Button Bouquets by Pat Olski

10th September 2021

While the average person would assume that anything to do with embroidery would require a needle going through fabric, most of us know that there is a plethora of other techniques that fall under the umbrella of needlework yet don’t necessarily require the fabric/needle pairing. One of those techniques is the creation of Dorset buttons.

Although needles are essential, these lovely items ask for different skills from the stitcher but are as much a part of embroidery as running stitch or French knots.

Dorset buttons were originally crafted in the 1600s in the southwest of England. The first Dorset buttons were called ‘High Tops’ and consisted of a bone disc that was topped by a small piece of fabric and stitches were then added to make a cone shape.

Eventually the ring shape took precedence, with the characteristic pinwheel stitching. Whole families may have been involved in the button making business and by the nineteenth century, these lovely handmade buttons were being sold widely and shipped all over the world.

The Dorset button industry remained strong until industrialisation took over and machine-made buttons became cheaper and quicker to manufacture. Unfortunately, the collapse of handmade buttons as a viable business meant many families were driven to poverty, as it was simply untenable to compete with the mechanised factories.

Nevertheless, the tradition and craft of Dorset button making was retained and despite the flood of manufactured buttons that adorn clothing and accessories today, they never quite match up to the beauty of a handmade Dorset button. 

Pat Olski’s designs are particularly gorgeous with her latest project Button Bouquets from Inspirations issue #111 giving the embroiderer the opportunity to try out this historic technique.

The design consists of two stitching accessories: an elegant tape-measure case and a clever pincushion. The pincushion has four rings attached so it also doubles as a thread holder, making it a particularly useful addition to your sewing kit.

Setting these two items apart is the beautiful Dorset button embellishments, created in a lovely range of lilacs, purples and greens.

Pat has taken the traditional technique of Dorset button making and added something extra special. The initial ring is covered in close detached blanket stitch, just as the ring buttons always were in the past. However, rather than adding a traditional pinwheel, Pat has reimagined the centre as a gorgeous little bouquet of flowers.

Stitching the Dorset buttons

By combining straight spokes with needlewoven leaves, and then topping them with a puff of French knot blooms, Pat has created something really unique whilst staying true to the Dorset button makers of the past.

It won’t take you long to master this technique and you’re all but guaranteed to fall in love with Dorset buttons and all the possibilities that arise for using them. These particular accessories are finished with cross stitch patterning, but there is nothing stopping you from making more buttons to add to projects, bags, clothing, jewellery or any number of other items. 

While the original industry behind these clever buttons has since been relegated to history, the actual technique itself is just as gorgeous as ever. You can feel satisfied that you are ensuring that these skills continue to be practiced and you get the pleasure of adding an additional technique to your own personal collection of skills.

Make Your Own | Button Bouquets

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Button Bouquets by Pat Olski is a beautiful pincushion and tape measure cover worked with timeless cross stitch and enhanced with Dorset buttons.

Digital Patterns

Button Bouquets – i111 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Button Bouquets includes everything* you need to re-create these lovely accessories: Fabric (unprinted), plastic rings, card, fibre-fill, tape measure, wool felt, interlining, sewing thread, embroidery threads, and needles.


Button Bouquets – i111 Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the magazine/digital pattern.

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