Button Crazy!

on September 22 | in Products, Sewing Inspiration | by | with 43 Comments

Tara from alll things pretty emailed us about her love of buttons, and offered to share some of her button research with all of us. Thanks, Tara!

From Tara:
We all love looking through a jar of buttons… So many colors, textures and sizes inside. If only each button could talk and tell their story of how they ended up with all the other buttons in your grandma’s jar. For many of us our first sewing attempt was sewing a button onto something.

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Button discoveries date back as far as 2000 BC in China, Ancient Rome and Incus Valley. They were originally used for ornaments. Later in the 1200’s buttons were used to fasten snug-fitting clothing. Wealthy people would have them made from gold or silver, while the poor would have buttons made of wood, bone or bronze. The Chinese once wore buttons as symbols of the five principal virtues of Confucius: Humanity, Justice, Order, Prudence and Rectitude. In war they were symbolic, cherished, polished… and returned home. During the 17th and 18th century most buttons were worn by men. They did not make their fashion debut until the Golden Age 1830-1850. When Queen Victoria mourned the loss of her husband she wore black jet buttons; later this became trendy with buttons made from black glass.

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Metal was the most common material used to make buttons. Buttons made from bone, horn, stone, ceramic, Bakelite and glass have become works of art. When World War II began, the unique properties of Bakelite made it an invaluable material in defense manufacturing. Because of this, it was no longer made available for decorative use which ended its reign as the first choice of decorative designers. Despite waning as a manufactured product, however, Bakelite buttons are still widely traded and treasured today. Most glass buttons were manufactured in Cezlkioihf in the 1830’s. Some popular designs were animals, plants, buildings, monuments, political candidates and fairy tales.

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In the Depression button collecting was encouraged as a hobby as it was affordable. Today button collectors meet around the world displaying their buttons by categories. There are many websites with galleries. It’s easy to find special buttons at rummage sales, op-shops and Great Aunt Harriet’s house.

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So never underestimate the beauty of a button to finish off that sewing project. Stop saving that special button and go ahead and use it already! Let your kids use them too! Go button crazy, use half the jar and have the fun of filling it up again.

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43 Responses to Button Crazy!

  1. Brenda June Dixon says:

    Many years ago I had a rather outstanding button collection inherited from my Grandmother and my Mother. One day I went looking for a button and discovered that more than half of my collection was missing.

    I had a daughter and a son at the time living at home and going to public school. When I asked about the treasured collection of buttons my daughter had taken them to school as her supply of buttons for the whole class to work on a puppet making project.

    Needless to say I just about died and went to heaven right then and their. Over the years I regretted not hiding these little treasures.

    To make the story more interesting my daughter as she grew up wanted a sewing machine and as I was wanting a new Husquvarna. I gave her my machine with all the attachments. In the inbetween time I bought a cheap and useful machine, but I have never purchased the Husqavarna replacement I had meant to, now it is too late.

    Sometimes one can be just too thoughtless!

  2. Emily says:

    I LOVE big big button for the totes and handbags I’ve been making. I had good luck finding them at Joanns, but I’m always looking for new sources for large buttons (1″-2″ in diameter). I would love to hear about new, affordable button sources!

  3. Button looking says:

    Looking for some information on a button that is about 1 1/2 inches goldish in colour and it has a big 8 on it.

  4. SO LOVELY !!!!! And here are other treasures from the button box: http://fashionableearth.org/blog/2009/11/06/button-box-treasures/

  5. Katie Lynne says:

    Wow, talk about a topic EVERYONE can relate to! I inherited a few thousand buttons from my dm and dmil. For me, buttons are a lot like smells–seeing a particular button can conjure a chapter of my life. Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?…I guess we all do! just another buttonholic

  6. Donna says:

    I love this, thanks for posting it!!

    When my daughter was little, we had a deal, if she was a good girl in the fabric store she could pick out some buttons. It meant I could linger longer & she was a very good girl! She used to sit on the other side of my sewing table & perform skits with the buttons, they talked & sang to me all while I stitched. Now she’s too big & cool to wear anything made by her mom, but she still loves buttons and so do I!


  7. Karen H says:

    I’ve loved buttons for as long as I can remember! I think the love has been passed on to my daughters, they ohh and ahh over them too. 🙂

  8. Jen L. says:

    I third the recommendation of the Warther Museum in Ohio. It has phenomenal carvings by the husband and a FABULOUS button collection that is displayed just beautifully!

  9. Melissa says:

    This is so interesting! I’d never heard the history of buttons before. I’ve always loved them since I was a little girl and played with my mothers while she sewed.

  10. Meaghen N. says:

    I have a lot of fun memories of button exploring through my Mom’s button tin when I was a little girl. Buttons are a fave of mine! Love the button necklace!

  11. I just recently went to a garage sale and they had a box full of OLD buttons. The lady that was having the sale said because they are OLD you can have them for $2.00. What a score that was!

  12. Christine says:

    I once visited an museum which had a collection of 73,282 buttons. It was amazing! Check out the link here. http://www.warthers.com/Button_Collecting.htm

  13. Michelle says:

    I just finally used a gorgeous vintage button I found at the bottom of my grandma’s sewing basket. I love those gorgeous pictures.

  14. Kristin says:

    I have such a button fascination! Those are all absolutely gorgeous. 🙂 Thank you for the great explanations!

  15. andrea says:

    How fun~
    I have a pretty big vintage button collection growing from which I try and add a few onto each of my projects 🙂

  16. I too have a button collection and wondered when I’d ever use them. The button necklace is gorgous!!!

  17. Chris says:

    Fantastic article Tara. I loved reading it and it brought back lots of memories of my mum’s sewing box and the button jar we spent many happy hours sifting and sorting through. I still cut the buttons off old clothes before they are discarded…old habits die hard!

  18. Anna says:

    I like to find wooden buttons or anything a little different….now I just have to make something with them, but I hate to separate them all.

  19. Erica K says:

    Each year I (bravely) take my kids on the local quilt shop hop, and whenever they have a barrel o’ buttons I let my son get a cup. Half of them end up in the impossible-to-get-to spots of the car, others all over the house, and some into my button drawer. But they bring hours of fun…for only a buck or two!

  20. Melanie says:

    I love buttons! I inherited some from my grandma and have started collecting myself. Not for value, but to use and enjoy. Something about these little bits of color, texture and shape just makes me happy. 🙂

  21. Christine Bolin says:

    How interesting. I love buttons too. Sometimes I pour them out on the table and just run my fingers through them.

  22. Lea-Ann says:

    Great article. I remember sorting my grandmother’s buttons as a little kid. Hey… wonder if she would give me those!

  23. Lisa says:

    I love buttons! They are stuck in a drawer right now but I’m thinking I need to put them in a pretty jar and display them. I wish I had more! Perhaps it’s time to hit some yard sales – even if it is fall. 😉

  24. Stacy says:

    I have fond memories of sorting through Grandma’s (now Mom’s) button jar as a child. I have my own jar started on my kitchen windowsill, but it is paltry by comparison to that rich button stash. Maybe I need to sew more!

  25. Kelly K says:

    My favorite memory of childhood was sitting on my great grandmothers bed for hours going through her button collection. Organizing them by color, shape, number of hole and any other way you could thing of.

  26. Cheryl says:

    I’m a button addict myself! Thanks for sharing the article. One can never have too many buttons!

  27. tara says:

    For all you Iowans!! My Dad showed me this link today.


  28. Greeblygreebly says:

    In fact when we went on vacation we stopped at a fabric store and picked up some buttons for the box and it was a lovely cheap souvenir of our trip.

  29. Greeblygreebly says:

    My kids have a button box (a cigar box full of buttons) and it was one of their favourite toys and while they’ve outgrown a lot of things they still like rummaging through the button box and adding to it when we find more. It’s a nice family hobby and it’s come in awfully handy when someone pops a button!

  30. Christine says:

    I loved going through my grandma’s button collections she had in her antique store. When she took my sister and I to the Warther Museum I thought I’d hit the motherlode!


  31. Carolyn says:

    I <3 buttons so much. I have several collections that my mom and I have gathered over the years. Nothing adds that perfect finishing touch like a button!

  32. Java Jane says:

    What a lovely article! I have fond memories of playing with my Mom’s button box when I was a little girl. I would sort the buttons by type, color or size, count them, etc.

    To this day I adore buttons. I have my husband’s grandmothers button box, as well as many vintage buttons acquired at yard sales. Buttons can be such a centerpiece!

  33. Andi says:

    So interesesting! My grandmother never discarded a piece of clothing without first saving the buttons and I love looking through the different types and styles in the buttons I inherited from her. I also like seeing the buttons still on their cards with price stickers that say 5 cents!

  34. sam says:

    I have a great fondness for buttons and have been trying to amass a collection for quite some time. I go to garage sales and auctions yet there always seems to be a “button lady” who arrives just before me or is willing to pay $30 for a half gallon of buttons.

    That is, until this past Saturday. I hit the auctions of all auctions. The woman was a seamstress, a quilter, a crafter, and – near as I can tell – a survivor of the depression. Why do I say that? Because she saved EVERYTHING. As in it took two days to auction off the contents of a little 1800 sq. ft. house.

    I was lucky enough to buy a box of old thread and buttons for $5. The thread is so old it’s still on wooden spools but the buttons? Oh my, the buttons. I have spent the past three evenings sorting them, taking off the bits of thread and fabric that were left after they were ripped off some worn garment and I am not done. I easily have six quarts of buttons in every color, shape, size, and composition (some beautiful glass ones!).

    It’s wonderful. I am so happy with my suddenly wonderful button collection.

  35. Dena says:

    Ooh, I just love all those beautiful buttons!

  36. Christy says:

    I love the black buttons, so tres chic!

  37. I love buttons. I buy wool jackets from the thrift for rug hooking and always save the buttons.


  38. Sarah E. says:

    Oh fun! I should go button crazy, I don’t have enough… 🙂

  39. ~Helena~ says:

    Wow, that’s is some great info. I just inherited some jars of bottons after my Grandma died and many were saved by my Great Grandma.I love them and do use them.

  40. Loralynn says:

    I love that spiral black button! I have a button box from my Grandmother…a jar wasn’t big enough!

  41. Kaye Prince says:

    Great article; I love buttons and it’s a joy every time I dump out my jar and pick out the perfect buttons for a special project!

  42. Amy says:

    When my daughter was younger, I could keep her busy while I sewed by giving her a jar of buttons to sort. She’d not only sort them but form button teams and families that ended up having long button conversations with one another. So much fun in a simple jar of buttons!

  43. Corvus says:

    I’ve been slowly building a button collection for a while, when it suddenly occured to me I could make the things too! Now I have stacks of polymer clay disks waiting to be polished and drilled into buttons. Ack, unexpected addiction.

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