Here is a tutorial to make the covered buttons, used in designs such as my Richard the Roundhead Tam, and Scatness Tunic. (These instructions can also be found in my book Colours of Shetland.)
You will need: a plain button with a 1 in / 2.5cm diameter; thin cardboard (eg cereal box), sharp scissors, sharp needle, tapestry needle and a small amount of your choice of yarn.



Select a button with a 2.5cm/1in diameter.
On cardboard, draw a circle 5cm/2in in diameter (I drew round the lid of a spice jar).
Cut out your cardboard disc; measure and mark the centre point with a ruler, and, with a sharp needle, poke a hole through this point.
Mark numbers 1-12, around the edges of your disc, as if drawing a clock face.
With a pair of sharp scissors, cut shallow notches at each of the points 1-12 (notches should be no deeper than 5mm/0.2in)



Take your yarn, cut off a 3ft length, thread your needle, and draw up through the centre of the disc, leaving a short tail no longer than 1cm/0.3in



Draw the yarn across the front of the disc up to notch 1.



Draw the yarn across the back circumference of the disc to notch 12, secure it in the notch, then draw the yarn across the front diameter of the circle to notch 6.


Continue securing the yarn into the notches by drawing it alternately across the back circumference, and the front diameter, in the following sequence:

6 ➝ 7
7 ➝ 1
1 ➝ 2
2 ➝ 8
8 ➝ 9
9 ➝ 3
3 ➝ 4
4 ➝ 10
10 ➝ 11
11 ➝ 5
5 ➝ 6
6 ➝ 12
12 ➝ 11
11 ➝ 5
5 ➝ 4
4 ➝ 10
10 ➝ 9
9 ➝ 3
3 ➝ 2
2 ➝ 8
8 ➝ 7

You have now created 12 front spokes, and 12 back loops.




Draw the yarn from notch 7 to the centre, securing it around the centre of the spokes.
Bring your needle up between spokes 12 and 1 as close to the centre as possible.
Then take your needle backwards over spoke 1, turn forwards and travel under spokes 1 and 12.
Now take your needle backwards over spoke 12, turn forwards and travel under spokes 12 and 11.

Continue weaving in this manner, working anti-clockwise, and drawing the yarn backward over 1 and forward under 2 spokes around the disc. This process wraps and defines the spokes, creating the ridged surface of the button covering. (If you run out of yarn, simply secure the old thread under the spokes, cut a new length, draw it up through the hole at the centre of the circle, and begin weaving where you left off)



When you reach the edge of the disc, turn it to the back, pass the needle under the loop between each notch, and lift it off the disc. Continue around the disc, lifting each loop off in turn, taking care not to let your yarn draw up too tightly.



Remove the button cover from the cardboard disc.


STEP 10:

Place the button face down on the back of the button cover.


STEP 11:

Carefully pull the yarn, drawing in the button-covering to conceal the back of the button. Make a few stitches across the back, securing, tightening, and neatening the button covering so that the button is completely concealed.


STEP 12:
Ensure you retain a length of yarn long enough to secure your button.


Buttons can be made in any size, using your choice of yarn or thread. Just make sure to cut your cardboard disc about 2.5cm/ 1in larger than your buttons. And watch out: once you start turning them out you may find yourself unable to stop . . .


Have fun!

90 thoughts on “covered button tutorial

  1. Love these. One question. Is there any reason why I need to use an actual button in the middle? I am thinking of trying plastic circles cut from milk containers as an alternative way of recycling some of them (I have already used it in other knitted “constructions” – bases of knitted nativity figures and inside Clanger feet – I wish I didn’t have to buy the milk in plastic containers – but am currently living in Harare and have not seen fresh milk in anything other than plastic).


  2. Estos botones son muy originales. Vamos a intentar hacerlos.
    Nos ha encantado conocerte en persona en el Festival Yarn Edinburgh. Mil gracias por hacerte una foto con nosotras. Te seguimos desde hace tiempo y nos gusta mucho todo lo que haces!!!


  3. Thank you so much ! I just finished knitting a ” Downton Abbey” type hat, in emerald green with a royal blue band around it.
    With short rows it made a rounded type of flap in the green that flips up over the blue band. A button on the green flap in the Royal blue yarn would be lovely ! ( I think ! )


  4. merci !!!
    pour ce tuto je ne parle pas anglais mais avec un traducteur c ‘est parfait
    je vais continuer de faire d’ autres boutons



  5. I hate being a wet blanket but…I need a button for a cape knit with bulky yarn. I fear this pattern isn’t suitable, tho I sure wish it was.


  6. Such a button must require a larger buttonhole opening? it seems bulkier than one that is flat and/or of a shiny/slippery material. What do you recommend as an allowance?


  7. They look absolutely gorgeous; I’m going to have a go today, while I watch the Olympic Curling Final! Thanks so much and hope you’re feeling better.


  8. Never having heard of Dorset, or even Yorkshire, buttons here in the States, I am in awe of this process. The human brain, and particularly the brain of Kate! O my goodness.


  9. Thank you!! I am just finishing a child’s sweater and this will be the perfect button. I don’t often leave a comment, but I love your blog and look forward to seeing your new posts!!


  10. I teach Dorset buttons as well, small world:-) These look like they’re made in a similar way to Yorkshire buttons (of which I know very little other than how they’re made). The stitching is what you would do to make a grindle button. I’m all for making your own buttons for garments and they are very addictive.
    Thanks for a fantastic tutorial. I’m looking forward to making a different type of button.


  11. I teach Dorset buttons as well, small world. These are great. They look similar to Yorkshire buttons. I’ve never managed to find much history on them. You make Grindles with a similar stitch as well. I’m all for making buttons to go with outfits. You get something that matches your garment perfectly and making your own buttons is very addictive. Thanks for a fantastic tutorial. I’m looking forward to trying a different type of button.


  12. I loved my covered buttons so much I put them on Ravelry. Thought it might encourage others to do so. To date this has not happened yet…


  13. In the “good old days” of fabric and buttons, it was easy to find a beautifully made button; not so anymore! I hate spending hundreds of dollars on fabulous yarn, knitting for hundreds of hours, and then facing the unhappy realization that I can not locate a custom button that equals the sweater. Now, I can create my own! thank you! I am going to practice! You are brilliant, Kate! A really excellent teacher. Thank You for taking time away from knitting to help us all!


  14. Since I design and knit mostly cardigans and jackets, these have a lot of appeal. They are perfect for the top of a hat, but I wonder how they would stand up to wear on the front of a garment… I suppose one could always crank out a replacement fairly easily. On my list of things to try out.


  15. Wonderfully clear instructions and gratefully received. Super buttons, not just decorative, but extremely useful for those times when size and colour cannot be matched and something extra is called for. Many thanks.


  16. I love the texture of the covered buttons, just in themselves. I think they might look rather good as adornments or decoration on the lapels of heavy dark winter coats. …Oh dear, and I haven’t even started to make them yet! I can see why you say they might be compulsive!


  17. An excellent tutorial and certainly a more pleasant alternative to the slog of button shopping. They remind me of Dorset buttons, particularly in their construction, although with the whole button as a foundation, these would probably be tougher. Does this style of button have a similar history to Dorset buttons?


    1. Yes, very much so – They are very similar to the very early design “Dorset Knob”, though these early designs (about 17th century!) were made using a wad covering a disc of somesort with linen, and then working the threads over this. This demonstration is just what I have been looking for. Shall very much look forward to having a go. Thank you so much Kate.
      Does anyone have any experience of creating an amonite design?


  18. I fear for my button collection. I’m currently knitting my very first aran cardi for my 6 year old. She’s definitely getting these for buttons.

    Then the Roundhead tam.


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