Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You, yes you, can make homemade buttons!

That is, if you have no children, and are on vacation! If you have no real responsibilities of any kind, you can make your own buttons!

Actually, although it's a two-or-three day process, button-making is not as ridiculously time-consuming as you might think. You spend half an hour cutting them out and twenty minutes baking them, and then a day later you paint and varnish them. And it is fun, really fun, to have your own buttons to use on the baby sweaters you knit for your friends' babies! Although, actually, I've been blowing all of my buttons on stuffed monsters.

Here's how to make your own buttons. The ones seen here have been baked and are ready to be painted and varnished. Huzzah!!

You'll need:

wax paper
1 package of soft Fimo (56 g)
lipstick tubes, small cookie cutters, tube lids, or anything else you
think might work for cutting out buttons
plastic coffee stirrers/straws (bad for the environment but great for button-making)*
a couple of sharp, pokey things (unbent paper clips, sewing needles, pins)
acrylic paints (high viscosity, or whatever you already have) and brush
varnish, either the kind you spray or the kind you brush on

Day one: Spread out a sheet of wax paper. Knead the Fimo clay and flatten it on the wax paper. I like to put another piece of wax paper on top of the clay while I'm flattening it, to keep the clay smooth and mostly free of fingerprints and wrinkles.

Use your lipstick tubes and other button-cutting junk to cut out a bunch of buttons; re-roll and re-flatten your clay as necessary to keep cutting out buttons until you've used up all of your clay.

Use the plastic coffee straws to make two or four (or whatever you want) holes in each button. Those environmentally evil pieces of plastic* are great for this, because you can just cut off the tip of the straw once its clogged with clay, and continue about your life's work of polymer button-making.

Once you've cut out your buttons and put holes in them, transfer the wax paper and the buttons to a cookie sheet and bake according to the directions on the Fimo package. I go for 230 for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool.

Day 2: You could probably do this on day one, once the buttons come out of the oven and have an hour to cool, but I always feel like doing something else and returning to my buttony darlings the next day or so. The next step is to paint them. You can do this right on the wax paper the buttons are already sitting on. There are many ways of doing this paint job, but here's what I do: take an unwound paperclip or a strong sewing needle and put it in one of the holes on your button. Paint the top, sides, and inner holes. Holding it somewhat in place with the paperclip or needle keeps you from having to hold it with your fingers (which would get covered in paint, I been there sister) but also lets you rotate the button a little to facilitate the paint job.

Repeat for all buttons. When they're dry, flip them over and paint the backs with the same method. Depending on your paint you might have to do the whole painting process more than once to get the look you want. If your paint is really soft-bodied or thin, you'll definitely have to paint and repaint; that's why I like high-viscosity acrylics.

Day 3: Take those buttons outside and varnish them front and back (allowing one side to dry before doing the other, obviously). If you're using a spray, wear a mask... they cost like forty cents at the craft store, it's no big whoop.

Don't leave your buttons outside unattended, because birds like colorful objects and will steal them. You laugh, but it totally happened to me!

* These things are really, really bad. They NEVER biodegrade, ever. So I was ambivalent about having to visit the coffee areas of three local gas stations before I found any plastic stirring straws. I mean, they're perfect for button-making, but I would prefer, for Mama Earth's sake, that they stop being manufactured. Sigh. And look, to make it even worse, the little fuckers are INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED!


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