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4.1.13

79 Vintage buttons :: tarnished treasure


Oh, the button envy, if these weren't mine. But they are. They are! Aren't they glorious? And absolutely filthy! But glorious, nonetheless.

I'll tell you what I know about them, which isn't much, yet!


They belonged to Ida, a very elderly lady who, born at the turn of the last century, worked as a dressmaker throughout the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s. At some point in the far away past she has ruled a pencil grid onto a sheet of card - not too carefully, the lines aren't parallel - and wired sixty-four shanked metal buttons to it, eight rows of eight. Perhaps it was a sample sheet to show to customers. Or perhaps she was a budding collector. I've seen similar buttons dating from as early as the 1880s, but so far I don't have dates for these.

I never knew Ida, but she knew my sister, and it was my sister who inherited Ida's well stocked button box, some time ago, and who has now passed this set of buttons on to me. They were a complete surprise!

Many of them are brass, one or two may include bakelite, some have gilt and/or glass components, and discovering how best to set about cleaning them is not proving easy. Although I'd probably be making better progress if I didn't keep stopping to drool over them! Do tell me I'm not the only one who is this excited by grubby old things!

Thanks Sis, you're a star!! And if anyone reading has a clue about button dating and/or restoration please pipe up and I'll say the same about you!


Thank you all so much for the many good wishes for 2013, and for the lovely things you said about my 2012 photographs. And humblest apologies for being so tardy with my own New Year salutations ... I intend to spend this evening catching up with my blog reading!

Don't forget the mini giveaway will you, there's still time to hop over there and leave a comment, entries close at midday GMT tomorrow. Back soon!

79 comments :

  1. Oh, these would be gems in my button collection....you're so lucky!
    xox

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  2. What a wonderful collection of buttons. As far as I can see, each one looks totally unique. I especially love the one in the middle of the second photo with a raised design.

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  3. They are indeed beautiful! Such history! :) x
    I like old shabby things, that's why Mr Bea and I get on so well! :)

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    1. Good point ... I could say the same about Mr K !

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  4. Just delightful. I have a few(to actually reveal the number would only be an estimate) myself and find Peggy Osbourne's book on Antique Buttons a great guide for helping to identify some of the early ones. You may be able to find a copy at your local library or book store.
    Like most things that come in multiples, fit in the palm of your hand and are available in a huge variety of colours, shapes and sizes, they can become addictive... After all what harm and how much room can a few buttons take.Ha!
    Susan x

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    1. What harm indeed! I shall look for a copy of the book, thank you Susan :D

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  5. The grubbier and grimier the better, in my experience! Especially at car boot sales and charity shops, these are the hidden treasures that others don't want to touch ... Lovely buttons and a lovely story!

    Love, Claire xxx

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  6. So glad those buttons found their way to someone who appreciates their beauty. They are lovely.

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  7. Your buttons are beautiful Annie ... so glad they found a loving home ... I love buttons too ... some of yours are really beautiful ... no clue about cleaning them ... sorry ... Bee xx

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  8. Dear Annie
    How exciting! These buttons would make the most beautiful moulds to make polymer clay jewellery from, as some of the patterns on them are amazing! I shall have to root around in my button box now, so thank you for that bit of inspiration! I hope you manage to find out a bit more about them. Will tomato sauce work on the brass ones, or is that only for copper? Otherwise brasso or duraglit and a supply of cotton buds seem the best suggestions I can come up with for the metal ones. Good luck with the cleaning anyway.
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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  9. I'm sorry I can't help with the dating but they are beautiful :-)

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  10. Those buttons are simply wonderful. I have my mothers old button tin, the one I remember playing with when I was a little girl. Mum would sew and my sister and I would be sitting on the floor going through all the buttons, picking out our favourites. I also have my mother-in-law's old buttons, those saved from discarded clothes and sewing projects.
    I hope you find out more about your lovely old buttons and find a way to clean them successfully. Have fun!
    Anne xx

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  11. I love that they are all so different. Can't wait to see what you do with them. Such a shame we live in a world of mass produced plastic buttons. I'd go for these beauties every time if they were readily available. I think I forgot to mention your amazing photography in your last Post and just noticed an extra collage there now with that amazing OWL. Just awesome! Mel x

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  12. Oh my goodness, I'd b n button heaven if they were mine. You're definitely not alone :-)

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  13. I love buttons as well. I love rummaging in charity shops and on auction sites to see what's available. Great post.

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  14. I have a few button boxes, but nothing as fancy as those....my boys have spent so much time going through and putting them in different piles, I can remember doing the same when was a kid....buttons hold something don't they?

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  15. I'm experiencing acute button-envy! What a lovely sister you have. As to the history of the buttons, have you thought about contacting the V&A or perhaps the Bath Museum of Costume (or is it fashion, can never remember)?

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  16. Button envy from here too. I love vintage buttons!

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  17. beautiful!!

    for the brass ones, you can buy brass polish - I would see if you can get a liquid that you can dip them in, rather than the paste kind that you rub on.

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  18. Oh, those buttons! Fabulous. I have a few sets of old ones that came from a friend's grandmother. I was helping her to move some things across country from her mother's house when her mother asked her to go through some of her grandmother's things. She loaded me up. I think her mother was a little taken aback, but my friend said gaily, "You sew. You'll use these, and I won't. I'll just take one from each group to remember her by." So generous.

    I love the "Granite" one--do you have any idea why that would be embossed on the button? Where I come from we have the Granite City in the Granite Hills, so it's very evocative for me.

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    1. Hello :D

      I'd picked the Granite one out as possibly easier to research than the others, but all I've discovered so far is that a similar button listed on eBay is marked Patent 1918 on the back - I'm reluctant to remove the buttons from the card at the moment though, as it's very fragile, so I have no idea if mine is the same - and that another on eBay is described as a 'Bib Overalls Button, 1940s'. Interestingly, both of those buttons are in the US.

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  19. If I had a choice between some grubby, old buttons and a new, shiny, diamond ring, the buttons would win every time.......
    What a wonderful gift Annie, lucky you. They look great stitched to the old, bent card.
    I'm not sure I could ever use them if they were mine. A spit and polish would certainly bring out their true beauty.
    Have fun with them and enjoy your weekend,

    Claire x

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    1. I'm not sure if I could use them either ... much of what makes them so special is the way Ida has collected them together.

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  20. Oh my these are beautiful! What a perfect inheritance!

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  21. Button envy here too - I do love buttons and always have :)

    viv in nz

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  22. what a treasure!! I inherited my mom's button box----and over the years have added many vintage ones to the collection; the new ones just can't hold a candle to the intricate designs of the oldies. Just love them. Don't know much about them, though.

    yes, I'm drooling!!

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  23. I would be very excited to acquire these buttons too. Fabulous!

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  24. Ooh, what an exciting gift! You are lucky to have a hankering for buttons, which doesn't take up much space. As for me, I have a hard time resisting vintage kitchen canisters, and we only have so much counterspace :) I hope you can find out more about your buttons - I'm sure they have interesting stories to tell.

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  25. Wow, they're gorgeous. The one that keeps catching my eye is in the center of the bottom photo (though it first grabbed me in the second photo). How will you bear to do anything with them? But they'd be lovely on something knitted and nature-coloured....

    I have all my mom's old buttons (mixed in with my own) - nothing as exquisite as these but it's fascinating to look at them and wonder where they came from. Little bits of the past. :)

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  26. very envious of your buttons. I would contact the button society or the V and c or other costume museums for advise
    http://www.chezfred.org.uk/bbs/oldindex.html

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  27. Delicious buttons! And this must mean that you have your camera back? Hurrah!

    Moira x

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  28. Oh I envy you so much Annie! What a beautiful gift! Those buttons are simply gorgeous!

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  29. Those are beautiful - and how intriguing... button envy is setting in big time!

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  30. I can't help regarding cleaning but what a treasure you have there. I hope you use them and enjoy them - that would be such a compliment to Ida.

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    1. I'm honestly not sure about using them ... I think Ida might have intended them to stay on that card. If I do split the collection it will have to be for something very special!

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  31. What treasures!
    The Button Society had a stall at the Textile Fair in Manchester ( yes a few of their treasures came home with me :) )so it might be worth contacting them to see if they can help with dating and advice.

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  32. I like them just the way they are..... Ida did good!

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  33. What a fantastic collection of buttons, and how wonderful they have been kept for so many years. I loved my Mum's button box when I was a child and have always had a fondness for button collections since then.
    Sarah x

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  34. Oh Annie, your narrative about Ida is beautiful, you made me imagine her with her ruler and pencil and her adding to this collection of buttons. I have always been a button girl ever since I swallowed one when I was 4! Much to my mother's horror when I choked as it went down! I'm still here to tell the tale though and we laugh about it now. What is it with little people who need to put things in their mouth? :o)
    Ida's and now your buttons are a true treasure to behold, each and everyone of them is fascinating, I know they will bring you such contentment however you decide to use them. I have a little vintage button collection too and keep mine in a little box of delights that I like to pull out every now and again xox P

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  35. Oooh are they not the most lovely little things. I had no idea I could get so excited by buttons either, and to find out via French Knots there is a button society and a textile fair in Manchester, this could be the year I take up sewing, I can't knit but I can sew!

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  36. The buttons are beautiful on their aged lined paper. Why would you want to clean off that lovely patina when they can be admired just as they are?

    A lesson in aging?

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    1. Ah, now I don't disagree, but I'm more concerned with conservation, and some are being eaten into by whatever is staining them. I could certainly leave the all brass ones alone though and they'd come to no harm. It's actually really hard to know what's best to do with them when my inclination is to do nothing other than preserve their wonder.

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  37. now thats the sort off thing I get excited about - what an amazing collection, ali

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  38. Well I don't get excited about all grubby old things but I would about those gorgeous buttons, lucky you.
    Sorry I have no idea about cleaning them but go carefully!!!
    V xxx

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  39. Beautiful! Buttons mounted decades ago on disintegrating card are most compelling.

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  40. Wow, they're fabulous, and it's so lovely that you know some of the history behind them too. You must find out more about them and let us know, I'd be really interested.

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  41. Those really are wonderful. I have no idea about how, or even if, you should go about cleaning them, but I would love to see what they look like if/when you do. I'm sure Ida would be amazed to see so many people feeling so enthusiastic about her buttons!

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  42. A very happy New Year to you and yours, Annie. I love the buttons but haven't a clue how best to clean and preserve them. My mother's button box had a few little treasures, but nothing like these.

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  43. I've no idea about cleaning or dating them... but still have button envy. They are fabulous!

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  44. What a marvelous, ready made collection!!!!

    Wondering just how much cleaning-up, should be attempted, on such? Many old things, are best left, as found. Don't know anything about old buttons though.

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  45. Your buttons are just gorgeous, so many lovely designs. I love button boxes and dressmakers's off-cut boxes, many treasures to be found.
    Happy New Year dear Annie!
    xoxoxo ♡

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  46. oooh, big time button envy here! What is it about buttons that makes them so covetable I wonder?

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  47. These are lovely - what a treasure trove. Knowing the story behind them is the icing on the cake!

    xo
    Claudia

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  48. Oh lucky, lucky you! I love buttons to the point I have been known to buy random buttons I like with no clue as to what I will ever use them for. I can't wait to see a picture of these once they are cleaned up, although I must say they have a certain charm just the way they are.

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  49. They're just lovely Annie and I would be just as keen to find out about them. Sadly I can't proffer any tips. I did, however, just type 'dating buttons' into Google, out of interest, and it would appear that Simon Cowell is DATING Jenson BUTTON'S old girlfriend. Hahaha!!! Who knew?!! :-) Heather x

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  50. I would be sooo excited too about getting those buttons.i have a bit of a thing about them and never throw any away.

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  51. I bloody love a button (as you know!) and these are real treasures.
    I'm finally getting the opportunity to read some of my favourtie blogs and catch up a bit - and yours is always up there as a MUST read!!
    sending you love for a happy 2013
    fee x

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  52. Oh Annie, those buttons are really fabulous, and your close up photographs do capture their charms. Let's raise a toast to Ida...and also to your generous sister!

    There is a shop over here in New York City called Tender Buttons that carries a wide variety of buttons, from antique treasures to modern day ordinary plastics. Perhaps they might be able to offer some advice re care/cleaning?

    Here's the link
    http://tenderbuttons-nyc.com/

    Best wishes! xo

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  53. Button collector/caretaker from Michigan Button Society is happy to read that Ida's collection has exchanged hands to another appreciative caretaker/collector..
    May I suggest you allow the collection to live on, by not zealously over cleaning with harmful products, and please do store the collection in an airy environment, without a mixture of plastics, and metals. Understand that once the original tints and lacquers and patina are rubbed off, they will truly never be the same. Also, deterioration, and offgas moisture from unstable plastics will cause rusty corrosion, so store plastics, and metals separately. Clean baskets, or suitably framed is good.
    Contact your local button society for advice on gentle cleaning. A soft, natural hair makeup brush, and perhaps a cotton tip facial stick, used with Very gentle hand is generally all that is necessary. There are No modern tints and lacquers to replace what is removed.
    Happy Buttoning

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  54. Annie, they are lovely, just lovely. I totally get why you like them so much. Just think of the history, all those years - they are perfect little discs of social history.

    You know, I bet a gentle wash with some warm, soapy water and a rub with a soft cloth will get those beauties shining again, nothing more complicated than that.

    Gillian x

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  55. Oh my goodness those buttons are treasures Annie...I would so love to peek into Ida's button box!
    Hope you have a lovely Sunday,
    Susan x
    P.S I seem to have missed your Giveaway so I'm going to pop over to the post now!

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  56. 1/6/13

    So happy that my post, was cheering for you. In gloomy Wales.

    But!

    Isn't "gloomy" and such, what Wales offers to the world? Moody Wales... Nurturing amazing writers and actors and etc.... :-)

    Wales is fascinating, because it ......... IS Wales!

    And of course, you know and love this too!

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  57. Happy new year Annie! I wonder if you could soak them in a bicarb solution? although looking back over your comments that might be too much. Do show us if you manage to clean them up! Heather x

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  58. Happy new year to you!!!
    Wow! What an amazing collection of buttons. Thank you for sharing!
    Carly
    x

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  59. I wish that I knew Ida.....
    Your beautiful photography really does the buttons justice - I would just look at them for most of the day and then realise that there was work to be done.

    Every best buttony wish for the New Year
    Best wishes
    Jenny

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  60. Nope, no and absolutely not. I'm glad you're so pleased with your sister's gift. Mine almost wept with joy when I gave her a little purse that held poo bags for her dog...strange what makes people happy, isn't it! Axxx

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  61. Hi Annie, I love the diversity of your buttons. I too, would spend hours examining each one and being filled up with the wonder of who spent their time designing them. They are a bit like stamps..little pieces of art!

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  62. I'm afraid I have no help to offer, just a little button envy! They're beautiful even as they are, so imagine how good they'll look cleaned.

    S x

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  63. Wow! I have no words for how amazing this wonderful collection is. I love old beautiful things. Wonderful sister you have there. Love hearing about the original owner.

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  64. Major Button Envy has rendered me speechless ...

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  65. How could I have missed this...buttons from the past!!! Gosh! I'm drooling!

    I wonder if these are the same as old coins where they advise you not to clean them....best get expert advice I think!

    Very clear pics...nice!

    keep well

    Amanda :-)

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  66. These are beautiful. They remind me of sample button cards that my Dad had. There was hundreds of these cards with every colour and type of button on them. But my Mum got sick of looking at them in the house and threw the whole lot out. I went potty when I realised that the were gone. Sad day for this little button lover.
    Rosie xx

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  67. Oh, they are so very beautiful!! I especially love the "G for granite one"!

    I've heard that gentle polishing with a paper bag can be a good approach with this kind of delicate detailed object. Good luck with your decision on how to proceed from here- I feel a certain responsibility when I hold old things in my care ; )

    xx

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  68. I am green with brass tarnish envy at your Ida/Annie treasure ... You ARE a lucky little duck!

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  69. I have just stumbled upon your lovely blog post about the cards of old brass buttons and have experienced a "me too, me too" moment. A friend gifted her 92 year old mother's woolly yarn and bits and bobs stash to me a couple of weeks ago, and the most wonderful surprise was the contents of her old button bag. As I dipped my hands into it's depths I was instantly transported back to my grandmother's sewing room and her battered old black tin button box. I had tears rolling down my face as the memory of sitting at her feet while the treadle of her old Singer cranked over and over swept over me. Pure bliss. I find myself returning to them from time to time to swirl my fingers through the buttony hoard. I am constantly surprised and comforted by the way that textiles and all their associations weave themselves into our daily lives. Your blog is delightful, but I have especially enjoyed the buttons!

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  70. I know nothing whatsoever about buttons.. but these are gorgeous! I have a Quality Street tin full of buttons that my mum gave me that I just love.

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