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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Lara Neel designed the knitting pattern for this baby sweater.

Making buttons not all that scary

Lara Neel | The Journal Gazette
The buttons are made of baked polymer clay.

Lara Neel, my cohort in this crafty venture, came up with a knitting pattern for a super cute baby sweater (which you can find by checking out today’s Math4Knitters blog post and podcast at

While she was doing that, I was kicking around ideas for this week’s column and feeling stuck. In talking to Lara, I thought maybe I could make a button for something she knits. After all, a year ago, I decided I wanted to try my hand at polymer clay crafting and I have all the necessary supplies.

So, I set out to make a button for this week’s sweater, and I’m happy to report it is not nearly as involved a process as I dreaded it would be. In fact, I had the button done in less than an hour.

Here’s what you need:

•Polymer clay. (There are many brands including Fimo, Premo and Sculpey. I used three colors of Craft Smart.)

•Cutting tool. (I used a tissue blade and a utility knife.)

•An acrylic rod or rolling pin

•Shape cutters of some type (cookie cutters, etc. I used a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon for round buttons.)

•Sandpaper (between 400 and 1,000 grit. Keep in mind: the higher the number, the finer the grit.)

•A glaze (I used Anita’s durable glass glaze, which is good for just about any project, including furniture, according to the bottle.)

•An oven or toaster oven

•Aluminum foil or cookie sheet you don’t care to use for food again

How I did it:

The clay I used has ridges in it, and I cut off one ridge worth of clay from three colors (pink, yellow and green) using the tissue blade.

I then rolled each piece into a ball with my hands to make it soft and pliable. I then used my acrylic roller to roll the balls into thin strips.

Then, I took the strips and combined them by overlapping one color on the other and rolling into a snake-like shape.

From there, I tore off bits of the clay and rolled the now tri-colored clay into a ball. I used my acrylic roller to roll the ball into a flat that was one-quarter to one-half-inch thick.

I cut out the round button by pressing the 1-teaspoon-sized measuring spoon into the clay and cutting the excess off.

Now, none of the buttons I made looked perfect, but they do have that handmade look (not in a negative way, if I do say so myself).

After making two round buttons, I used the tissue blade on some rolled out clay to make a square by cutting off edges until the piece approximated a square. However, this batch of clay I had rolled too thin and that button didn’t come out great.

Then, I used my utility knife to freehand cut out a heart.

Once the buttons were cut out, I used an awl to poke holes in them so they could be sewn onto a garment.

I baked them on a piece of aluminum foil. The package of clay you use will tell you how to bake it. These four pieces baked hard in a 275-degree oven about 20 minutes.

Once the baked buttons cooled, I used the glaze to make the buttons shiny.

This wasn’t my first attempt with the polymer clay, but I enjoyed my experience making the buttons more than the beads I made several months ago.

Joyce McCartney is not a craft expert. She is, however, interested in crafting of all types. She shares her experiences and those of area crafters. To reach her, call 461-8364 or e-mail Also, visit her blog at