Buttoned up

When you have a vice like mine (see My Secret Vice), you inevitably begin to look for ways of fulfilling it. When I found myself rifling through my vintage patterns, it was inevitable that I would find myself sitting on the floor surrounded by buttons.

After all, when you could be contemplating this,

you do have to think haberdashery. Well notions, perhaps, rather than haberdashery as such.

(I managed to distract myself by discovering knitting songs from WW2, this one even recorded by Glenn Miller:

Floss joined a knitting group with just
An hour or so to spare,
And noted as the needles sped
The girls all hummed the air.
Thought she ‘I’m sure a knitting song
With an appealing swing
Would make a smashing wartime hit
That everyone would sing.’

Yes, really – and thanks to various people for pointing me in that direction.)

So here are a few buttons that I found, lurking at the bottom of Quality Street Tin Number One (there are Tins Two and Three as well). How about these?

Hmm. Too large, alas. And so are these, though the red ones would be possible if I had enough, even though they don’t really fit stylistically:

Very cute, and some of the few that are still attached to each other in matched clumps. Now I know what to do if we have another winter like the last one (pair all my buttons up – again), and I get stuck in the house. That’s after I’ve read all sorts of interesting books I’ve been putting aside for just such an eventuality, and knitted up my entire stash.

I also found these, which are so wrong they’re right. Now I need a suitable project.

I wonder what these originally adorned?

I’ve inherited most of my buttons. I have enough mother-of-pearl to encourage a visit from the EIA – I’m sure I’m breaching some aspect of CITES – in all sizes, ranging from teeny tiny glove buttons to huge decorated ones. But some of my inherited buttons are more unusual, and this one belonged to Grandma’s box:

It’s metal, and from the style it could be early 30s, perhaps…

Some, unfortunately, are one-offs:

And represent an enormous amount of work – out of all proportion to the size of the button, anyway – on the part of the button makers. But my all-time favourite, ever since I was little, is this:

What a cutie.

There were two, but one has vanished. Maybe it will turn up again; maybe it won’t – but I’m hanging onto the survivor and not taking it outside the house. What can you do with a single small button, I wonder?

I’m glad to see that buttons are once again being made – well, some of them – with care and attention. I know people sometimes complain about the cost, but if you’re going to spend a lot on yarn and then invest your time and creative energy in making something lovely out of it, you deserve to use something good to finish your garment off. Or something interesting, at the very least.

Though even I must admit that these give me pause. They’re too big, and they need a good clean (in my defence I must say that they are fiddly to clean, with their two layers). But they just wouldn’t work with  most of my vintage knitwear. These I do know about: they were on what my mother described as a ‘duster coat’ – and that really confused me; it wasn’t yellow – which found its way into the dressing-up box. It used to get fastened right up to the neck and then someone could be Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. I salvaged the buttons when the coat finally died because I liked them, but I have never found a use for them and I probably never will.

And now I’m off in search of more wartime knitting songs. I’m sure they’ll help my quest to complete at least one of my UFOs before I start something new…


6 thoughts on “Buttoned up

  1. heikeknits

    So good to see that I am not alone in the ‘button quest’ and by the sounds of it you have more than I do. And your favourite cutie of a button..well I think you should make one of my Notebook Covers and use this little ‘babe’ to adorn the fron so that you can look at it often whilst scribbling down notes for an endless stream of inspiration 😉

  2. del

    I’m always envious of anyone who inherits buttons! All of yours are so beautiful and unique. It makes you wonder what clothing they were originally on.

    1. Kate Post author

      Doesn’t it though? Once upon I time I had some lovely red buttons with little silver tennis rackets on – maybe 1950s. I always wondered about those – what fun someone had had wearing the tennis dress they’d obviously been on, how many matches had been won…


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