Self-stuffed fabric buttons have been documented in garments dating back as far as the 14th century. The people of the middle ages were exceptionally frugal and not so much as a square inch of fabric was allowed to go to waste. If you want to add that extra note of authenticity to your Renn Faire garb or your LARP costume, consider investing a little extra time in making fabric buttons from the scraps of fabric left over from making your costume.
Step 1: Preparing Your Fabric
You will need a small circle of fabric to make your button. Beginning by cutting a small square of fabric. (I've used approximately 2 inch squares of leftover silk for these.) Fold your square in half diagonally to create a triangle and then fold that triangle in half. The point of this smaller triangle is actually the center of the square you started with. Fold the small triangle in thirds (it reminds me a little of an ice cream cone) pinching that center point. By trimming off the loose ends of this folded ice cream cone triangle in a gentle curve, you will succeed in making a rough circle.
Step 2: Make a Fabric "yo Yo"
Thread a needle with about 24 inches of strong thread. Stitch around the circumference of your fabric circle near the edge with a running stitch. (With silk and thin fabrics, I prefer to fold the edge over before I do my running stitch, this reduces the fraying of woven fabrics and gives a slightly tidier result.) Once you've stitched all the way around the circle, draw your stitches tight to make a tiny pouch.
Step 3: Second Round of Running Stitch
Flatten your tiny fabric pouch so that the gathered stitches are at the center of your circle. Squish the fabric pouch flat like a decorative yo-yo. Make another round of running stitches around the very edge of the flattened yo-yo.
Step 4: Pulling Everything Tight
Once your second round of running stitch is finished, pull the stitches tight again pushing the gathered fabric into the center of the bundle. Pull the running stitch gathers as tight as you can, squeezing and rolling the fabric bundle between your thumb and forefinger to make the shape as spherical as possible. Once the gathers are as tight as you can get them, stitch across the opening of the bundle to keep everything gathered as tightly as possible. You should have a generous amount of thread left over when you are finished that can be used to secure the finished buttons to the garment they've been made for.
Enjoy the extra authenticity of hand-made buttons as they would have been made in the middle ages.