I love buttons.
I’ve always loved buttons.
As a child, one of my favourite things to do was to play with my Mum’s button jar. Her jar is like an old-fashioned sweet jar – glass with a cut glass lid with a seal. And the buttons inside were little coloured jewels. I loved playing with them. I sorted them by size and colour. I made patterns, snugging them as tightly together as I could. I had favourite buttons in that jar: a set of quilted, leather buttons from an old 1960s coat, a little red shirt button and a blue pearlescent one.
There’s a wonderful generational connection between crafters when it comes to buttons – a continuity of materials that is a tangible manifestation of the inheritance of craft skills. My mother-in-law very generously gave me one of her button boxes when she sold one of her houses, and I’ve added those buttons to my own collection. Her tastes are different to mine – the colours are different (more blues and greens than reds, purples, gold and silver) and there are little non-button delights in there like soft toy eyes and teddy bear noses. I feel proud and honoured that she wanted to give me a box of such personal treasures that are a part of her family history.
Rather than being taken and saved from old clothes at the end of their life to be re-used, most of the buttons I’ve acquired myself have been bought. I’m like a magpie when it comes to buttons – I want all the pretty, shiny things. In a moment of fevered madness I once spent over £100 in Liberty just on buttons and I spent a very happy afternoon in Duttons during a weekend in York a couple of years ago.
Finding the perfect buttons for a project is a real pleasure. And I’ve now got to the point on my Chickadee where I’m close to starting the button bands and need to make some decisions. The yarn is Skein Queen Voluptuous, which I bought at Unravel last year specifically to make this cardigan. Voluptuous is a beautifully woolly, sheepy yarn with quite a rustic feel. It’s a ‘sticky’ yarn, making it perfect for colourwork.
I’ve a few options for buttons.
Chickadee will have a garter stitch edging with contrast colour finishing, so I’ve folded the cuff up to show you what it would look like.
The top two buttons are from Textile Garden. They have an amazing selection of buttons in all colours, sizes and materials. The ones in the top row I bought yesterday. The etched brass is simple, but the details are lovely, particularly the little bird motif which echoes the colourwork. I like the coppery undertone of the second button down, and the white echoes the background colour of the colourwork section very nicely. I think the third one down is a bit too small and too delicate for this cardigan. The colour of the bottom button is great, but I think the filigree isn’t quite right for this cardigan.
I normally go for quite neutral buttons, sticking to metallics, but Ysolda’s original cardigan has contrast buttons. So I also looked in my stash for contrast buttons that might work.
The top two buttons here are porcelain. I bought them at Dulwich Picture Gallery of all places. The bottom one is Czech glass. The flowers in the top button match the colourwork birds, but the green isn’t the best match and they are flowers rather than birds. The second one is a bit too dark, I think, and the colours in the bottom one don’t work for this project (though one day I will find the perfect project for these beautiful buttons).
So, which would you choose?