A possibly incoherent post since I’m seriously tired today. I went to my weavers’ guild meeting last night and didn’t get home until 10:30pm. Which might not be late for Some People but it is the middle of the freakin’ night for me. For whatever reason I also woke up along with T-Man at 5:00 am. Guess it was because I had to pee and then couldn’t get back to sleep after. I almost did but some a&&wipe’s car alarm went off and that was it for my hopes for a little more snoozing. I do not function well on less than 9 hours. 6.5 does not equal 9 – just saying.
The meeting’s program was Colleen Miller, owner of Button Button (warning: wins Most Minimal Website award). This is a little shop in Vancouver’s Gastown that carries a fabulous selection of…you guessed it…buttons. Most are in the “collectibles” category rather than the practical and are exceptionally pricey. Makes for a fabulously fun browse though. And it’s hard to leave without at least one gotta-have. Anyway, her slide lecture was on the history of buttons. Did you know that folks invented buttons thousands of years before they invented the buttonhole? Seems impossible to believe but they were used purely for decoration long before they became functional. Of course buttons can be both at the same time!
So what did earlier people fasten their clothes with, you ask? Pins and belts and later lacing and hooks. When clothing became more tight-fitting, buttons started to be used for fastening but mainly on men’s clothing. They were such popinjays! Buttons for women came much later. My favourite quote of the evening: “Women are right; men are left-over!” helps you remember which way our clothes button up. Now you’ll never forget, right? Or is that left?
Colleen also mentioned how buttons bind generations of women together. As a personal example, a long time ago right after we were first married I inherited T-Man’s granny’s button collection. She never let a piece of clothing go to the rag pile without removing every button first. I think that was pretty common for people who lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. Although many of these were plain shirt buttons, some were mother-of-pearl and others were quite old and interesting. I remember making a little pillow with a bunch of different buttons out of the collection when Milady Daughter was a baby (securely sewn on, of course) because she loved to point to buttons and say “buh-uh”. I like to think it helped encourage her very early speech development. Anyhow, I still carry on the habit of cutting off, collecting and reusing the buttons when a garment is worn out. Though come to think of it, less garments these days actually have buttons! Zippers are common (sometimes even in places where one might not actually need a fastener!) and velcro is taking over for buttons, snaps and shoelaces especially on children’s garments.
Well I don’t think we’re in danger of losing buttons entirely but manufacturers are tending to use the cheapest and most boring buttons for garments. In the past they were little works of art utilising any material (bone, horn, metal, glass, wood, shell, thread, cloth, plastic) and technique (carving, painting, glassblowing, metalwork, moulding, polishing, stitching) you can think of – and a lot more that might not occur to you. This incredible craftsmanship reached a pinnacle in the 1700’s. Since the 20th Century and mass-production they’ve gone quickly downhill into purely utilitarian items. These days they’re mostly made in China out of polyester, acrylic or nylon. In retaliation, I make it a priority to seek out more interesting buttons for my projects especially when I only need one, two or three of them. Occasionally I’ve spent much more for the buttons than for the yarn or fabric! Sometimes I make them myself. Polymer clay holds up pretty well if you wash it gently in cool water and air dry. (Too much heat makes it brittle.) I’ve also painted old wooden buttons that were too blah. Just goes along with the DIY theme.
So now I’d better get going and get something done before I fall asleep. T-Man has gone in to work today so I guess I can chase down the plethora of dustbunnies with the vacuum without disturbing him. I’ve had the vacuum sitting out for the whole week and never finished even the main floor. Not that I’ve been resting on my laurels. Au contraire. I’ve been a busy beaver. I’ve only got one more cupboard to sort in my study before I can consider that room done. Then on to the studio where there’s 2 more bookcases and a selection of piles to sort through: ironing, mending, yarn, papers, stuff that just hasn’t gotten put away properly. Not too bad. I might finish the top floor by next week, at least down to a reasonable depth of clean. After that I sort out my dye studio.
Uh-oh. My eyes are starting to droop. Work or nap. Nap or… zzzzzz…