Saturday, 4 December 2010

Bright as a Button!

Bright as a button!

Whilst rooting through my Mum’s button box, I happened upon some gorgeous vintage buttons that belonged to my great grandmother, and started to wonder, how long have we been using these buttons anyway? And what could I do with them?

A Brief History
Buttons have been used for millennia. Archaeologists have found buttons dating back to the Bronze Age--that's more than 3,000 years ago!
Yet buttons weren't going to be used as fastenings until much later. People of the Bronze Age used them purely for decoration, and made them from of all kinds of material such as wood, bone and metal.

By the age of the Romans and Greeks, the button was still used for decoration, but eventually they began using them as fastenings by putting them through loops of thread.
Buttons were brought to Europe by the 13th Century, and it's believed that the traditional button hole originated from Germany.

As with any new gimmick, buttons became extremely popular by the mid-14th Century and as time went on, historical figures such as Henry VIII and Louis XIV were known to wear ensembles absolutely bedecked with buttons.

Famously, metal buttons were said to have been added to the cuffs soldiers' uniforms during the time of Napoleon to stop soldiers wiping their noses on the sleeves!

In 1860's London, Pearly Kings and Queens emerged--people wearing costumes covered in tens of thousands pearly buttons. Obviously these were a great tourist attraction, and occasionally these characters can be still be seen.

The world has since seen novelty buttons in all shapes and sizes. Buttons began to be produced in plastic and hence became less special, but there are still thousands of avid collectors out there!

Sources & More Info:
The History of the Button

Things to do...
So what can you do with buttons, anyway?
Once you step away from the idea of the simple fastening, there’s a great number of ideas for customisation or other projects that utilise buttons.

Here’s a few inspiring links: has many pre-made items that you can buy if you’re not so keen on making your own!

Button necklace tutorials:
[1] [2] [3]
*If you have a lot of buttons you could also make a stacked button necklace by threading them together as you would beads.

Button bracelet tutorials:
[1] [2] [3]

Other ideas
Embellishment for shoes
Woven Button Coaster
Button Pillow
Button-decorated purse 

In Customising Cool Clothes, Kate Haxell suggests using buttons to embellish a waistcoat, pockets and turn-ups. Likewise you could use buttons on collars, bag straps, headbands, hats, cuffs and hems!

...and for a bit of fun:
Ginormous Button Pillow@Instructables

button necklaces and pocket embellishment
Left & Right: Button necklaces made by a volunteer at Sussex-based charity Humanity at Heart.
Centre top: Plastic button & chain necklace
Centre bottom: Button detail on pocket

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