Sunday, 6 May 2007

The Crafter's Way 9

Each week I write a craft column for the North Lakes Messenger. I share it with bloggers once its been published.

Dorset Buttons are an interesting way to embellish any project. Cover with a fine thread and they lend an elegant finish. Use yarn and add to your knitting or crocheting for a chunky look.

Abraham Case first made Dorset Buttons in Shaftesbury in the late seventeenth century. They were made on a disc of horn from the local breed of Horned Sheep. The disc was covered with a piece of cloth, which was then worked all over with fine thread to form a conical or knob shape. Thread buttons were very popular, although not because they looked so good. They were less expensive than bone or wood and they didn’t break during the strenuous beating and scrubbing methods used when washing clothes

When Abraham Case’s grandson took over the business he introduced metal rings to use as the base for the buttons instead of horn. Button making was an important income producing activity for whole families and the district of Dorset. This all came to an end in 1851. At the Great Exhibition a button-making machine was demonstrated. Buttons could now be made at a fraction of the cost and all identical.

Today, the term Dorset Buttons refers to buttons that are completely covered in thread. Plastic rings or washers are used as the base. With the availability of so many thread types Dorset Buttons are now more likely to found as embellishment than a practical closure.

Blandford Buttons are similar to Dorset Buttons however the thread is placed over the rings leaving open areas in the patterns. Deaths Head Buttons originated in Leek, England. While the name is not very inspiring the button pattern lends itself to creative uses.

I am holding a class on making Dorset Buttons on Saturday, 19th May. For more information please phone on 0417 615 071. There is also a tutorial on how to make basic buttons at

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