Updated march 16, 2018
With their smooth tops and unlimited variety of styles, shank buttons can add a great touch to needlepoint, as you can see with this plate on a vintage dede canvas.They easily give you needlepoint a third dimension because they almost always are higher than your stitches. I love the way that they also give you a completely different surface in your stitching,adding variety and texture quickly and easily.
It can be hard to figure out how to attach them because they do not have convenient holes on the face.
A shank button is any button that is sewn through a loop or hole on the back of the button. Some shank buttons have loops. Others have thicker metal or plastic shanks. The picture (from About.com) shows both types.
Find your button before you begin to stitch because it will make a difference, especially in the size of the central hole. The best way to do this is to have your canvas with you. Place the button on the canvas to be sure it will fit.
Begin by enlarging a hole in the center of where the button will go. Depending on the size of the shank, this can be small or large (the picture shows the hole in the dede canvas before stitching).
You might have to cut some canvas threads to fit larger shanks, as was done here. This is fine on interlock, but you might want to stabilize mono, by gluing around the hole (mine wasn’t glued).
Do not stitch the area under where the button will go. If the button isn’t flat, you might want to stitch some on the margins of the area to prevent unstitched canvas from showing. T Stitch is a great choice for this.
Once all other stitching is complete, so you have thread on the back for anchoring, attach the button. Use either buttonhole twist or thin perle cotton for this. Anchor your thread in the back of the canvas. Sew through the hole in the shank and anchor on the other side. Do this several times. Tie off the anchoring thread. Make sure you have pulled the shank through so that the button is as flat on the canvas as possible.
I have a set of upcoming short project classes that will feature using buttons of different kinds in your needlepoint. If you want to be added to the mailing list for my classes, please contact me.