trading card" bottom)

way to make a mold from a button so the holes don't show (...buttons with a recessed area work best):
...use a half pearl or a rhinestone to cover the center area with holes, before impressing to create the mold ...remove clay and bake
...fill the baked mold with raw clay....and you'll get most of the button shape, but it will have a raised area (hemisphere or faceted) in the center of it (rather than a recessed area, with 2 raised areas where the holes were). Jeanne R.

making tiny flowers (or other clay items) to attach to large snaps for hair decorations (Sculpey may be too brittle after baking; use a stronger clay like Premo or Fimo)
. . . I like it!! THANK you!!! The possibilities are endless!! you can wear snaps on your clothing too .. .
…or how about earrings with fabric dangles you can attach snaps to? …….y'think they'd snap onto shoelaces?
…or snap a series of them onto some beading thread and make a necklace you can change with your mood! Sunni

Smaller polymer items or cane slices can also be attached to clothing in puddles of acrylic paint (which comes up over the edge at least a bit), or by using some kinds of glues like Jewel-It. DB

Polymer items could also be dangled from pins/safety pins, pin backs or studs on clothing, then removed or not for washing.

I made a couple of polymer clay buttons to put on a dress so that I could hang tassels off them. Donna

You can make jointed flat figures (like paper dolls or puppets) with button-type disks instead of the traditional paper fasteners at the joints (puppets could be paper or flat polymer clay. ...Make two holes in each disk, then thread a u-shaped bent wire through the holes and the corresponding body holes of both, from front to back; twist wire in back, and trim off ends.
... here is one template:

What if you to make a locket out of a button cover, the type with the hinge, by surrounding it with clay........ the button cover part is deep and can keep a photo or a lock of hair or..... I sealed some button covers with glue and am going to embed them into clay. Put a necklace bail on it and see what all I can do with it.. Karen

I've made lots of buttons - I have a Mason jar full of them. As to actually using my buttons, I've only used two! It seems I haven't done much sewing since discovering polymer clay...


Diane Carlson's many kinds of buttons

many types of buttons ( including figures, toggles, molded, mokume, bicones, etc.)
at ClayPen (2 pgs)
Kim Jolley's buttons...textured, then powdered or antiquied
Jenny Dowde's many caned or textured buttons
simple textured button impressed with radial-pattern charm antiquing/highlighting
Klew’s buttons
Tory Hughes buttons
Sarajane's powdered stamped-molded buttons
Jane S’s 2-hole, dimensional (fruits, etc.) and shank buttons

Gail L's buttons... many patterns, often with gold, or bright
Kellie’s buttons

Lizboid's various buttons
Margaret Reid’s various kinds of buttons (also click on More Buttons )
Dana Bates' buttons... themes, dimensional, cane slice, etc.
Arizona guild's button swap
glarvenz's buttons... some horn-shaped, some petroglyphs
Violette's bas relief molded buttons (faux jade) piled together as covering for a lid
Kim Cavender's could-be buttons, made with colorful onlays (cane slices and other pieces)
Christel's glove buttons, etc.

Missy's Halloween & Xmas buttons (tiny ghost, bat, pumpkin, gingergread figure)

Banu's lesson on using translucent clay to make translucently white buttons (bit like "pearly" buttons), which also have onlays made from more opaque colors (of kids' theme items)..."miniatures" but wouldn't need to be.
(...she makes holes with a needle, and suggests Sculpey Glaze... but other things could be used/done)

Jane's buttons, some molded (gone)
Kari's buttons (website gone)
PoRRo’s buttons (website gone)

non-polymer buttons to buy and look at (buttons & metal charms) (also check out their "Grab Bags") (many novelty buttons, wholesale?)

findings for making "charms" for Crocs (shoes with holes) are at Oriental Trading online, at least (they call them "clog embellishment doodads)

(see also.... any individual polymer technique such as caning, sculpture, color, faux, transfers, etc, which could be used to make buttons )