Monday, July 7, 2008

Buttons The Second

Early in the summer, the small town I live in held it's annual town-wide yard sale. I've always enjoyed such events. You truly never know what you'll find, and a large part of the fun is in the looking. Imagine my excitement when the first house we stop at is displaying vintage buttons for sale. The owner must have quickly picked up on my enthusiasm, as she came over and asked where my interest in the buttons stemmed from. I told here I love to knit and sew, and have been actively trying to expand my collection. She then became animated in her own excitement of having found a like-minded soul, telling me she's an avid collector and frequents shows in various states to buy and sell vintage buttons. We talked for awhile, she showing me some of her favorites, and even going into her house to retrieve a tin of her personal stash. She said she had a particular fondness for the old fabric covered ones, holding out a tiny set that were fashioned by the previous owner from a bygone era to match the dress they'd adorned - a muted cream and pink small scale floral. In the end, I chose my favorites and continued on down the street. No other house we stopped at that day had anything like the first, but it had made the whole adventure worthwhile.

On the bottom right, pink and cream celluloid buttons. Celluloid was first invented in 1868, and is considered by some to be the first plastic ever invented, although bakelite, celluloid's successor, actually holds that title. According to, "Celluloid is not a true plastic because it is formed of a mixture of both synthetic and organic materials, whereas bakelite is completely synthetic. Antique celluloid buttons from apparel and home d├ęcor pieces can be quite fragile precisely because celluloid does contain organic materials, which degrade over time. The celluloid can “crystallize”, which causes the antique celluloid buttons to harden and finally crumble. It is best to store your antique celluloid buttons in a cool, dry place, away from all metals, heat and humidity. However, do not store them in airtight containers, as the celluloid needs to breathe."

The two sets on the left are made of bakelite, which was most popular from the 1920's to the 1940's. The brown ones are known as 'Carved Platters'. These were typically found on coats, which is why they are almost always black or brown. In the center are two wooden buttons with beveled edges. I'm not sure how I'll ever use these ones on my hand knits. The metal shanks on the backside are showing signs of rust. Considering I allow most of the items I knit to air dry, it'd only be a matter of time before some damage was done. Maybe I could coat the shanks in some type of sealant??

And lastly, here are some more modern editions I picked up at the fabric store on my last trip. I must have vintage on the brain, though. Don't the girls remind you of 1920's Flappers?


Allison said...

Wow!! Brilliant use of buttons as home decor items!!

Rhian said...

I love the flapper girl buttons! I'm going to have to go button-shopping sometime soon. It's hard to find unique and interesting buttons in the local haberdashery (though they do have a good selection of basics), but luckily London has a few button shops I can pillage. ;)

Knittymuggins said...

What a lovely find! I love them all :) Thanks too for discussing the celluloid vs. bakelite bit. I've always been curious about that! Enjoy your new treasures!