Buttons, Buttons & More Buttons!

26 Oct

Stephanie out of Charlotte N.C., a mother of two beautiful children, a 4 year-old girl and a 6 month old boy asked me this one! 

“Where did buttons come from anyway, I’m curious?” 

Yes, she asked it!  To tell you the truth, I have a love affair with buttons, because as a girl, my mother sent me to Singer sewing classes <the company who manufactured sewing machines> and from then on I realized how important buttons are; for it is so hard to master putting them on a garment when sewing at the age of 11!!!

So, Stephanie…here’s your answer, quick and short!

Buttons originated in China, 2000 BC.  They were used to conspicuously smuggle items out of the country, rare gems, diamonds and sometimes opium.  The buttons would be adhered to a garment and go under the radar of a search.  Once discovered, other ways were thought of to smuggle these items, leaving the button to always be carefully looked at! 

Throughout the centuries, thereafter buttons became the focal point of a garment, quite expensive and rather delicate.  Which allowed the button types to vary in order to lay correctly on a garment (shank, four holes, two holes, etc.).  As you may have seen, a button can be covered with fabric or jewels; today colored resin or plastic in all shapes and sizes.   Did you know the thimble became the welcomed partner for the button when sewing?  You see needles may have been carefully dipped in poision; where a simple prick was deadly, so the thimble was created as a safeguard during the 1st century AD!

There are museums which hold the most authentic type of buttons, made of real gold, porcelain and even diamonds!  Very serious stuff! Very serious!   There are people who collect the rarest of buttons; similiar to collecting rare coins and stamps.

There is a such a lovely little shop in NYC, called Tender Buttons on 62nd Street & Lexington Ave; which has an inventory of all kinds of buttons you can’t even imagine.  The boutique owner, Dana Epstein authored a book about buttons and their history, The Button Book.  For you and those who may be interested, it’s available on www.amazon.com for a mere $4.95.  It has gotten nice reviews!

How do I know about this place? Well, my youngest daughter wanted a new headboard for her bed.  Looking through various magazines, I ‘d decided that we can make it ourselves.  So we went to Home Depot® with the measurements, brought wood and while we were there, had them cut the wood based on the dimensions we needed. 

A drill and a lot of hammering with nails…headboard!  Then we both went to the local fabric store and selected the fabric, batting, foam, etc. covered the headboard using a staple gun!   The headboard was going to be tufted, so my daughter did not want plain shank buttons.  She wanted jeweled buttons, so the search was on <felt like a crusade>!  Tender Buttons was the place to get 40 buttons to place on her headboard! The buttons were carefully placed in their own drawer; giving the impression that it was a found treasure! Woo Hoo!  I remembering saying, “Happy daughter with happy headboard!”

The price range for a button could be from $0.50 to $100.00 a piece or more!  Will buttons always be that serious, I am afraid so!

Stephanie; thanks for your curiosity about buttons; which is so wonderful!  This may have sparked others to start paying close respected attention to their buttons; leaving them smiling!

Be Well – Letia  😉

P.S. Oh!! I have a trivia question for all of you!  What common known phrase is used all the time with the word “button”?  Comment with your answer, I’ll post the answer in a few days!

Tender Button photos by Shanna Ravindra,  New York Magazine

If you have any questions, e-mail lee@lmlifestyleanddesign.com

answer: cute as a button!
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2 Responses to “Buttons, Buttons & More Buttons!”

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