Monday, June 28, 2010
People often ask me how and why I started making jewellery out of buttons. I'm by no means unique in doing so, in fact buttons have been used for more than functional fastening throughout history.
In 1520, King Francis I of France ordered 13,400 decorative buttons from his jeweller. They were sewn, purely as embellishment, onto a black velvet suit, which he wore to a meeting with King Henry VIII of England, in an effort to impress (or dazzle!) him into alliance. Button jewellery was in fashion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when young ladies would save buttons on long cords, called button charm strings, until they had 999 buttons. Not only would she seek buttons for her string but family members and friends would also give buttons to her. Apparently when the 1000th button was placed on the young lady's long necklace, her Prince Charming would appear!
My Grandmother was a seamstress, and during her many years of work she gathered a huge collection of buttons, some of which belonged to her own grandmother. Playing with the contents of Granny's button box was a delight every time we visited her house as children. We'd spill out hundreds of them to count and sort through the treasure, or use them as counters for Ludo and Snakes and Ladders, or as play money in an imaginary shop, or as pretend sweets at a dolly tea party.
After over a decade of dabbling in beading and making small pieces of jewellery, mostly for gifts, my sister and I found some of those button rings last year, and Magpie and Button was born when I decided to make button jewellery again!
The designs have changed but I do still make button rings, along with pendants, charm bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Some of the buttons I use in these pieces are new, but more of them have already had a previous life on a jacket or dress from many years ago. A few have even come from my own Granny's button box.
I just love the idea of re-using these old buttons to create something new and special, and have lately been thinking that probably many homes have a button collection somewhere... are there treasures stored away in a sewing box, sweet jar or cigar box in your house?