A Dorset Knot – I mean Knob – Button

Dorset Knob 1
Dorset Knob Buttons, early 19th century

The Dorset Button! Not the more common flat disk with thread spokes, but a “high top,” a tiny sphere wrapped in a spider’s web of thread. I mentioned in the Love Shirt post that I would explain how I made the buttons for the shirt – a non-documented, unauthenticated version for the directionally challenged: me. Believe me, before I finished the trial button, it did look more like a Dorset Knot. But I persevered.

The originals I wanted to copy are pictured above. They seemed to be stuffed with a kind of fiber, but the base was a black substance with a greenish-yellow cast and waxy look. It had puzzled me for years. Then after reading more about Dorset knob buttons, I realized the material must be horn.

Dorset Knob 3
You can see the horn button base on the original.

I didn’t have horn buttons, so I used shell instead, about 1 cm in diameter. I cut a little square of linen, about 3.5 cm, and on that I traced and cut out a circle larger than the button. The scraps served as stuffing for the knob. Waste not, want not.

Next I ran a gathering stitch around the circle, put the scraps in the center with the flat button on top, pulled the gathers tight, and stitched them closed. Voilà! The mold!

Then I wrapped thread around the button in a compass rose pattern and anchored it. Beginning at the top, I circumnavigated the button, taking a backstitch around each “spoke” and moving on to the next. It was a bit fiddly, having to smush the lumpiness of the mold and realign the spokes as I worked toward the base.

Once I had made a final pass around the base, I took a few stitches to anchor it all. And then I had to make four more.

For those who like pictures better, see below. For those who want a more authentic method, there is a lot of serious research available online now. And for everyone else… well, there’s always velcro.

Stuffed and gathered.
Stuffed and gathered.
Thread laced in spokes around the mold.
Thread laced in spokes around the mold.
Dorset Knob Weaving
Circumnavigating the globe: backstitching around each spoke before going on to the next. Or back one, forward two.
Dorset Knob Done!
Dorset Knob Done!

2 thoughts on “A Dorset Knot – I mean Knob – Button

    1. It would indeed! The high tops look trickier to manage. “Henry’s Buttons” site has a picture of one that looks like it’s made the same way. Seems like you’d need to take a stitch to anchor the threads at the point and then could work it the same way? But that’s just me speculating, I haven’t seen one in person, much less tried it!

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