To support this month’s button challenge, I have been researching buttons. I had no idea how interesting they could be, or how much button information is out there.
While I am sewing this month’s design winner, I thought I would keep you informed and entertained with a few posts on buttons; starting with this general overview of buttons. As well as future posts about how to choose the best button for your project, a history of the button (focusing on the weird and wonderful), and current button trends found everywhere from in fashion magazines to on the runways.
Buttons are small, often round, objects used to fasten garments. They are functional and can also be used as a method of decoration. You can find buttons attached to every type of clothing known to mankind, and they are even found on shoes and other accessories. There are many different types of buttons, and they can be made in many different shapes, sizes, and out of many different kinds of materials.
Earliest buttons were made from natural sources like wood, stone, bone, antlers, horn, and shell. They have also been made of metal (bronze, silver, gold), as well as from other, man-made sources, like plastic, fabric, jet, glass, leather, ceramic/pottery, celluloid, and enamel, to name a few. These materials can be used to make buttons in many different methods, but a few of my favourites are carved, ones covered in fabric or with inlays of other substances. Want to see examples of buttons made from these different materials? Go to Duelling Design’s Pinterest board Button Goodness to see more.
There are many different types of buttons, but often they are categorised by how they are attached to the garment. There are two main ways buttons are attached to garments. The type of button typically found on a dress shirt is round with two or four holes through the face of the button to the back. The thread is sewn through the holes into the fabric to secure the button to the garment. The photos above has some examples of these types of buttons.
Another type of button is called a shank button. The back of this button has a loop sticking off the back which is then sewn down to the fabric. It can also have a tunnel dug into the back of the button which thread can pass through. As the tunnel does not stick off the button as far as a loop, it tends to keep the button closer to the fabric.
There are different types of shank buttons depending on their structure. On Pegs Button Blog, you will find a Glossary of Button Shank Names, which lists 42 different types of shank buttons. For examples of a few of these see the following photo.
Technically a button can be as small or as big as you like but typically they range in sizes from 4.4 cm in diameter to 0.8 cm. The button size you choose will depend on the style of garment, its function, the fabric it is used with, and aesthetic of the garment. Typically smaller buttons are used on garments like dress shirts, and larger sturdier ones are used on coats. M&J Trimming has an excellent Button Size Chart. It was one of the fabulous stores I stumbled into on my trip to New York City.