It's been a busy few weeks here, what with getting ready for the Create and Craft show and working on new products and some lovely projects. Thank you to everyone who's been in touch since the show, it is always nice to hear from you and I am really glad that so many of you enjoyed watching.
Many of you will know that I have been working on alot of gold and silver buttons this year, these have all been for a wonderful Italian tailor working on a major project. These buttons ended up on this fantastic creation - wow or what?
Do please stop by Gabriele's Facebook page to see more of the source material, as well the finished work as he publishes. When the exhibitions are finalised, it will be rather wonderful.
Besides these gold and quite a number of silver buttons, I worked on some silk buttons for the same project, these for a Swiss Guard uniform from 1690. I was working from photos behind glass, and from Gabriele's descriptions. It was very interesting that there are two uniforms of different dates, and that the later has different buttons, yet still within the colour schemes. It would be lovely to somehow get hold of close up images of both, just to see how close I did get.
I've also been discovering more wonderful passementerie buttons on museum pieces. The three below are all from early 19th century livery uniforms, and in the MET. The uniforms themselves are all in the 18th century style and Italian. It was common for servants to be dressed in more 'old fashioned' garments in order to ensure they could be distinguished from the 'masters'. (I have been told that this practice continued in the hotel trade, for instance, even later than you'd expect). Well, either way, the buttons on these are wonderful. They are very very much in the 18th century tradition, and very high end and complex. I have an old book "Discovering Old Buttons" by Primrose Peacock that describes passementerie buttons generally as
"This term is used to describe the finely made and ornately decorated buttons produced chiefly in Italy, France and Spain during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."
"Male household servants of the period often wore elaborate liveries with fine hand-worked buttons."
So, now I have Italian and livery. Neat.
Here's my first attempt at three of them. I need to make some changes, but all in all I'm pretty pleased with them. The love the interweaving of the threads.
The buttons are on a printout of the original images, can you see how badly the black thread has disintigrated? That is probably due to iron in the dye bath, which gives a great black, but rots the thread.
The way they are worked also gives lots of ideas for new designs, as always!
I've been playing with other designs too, including this long toggle knot button. I tend to work knots initially in a #10 sewing cotton. This is a little stiff, but not too thick and bulky, so the lines can be followed. You might want to try a thicker thread yourself if you have difficulty with the knots. The red is silk though - just woven through afterwards.
And last but not least, I've been working on frogs! The first, this batch of ivory and slate blue fastenings. The braid is machine made, and I have to say I was really pleased with how easy it was to use. I got it from MacCulloch & Wallis, it moved well, and wasn't nasty as some synthetics can be. It also reacted very well to steam finishing - another bonus. Click here to visit their page if you need any!
The next one uses a hand spun cord, 4 element, with two of the elements twisted. It is an alternative for the same client (hence the same knot).
It is becoming harder and harder to find gimp thread these days, all of my suppliers have discontinued the line and are only selling off old stock. So, if any of you out there know where I can find nice fine gimp today, do please let me know.
The flat button just didn't look right with such an intricate frog, so I've gone with a turk's head button instead, made of the same cord. It is a 4 bight knot, for those of you who want to know.
I played around with creating a multi element button, which in the end was too high for the garment, but still made me smile as it makes me think of a head with an Elizabethan ruff. So, I now have a "Button in a ruff".
Don't forget that I have scheduled two button making workshops (October & November). They are the perfect way to learn more about button making in a relaxed setting! - click here for more information.
1860-1890, 19th century
Gift of Mrs. Audrey Reekie
© McCord Museum
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