Your most exciting and distinctive creations begin with the world's most beautiful buttons.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Storage of Buttons and Beads

Proper Storage of Buttons and Beads
Nothing is prettier than a decorative jar filled with beautiful buttons or beads sitting on a side table or grouped with some family mementos on the mantle.  But, it's really not good for the buttons.  Everytime the jar is moved, the buttons will clink against the glass sides and against each other, causing tiny nicks and cracks. It can cause metal, mother-of-pearl or painted buttons to become badly scratched and glass ones may even break. Large cookie tins or deep canisters used to hold a big collection that have to be poured out or dug through is just as harmful.
Better solutions:
The plastic storage bins with slide-out drawers marketed for nuts, bolts, and small tools.  You can find them in all sizes at hardware stores.  I've also seen beautiful wooden "apothecary cabinets" with very small drawers that would be perfect.
A felt-lined jewelry box with individual compartments for rings and small items.
Clear plastic bead boxes with individual compartments.
Individual "gem jars" -little storage jars with a clear lid and a foam cushion will protect your favorites from just about any kind of damage.
Contact lens cases or plastic pill organizers.
The little metal candy tins available in supermarkets.  Paint and embellish the outsides and line them with a few layers of pretty tissue paper for a nice work of altered art that doubles as personalized storage.  Some fancier chocoates come in nice boxes with partitions that would work nicely, too.
A three-ring binder filled with business card sleeves. Most pages will hold ten or twelve buttons, and several pages can be put into a single binder and still allow it to close.
Give each button or bead an individual plastic zipper bag, and pin them to a corkboard.
Stitch them to a piece of fabric, and wrap the fabric around the cardboard insert in a cute frame.
Stitch them all to a wide piece of ribbon, and tack or staple the ribbon along a wall of your sewing room or creative space.
If you really can't give up the spice rack or the old Mason jars, fill them with inexpensive plastic craft buttons. They are just as colorful and decorative as Grandma's bohemian collection, but without the potential for damage.

Caring for Buttons

Help! the garment is washable but the button isn't.

If a button isn't washable, but you want to use it on an item that is,
there are several ways to do so.

Buttons come with all kinds of care instructions, from "machine
washable" to "dry clean only" to "don't even think about cleaning it".
I can't advise you much on the last one, other than to say that usually
a little bit of rubbing with a dry tissue is probably good enough to
remove most grime.

The question is how to use an untreated wooden, horn, or very delicate glass button on a garment you want to be able to toss in the machine or have dry cleaned.

So, here's a few suggestions:

Wash by hand. Most buttons can withstand a bit of water. It's the rough
action of the washing machine (or worse, the dryer) that causes the
problem. Glass buttons that get thrown against the agitator or the
metal dryer walls will get nicked or broken. So, washing the garment by
hand in the sink, then line drying it will solve the problem. Face it,
most of us don't get our clothes filthy enough to require scrubbing,
and if we did, we wouldn't want to put beautiful, handmade buttons on
them anyway.

Cover them. A little bit of aluminum foil to cover the buttons may help
protect them from water damage, and dry cleaning fluids. A layer of
paper toweling, bubble wrap, foam, quilt batting or similiar under the
foil may also help by serving as padding in case of none-too-gentle
treatment. Afterward, just remove the materials and polish the button a
bit with a tissue.

Glass buttons can usually be dry cleaned with no ill effects, however
if they're painted the paint might come off with some solvents. Talk to
your dry cleaner beforehand, and consider covering them with aluminum
foil for protection.

Don't sew them on. A tiny safety pin instead of stitching will hold on
most buttons. It's invisible with most shanked buttons, but won't be
too noticible on drilled ones. After wearing, simply remove the buttons
and have the garment cleaned. For a more permanent fix, sew the button
onto the back of the safety pin, making a thread shank. Then, attach to
the garment before wearing. The extra few minutes spent getting dressed
will be well worth it when you start getting compliments on your
gorgeous outfit.

--As a side note, this method has an advantage, especially for home
sewists. One set of nice buttons can be used on several garments. If
you reuse the same tried-n-true patterns, you can make up two or three
of the same garment, then buy one set of gorgeous buttons that will
work for all of them.--

In the case of unfinished / untreated wooden buttons that can't be
soaked, dampen a cloth in a bit of water with a drop or two of wood
soap like Murphy's, then just wipe them clean. Cover (completely seal)
them with aluminum foil and hand-wash the garment

Most horn buttons can be washed, but shouldn't be immersed for very
long. Use a short, gentle washing cycle, and they should be fine.

Buttons come with all kinds of care instructions, from "machine
washable" to "dry clean only" to "don't even think about cleaning it".
I can't advise you much on the last one, other than to say that usually
a little bit of rubbing with a dry tissue is probably good enough to
remove most grime.

If I think of or hear of any other good methods, I'll post them. And if
you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them -just drop me a
message. In the meantime, don't let finiky care instructions stop you
from using and enjoying beautiful buttons, even on washable items. :)


PS: Please note that these instructions are intended for buttons that
will be used and enjoyed, NOT for antiques, one-of-a-kind heirlooms or
collectible buttons. If you have or suspect you have an irreplaceable
item, please contact a restoration service or someone who can identify
what your button is made of and can give you professional advice. The
National Button Society is a good place to find someone knowledgeable
about your particular specimen.

Choosing Buttons and Making Buttonholes

Choosing Buttons & Making Buttonholes

A ligne is the international standard for measuring a button’s diameter. Domed, thicker, or handmade buttons may require a larger buttonhole. Variations in measurement often occur, so all button sizes should be considerate approximate.

Ligne Millimeters Inches
14 9.2 .362
16 10.5 .413
18 11.6 .457
20 12.5 .492
21 13.5 .531
22 14.2 .559
23 14.8 .583
24 15.0 .590
27 16.8 .661
28 17.8 .701
30 19.0 .748
32 20.5 .807
34 21.5 .846
36 22.9 .902
40 25.5 1.00

If the button has a shank, the width of the shank also varies, and needs to be considered when determining the placement of the buttonhole on a garment.


The buttonhole needs to be large enough to comfortably accomodate the button. If it's too small, the buttonhole will eventually rip or the button itself will become detached (and maybe lost), and need to be replaced. If you've used one-of-a-kind buttons, you may have to replace them all. So err on the side of making the buttonhole a tiny bit larger if neccesary.

Generally, the length of a buttonhole is determined by the diameter of the button, plus 1/8". For ball, jeweled, or oddly-shaped buttons, it may be neccesary to allow a bit more. Always make a test buttonhole or two on a scrap of the garment fabric before hand, so you can set your thread tension, test the stitching, and make certain the button will go through the hole and stay in place once the garment is fastened.

If you're using a sewing machine that holds the button while making the buttonholes, I suggest that when using handmade buttons you make each buttonhole to a specific button, then make a little note of which goes where.

Garment Design and Construction:

When the center of a button is placed on the center line of a garment pattern block, half of it will extend to the right, and half to the left of the center. This makes it neccesary to extend the center edge. The width of the extension should equal the diameter of the button.

The buttonhole extends at least 1/16" to the left of the garment to allow for a shank button. If a button has a very wide shank, measure the shank and extend the buttonhole to the left of the center by half the measurement of the shank. The length of the shank does not change the size of the buttonhole.

On a neckline, with or without a set-in collar, the buttonhole is placed one-half the diameter of the button plus 1/4" away from the neckline.

A garment without a belt should have a button placed exactly on the waistline to maintain close fit. For coats or suits, the button may be placed up to 1/2" above or below the waistline if the overall appearance is improved.
For a garment with a belt, plan and mark the buttonholes above and below the waistline so that the belt or buckle will be at least 1 1/2" away from the buttons.

After determining the position of the neckline and the waistline, divide the remaining space by the number of buttonholes you want. On a woman's garment, try to place a button right at bust level to prevent the garment from gapping open.

Women's garments always button right over left.

A few more notes for better buttonholes:
~Don't skip or skimp on interfacing in this area. Use the same pattern piece for interfacing as for the fashion fabric where buttons and buttonholes will be placed, so the interfacing extends all the way to the edge of the fabric.

~To mark the buttonholes for stitching, trace them onto a piece of onion skin tracing paper, pin the paper to the fabric, and stitch through it. This is usually more accurate then trying to mark on the fabrics, and eliminates worry about whether the marks will be competely removable.

~Just before stitching the buttonhole, give the lines and the area around them a few small whacks with a hammer. Not too hard, just a quick smack-smack-smack will flatten and smooth that area so your sewing machine will run a little better.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Site Stats: I'm listening!

I've been reading my site stats since the day I started this little biz.  I read the stats provided by my server, and then I read the information available at Google Analytics, and finally, I spend a half hour or more everyday poring over my Etsy statistics.

And I promise I'm paying attention.

My stats make it very clear that a huge number of people are always looking for unusual buttons and buttons that are not readily available at the big box stores.  In the coming months, I will try to start adding more items that are further away from the beaten path.

More buttons with  fantasy, mythical, or magical themes.  Mermaids, dragons, fairy castles, and fairy tale icons seem to be popular.  I'll be trying to add some of those next. 

More novelty buttons in more shapes and sizes, and more in themes that are appropriate for boy's clothing, crafts, and activities.  I see the terms 'race cars', 'dinosaurs' and bugs are high on the list.  So I will see what I can do.

More horn and bone buttons.  For those, I will probably have to import directly from Asia.  I'll see what I can do.  One of the biggest drawbacks is the enormous shipping costs and the duty taxes.  I hope these will also be what is meant by the terms "primitive" and "tribal" which I see occasionally.  The buttons from Asia are usually less finished and more 'rough' in appearance, which I like.  A row of less-than-perfect horn buttons one a leather jacket or even a tailored coat is a nice juxtaposition, I think.

Of course, the fancy glass buttons and larger buttons for handbags and scrapbooks are always popular, so I'll keep my eye out for more of them.  

I also do take special orders, so if you are looking for something and just cannot find it, let me know and I'll try to help.