Sunday, May 01, 2011

Deaths Head buttons - samples, different thread types

Sorry! I did get a little sidetracked by a certain wedding... ;-)

Here is the promised picture. Each of these Death's head leek buttons were worked over a flat disc mould, 20mm dia.

1. 60/2 spun silk thread
2. 720 denier filament silk thread (tight twist)
3. 5/2 Perl cotton
4. 6-strand embroidery cotton
5. Viscose gimp thread (bourdon cord)
6. 2000 denier filament silk knitting thread (Como)
7. Fine worsted wool
8. #40 Crochet cotton
9. 1200 deneir filament silk thread (loose twist)
10. Knitting wool

As you can see, different threads give quite different effects using the same basic technique. The thick threads, such as the gimp and the thick knitting wool do need extra holding stitches at the reverse, and make quite a bulky button. Which is fine, but does illustrate the point that when making and passementerie buttons, the buttonhole should be worked after the button, to ensure that there's enough room for the button!

You should also try to think ahead as to the use of a button - the thicker threads have a tendancy to move on the face of the button when going through a buttonhole, and so could look untidy. These types of threads are often better used when the button is purely decorative.

I have not included a central holding cross stitch on any of these buttons, but this is one technique that can help to ensure that the threads of the finer types stay in place when the button is in use.

If you'd like to learn how to make the Death's Head leek button, you'll find the techniques on my Making Buttons dvd.


  1. Thanks Gina! This will be really useful when I do make Death's Head buttons, which WILL be one day!

    Be well

  2. Have you got a date on original Deaths Head Buttons? When they were used?

  3. The earliest I know of that uses the exact method of wrapping is c1610, in two colours, tiny little buttons on a doublet. (Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion 1560-1620)

    Buttons which use a very similar method of wrapping - but actually are somewhat more complicated as they also incorporate needleweaving - date to at least the 15th century (used as a bookmarker - (Tiny textiles hidden in books: Toward a Categorization of multiple-strand bookmarkers, Swales & Blatt, from Medieval Clothing & Textiles 3) and two buttons awaiting date confirmation (unpublished, private correspondence)

    There is also an example of a needlewoven variation on a ruff, c 1590-1640 (Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion 4)

    The death's head design was really at it's height of popularity during the 18th century though.


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