Turning your shank buttons into rings is an excellent way to showcase unique vintage pieces, or hang on to a tiny bit of your favorite (but way too worn out to wear) piece of clothing.
Button rings can also be a means of celebrating your favorite people. The button used in this Ible, a jeweled bug, is something I picked up from a fabric store clearance bin over 10 years ago, while notions shopping with a friend who enjoys creepy crawlies as much as I do. I made another, very different ring using a button off the graduation dress my grandfather bought me, since the garment itself was too small to wear anymore.
Read on to learn the basic wire wrapping techniques that can turn your hoard of keepsake scraps into a collection of one of a kind jewelry pieces.
Step 1: What's a "shank" Button?
Shank buttons are the decorative buttons that have a hidden loop on the back, rather than 2 or 4 holes in the face of the button. They come in all different sizes, shapes, and materials (metal, plastic, wood, shell, bone, etc.).
Really the only parameter for this project is that the shank be large enough to fit 2 strands of 20 gauge wire.
You can use larger wire than this, though in doing so you may limit the types of bead accents you can use. For example, seed beads sometimes fit 20 gauge wire, and definitely 22- 26 gauge wire. 18 gauge will definitely be too fat.
Step 2: You Will Need...
Your chosen shank button
20 gauge (or smaller) jewelry wire.
round nose pliers
needle nose pliers
a vice or other means of holding your piece steady
a pre-made ring that fits you well
assorted beads (optional)
Step 3: Make "finger Form"
You'll need to make a stand in for your own finger, to ensure that your wire ring is sized properly.
Use one of your own rings to help find a household object of comparable size. For a woman's hand, I find chapstick is a good place to start.
If you find there is too much slack between your ring and the "finger form", use a few layers of painter's tape to beef it up.
Ultimately you want a fit that allows the ring to come on and off smoothly, but is tight enough that you can turn the form upside down and not lose it.
When you have sized your form to satisfaction, secure it in a vice.
Step 4: Wire Threading
Cut two 9 inch strands of your wire.
Thread them through the shank of the button. You may need to thread them one at a time if it is a tight squeeze, or if you chose threaded wire like I did.
Line up the ends of the wire and get your button reasonably centered.
Step 5: First Wrap
Place your button up against the finger form.
Wrap the 2 pairs of wire around the curve of the chapstick, crossing in the back.
Bring the pairs of wire back around to the front.
Press with your thumbs and forefinger as you wind around, to conform the wire to the proper shape. Threaded wire will fight back more than regular.
Use both hands to pull the wire pairs taught and hold for next step. The final photo here is just to show you the ring shape being formed. I suggest keeping your ring stuck on the form for now.
Step 6: Second Wrap
Keeping your ring on the finger form, hold the wire pair ends taught.
Twist each pair around its opposite side of the shank and back again, forming a "C" shape curve around the shank. The back of your ring should resemble the Coco Chanel logo.
This helps anchor the size and support your button.
Step 7: Securing the Wire
You'll now have 4 wires poking out from your ring base, like spider legs.
Take 1 wire from one side. Loop the wire around the cluster that composes your ring band, gently pulling the wire taught.
You want to keep the loop as close to the base of your button as possible. Use needle nose pliers to scoot the loop inwards and crimp flat to secure. I looped my wire around the band twice since the threaded wire was fighting me so much.
When your loop(s) has been crimped in place, trim off the excess wire.Leave a nub at the end long enough to wrap the wire over to the top side of the ring. This way the raw ends will not be rubbing your skin.
Wrap raw end over to the top and crimp with pliers to flatten.
Repeat on other side.
Step 8: Embellishment Wraps
You're left with 2 wire strands you can use to embellish your piece.Choose an embellishment method that suits the tone of your button. Your ring will differ from mine, but I'll walk you through what I did in case it is helpful.
One method you might use is to string small beads on them before securing the ends. You can see a beautiful example of that here. Bead work starts around 2:30. Play with different bead colors and sizes to find what best compliments your unique shank button.
Since my bug is already plenty sparkly, I chose to do some wire spiral work as little antennas.
To start a spiral, clamp the end of your wire in the round nose pliers.The closer to the tip you work, the smaller your spiral center will be.
Turn the pliers AWAY from you, creating a tiny hook shape.
Holding your spiral with your needle nose pliers, carefully spiral the wire around and build on that initial curve. You're going to do this very slowly: clamp, turn, clamp turn. It was impossible to get good photos of this since I needed both hands. I suggest watching this excellent demo on wire spirals to see the process in action.
I used the fatter end of my round pliers to create an "S" curve at the base of the antennas, which made them seem to emerge organically with the ring band.
Step 9: Done!
Now you have a boutique-looking piece of jewelry that nobody will ever guess began as a button!
This is an easy project to churn out, so make a ton for yourself or try some as custom gifts for friends using different wire finishes and accenting wrap techniques.
If you enjoyed this Ible, post your "I made it" pics here and throw me a vote in the rings contest!