If you've been following the other competitors in this season of Refashion Runway, you may have seen Jen, of Diary of a Mad Mama, mention that, of all the weekly challenges, she was most looking forward to the metallic theme. Well, I was most looking forward to the button theme. Little did I know it was for the Exact. Same. Reason.
Yup. I originally made myself a beautiful set of penny buttons to be sewn onto my new blue shirt dress. Then, when the metallic entries were revealed a couple days later and I saw Jen's gypsy-esque dress with the dangling penny charms all over it, my heart sank. Don't get me wrong - she did a beautiful job! It was just my bad luck the metallic theme came before the buttons. Obviously, I couldn't use pennies for the next challenge and look like a copycat, so I had to figure out a different route to take for my buttons. But if you're interested, here's how I made my original penny buttons.
Before you ask, I did my research. It is perfectly legal in the US to alter coins, so long as you don't try to use them as currency afterward. If it weren't legal, all those tourist-y machines that squash a penny into a souvenir for you would be outlawed, don't you think? Since 1982, pennies have been made of copper-plated zinc (2.5% copper, 97.5% zinc). Both are relatively soft metals, so you should be able to punch holes in them fairly easily. First, I collected my tools - a ball-peen hammer, a regular hammer, a nail, pliers, a scrap board, and of course, pennies.
I started by experimenting with some old dirty pennies. To make the little holes, I grabbed a nail with my pliers (so I don't accidentally hammer my thumb) and gave it several good thwacks until it punched through the metal.
Then I used my ball-peen hammer to make a little crater in the board, which was extremely difficult to photograph as it turns out. I set my punched penny face up in the crater, placed the ball-peen hammer on top of it, and gave it a smack on the other end with the regular hammer. This gave my penny a subtle bowl shape, like a button. Success!
To be safe though, I tried to replicate the process on a few more dirty pennies. Not so successful.
After bending several nails, I decided to try a drill instead. Again, pennies are made of soft metals, so a standard drill bit should do the trick - no need for a fancy diamond bit or anything. I used my pliers to hold the penny still and slowly drilled through by barely squeezing the trigger on my drill using a 1/16" bit. Be careful though! Both the coin and the drill bit will get pretty hot, and there may be sharp metal filings as well. You might want to file down any sharp edges on your coin. Once the holes were drilled, I domed the penny in the same manner as before using the hammers and the crater in the board.
After several successful trials with dirty pennies, I moved on to my bright and shiny pennies. I found that one hole at the nape of Abe's neck and the other directly on his chin seemed like the best placement.
Once I had enough buttons, I stitched them to my dress, and tada!
I do love the little handmade wooden tree branch buttons, but honestly, I love the pennies more. They're more my style - sleek and shiny instead of rough and rustic. Plus, the weight of the pennies gives the front of the dress a little better drape, I feel. And they'll be more durable then wood and also washable, so even better!
Don't forget to go to The Renegade Seamstress to vote for your favorite button project, if you haven't already. Voting ends tomorrow!