How to make a Yorkshire Button

Yorkshire Buttons are basically an extension of an embroidery stitch called a ribbed wheel.  (Also known as ribbed spider’s web, back stitched spider’s web, woven wheel or woven spot).  Somewhere in Yorkshire, someone had the bright idea of taking this stitch and weaving it free of any backing material.  Instead the stitch is woven onto a circular template, thus they were able to take the finished circle off the template and gather and stuff it to form a little sphere and hey presto a new button was invented.

To make a Yorkshire button follow the instructions below.  Anything in italics is details which some people might not need or want.  Note that I am left handed so the photos show me sewing clockwise.  Right handers will probably want to go the other way!

1.    Make your template.  Cut a circle out of strong cardboard or plastic.  No bigger than 5cm (2″) if this is your first one.

a)  Use a compass or draw round something the right size.

b)  Cut 12 V shaped notched around the edge of the circle, big enough to hold the thread.  These should be evenly spaced like a clock face – that is at 30° intervals.  Best way to do this is to divide into quarters and then divide the quarters, this way the notches stay even. Imagine or mark the notches as a clock face

c)  Pierce hole through the centre.

Bear in mind that the diameter of this circle will end up as the circumference of your finished button.  If you want your button to be a certain size and don’t remember all those complicated formulae from school then take the buttonhole measurement and double it and then add about 3mm.  You can pull it tighter if it is a tad too big.

2.    Thread a blunt darning needle with about 2.5m of thread, this seems alot but it is best to do the whole button without needing more thread.  Wool would be the traditional choice in lace weight but I like to use cotton crochet thread (no 8 is good).  Bring your needle up through the centre hole of the template, pull the thread to the front leaving about 10cm at the back to hold on to.

3.    Next you need to form the spokes to weave the button onto.  This sounds more complicated than it is but follow the instructions as two threads must form each spoke and you do need to end up in the right place.

Start by taking the thread from the centre to notch 1, go around the back to notch 12, come to the front and go down to notch 6, go round the back to notch 7, come to the front and up to notch 1,  continue in this way in the following order

b = thread at the back,  f = thread at the front

1  b 12  f 6 b 7 f 1 b 2 f 8 b 9 f 3 b 4 f 10 b 11 f 5 b 6 f 12 b 11 f  5 b 4 f 10 b 9 f 3 b 2 f 8 b 7

4.    From 7 come to centre, take needle UNDER all spokes and come up between 12 and 1, loop over the centre between 6 and 7 and back to form a little anchor stitch.  Check that the spokes are sitting centrally before pulling the stitch tight.  This will show so it needs to be neat!


5.    You are now ready to weave the stitch.  It is basically a spiral of back stitches over the spokes, working from the centre outwards.  Work as follows – take thread back over a spoke (should be spoke 12 if you came up between 12 and 1).  Take needle under this spoke and the next (12 and 1). Pull thread through.  Repeat – back over spoke 1 down and under spoke 1 and 2. (basically it is one spoke back two spokes forward).  After a couple of stitches the ridges will start to appear and it is clear how the button is formed. Continue in a spiral until the whole template is filled.  Neaten the stitches as you go, pushing them together so the spokes do not show and the template is tightly packed.


6.    When you can fit no more stitches onto the template the button, turn the template over and run a running stitch through each of the loops on the back.  Then slide each of the loops off the template and pull the thread to start to form the spherical shape.  Cut off your loose starting thread at this stage, leaving about 1cm inside the button so it doesn’t unravel. Stuff your button with small amount of wadding.  Alternatively a spherical bead which is the right size.  Draw the loops tight.  Lastly make a few stitches at the back to neaten the button up and then leave the thread to sew on to garment.

There you go – a Yorkshire Button, easy to make and can be made to compliment a special garment or when you just can’t find anything in the right colour.

NB  This is the first of many tutorials.  If you use this and find I have made an error or there is part of the instructions that really don’t make sense to you – Please let me know so that I can correct them. Thank you.




15 Responses to How to make a Yorkshire Button

  1. Alison Roddham says:

    Do you know/could you explain how to make Macclesfield buttons please?
    Do you know the history behind Yorkshire buttons please?

    • Rachel Reynolds says:

      I wish I knew more about the history of the yorkshire button industry but there is not much information out there. Apparently they had a buttony industry to rival Dorset and Leek. You have also set me a new task! I have just looked up a Macclesfield button, I could do my whole blog on regional buttons I didn’t realise there were so many. Once I work out how to make them I will post a tutorial

  2. Wendy Norris says:

    Thank you for the information on Yorkshire buttons – something to try and pass on to the spinners group. Please let me know if you have any more information on handmade buttons – or anything that spinners, weavers or knitters her in Australia might be interested in.

    • Rachel Reynolds says:

      The wonders of the web – small niche crafts being shared across the globe! Thanks for your comments

  3. Veronica Wells says:

    I desperately need to know how to make a Macclesfield Button for a project I’m doing. Can anyone suggest a website please.

    • Rachel Reynolds says:

      Hi Veronica – I too have been searching for a tutorial on Macclesfield buttons. I can find Leek buttons, which I am working on now, but not Macclesfield. If you find out how to make them please let me know.

    • Jenny Adley says:

      Macclesfield buttons are Leek buttons (it is just different names relating to areas). You can find instructions to make a large range of them and other historical buttons in this book – Buttons, a passementerie workshop manual by Gina Barrett. I bought it at the button project exhibition at Macclesfield Museum, but you can get it from
      Hope this helps, Jenny

      • Rachel Reynolds says:

        Hi – Thanks for this. I heard about the button project but it was too far in real life for me to get to from where I live. I am aware that the two buttons are related, but I believe that the two areas would have produced different designs which would have been specific to the area eg stars or crosses etc. I would love to know which design came from where.

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  5. Marie says:

    How do you actually finish the backs of these buttons? I’ve followed your tutorial but the threads at the edge go a bit raggy! Is the back then covered with fabric? I love these just need to ‘perfect’ them!

    • Rachel Reynolds says:

      I know what you mean, they can be a bit ‘loopy’ if you are not careful. Jean Thornton left a comment and advises
      ‘At the end of making the spiral I remove 3 loops and catch each one with the thread & needle – and add a little stuffing shaping the button- continuing like this all round, (before removing the remaining loops from the template) it gives a better shape with more control. Also if you wish to make a larger button it is adviseable to increase the notches by 4. E.g. 16, 20,24.”
      I tend to go over the back weaving in the loops if they are dangling, so I sort of complete the sphere. But note – I have carefully not shown the back of my buttons!!

      • Marie says:

        Thanks Rachel, I will give the advice a go! Yes did notice the lack of back view shots! But the one you have with the stuffing in is very neat, I need more practice! Thanks again.

  6. I make kits for Yorkshire buttons. Instructions, and a cut disc marked with winding numbers. (these kits not on my website, e-mail me. ) £1.00 plus s.a.e.

    • Margaret Irvine says:

      Could you please send me a kit for making Yorkshire button.

      • Rachel Reynolds says:

        Hi Margaret – I don’t do any kits I am afraid, but they are very easy to make – just a little circle with notches around the edges and a hole in the middle. Good luck!

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