From pearls to poppers, a bit about buttons you might recognise
In our January issue’s What I Treasure piece (on sale now), reader Jacquie Waterfield shows us her mother’s button box. So we thought we’d delve into our own button boxes and bring you a brief guide to the various types of buttons therein.
Often made of wood and spotted on duffle coats, as loved by Paddington Bear (hat under marmalade sandwich optional).
One of the most common types and very useful indeed. Flat buttons are flat (clue’s in the name) and have either two holes or four in the middle where you stitch them to your garment. Very versatile though not so good for heavy garments such as coats.
Another common type, shanks have a small protusion at the back with a hole in, where you stitch the button to the material. Because the main part of the button doesn’t need to have a hole, these can come in various shapes and sizes - surely EVERYONE’s mum had some ladybird- or sheep-shaped novelty shanks (more of that later) in her button box? Large shank buttons are best for heavy garments like coats, leaving the holey flat button standing.
Used mainly for display, lapel buttons are Very Fancy and often made of metal. Shine yours up and show them off in the manner of the military, which is where they are often used.
Sits comfortably on tweed, often sported by ‘gentlemen of a certain age’ and those having a flirtation with Aran knitwear.
Cheerful, chirpy and colourful, can be spotty, stripy, patterned or plain and make a statement of any garment.
Glass and pearl
Think Miss Marple, coupled with a nice dusty pink twinset. And more pearls (which must be clutched tightly in moments of mild shock).
Now THESE are the fellas, the little beauties that lie somewhere in the annals of everyone’s memories, with pictures of Pooh and Piglet blowing a dandelion, whimsical hedgehogs sitting among the daisies and pretty much anything you can think of, shaped or flat - bees, flowers, fish, shoes… heck, you can even buy buttons with Satan’s face on (for that so-tricky-to-knit-for relative).
If you’ve been inspired by these buttons and find yourself in York soon, do visit York Art Gallery where there is an exhibition of Dame Lucy Rie’s ceramics and buttons. Lucy emigrated to the UK during the Second World War and began producing ceramic buttons for the fashion industry, after spotting a gap in the market as many British button factories had been requisitioned for the War effort. This delightful exhibition is a lovely afternoon outing for anyone who has ever enjoyed running their hands through their mother’s spare buttons box.
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What I Treasure is our series in which readers tell us about something that matters most to them. From dusty cookbooks to treasured letters, we’ve seen all sorts of prized possessions. Tell us about yours in 500 words by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and you could see your ‘treasure’ gracing our pages.