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.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Janet, That came out so nice, like the stitch you chose for the background.
Susan Thompson says
I did this years ago on one of Dede’s stuffed dog coats, loved it.
Anne Truesdale says
I love the posting about using shank buttons on needlepoint. I often embellish my pillows with beautiful beads and charms. They addso much to the piece. Now I know what to do with some of the antique buttons that I have accumulated through the years from our family sewing baskets… We diligent artist cum pack rats always seem to find a use for something beautiful if we are patient. Thanks so much for this site!