Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Black glass or jet?

There is a popular misconception that 'jet' is simply black glass. However, it refers to a completely different material, which was extremely popular in Victorian times, during the queen's mourning. The fact that black glass buttons became extremely fashionable is just because they were a cheaper substitute for the genuine jet buttons worn by the queen Victoria herself after the death of her husband. Polished jet looks so similar to black glass that it is difficult to tell the difference at first. However, there are a few details that can help us tell them apart.

Tiny jet buttons

Jet is a mineral, a stone, which means, these buttons are not cast, like glass buttons, but cut and then shaped, ground, polished etc. using some milling machinery. If they have a self shank, it is made from the same piece and is always seamless...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How to mend broken vintage pattern pieces

Everyone who has at least once attempted to sew a vintage style using old patterns probably found themselves in a situation, where they had to repair a damaged piece. Today I will tell you how I mend my sewing patterns. The main problem with repairing these patterns is that they have to remain fit for ironing.

This is a fabulous style with open back but the previous owner decided to make
an alteration and cut the main dress pattern piece.

This is the pattern before mending.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Etsy shop attributes

While frequent changes to the rules on Etsy may cause you a headache, the most recent one is particularly useful. Etsy has introduced attributes, which have to be selected for each item. They announced this some time ago, and that they will be introducing them gradually, without notifying about trials and tests. And one of these days I found out I could select a colour for my etsy products.

click on the image to enlarge

Well, I embraced this change as I had always thought it necessary, as previously the colour selection was based on the item pictures. This led to confusion if an item was photographed not on white, but against a different colour background. White balance errors could also make your white or other colour item accidentally appear while searching for blue or red. Finally, Etsy decided that the sellers can decide on the colour of the item - hooray!

So I set out to update over one thousand listings that I have in both shops combined. First I did it to Agnes'SewingSupplies, simply because I use Google Chrome to manage it and it turned out faster than Mozilla Firefox. Well, believe it or not, once I updated half of the stock, they started selling faster. And curiously, only the updated items. So I got back to updating as soon as I could. Once I finished, I had the double of the orders I usually have, and no single order from the other shop, in which I had managed to update about ten listings.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but something is telling me that it does affect the search result. After all, the attributes are added along material and other info in the right hand side column, and constitute strong keywords. So I updated the other 500 listings in the other shop immediately.

Another point: the information listed in 'Overview' will appear on the Etsy app

And I do recommend doing so, even if you have not 1000 but six or ten times more items. While Etsy may decide to modify this feature or add other attributes in the near future, which will require updating all the listings again, it still pays to work on them now. If you decide to start adding attributes once this process has finished, you may lose many customers who will be looking for items in the meantime.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

How to identify Bakelite

Bakelite is probably the most exciting plastic for every collector. Those who are not familiar with this early plastic will see it as simple modern and plain plastic. But if you look closer, well, better stick your nose to it, you will see (and yes, smell) the difference.

Cut and carved Bakelite buckle

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Making a retro style handbag - tutorial

Recently I started selling retro handbag handles, made of plastic. Some of them imitate wood to the point that you may have serious doubts as to what they are actually made of. But let's stick to the plan, this post was to be a help to those who are not sure how to make a DIY purse using the retro handles.


Apart from the handles we will need some fabric. It may be matching or contrast, I am going to use black handles and some black-and-white fabric for my handbag.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Henri Hamm - A great button designer

Have you heard of Henri Hamm? I hadn't, until I discovered his buttons at that fantastic button exhibition in Paris. I took a picture of his name to learn more about this fascinating figure. To my surprise, there was not much about this great man on the Internet, not even a mention on Wikipedia!


When I saw this, I immediately decided to join and published a small article about him, as surely he was a great figure, worthy of an article.

Henri Hamm was a French art deco button and accessory designer. His works include things like perfume flasks, haircombs and decoration. But to me, the most important work he ever did was creating amazing buttons and buckles. He used all kinds of early plastics to make them, and his favourite technique involved carving - no wonder: he was a sculptor.

Just look at some the amount of buttons at the Louvre exhibition! All these fantastic buttons were designed by Henri Hamm:

There were about 900 buttons designed by Hamm at this exhibition.
These are only some of the buttons in white by Henri Hamm.

A great man in the button world!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Vegetable ivory - Vegan and eco friendly buttons from early 20th century

Although named after ivory, a controversial material from today's perspective, it has nothing to do with African wildlife. Tagua nuts come from corosso palm tree in south America. They are 100% vegetable and sustainable material, only resembling the authentic ivory in colour, hardness and the grain, which is a bit more tree-like. However, since modern plastic was introduced, they have become less and less popular.
Vegetable ivory buttons can be carved and dyed into small pieces of art!
Vegetable ivory buttons can have any colour, more or less vivid, painted like those above, or dyed. They can also be carved and even embossed with subtle or a bit more pronounced pattern or texture. Their natural colour is off white, just like the authentic ivory.

These tagua nut buttons are quite small but you can see the embossed texture. 

How to identify Tagua nut buttons

There are a few things that are very characteristic about these buttons. The basic rule is that vegetable ivory is such a dense material that it does not let the dye sink in beyond the first layer. So to start with, we have to look closely at the back of the buttons. Normally, vegetable ivory buttons are dyed before drilling the holes, which means, that we will be able to see the natural off-white colour of the nut somewhere. Like here:

See the line across the back of the button?
This green tagua nut button had the hole drilled after it was dyed. 

However, some buttons were dyed after the details were finished. I have a few examples like that here. But there are other features that clearly indicate what these buttons are made of.

These buttons were dyed after the holes were drilled. But we can easily see the grain.

If you take a vegetable ivory button in your hand, it resembles a wooden button, only that it is much higher density, and so, a bit heavier. Wood can be easily damaged with a finger nail by simply pressing, whereas vegetable ivory will remain untouched.

The surface of tagua nut button can be polished so that it resembles the real ivory, or left a bit unpolished and rough.

Another characteristic feature is the fine grain on the surface. This is different from wooden buttons, and very difficult to achieve in plastic buttons (although nowadays plastic can imitate anything...). Apart from that, many corosso buttons, especially those cheaper, plain ones, meant generally for menswear, may preserve a bit of the tagua nut outer shell, which looks like this:



How to handle the buttons

Vegetable ivory buttons are usually durable and do not need any special care. I would not wash them in a washing machine, however, just in case, as some of the dye may not be that durable and could ruin other garments. I had some buttons that bled when rubbed with damp cloth.

Playing with the tagua nut natural colour. I am sure these would not bleed.

Tagua nut buttons were especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and still produced until 1950s. It is a shame we turned to plastic so definitely, as these little pieces were really a sustainable and beautiful alternative.


Last but not least, I have a very rare piece, which is a vegetable ivory buckle! It is not very big, as tagua nuts rarely allow carving larger pieces (though I did have a few big pieces among my buttons). This buckle was very characteristically dyed and then carved.