Sunday, 28 September 2014

Make your own polymer clay buttons

Don't you love how fun ideas always come to you late at night? It was a couple of months ago when I was testing the Firefly Dress from Boo! Designs. I wanted buttons for the grey and blue dress I had made and the talented ladies in the testing group had suggested hot pink. Then the idea of making the buttons came to me. So I stayed up watching youtube videos about making polymer clay buttons.

I wanted to share some of what I have learned while starting my newest crafty addiction. 

First of all, what equipment is needed?
Truthfully? next to nothing. It really depends what kind of buttons you want to make. Do you want fancy decorative ones, plain ones, perfectly shaped ones, rustic imperfect ones??? The options are endless and so you need as little or as much equipment as you want.
The things I use are:
- plastic surface (I use a container lid with a smooth even surface - the one in the pics is the underside of a decor cupcake container)
- rolling pin (I use a plastic cylinder from the kids play dough set)
- cutter (I bought a blade sold in the polymer clay section at my craft store)
- extruder (Again I bought this from the polymer clay section, though I suspect you could use a play dough one if you had a sturdy enough one)
- shape cutter (I mostly use the circle side of a piping tool because I like the size it makes - nearly an inch. I also have some small icing cutters that make cute shapes)
- something to poke the holes (I use those little corn cob holders)
- a baking tray (The one I use is a little quiche tin base)
- oh, and obviously some clay would be handy ;)

What kind of clay?
The brands I know about are Sculpey and Fimo. I think either is fine. I personally found that the sculpey is easier to work with and softer. The Fimo takes a lot more conditioning to be able to work with it but it seems to be stronger once baked than the sculpey. 

There are so many ways to make buttons. I suggest doing what I did and watching lots of videos and trying out different techniques.  In the post below I wanted to share one of my favourite techniques. I love how interesting and different the buttons turn out using this technique. 

To start, you need to chose the colours you want to include. For this one I picked five colours (two pinks, two blues and a purple) you can choose as many or as few as you like. I then like to break each colour in half and condition the clay. That just means to knead it until it is soft enough to work with.

Here is the extruder fitted with the square end. It is metal and fairly heavy weight.

I find it easier to work with half of the blobs at a time. So I line them up and then roll them lightly to make them a shape that will fit inside the extruder. 

Then you need to push the whole lot out and repeat with the other set of blobs (I usually put them in a different order for the second lot so they turn out differently). Don't be put off by their bland appearance at this stage. Next you cut them up into even pieces. I cut mine to 2" lengths. 
HINT: if it is warm or the clay is too soft it is worth considering popping the long pieces in the fridge for a few minutes before this step so they cut cleanly rather than squashing down.
Then stack all the pieces together as shown above. The order doesn't matter a lot, but I try to separate the cross sections that look similar. Then gently press the pieces together so there are no gaps between them.

Then get a bigger piece of the clay in any colour and condition it and then roll it flat. This will form the base and makes the pretty pieces go further. Again if  the block is getting warm it is worth cooling it in the fridge for a bit before slicing it. Then using the super sharp blade (really very, very, sharp, be careful) slice the block into thin pieces. Aren't they pretty...I'd be happy to just make them to this point and see how they turn out. Next spread them all out on the backing clay you rolled out earlier. I then gently roll over the top to fill in any gaps between the pieces. If you want the squares/lines to be a bit warped and curved you can use the rolling pin and roll a bit more. If you do just make sure it was a little thicker to start with.

Now you cut your shapes. Circles are easy but you can make any shape. You can use lids or other household items to cut them out and place them on your baking surface. It is easier to cut them straight onto the baking surface so you don't have to pick them up and move them and cause them to misshape. Then you need to put holes in them. I use these little corn cob things but you can use anything pointy (like knitting needle/match stick, tooth pick). 

Then pop them into the oven and bake them as per the instructions on the packet of clay.

And... voila... buttons :)

(you can make them glossy with clear gloss spray too)

I have made the buttons on lots of Eloise's clothing since making the ones for the Firefly. It is a fun way to personalize the things you sew.

And here are some others I have made too.

1, 6 & 7 are made starting with canes (google "canes", they are so much fun and can be as complicated or easy as you like).
3 & 5 are made using the kid's play dough molds
4 & 8 are made by making a leaf cane (again, fun to it, THIS is the video I watched)
2 & 9 are made using the extruder method described above. THIS is the video I watched.

If I get a chance I can pop back and do up an explanation of some of the other techniques.

Thanks for popping by, please leave a message to let me know what you think or to ask any questions.

Kerry xx


  1. This is soooo neat! Might be dangerous tho, another craft addiction!

  2. Oh my gosh, love them! How do you wash outfits with them... just regular?

    1. I have washed mine in the washing machine on a regular cycle. I was avoiding putting them in the dryer, just in case there was a problem. But, mr 7yo does some of the washing for pocket money and I'm pretty sure some have made their way into the dryer without any dramas :)

  3. I love these! And using the corn cob holders for the holes is such a great idea - perfectly spaced holes every time. :)

  4. This is wonderful. I hate looking.g for.buttons. I usually only find some to settle on and then the price is so high. Now I will need to find a place to put the new supplies.