The things you can do with buttons

A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference where a lovely lady had the most gorgeous cotton back with the slogan “Cute as a Button” and joy of joys, had buttons sewn onto it.  I loved that bag.

“Cute as a Button” bag

This got me thinking, I have a cotton CILIP Cymru Wales bag, I have buttons!  I know, I’ll personalise my CILIP bag with buttons.

First of all I came up with the idea of using red and green buttons as these colours represent Wales.  The first draft idea looked like this:

First button draft

I took the photo to remind me of what I had decided and went to bed.  On the way to bed I found the green square handmade buttons I bought from the shop in Cardiff Castle, which sparked another idea of how to place the buttons.  It gave me the idea to use the buttons to represent two pots of button bushes with flowers.

In addition to the buttons, I lined the back by using another CILIP bag turned inside out.  This adds to the strength of the bag, protects the back of the buttons and the extra handles provides the extra support.  I used the existing stitching around the top of the bag to join them both together with small running stitches.  A double row of these ensures the bags will not come apart.

Photos of the finished bag

Buttons sewn in place

Red buttons

Green Buttons



Identifying glass buttons

Glass buttons are the most lovely to own.  Particularly the clear ones.  They make a particular “chink” when handled en masse.  But is it glass or is it plastic?

Glass buttons have been around since the 18th century when the material was mixed with other materials to produce a button.  It was not until the 19th century that pure glass buttons were produced.  These were made with a metal shank or post.  Glass buttons with a self (glass) shank are modern buttons, and by modern, I mean from the very early 20th century.

But how can you tell a glass button from a plastic one?  This is fairly easy if the buttons are clear.  Glass buttons sparkle, they are clear, they have a clarity that just cannot be found in plastic or synthetic buttons.  Plastic buttons have a cloudy appearance.  If the button is pressed or cut, the edges are sharp, just like cut-glass crystal.  Glass is also cold to the touch (touch it to your lips, they are more sensitive to temperature).  Tap the button on your teeth, it should be a sharp clicking sound not a dull thud!  And of course glass buttons are heavy.  Plastic buttons are very light.  If in doubt check the back.  If the button has a metal shank or post it is glass.  The metal was inserted into the glass button while still hot.

Metal shanks can also be used to date the button.

In this picture there are 4 different backs.  All of them are associated with glass buttons.

1.  Loop shank with metal backplate.  There are lots of variations and date to the nineteenth and twentieth century.

2. Metal loop shank with rosette back plate. These date from nineteenth to early twentieth century.

3.  Metal box fourway metal shank, late nineteenth, early twentieth century.

4.  Built up self-shank, twentieth century.

These were in my grandmothers collection and all date from the late 1800s early 1900s.

The same criteria apply when trying to identify coloured glass buttons.  The sound, feel and weight come more into play here.  These lemon zebra buttons are a great example of vintage 1930s glass buttons.

There are a large number of particular styles of manufacture for glass buttons …. but that’s another blog post!

Button gift

This weekend I was reminded that I have this specialist blog which I have been neglecting very badly.  I hope to rectify that over the coming weeks and so this post is dedicated to the lovely lady who reminded me and also gave me this gorgeous button brooch after a great weekend with great company.  My favourite colours too, purple and orange.  Thanks @sarahnicholas!

Read the washing label…’s there for a reason!

Today’s buttons were on a cardigan I bought from a local high street store.  It was a beautiful cardigan, lovely shape, gorgeous colour, beautifully soft and squidgy and looked pretty damn cool.  I loved that cardigan and wore it to death.  Then the fateful day arrived.  It needed to be washed.  Handwash only, drip dry and reshape.  But I knew better didn’t I.  I had a cycle on my washing machine that says handwash woollens so in it went.  On completion it looked OK, but then I decided what possible harm could it come to if I stuck it in the tumble drier………..oops, it came out teddy size as in it would fit my teddy!!! It had shrunk and felted in the heat of the tumble dryer.  Gutted.  But entirely my own fault and I have learnt my lesson, possibly!  I still live dangerously on what to tumble dry or not.

All Aboard!

Buttons, cufflinks, brooches and other ephemera invoke memories of the past and todays button is no different.  It is a button off a uniform worn by my late mother-in-law.  She was a bus conductress on the buses for Eastern Counties covering mainly Whittlesey and Peterborough.  There were two shifts a day and she would do one shift and her Mum would do the other.  My husband remembers those days with fond affection.  He spent a lot of time being baby sat on the buses with his Mum and Nan.

The front of the button is a silver colour with the words “EASTERN COUNTIES” embossed onto it.

The reverse of the button is brass with an engraved pattern and post for attaching to the garment.

Eileen worked on the buses for over 25 years.

My husband swears he has a photo of Eileen in her uniform and next to a bus but unfortunately we can’t find it at the moment.  When we do I’ll update the post.

Update 17 Jan 2010

We’ve found a photo of Eileen in her uniform.  Still looking for others.

Box of Delights

IMG_0962Metal buttons, some old, some new and some with a story.

metal wonders

Next week I shall be concentrating on highlighting some of the more interesting, weird and intricate buttons fashioned from metal.



IMG_0946IMG_0945IMG_0944IMG_0943IMG_0942IMG_0941IMG_0940IMG_0939IMG_0938IMG_0937everyone should have fun buttons at least once.  The ladybird button was used on a cardigan for my reminds me of a red dressing gown I had as a also had ladybird buttons and was indeed a ladybird label dressing gown.

All the buttons here have been used on items of clothing made for my niece with the exception of the little green dog button.  That was on a cardigan knitted for me by my mum when I was a toddler.  The cardigan was the same colour green as the dog and had white knitted bands at the cuffs and the bottom edge.  I loved it 🙂

Crazy Catz!

IMG_0891 A couple of my favourite handpainted ceramic beads.  Stylized cats, one yellow and green, the other is black.  They are small, measuring about 1cm diameter.  Mum bought me these to make into a bangle…… about 20 years ago!


IMG_0932 These are clear plastic Indian Head buttons of which I have three.  Two of these are identical but the third has a rounder forehead and bulbous nose.  Two of the buttons show signs of a colour or gilding painted on them, but on the front and not on the reverse.