I have a confession to make…I love buttons; buttons in all shapes, sizes and materials. It is my firm belief, that there are few garments in your wardrobe, to which new buttons cannot bestow new life if required. I would go so far as to say that this does not only mean older clothes that need a facelift. If you spot something on sale that you like, except for the buttons, it can be worth considering a purchase and a change of buttons to achieve the effect you want. This could apply particularly to clothes on the bargain rail or in charity shops, when it can be worth taking a chance on a garment that just needs a little twist.
I did this a couple of years ago with a collarless linen jacket that I spotted on a stall in the St George’s Street Market. I loved the jacket, especially the embroidery on the front and sleeves, but I disliked the gold buttons, which I felt were completely wrong for the design (see gallery). Since the jacket was only €10, it made sense to buy the piece and hunt around for a set of buttons that worked for me. I found some round bronze coloured buttons that I really liked and so I didn’t look back. I have to admit however, that my button sewing techniques leave much to be desired (particularly on buttons with a shank), but as long as all looks neat on the outside, I can live with that.
Next, an example of changing buttons on a long time wardrobe resident. I had the task of tweaking a smart and versatile black wool jacket with red piping. I had never liked the metal blazer-type buttons on this jacket though I could not really have said exactly why that was. Eventually I decided on a change to give the jacket a lift, and picked up some new black buttons in the late, lamented A.Rubanesque (not forgetting to allow buttons for the pockets as well). I chose shiny black buttons, with a crest design in relief, which I felt were ‘warmer’ than the discarded metallic buttons.
My only button-related reservation is that it is very frustrating to lose a button from a garment and then not to have a matching one in replacement. I have often used up the extra one that manufacturers give you and then find myself stuck. Of course, that might be the ideal excuse for a complete change to a new set. I do keep odd spare buttons in my sewing box in the hope that they come in useful for emergencies or new creations. My mum used to keep buttons in an old tea caddy, and while I don’t have anywhere near that many, my spares do come in handy. A suede-covered button left over from a much-loved jacket proved ideal for one of Verity’s projects: her new laptop case. It is always worth hanging onto odd buttons, just in case you find a better use for them. You can also buy bags of mixed buttons, such as the one shown below, which has been great for some of Verity’s other craft ideas.
I cannot finish without mentioning my very favourite buttons, a set of pink clay button in the shape of pigs. I do not remember where I bought them, but I once sewed them onto a man’s grey suit waistcoat that I found in a charity shop. I wore the waistcoat for years until I became fed-up with it, and cut off my pigs to reuse them.
If you are a button fanatic, do let us know…