Thursday, February 16, 2012

Buttons Galore!

I remember my mother had a tin full of buttons. Old and new, mismatched, shiny, pretty, hand-painted, simple and glorious. This tin was not full of sets of buttons but rather individual buttons that would come on clothing in case one fell off. There were trouser buttons, and blouse buttons, shiny and dull buttons. I would sort and string and create with these buttons. I would make button necklaces that were too heavy to wear, only to be returned to the tin.

My fingers would search for my favorite button, the treasure in the bottom of the chest: A giant broach like, black button. A one-of-a-kind button with a sculpted cluster of grapes that I would run my fingers over and reminded me of something my great grandmother would use to keep her shawl closed. It was nothing I could picture on something I would ever wear, but a button requiring a set of gnarled fingers to get open and closed and a set of hefty bosoms to support the weight of such a button.

As an adult sewer, even with my fond memories of buttons, they became something dark in my mind, functional, and really quite a nemesis as I DETEST sewing on buttons, or replacing a missing button. I can never get them back where they were, or make them line up with the button hole (funny, I still select patterns based on the need to make button holes and stitch buttons on and at a point quit making clothes all together)

Despite my distaste for these functional enclosures, there is still something fundamentally ever so delightful about these gems, especially when stored in tins and mason jars.

I still love to sort buttons, and when I venture through my collection I love that you can still feel the quality of the old buttons, the one of a kind buttons, the buttons from a favorite sweater, the well loved buttons with the finish worn off where fingers had buttoned and unbuttoned. I love the colors, the blues and reds, the leather and the glass, even the plastic with their textures and their shine. Some simple and strictly functional and some ever so decorative with their designs and patterns.

There is an art to selecting buttons, matching or contrasting, new or vintage. From the fabric shops, from old clothes, from an antique store, sold on cards or in jars.

There is an art to stitching buttons, two stitches will never hold, and you have to attack it from multiple angles. You carefully pick out your threads to match or even daringly to stand out, a yellow button with black thread makes such a statement.

I have taken a break from my cutting, and have started playing with buttons, not for keeping pants up, but rather arranged creatively to form compositions on wool. These button compositions will turn into small wool bags, but I am thinking of framing some. The results will be colorful and texture rich regardless.


  1. Congrats on your new website, Jane!

    We say that people have lost their marbles. What would it mean if we said they lost their buttons? :-)

    Here's help sewing on those pesky buttons. (You can search on Wikihow for my "How to Start a Franklin Circle"


  2. I more or less have given up on the button thing in favor of velcro. Too hard to handle a button on clothing, so I avoid them.

    I too have an ancient box of old textured buttons. I used to when my brother's kids were toddlers, make their clothes so I was always looking for interesting, colorful buttons.