It has always bothered me that sometimes it can cost more to craft something than to buy it finished, so I’m ever on the lookout for projects that can take advantage of something I already have on hand. [This is also an effort to convince my husband that I am using up the “clutter” he considers my craft area.]

Somehow (like many crafters I’m sure) I have ended up with a substantial cache of buttons, many from old clothes now sitting in my fabric stash waiting to be turned into something fabulous. While they actually store quite decoratively in large glass containers, their prominence often calls them to mind. So here are a few projects where the button plays a starring role.

When you think about it a button is really the simplest thing — in most cases, just a small disk with a few holes. And yet incredibly useful. But this simple fastener which rarely gets much attention until it becomes loose or falls off, didn’t come from humble beginnings. Check out this fascinating (and fun to read) history of the button from the folks at Land’s End.

Oh, and don’t forget to turn on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in the background while you check out these weekend projects!

Spring bouquet made from buttons and feltNecklace pendant made from buttonsShoe embellishment made from button and felt

  • As we suffer through a still very cold and snowy spring here in Chicago, this buttony spring bouquet, seems to bring a promise that we will get to return to the garden soon. While I love the easy simplicity of this one from Dollar Store Crafts, there are some button bouquets out there that have really been taken to the next level, such as these amazing bridal bouquets.
  • There are lots of options for buttons as jewelry, but this button necklace manages to be both cute and easy, and works well when you have a hodge podge of different colors, sizes and shapes of buttons. This tutorial uses a bit of plastic canvas to hold the buttons together attached with wire. The only alternative I might try is to substitute embroidery floss for the wire, as wire can be tricky to maneuver.
  • CraftStylish shares instructions on how to use a button to embellish a pair of canvas shoes. While certainly cute in and of itself, the same basic idea could be used on a sweater lapel, a hat, bag or anywhere else that needs just a little zip. This same site also includes wash-tested options for customizing plain buttons — using paint pens, model paints, nail polish or enamel paint. While it might not pass the washing machine test, I imagine similar effects (with easier clean-up and without the fumes of the other options) could probably be replicated using ultra fine-pointed Sharpies.

Pillow with monogram made of buttonsNapkin rings made using vintage buttons

  • Especially nice for a bedroom (maybe even as a gift for newlyweds), try your hand at creating a button monogram pillow. I did something similar to this a bunch of years back — just with a square of white and pearlized buttons on a dark blue pillow — and it came out really cute. Based on that experience, I recommend using fabric glue to tack the buttons down while you work out the pattern, then sewing them on. (via The Adventures of One Crazy Lady — a recent transplant to Chicago to boot!)
  • While I’ve never quite understood the need for napkins rings (probably not helped by the fact that I only have 3 chairs for my dining table) if I should ever throw a fancy dinner party, I’ll want to remember this quick and easy idea to pretty up the table (especially nice using large vintage shank-backed buttons like the folks at Martha Stewart apparently have lying around). This general concept could also be applied to other things you might need wrapped, or as an decorative closure.
  • A story about buttons wouldn’t be complete without mentioning button cookies. There are a plethora of variations out there, but the prettiest ones I’ve seen are shown in the image above created by New York City’s Baked Ideas. They were featured in a page I clipped and saved from an issue of Victoria magazine many, many years ago. Most button cookies imprint the button detail into the cookie itself before baking such as shown by Martha Stewart who uses gingerbread and sugar cookies doughs. The same technique is also used for shortbread, peanut butter or really any other cookie dough variation you want to explore. An alternative approach is to create the detail with frosting on a circular sugar cookie.

Bonus Ideas

Some of the more clever ultitarian uses for buttons I came across include:

  • Keeping tape unstuck: Attach a button to the end of a roll of tape to stop the frustration of trying to figure out where the roll starts every time you need to use it. Just keep moving the button to the end of the roll after every use.
  • Buttons as magnets: Cut up one of those free magnets that seem to magically multiply on the fridge, and adhere a piece to the back of a button for a more stylish way to display your notes and grocery list.

And if you still can’t get enough of all things buttons, check out the Bonkers About Buttons blog