Tag Archives: buttons

Realistic Buttons

Novelty or realistic buttons have been popular since the 1930s (and probably before that).  Showy, colorful buttons were an inexpensive way to freshen a dress during the depression when a new dress was out of the question. French fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli sparked the button mania by emphasizing them on items in her collections. Her 1938 Circus Line included garments with buttons shaped like dancing clowns, trapeze artists, and prancing horses. Her Music Collection featured buttons shaped like a variety of instruments.   Many popular buttons in this era were made of bakelite and were sew thru types.  They featured common everyday items from vegetables to golf clubs.  A common button shape from this era was the Scottie terrier inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s dog Fara.

Plastic buttons quickly took over and have remained popular ever since.  Nothing is quicker to bring out a “aww…isn’t that cute” reaction than a beautifully made realistic button.  There are a number of artisans making realistic buttons today from kiln fired or Fimo clay.  Here are some examples from etsy.com. 

Kiln Fired Clay Realistic Buttons

Kiln Fired Clay Realistic Buttons

Grape Leaf Buttons by Marla’s Mud
Fimo Clay Buttons

Fimo Clay Buttons

Hello Kitty Buttons by TinyArk

What are Tagua Nut Buttons?

The Tagua Nut, commonly known as “vegetable ivory”, earned its name from its ivory-like color and texture. With the near extinction of animal ivory, tagua nuts have become a highly valued commodity by artisans and consumers alike. Twenty percent of all buttons were made of tagua nuts in the 1920’s which accounts for the number that collectors find today. Ecuador continues to offer tagua buttons and enjoys a thriving tagua jewelry market too.
Some other names for tagua include Rain Forest Ivory, Corozo (also spelled Corrozzo), Binroji Nut (Japanese), Steinnuss (German), and Coquilla Nut.
A tagua nut is the fruit of a palm tree, primarily Phytelephas macrocarpa, which flourishes in tropical rain forests from Paraguay to Panama. Natives replant palm trees for their seeds instead of logging them, which saves a bit of the rain forests. They polish the shell of the seeds and typically carve them into the shape of a button, living creature, or beautiful jewelry. Just think: an object much like a gem with all the qualities of ivory, but without harming wildlife.
Where tagua nuts grow high up in South American palms, there are about 40 shelled seeds to a cluster, called a cabeza. Harvesting them appears totally harmless to trees and forests. Modern day  tagua vendors can toot their horn for indirectly saving elephants, whales, walrus and other species. We are so fortunate to have a natural, organic, resourceful product in plentiful supply.

“No Harm” Button Crafting-Jewelry

I recently asked the ButtonBytes community the question “When should you craft with vintage buttons and when should you preserve them?”.  The answers I got were unanimous!  Never craft with buttons unless you use “no harm” techniques that preserve the buttons.  As one respondent said, ” Even the plastic buttons that we see as so common today may be unique someday.  Just think that most plastic buttons are made from  derivitives of oil products.  Someday people might see that as a huge extravagance.” 

Yet I often see crafting projects that advise grinding the shanks off of glass buttons or cutting metal loops, drilling holes in buttons to attach them or glueing with epoxy glue.  In fact, there are jewelry findings made for just such crafts. 

Best Selling Bracelet Base for Glueing or Beading

Best Selling Bracelet Base for Glueing or Beading

So how does one do “no harm” crafting with buttons?  Well, first of all remember that buttons were designed to sew onto fabric.  Using techniques which utilize the existing fasteners is best.  That means stringing thru shanks and existing holes in buttons.  Never use glue!  It’s almost impossible to remove without harming the button.  And don’t drill or grind off pieces of the button!

Here are 3 good examples of “no harm” jewelry making that I found on the web!

  1. Charm string necklaces and no harm bracelets from the California Button Society website
  2. Button pendants from vintage buttons.net
  3. Etsy seller who uses No Harm Techniques

A New Shopping Experience-Not for me…

For You!

Last night I had fun shopping on Amazon.com. Not for me, for you. I created a focused shopping experience for lovers of vintage buttons, fabric and patterns. I hand selected reference books on collecting, books on how to craft with vintage materials, and you won’t believe this. I even found some listings of actual vintage fabric and vintage patterns. Who knew there would be listings of these items! And I topped it off with a selection of DVDs and VHS tapes on sewing.  Bookmark this site for sure.