Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goldilocks and the Dresser Drawers

People have often commented on how clever I am.  I never really took it to heart....until yesterday!  This was such a light bulb moment that I just had to share it with you!

We purchased a dresser for our son quite some time ago. It's been a sturdy choice, except when it came to the handles. One by one the center pull would come out of its socket and end up in your hand. This, as you would guess, is not where it belonged and the drawer was certainly not opened!
I finally decided to replace the handles on the drawers.  Little did I know how challenging this would be!  First of all, the size is not the most popular and I looked for some time to find pulls that would fit!  Then, as I endeavored to put the new handles on, I discovered that the post you see above allowed the screws to be short (about 1").  The new hardware also came with 1" screws, but not with the post so the screws were too short.
 My husband, Steve, found some longer screws for me...Yea! there was a gap.  The new screws were too long.  How to make it "just right"?

OK, I needed a washer.  Did I have any washers?  Yes, in my sewing room.  I use them to balance shank buttons.  But wait!  I have these "buttons".  Well, they were buttons before the center piece with the shank was snapped out.  I wonder.....

Well, would you look at that!  They fit perfectly!  No jiggling and kinda cute to boot! 

 Buttons to the rescue....again!



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Button Up....Literally!

Art Deco, celluloid buttonhooks
I am often asked how I came to be a Buttonologist.  It's a long story, really, but the thing that drew me to buttons was the "crossover factor".  Buttons have so much in common with other things that intrigued me: history, sewing, quilting, fashion, traditions and the like.  Here is one of those fascinating crossover tidbits I found:  Buttonhooks!
I recently found a website for collectors of buttonhooks while doing research for my upcoming novel.  They are mainly based in England, but, like button collectors, they have a Society and strive to document and educate others about these lovely little tools.  Like buttons, there are your garden variety and your pieces made for royalty.  There are pieces that multi task and pieces that advertise!  There are even some buttonhooks made from military findings, including uniform buttons, called Trench Art! Like buttons they were, of course, made from the most popular materials of the day.  These included materials such as sterling silver, celluloid, brass, Mother of Pearl, bone and plastic.
Buttonhooks came to be a very necessary utility item between the1880's and 1930's.  The style of clothing included shoes, gloves, stiff collars, spats and dresses used rows of tiny buttons that were to be pulled through equally small eyelets.  The buttonhook was a real sanity saver!
The society has a wonderful and well written website that explains so much more, if you are interested.  I found it fascinating!  Now, as you search for buttons, you can keep your eyes pealed for these beauties as well and you will always be able to "Button Up" with no trouble at all!

For more info, visit:

States: " The only first class fastener in the world.
ask your dealer for them
Does not mutilate the (???) the foot
saves time and trouble of sewing on buttons
samples attached to this card"

Monday, October 1, 2012

What are "China" Buttons?

Whistles; fluted w/Rims & hobnail, rimless.
     China buttons do not come from the Country of China, but rather, from a porcelain production method.  Imagine Bone China plates and tea cups, vases, figurines and the like.  Up until 1840 buttons of this type were made in the same way as these items: from wet clay.  It was tedious and the product was so unpredictable that the buttons that turned out well commanded a very high price.  What changed that?  An Englishman!
     Richard Prosser came up with a method that used very dry porcelain powder which was then pressed into dies that were ready to be fired immediately in the kiln.  The process was quick, inexpensive and reliable.  Now there was competition for the utility buttons of the day made from metal or shell.

Colored body (red) Fish-eye. 
 Note the back (on right) has typical rough patch.
     Richard sold a part interest of his patent to Minton's of France and they soon began producing beautiful, yet practical, china buttons.  There is a wonderful story about Minton's that I will share with you later this week!  While other countries, such as England and America, soon got in on the production market, France made a superior quality product.  In addition, the Calico patterns, which these buttons are sometimes patterned after, were produced in France, so they are typically thought of as a French product.
Fish-eye with a stencil pattern. Found in 11 colors!
     The fact that they could be mass produced and sold for reasonable prices might explain why we typically find so many china buttons among the other utilitarian shell / Mother of Pearl, metal and plastic buttons in our button boxes!  They were made in a large variety of types, shapes and patterns and I will try to introduce you to some of the more common types this week.
     The pictures you see in today's post are of my newest acquisitions from my dear friend, Sharon Onweller.  In the near future I hope to make a few display cards to show you how I store them for reference and safe keeping. Until then, Button Up!

Calicoes, glorious Calicoes!

Friday, September 28, 2012

China Buttons for Grace

     I have an adorable niece named Grace.  She and her twin brothers, Seth and Ryan, have been helping me set up, work and tear down my show booth for several years now whenever I visit Arizona.  They love to help me sort, package, count and label my stock.  They each have their own button boxes which they made themselves and they have become button fanatics.  I can't imagine why!?
     When Grace decided that she would like to get serious about button collecting, at the ripe old age of 7, I started her with China buttons.  Grace calls them "Chiiiiiiina Buttons"  as if they were rubies.  It brings tears to my eyes!  She now has a lovely card of China buttons complete with identifying labels and she studies her copy of Warman's Buttons Field Guide diligently to be able to identify new buttons I send to her.
     China buttons are a wonderful button for a beginning collector because they are plentiful, inexpensive (for the most part), and colorful.  There are several body styles and types of China buttons, but the most popular seem to be "Calicoes" and "Stencil" patterns.  There are over 326 Calico patterns (and that number grows as new specimens are discovered) and over 63 Stencil patterns catalogued.  Both types came in several colors and sizes.
I'd like to talk about China buttons this week in my blogs.  What exactly is a China button?  Where were they made and when?  What kinds of Chinas are there?  What are they worth today?  Where can I find China buttons?  In addition I'd like to share new finds and research that is being done today.  Can you see why I'm so addicted?  And this is just one type of button!!!  Heaven help us!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Everything, A Season

     Those of you who know me well, know that I can be a bit...hmmm, what's the word....flighty?!  These past few months have been very trying on me, my family and friends, especially those who have had to deal with me.  My frustration levels were through the roof and I thank you for listening and standing by me.
     This last weekend I participated in one of my favorite qyilt shows, "Quilt-AFair", in Longmont, Colorado.  Before the show I remember thinking, "This is my last show of 2012.  Now I can really get to work!".  Funny what a difference two days can make.  After the show was over, I made a big decision that I have been putting off for some time now:

            I will not be doing shows in 2013.

     There are a lot of reasons why this must happen, but I won't bore you with them.  The silver lining is that I will finally be able to finish my novel, write the new books and patterns I have been working on and travel the country giving educational programs and classes to guilds and groups and museums.  I am even going to appear on "The Quilt Show" with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.

     When I actually said it out loud, I thought a bolt of lightning might strike me.  Instead, I got so excited!  I thought I might be sick.  Instead, I feel energized, as if I'd lost 50 pounds.  I know that there will be moments of doubt, but if I pour myself into my work (including my blog and website) I will be able to look back on this day as a moment of truth for myself: 
        You can't do it all, but you can do it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Army Locket Button

Story time! A long time ago (maybe 5 years), in a far away place (Denver, CO), a tall, red-headed lady attended the Colorado State Button Society Annual Show.  It was at this show that two important and wonderful things happened that changed her life:
  • She saw a locket button for the first time
  • She met and became dear friends with button dealer, Don Ortwein
OK, it wasn't so dramatic, but in retrospect it was pretty important.  My friend and colleague, Janice Stutts, had a newly acquired find:  an Army locket button, circa. 1918.  Her Mom had found a box of buttons at an estate sale in Portland, Oregon, and having picked out those she wanted, gave the rest to her daughter.  Janice told me of finding the button in the box and thinking it was a regular Army uniform button.  That was, until she turned the button over!!!  On the back were the words, "LIBERTY MFG. CO. LOS ANGELES CAL PATENT PEND."
Now, not too many buttons were manufactured by companies on the West Coast, so that was a clue in itself.  Luckily, Janice had seen one of these buttons from Hawaii button dealer, Don Ortwein.  We were, in fact, sitting at Don's tables when she and I had our meeting of the minds!  Janice showed me how the button hinged and opened it to reveal two black & white photos behind celluloid covers.  What a find!  Janice and I stared at the photos for a moment and she said to me, "I wonder who these women were?" "Maybe his sweetheart?  His Sister? It would be cool to know who they were, wouldn't it", I said.  Then, as if zapped with electricity, we both sat up straight and looked at each other.  "You need to...."Janice started, "write a story about it", I continued!
Since then I have toyed with the idea.  Don Ortwein even searched and found a locket button for my collection.  It has one photo in it of what appears to be a young man, but I'm not certain.  The photos that haunt me, however, are of those young ladies and I have decided that their story needs to be told.
To that end, I am asking all of you reading this to send me any information you have about a relative who served in WWI, letters, photos, etc, or even places where I could visit to continue my research about live during this time and Army regulations, uniforms, rule books that may exist, etc.  I have been reading voraciously and the book has begun to take shape.
I hope I can do these ladies and their soldier proud with my story.
Don Ortwein

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

If You Work Hard...

How many times have I tried this?  More than I can count!  The truth is, we have to act on things in order for them to become a reality.  Wow, that sounds like a Physics principal...Sir Isaac Newton, help me out here:

  • Newton's first law of motion states: A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tend to remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force.*
  • Newton's second law of motion states that a force, acting on an object, will change its velocity by changing either its speed or its direction or both.**
  • The third law is probably the best known of Newton's laws. It states that for every force and action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.***

*You know, like a publishers deadline or the kid you were making the baby quilt for is graduating from High School.
**This would explain why Calvin's Hocus-Pocus didn't force or action was taken. This would explain why the ideas I think of either don't come to fruition, or someone else comes up with it before I do!
***I like to think of this as good in, good out, bad in, bad out.  I think i'll save this one for's a whole new can of worms!

I talk about procrastinating all the time. I can always think of an excuse or "reason" things didn't get done.  Truth is, talk with out actions is wasted breath.  No more good intentions.  I'll say yes when I can and no when I can't.  My word is my bond.

I'm going to post a picture of Sir Isaac Newton in my office to inspire me to turn over a new leaf....and maybe one of Calvin, too!