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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.