Perfectly Imperfect Twig Buttons with Katie Startzman

January 10, 2011

Today we are so excited to welcome Katie of Duo Fiber Works to the blog to share her tutorial for making twig buttons. These buttons are unique, and add such a special twist to any project or outfit. We hope that you enjoy making them as much as we have.

I recently finished knitting a baby sweater and could not find buttons in my stash that matched the style of the colorful sweater. I have been learning how to carve wooden spoons from green wood and figured buttons would be simple to make.

The buttons are a satisfying project and one that has many steps that my two boys could help with. If you are not comfortable carving, you could make simpler buttons that are just cut and sanded. The idea for drilling the twig before slicing buttons comes from Wille Sundqvist’s book “Swedish Carving Techniques,” a book I borrow from the library regularly.

Materials

Birch branch – I used a ¾” wide 8” long section that was cut this summer so it was dry. You can work with a fresh-cut branch, but you might want to slow down the drying of the finished pieces, see below for more details. Other woods would be fine to use too.

Flax seed oil or Walnut oil – These are two oils that will not go rancid as they “cure” more readily than other natural oils

Tools

~ Table vise or clamp
~ Hand saw
~ Hand drill with a 3/32” bit
~ Carving knife
~ Sandpaper in varying grits- 100, 150, 220

Instructions

Clamp the branch vertically in the vise. Try to make it as straight as possible. My branch had a slight curve in it so the holes were not identical in every button, but that didn’t bother me.

Drill two holes as far down as you can, about 1/8” apart, centered on the branch.

Change the branch position and mark ¼” sections. Please take better care of your tools than I have and don’t leave your saw outside in the rain to rust.

Cut the cross sections. If you want to make more buttons than the depth of the holes you have drilled, you can re-position the branch after making several cuts, re-drill the holes and then re-position to cut cross sections again.

Remove the bark and inner bark from the pieces.

Sand them with the grain, progressing through the sandpaper grits, beginning with 100, then 150, then 220.

Sand the faces of the buttons, also progressing through the sandpaper grits. Twist the corner of the sandpaper into a tiny point to clean out the edges of the button holes.

Now, using your carving knife, shave off the edge of the front face to bevel it. Repeat on the back face.

I like to see the carving marks, so I don’t sand much after carving, but if you like, you can touch up the sanding.

If you are working with green wood, the buttons might crack if they dry quickly. Spoon carvers recommend placing the finished work in a plastic bag with wood shavings. Remove daily, turn the bag inside out and replace the work and the shavings. This might be overkill, you might be able to just put them in a cool, dark place to dry, but make a few extra buttons in case they do crack.

Generously oil the buttons. Let them sit for a half hour and then wipe off excess oil.

Your buttons are ready to use!

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Katie Startzman lives in a small artsy town in Kentucky and homeschools her two young boys. She shares a craft blog, Duo Fiberworks with her twin sister Laura were they write about their creative pursuits and often share free craft tutorials and knitting patterns.

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{ 13 comments }

Crafty Farmer January 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thanks for posting this tutorial! This is perfect for our family project this week!

Rachel Soumokil January 10, 2011 at 10:47 am

These are such a cool touch to a handmade item. Thanks for sharing!

Rose January 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

I love these! Thank you for the great tutorial!

Lynnette January 10, 2011 at 11:12 am

thanks for showing us how to make buttons!

heidi margit January 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

I love this post! I always wanted to do a thing like this, this will make me do it!
Thanks!

Laura January 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

This is brilliant, thank you so much! Makes me want to go and make them now…and knit something to go with them!

anna January 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm

These are so beautiful! I can’t think why it’s never occurred to me that I could make my own buttons before, but your tutorial is so clear and encouraging I can hardly wait to try. Brilliant – thank you!

Elisa January 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm

So simple!! I would have never thought of it. Thanks so much!

kathleen January 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

these buttons are beautiful! i love them and can’t wait to try it. thank you!

vicki January 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

LOVE this, I’ve got this post in cue to blog about. I’ve been searching for the perfect buttons for a new sweater that I knitted!
Thanks
Vicki

Elizabeth July 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Thanks so much for posting this. We lost a birch tree after some icy winter weather and I tried cutting some buttons last summer. I like your tip about pre-drilling the holes. Also, I didn’t know I was supposed to use oil on the wood. I’ll try again. My previous attempt ended with a set of buttons cracked in half. Glad I found your blog and tutorials. I’m just up the road from you!

Adam January 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

You sound very interesting.

Pumpy March 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

You have some great goodies on this blog, the buttons are very clever, I love them, thanks. xx

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