Fabric Buttons How-To – Making Fabric Covered Buttons With Your Own Button Maker

One of the growing trends in monogramming and embroidery is the use of fabric-covered buttons as an accessory for a number of items, from clothing to purses to shoes. Many small embroidery shops have begun to offer a selection of fabric buttons, including custom monogrammed buttons. With a professional grade button machine, a small embroidery shop can quickly expand its product offering with a fun and versatile fabric button that has a number of uses.

Getting Started by Choosing Your Fabric

One of the most exciting aspects of fabric buttons is choosing the right fabric with which to decorate the button. A trip to the local arts and crafts store is sure to provide a wide array of patterns and designs that can give any fabric button a certain amount of flair.

A number of popular designers offer their patterns as fabrics that can be used for a number of arts and crafts projects. Such popular designers include Lilly Pulitzer and Vera Bradley. With decorative fabric from a popular designer, it is easy to make a trendy fabric button that is sure to impress.

However, some designer fabrics can be somewhat pricey. For a small business looking to produce a large number of fabric buttons in an assortment of colors and patterns, arts and crafts store such as Jo-Ann Fabrics can be a great place to find inexpensive yet stylish patterns.

When choosing fabric, it is important to remember that not every type will work in a button maker. It is a good idea to check the thickness of any material as some materials are too thick for a button maker and others are too thin. This is not a major issue, as most fabrics used in button making are of a relatively similar thickness; however, specialty fabric buttons, using leather for example, will require a button maker that has been calibrated to accommodate the material.

Using a Button Machine to Create Fabric-Covered Buttons

According to Keith Brown, of Dallas-based American Button Machines, “Most button making machines are manufactured to produce pinback buttons using regular printer paper. Fabric is a completely different type of material than paper. It is important to have a button maker calibrated properly to accommodate for the challenges in making a button out of fabric material. Proper calibration ensures the button machine will produce consistent quality buttons throughout its life.

With a little creativity and the right equipment, an embroidery business can expand their offering of fabric-covered buttons and sell a large variety of novelty buttons with a number of different applications. After cutting the fabric to a specific size with a circle cutter, a number of different options such as the type sold by American Button Machines, can be pressed onto the back of the button to make several different products.A number of different attachments, such as a keychain, zipper pull or cell phone charm can turn any button into a personalized novelty item. This is especially useful for embroidery shops, which can make a personalized fabric button to accessorize any item. There are a number of backs that can be used with a fabric button. While some prefer a pinback to decorate a purse or to wear on clothing, a jacket, or a hat, others might want a more versatile back.

The Many Varied Uses of Fabric-Covered Buttons

Snap-Inz are used to turn a fabric button into a shoe charm to decorate Croc shoes. These charms can be glued to the back of a button and simply snapped into place through the holes on the Croc shoes. Another use for fabric buttons is as a ponytail holder. This can be accomplished with a special button back that has an eyelet to run a ponytail elastic through. Other specialty kits can include button bracelets and necklaces, as well as pacifier clips (paci-clip) and keychains.

“Discerning customers are looking for the latest in quality button making options such as pocket mirrors, ponytail holders, keychains, necklaces, pinback buttons and refrigerator magnets. “said Keith Brown. “Applying a personalized initial monogram to a fabric button is a great way to decorate a favorite item or add personalized flair to a book bag, jacket, purse, or a pair of flip flops.”

Capitalizing on the Opportunity by Owning a Button Machine

While monogrammed fabric buttons are growing in popularity, it can be hard for a small embroidery business to capitalize on the opportunity. Additionally, many production methods are not efficient enough for a small business trying to establish themselves as a provider of fabric buttons. Fabric-covered buttons can be extremely versatile, but most manufacturers do not offer any options for their customers.

Most embroidery shops start slow, perhaps using a Dritz Button Cover Kit or similar type of “hand pressed” button. While Dritz Buttons are good for making a fabric-covered button, the results at times can look a little homemade as they usually do not produce the same quality as a fabric-covered button made on a professional button making machine. Dritz Buttons are good, but were never intended for the high-end production method the monogram industry demands.

While relatively inexpensive to make (with accessories basically non-existent) these fabric “press together” button styles can be challenging to assemble. They rely on an individual’s strength to press the parts together by hand or a hammer. Once all the materials are gathered, they are placed into the press, which is then squeezed together to make a button. There are several limitations to this method. Hand pressing fabric buttons can be difficult to make and uncomfortable for the user. The person making the button must proceed extremely slowly to ensure a quality product. A rushed job can, and often does, result in a button that is not centered and looks bad. Additionally, a press together button is not an efficient button maker, as it takes longer to make a button as compared to using a professional button making machine.

Many production methods are not efficient enough for a small business trying to establish themselves as a provider of fabric buttons. For a business looking to make a large number of fabric buttons, or a variety of covered button types, the old hand-press-together buttons are simply not up to the task of producing a large number of quality buttons quickly. These press together button styles are good for a family or art class making craft buttons but an embroidery shop needing a large number of fabric buttons in a short amount of time would be better suited by using a professional fabric button making machine.”

Many gift shops and resellers simply order fabric-covered buttons from a manufacturer such as Morgan and Company With professional grade equipment, a manufacturer can quickly turn out a large number of buttons; however there are some drawbacks. The price of these fabric buttons can be quite high, as the manufacturer has to mark-up the price of the button to the reseller, who in turn marks it up again to the end customer. Additionally, if a customer wants to personalize a button with an initial monogram, a manufacturer may not be able produce a custom monogram or will charge a high price for the personalized embroidery. To reduce costs and still produce personalized embroidered gifts, many embroidery shops are beginning to purchase their own button making machine.

Making a fabric button is extremely easy using professional equipment. After selecting a particular fabric and completing any embroidery or monogramming, a circle cutter is used to cut out each piece of fabric that will be used in the buttons. Once the other necessary supplies are gathered, a professional button maker can quickly produce a large number of buttons.It is important to reiterate that a standard button maker must be calibrated properly to accommodate for the challenges in making a button out of fabric material. There are very few “professional” grade button makers available on the market today that will make fabric buttons. One of the simplest and most efficient is a button maker with a rotating die and pull lever.

How To Properly Use A Button Machine to Make Fabric Buttons

In a rotating die button maker, the materials are placed into two separate dies. The button shell and fabric are positioned in the first die, which is rotated into the machine, and the lever is pulled once. The button back is then placed in the second die, which is rotated into the press, and the lever is pulled a second time completing the button press operation.

“We have found that a button maker with a rotating die is the most efficient way to produce buttons in a large number extremely quickly,” said Keith Brown of American Button Machines. “The button parts are loaded directly in front of the operator so they do not have to make time consuming moves to the left and the right to load parts which slows down production. The two dies swivel on a center axis providing speed and accuracy to such levels that these machines are able to produce a button in as little as ten seconds. There are other fabric button machines that are designed to have interchangeable dies. The dies can be swapped out to change sizes quickly and efficiently. While production is not as fast as the rotating die method, these machines produce very high quality, cost effective buttons”.

A fabric button is a great way to personalize any item and to add a unique sense of one’s personal style. With a wide array of fabrics, and a number of different button making options, fabric buttons have a number of uses, such as pocket mirrors, keychains, ponytail holders, pinback buttons, shoe charms, and necklaces. By investing in a professional grade fabric button maker, an embroiderer can easily expand their offering and capitalize on the growing popularity of fabric-covered buttons.