Use Up Your Vintage Button Collection

I seem to inherit sewing supplies from every branch of the family and recently my stepmother sent me a large box of her mother's supplies. What a treasure of history was there when I opened it. It was like walking back in time.

vintage button
The button reflects the lacy look of the
tie-dye pattern.

I found a tiny, ivory handled crochet hook, with a note attached writing in delicate handwriting from another era. It said that the hook belonged to her mother, and who knows if it came from even another generation before that.

I love looking at sewing supplies from other eras, but the most fascinating object in the box was a Mason jar full of vintage buttons. Oh, they were intricate, glamorous, bejeweled. All were one-of-a-kind and obviously spares for garments made in days gone by. With each one, I tried to imagine the outfits that had been fashioned around  these gems, for these were not the nondescript buttons so common today. These were a consideration in the design of the overall look!

I despaired as looked at these fragments of sewing history because I couldn't imagine how I would be able to use them in my own sewing, having only one of each.

The waistbutton complements the
pocket button but doesn't match it.

But the fact is that your buttons don't have to match. Once I started thinking out of the sewing box, I began to see the possibilities. And I started with a pair of pants that I was drafting and making for my final pattern making class project.

The pants were casual and I made them from a slinky tie-dyed print rayon. I fished around in my jar of vintage buttons, and while it took a very long time to decided, I settled on two buttons, one for the waistband and one for the side pocket, whose filigree and shapes echoed the lacy medallions of the tie-dyed prints.

If you are trying to incorporated vintage buttons into your garments, may I make the following suggestions?

1) Look at the overall garment and determine the size and shape that would be most suitable. Are there design elements in the fabric or silhouette that you would like to echo in the buttons?

2) Before jumping to a decision, look through your entire collection. A surprising option may surface.

3) Lay the garment flat and place the chosen buttons on it. Take a day to live with your choice before attaching permanently. Switch out buttons. Play!

I am so glad I took the time to choose a button from my vintage collection. It made a run-of-the-mill pair of pants spectacular and really special. And every time I wear those pants I will remember all the sewing history behind it.

If you want to learn even more embellishing techniques, you can pre-order the new Embellish Me book in the Sew Daily Shop.

Have you found ways to incorporate your vintage buttons into your sewing? Let us know below.

Happy stitching!

Amber Eden

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Categories

Embellishment, Garment Details
Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

8 thoughts on “Use Up Your Vintage Button Collection

  1. When I was little (back in the 1960’s), my mom a seamstress by profession, worked daily in her store sewing dresses, wedding dresses, suits, coats and accessories ie flowers. In her store she sold fabric, and accessories including buttons. When she passed away, I acquired the leftover fabric, accessories and yes buttons she once had in her store. Although they are now referred to as being vintage, I have kept the buttons and those that do not have pairs have used them to decorate purses, and the center of flowers. My mom made fabric flowers for every outfit she owned which is where I got my inspiration from.

  2. Vintage buttons are great to added a little decoration. I am in a phase of making fabric books at present and they are great for added a bit of decoration and interest to a page, along side scraps of lace, braid, little technique samples etc. Chris.

  3. I love the idea that you are encouraging the use of vintage buttons! There is nothing sadder than seeing gorgeous buttons hidden away in tins and the like. Their artwork should be celebrated in all that we do!
    I must, however, include an addition to your suggestion! Many, if not most, vintage buttons cannot be washed or dry cleaned! Even older plastic and metal buttons will be ruined if immersed in water. Some, such as those made from Celluloid, are even highly flammable!
    You can find information about your buttons on the National Button Society’s website (www.nationalbuttonsociety.org) or in my books, Warman’s Buttons Field Guide or Busy With Buttons.
    Thanks for speaking about this wonderful topic! Button Up!

  4. For both my 60th and 63rd birthdays my brother gave me 5 GALLONS of buttons ! ! ! ! Yep ! – – – 5 Gallons both years. I don’t really know where he found them all, but MANY were lovely vintage buttons. Even some really interesting metal military buttons. I think he checks a lot on E-Bay, but all I know is that now I have enough buttons to cover the WORLD. He thinks it funny that the OCD part of me feels compelled to sort his gift into many, many jars by color, number of holes, size, shanks or not, and any other way I can think of to organize his gift. I’ve begun to add them to everything I make from art quilts to baby clothes. He’s not going to be allowed back into my home next year on my birthday ! ! ! I really do love him, but I have PLENTY of buttons to last the rest of my life.

  5. For both my 60th and 63rd birthdays my brother gave me 5 GALLONS of buttons ! ! ! ! Yep ! – – – 5 Gallons both years. I don’t really know where he found them all, but MANY were lovely vintage buttons. Even some really interesting metal military buttons. I think he checks a lot on E-Bay, but all I know is that now I have enough buttons to cover the WORLD. He thinks it funny that the OCD part of me feels compelled to sort his gift into many, many jars by color, number of holes, size, shanks or not, and any other way I can think of to organize his gift. I’ve begun to add them to everything I make from art quilts to baby clothes. He’s not going to be allowed back into my home next year on my birthday ! ! ! I really do love him, but I have PLENTY of buttons to last the rest of my life.

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