Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.


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I bet that when you got dressed today you buttoned something: your pants, a shirt, maybe a cardigan or jacket. Most of us wear clothes that button.  And, when we buy new clothes, they often come with a spare button or two.  Some of you probably even have a garment or accessory with decorative buttons, like our neighbor, who dropped by last night wearing a t-shirt with buttons sewn around the neck. My mom surprised me with a sash and purse that she had bejewelled with buttons in shades of white for my wedding.

Wedding purse covered in buttons by mom. Brinn Willis photo

Wedding purse covered in buttons by mom. Brinn Willis photo

And many of us sewists have a jar or chocolate box full of the spare buttons that came with our clothes. I wear a uniform to work, and a couple years back when the uniform changed, I acquired a bag full of plain shirt buttons. Many of us sewists are also familiar with the experience of searching for the perfect set of buttons for our make. And sometimes that is mighty stressful.

A few years ago, I decided I needed a yellow coat. I was in graduate school in Boston at the time and bought some lovely wool at one of my all-time favorite fabric stores: Winmil Fabrics. My mom helped me to modify the pattern which didn’t include a lining, and then it was time for buttons. I needed four large buttons and decided I wanted bold black ones. Living in suburban southeastern Massachusetts, the best option for buttons was JoAnn — and I did find four bold black buttons. But they cost an arm and a leg. I remember $20 – but that might be an exaggeration. I was so disgusted that I had to spend that much for buttons that aren’t especially nice or special or well-made.

Never again. I’ve been buying buttons at the kind of places I source zippers – antique malls and yard sales. I have them mostly organized by color, and I probably won’t have to go out searching for buttons for a particular project for a while — one of my favorite spots to buy them is at Duke’s Antique Mall in Lexington. One of the vendors has a great variety of buttons and other sewing notions.

The Machinist scouring the racks for good buttons

The Machinist scouring the racks for good buttons

The Machinist came with me last weekend to replenish my supply of bias tape, and help pick out some buttons. I spent $36 on buttons, and called him an enabler, and suggested I’d spend less if I didn’t take him with me.  But he had an excellent point: how many buttons would I have gotten for $36 at JoAnn or my current favorite fabric store, Ragtime?  Probably not this many.

Basketfull of buttons at the antique mall

Basketfull of buttons at the antique mall

When she was younger, my mother-in-law sewed all of her own clothes, and she told me the other day that she would start with the buttons, then choose fabric, then choose a pattern.  I usually start with the fabric, and having amassed such a selection of buttons, find a set in my stash to finish up the garment.  Just last night I hemmed a new shirt on which I’d sewn buttons on Monday. I think they are perfect:

I'm calling this shirt "spring in Virginia." It's flannel and the print looks like dogwood blooms and cardinals.

I’m calling this shirt “spring in Virginia.” It’s flannel and the print looks like dogwood blooms and cardinals.

I’ve been loving the look of yoke tops lately – this one is from the pattern Esme by Sew Liberated.



Author: Accacia

I'm a librarian at a college in Lexington, Virginia. I sew, I knit, and I cook.

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