How to make thread woven buttons
My class notes point to online references for diagrams showing how to create thread woven buttons, and include pictures of and references to extant examples. Download the class notes here: How to make thread-woven buttons (pdf), which outline how to make the 6-spined variation of these buttons (the black and the white examples in the photos on this webpage).
Buttons made of a wooden core, wrapped in silk thread, have been identified in 16th century clothing across Europe. These buttons are seen in clothing of both genders and are evident on (though not exclusive to) sleeves, doublet fronts and overgowns. There are many different styles of weaving, including the spined and basket-woven techniques.
Thread woven buttons for Lochac largess
In 2012, Countess Mistress Lilya bint Hizir ran a Norse Viking Basket Raffle for the benefit of the Kingdom of Lochac. For this year, 2013, she decided that a late period raffle should be run. Lady Nesta verch Wyn took charge of organising the raffle and put a call out for donations. I decided to make and donate 60 thread woven buttons to the raffle.
Each of the buttons I made has a wooden core with coloured silk thread woven around them in one of two patterns; the white and the black buttons are spined and the yellow buttons are basket-woven. The spined buttons were the quickest of the two buttons to make. At the start of this project it was taking me approximately 40 minutes per button. By the end, I was finishing the spined buttons with 25 minutes. The basket-woven buttons were taking me approximately 30-40 minutes.
The extant examples I saw seemed to have these circular knobs on the top. At first, I was under the impression that these were attachments added to the buttons and I decided to use glass beads to achieve the affect. Upon closer examination of period examples (such examples are included in my class notes, downloadable from the bottom of the page), however, it became evident that these knobs were made of thread and not an addition. I could not find any references to how such embellishments could be made. I decided to try looping thread back and forth across the top of the bead and using buttonhole stitch to secure the threads of the loop together. On reflection, I do not think this method matches the extant images, however, I do think it achieves a similar affect. If I find any references to improve on this method, I’ll be sure to share them later.
As I was making the buttons, I was posting their progress in photographs onto Facebook. It became quickly evident that there was interest from many SCAdians on making these buttons. As such, after completing my 60 buttons and posting them off to Lady Nesta for the raffle, I decided to conduct a class at Festival 2013 and intend to conduct a class at Great Northern War 2013.