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Phyllis Maxwell swirls her button in dye to determine if wave action speeds up the colorization process. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Spicing up plain vanilla buttons befuddles fiber arts group

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Thanks to the Internet, a new craft idea is spawned every millisecond.

So leave it to Park Rapids' Twisted Stitchers to keep up with the trends.

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Member Arleen Larson saw an idea on a knitting website to add more color to life, so Saturday morning the fiber arts group attempted to dye white buttons to get a more customized look.

They had mixed success. Many craft stores and websites offer a bulk mix of white buttons at a discount rate, but many of the button guinea pigs had a unique history.

The Stitchers sorted, then selected buttons to transform in Rit liquid dye.

They carefully dipped the buttons in miniature molds, then fished them out with tweezers.

"It slides right off," a dismayed group collectively noted as dye ran down the plastic buttons and onto the covered table.

"That doesn't work," said Sandie Carstens. "I think you've got to put them in a grinder first, sandpaper them, It has to do with the porosity of the buttons."

Charlene Smith produced an emery board from her purse and the sanding began.

Depending on the type of button, some interesting results appeared. Some turned out looking antiqued. Some had a pale hue of pink or lavender.

But as group members showed off buttons that neared a century old and talked about finding them in a mother's old button box, the disappointment dissipated as they traded button histories

They suggested their own tips.

"Vinegar will make it more porous, give it an acid etching," suggested Kathy Belt.

"I think they left something out of this process," Larson said. "There's more color in this (rinse) water than on the buttons.

Stitchers suggested Larson post comments to the website she got the idea from and see if she gets any feedback.

Button dyeing, when Googled, brought up hundreds of websites so it must be a hot trend.

Rit even has pointers on its own website: "Rit is one of the few dyes that will color these materials, which means you can transform ordinary buttons into colorful accents that match or coordinate with whatever you are making," it boasts.

But many websites suggested special acid dyes, hot water with powdered dye, vinegar and lots of soaking time. One website even featured button art, mosaic-like wall pieces featuring the finished products.

Meanwhile the Stitchers, undaunted, are on to other projects. They are inveterate readers of the Internet, so they never run out of things to try.

"Oh, that turned out gorgeous!" said Phyllis Maxwell from the back of the room.

Success.

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