Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Button Test -- Results!

A looong, looong time ago ;o) I wrote about the fact that I was learning more about making buttons with polymer clay. Initially, it was to prepare myself for any questions some family members might have if/when I taught them how to make buttons for their quilts. (Still haven't done that. I'll have to check and see if they're still interested.) Now I've gotten more interested in the buttons for my own sake. Actually, I'm kind of obsessed with buttons, for the time being. (g)

Anyway, I made up a few test buttons and decided to put them through some tests. I wanted to see how different "finishes" would hold up through multiple washings and dryings, so I sewed them to a scrap of fabric and tossed them in whenever I did a load of laundry. They've been through many washings and heated dryings, by now. I stopped counting at around ten, but I kept putting them in with the laundry. It's probably more like fifteen or twenty, total.

They've been swirled around in the washing machine and knocked about in the dryer. They've been in repeated contact with regular detergent and fabric softeners (both liquid and sheets)-- but I kept them out of loads I washed with bleach. (The bleach might not have been a problem, but I didn't want to be too hard on them, and bleach isn't something you have to use with most laundry.)

And the results?
For the most part, they're fine. In fact, with one exception (which I'll get to in a minute), they're perfect!

Here they are-- the cleanest buttons this side of the Mississippi! ;o) (As usual, you can click on the photo to see it bigger. It's not a fabulous photo to begin with, but it gets the point across. (g))

Starting with the top left and working clockwise:

1) Plain, unvarnished clay.

2) White clay highlighted with mica powder, then glazed with tinted liquid clay.

3) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Only the top was coated with clear liquid clay.

4) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Nothing on top of crackled paint.

5) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. MinWax Polycrylic over the whole button.

6) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Clear liquid clay over top and sides of button.

I had feared that the unsealed crackled paint might begin to loosen or flake away, but it turned out that the only button I had a bit of trouble with was the one coated in Polycrylic (a product similar to Varathane)-- and even that one isn't too bad (as you can tell from the photo). It just began to peel very slightly on one side. I can think of a few possible explanations for this problem. Maybe it needed longer to dry (or go back into the oven for a little while). Another coat might have strengthened it. Or it could be that it just isn't the best product to use on something that's going to be put through the washer and dryer. I'm not a big fan of varnishes to begin with (I usually only resort to them when I "have" to), so I'm not likely to run more tests with Polycrylic.

Today, I started another test with a few different buttons. I'm curious to see how that'll turn out. . . Two loads in, the "subjects" are still looking good. Who knew laundry could be so interesting?! ;o)

Edited to add:
Treasurefield wondered what brand of clay I used for these buttons. (Thanks for asking! :o))

Oops! That might have been worth mentioning, huh? ;o) I used Premo for all the "regular" clay. The liquid clay I used was Kato brand. I imagine TLS would have produced similar results (as far as durability goes), but I wanted the best clarity I could get-- thus the Kato. (For European clayers or anyone else who can't find Kato-- Fimo Decorating Gel/Fimo Liquid is supposed to be comparable to Kato for clarity-- maybe even better.)

I haven't tried making buttons from any other clay, yet. I would expect Kato to yield buttons at least as sturdy as these. Fimo Classic would probably be fine, too-- but I have to admit that I'm a little wary of Fimo Classic after all the talk (a year or two or three ago? (g)) about the new, softer formula. However, we all know that Premo's been reformulated into mushiness, too, so. . . *shrug* When in doubt, it's always best to run a small test first.


artandtea said...

Thanks for the informative post about polymer clay buttons! I'm curious: do they need anything placed inside of them for extra strength and reinforcement? Like wire or something like that?

Michael said...

Thanks, Karen! :o)

I haven't read anything about reinforcement in buttons. It's an interesting idea. . .

I imagine that sandwiching a little wire or wire mesh between two layers of clay could make the buttons even stronger. So far, it doesn't look like they absolutely require that, but I can't see how it could hurt. It would just be more work.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's amazing! I've sold a few sets of buttons and I always recommended against washing. I tried a machine wash/tumble dry experiment with some buttons I rec'd in a swap once. They didn't fare very well, but I think they were "hobby grade" PC. Can you tell which brand you used, or did I miss that part?

Michael said...

I was worried, too-- afraid they'd crack. But I'd heard so often that they were fine that I decided to at least give it a try.

Oops! I forgot to mention the brand! I used Premo and Liquid Kato. I'll edit the post and point that out. Thanks for asking! :o)