Destiny and I just finished putting about two dozen of our one-of-a-kind button-stack embellishments in the Sassy Feet store, and I thought this might be a good time to give you some insider tips on making your own.
I blogged about some of the button stacks we were making last spring (see my May 10, 2009 post), but now I want to talk about how to do it. To start with, you need to poke through your stash or do some shopping for buttons, donuts, Asian coins, flat beads, anything that will stack. Be sure to buy big enough pieces to use for a base — I aim for 1.5″ – 2″ wide. Here’s what a button stack that’s 1.75″ wide looks like compared to a quarter.
This particular button stack also illustrates a common problem when trying to design a unique and eye-pleasing embellishment: buttons are mostly round, and stacking round on top of round on top of round isn’t very interesting, design-wise. Be on the lookout for buttons and similar embellishments that are geometric shapes (like the triangular black buttons in the top photo or the gold-burnished buttons at right).
Also VERY useful are beads or stick pearls that can add a diagonal line to the design. Often bead stores will sell stick pearls (like the rose colored one in the top photo) singly, so you don’t have to buy a whole strand.
Now a few words about the technical side of making stacks. Even if your stack consists of flat buttons with holes in them so you can easily stitch up and down through all the layers, I recommend gluing the buttons together using E6000 before stitching them to your shoes or purse. If your layers are at all unusual, like if you are incorporating a gemstore donut (as in the embellishment above, third from the left) or elements that don’t nestle neatly into each other, you’ll definitely want to glue the layers together first. When using E6000, the rule is apply it then clamp it and let it dry for 24 hours.
If your bottom-layer embellishment is something that doesn’t have any openings drilled into it, like the rose to the right, you have a couple of choices. You can glue on a dome back button converter like the gold one at right. Or, you can take a simpler course and glue on a small, flat button. Just be sure to insert the thread through the button before you glue it down. See the photo at lower right.
I often pre-thread my button stacks before gluing them together. I use extra-strong beading thread called Dandyline (which is the same as braided fishing line). Sometimes you have no choice but to thread before gluing. In the case of the “Sushi” embellishment, below, I ran thread through the oval gold button before gluing the purple metal screen and carved wooden fish on top of the holes in the button.
If you are working with an embellishment like a donut or an Asian coin, you can always top it with a button that has a shank, then use that shank as the hole through which to pass your thread (see photo below right).
Last of all, let’s talk about stitching the embellishment onto your shoe or purse. I recommend using double or quadruple threads (as in the Sushi embellishment, above) so you can get plenty of strength without having to take a lot of stitches. Also, whether I have pre-threaded the embellishment or not, I leave one short tail and one long one. This is because the short tail is simply going to sit there and wait to be tied into a knot when you are done stitching in and out with the longer tail.
When you attach an embellishment, you are going to tie your knot BETWEEN the shoe or purse and the embellishment, not inside the shoe or purse. This way, the knot will neither rub against your feet nor show inside your purse. It will be hidden under the embellishment itself.
Start by threading the longer tails of your beading thread through a leather needle.
1. If your embellishment is pre-threaded, go to the next step. If not, pass the needle through the loop or hole in your embellishment, leaving a short tail (say, 3″), which you’ll use to knot off your thread when you’re done. Now go to step 2.
2. Push the needle down into your shoe or purse directly below the hole or loop on your embellishment.
3. Pull it through to the inside of the shoe or purse, then push it back up to the outside again.
Now you can either proceed to tie your surgeon’s knots, or pass the needle through the embellishment and repeat steps 2 and 3, if you want things to be extra secure. Either way, when you are done, remove the needle and use the two tails of the thread to tie two very tight surgeon’s knots.
A surgeon’s knot is just like tying a square knot, except the first time you do the left-over-right sequence and loop the left tail over and then down under the right one, you are going to do an extra left-over-right loop before pulling the ends taut. This prevents the thread from slipping. The second half of the knot, the right-over-left part, is exactly the same as tying a square knot. Pull the ends taught and cut the threads about 1/4″ from the knot. (If you need to see a picture of how this works, look in the Sassy Feet book or google the words “surgeons knot.”
And don’t worry — it sounds a lot more complex than it really is! I hope this discussion hasn’t left you daunted about doing some button stacks of your own. It’s really fun and a great chance to think (and create) outside the box! Any questions as you go, email and ask. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.