Dorset buttons are thread buttons made from the middle of the 1700's (some sources say earlier) to the middle of the 1800's. It is believed that Abraham Case of Dorsetshire, England, with his family, made the first thread buttons, and so the buttons got their name from the region where they were made. The making of Dorset buttons became a thriving cottage industry, since both men and women made them at home, and even the children twisted the wires and wound the thread to help. Women could earn more making buttons, than working as agricultural labourers.
Two frames were used, the earliest with discs of sheep horn, and later with wire rings.
The horn variety, called high tops was made by putting a fragment of cloth through the hole in the centre of the disc, then building the fabric up into a conical shape, which was held by hand stitches, like a spider web.
The wire-ring type, which were flat, were done by lacemakers; the chief pattern of these was the Blandford "cartwheel." A variety of patterns were made, with names such as: Honeycomb, basket and cross wheel.
In 1841 John Ashton introduced linen buttons and these soon took over, as they were more durable and did not come off when clothing was laundered. This had devastating effects on the Dorset button cottage industry, with many families losing their source of income.
Site where you can purchase recreations of Dorset buttons. Cheryl Childress is keeping this craft alive.
Blog with instructions on how to make Dorset Buttons