Burning Issues Of Our Time – Buttons!

Buttons collageI was recently ordering buttons for my latest make – a variation on a shirt dress, if all goes according to plan. 12 half inch buttons, that’s all I needed. But when I keyed my search term into a well-known online bidding site, I was overwhelmed with choice.

The heart-shaped buttons were oh-so-tempting. The ickle flower buttons made me melt. But in the end I ordered 12 fish eye buttons. Plain, simple circles. Buttons that would do their job with a minimum of fuss and no demands. Sensible buttons.

This is my dilemma. I really love the novelty buttons. I have a whole jar of novelty buttons. What could be more cute than a button shaped like a fish?! And yet, and yet… They sit all higgeldy piggeldy, no matter how carefully they’re sewn on. They catch on buttonholes, straining them. And they make me look like I’m in kindergarten. (Mmmmm… Scheduled afternoon naps with rows of little bodies. Remember that?)

I do love that my photo of ‘sensible’ buttons includes one with a red anchor! What’s your take? Would you throw caution to the wind and sew on a button in the shape of a fat buddha or Johnny Cash’s guitar? Or do you tread the path of caution? It’s a tricky one to call. Especially when a little cat with two holes in its ribs is giving you a whiskery smile… Choose me, Karen!

cat button

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31 Responses to Burning Issues Of Our Time – Buttons!

  1. Treva says:

    Ah I use novelty buttons more for decorative things like pillows, cosmetic cases, bags and such. I love the look and sometimes its just pleasing to own them, but I rarely use them on my clothing unless its decoration and not really a button or I put a snap underneath.

  2. Jan says:

    I use both, but as your precious commentor, I usually will use them with a snap.

  3. Nikki says:

    I love novelty buttons, but because they are not they easiest buttons to do up so I tend to stick to round ones. You can get some very nice round ones – I particularly like the ones with the star shape in the middle, I also really like using covered buttons. I used novelty buttons on my first Bronte top and will likely use them on all the other versions I have planned, so really they are better for decoration rather than practical use.

  4. Clare says:

    I am ever boring and opt for function over from, using sensible.

  5. SewingElle says:

    My all time most annoying button is a flower one much like the lime green one in your image. It’s to bring together the top of a slit in a neckline so it goes through a loop rather than a button hole. The loop gets caught. Every. Time.

    I love this button but next time I’ll use novelty buttons as embellishment not for function.

  6. I really, really, really love that cat button. I have a tin choc full of buttons of all descriptions with lots of “novelty” ones flung in. Some of my favourites are one about 3 inches in diameter that is made from something iridescent and looks like Tiger’s Eye and some huge pink covered ones with poodles on. Don’t know what I will use them for though. I don’t like doing button holes much so try to avoid any garments with them in. I am hoping to make a shirtdress over the Christmas holidays so will need to bite the bullet but I will just use sensible ones for that though. I used to use a lot of novely ones on Sprogzilla’s dresses when she was wee. They are not the most practical but they are cute. X

  7. Fadanista says:

    Me? I love vintage buttons and cannot resist the siren call of an old button or six. Many vintage buttons are interesting shapes and sizes, but don’t really fall into the category of “novelty”. I would use a novelty button if it were appropriate and could navigate the button hole properly; it would also need to be marginally age appropriate. Having said all that, I would be completely suckered in my the dog and the cat buttons!

  8. Jan Brown says:

    My problem with buttons from a haberdashers is HOW Many? If I find exactly the right button for my project and I need 8 they come on a card of only 6 and mostly they only have the one card in stock – so frustrating. When I can’t seem to find the right button I have been known to design a hidden placket so plain shirt buttons will do and the buttons don’t detract from the garment. If I use novelty buttons I have had people comment on the buttons as though they haven’t noticed the actual garment so I feel they’ve taken over the focus rather than been for functionality.

    I have loads of buttons – never the right ones or enough. It’s a bit like a stash of fabric really, you just have to go out and buy more….

  9. love all your buttons. Having thought about everything I’ve made this year, I use shell buttons on everything – think I must rectify this!

  10. Novelty all the way! You only live once! X

  11. Jeny says:

    I have just had a similar problem when hunting for buttons for a cardigan I am knitting – my compromise was to get some that are a bit ‘marley’ if there is such a word, a mix of two colours.
    This lady proves though that novelty buttons can just look perfect. (scroll down a little for a close up view).

  12. I love novelty buttons but rarely use them. I just never find just the right project for them. Despite having two daughters so plenty of children’s clothes to sew! For my projects, I like to stick to round buttons that aren’t too plain (maybe a colored rim, just *something* to make it a little special). And please, not 4 holes!

  13. 5currantbuns says:

    Depends on whether the article of clothing tells you it needs sensible buttons or whether it is demanding that you give it something that makes it stand apart such as a novelty button…

    Although I fall in love with prints I tend to make and wear plain fabrics (OK more often its knitting than sewing)… so I tend to go to town with the buttons… more often its by contrast buttons than novelty especially if I am adding a row…novelty buttons feature more often as single. stand alone closures…

    I also have a whale button that a friend made me buy at the knitting and stitching show a few years ago because “everyone needs an emergency whale…!” so I bought 2 and gave her one…

  14. Jo says:

    My name is Jo and I am a button addict! A mixture of old ones from my Grannies and Great Aunty, plain colourful ones and novelty flower shapes. Problem is I’m still too scared to make buttonholes(!) so they’re either added as decorations or kept in tubs where I can admire them like a mad woman.

    I think it all depends on your personal style/lifestyle as to which buttons you choose. I’m colourful and creative by nature so generally find it very difficult to do “plain” when it comes to accessories/finishing a project.

  15. Raquel Moncada says:

    I learned my lesson: no novelty button in sensible areas (bust, waist, hips). But I love using a novelty button as a surprise element, sometimes visibly, sometimes as a secret!

  16. Kim says:

    Ooh I have the same problem! I buy novelty buttons as souvenirs, so I have polished stone buttoms from Denver and felted buttons from Chile, but I just cant think of a project where I’d use them..

  17. My love for good buttons is probably unholy! I think in part because I tend to like outlandish prints, when I turn to buttons, I go for more sensible ones, not novelty shapes. That being said, I mainly tend to seek out vintage buttons because they’re usually about as cheap as modern ones and often are just so much more interesting! I have these particular deep red plastic ones I love, that have cut outs in the buttons of fruit, but are still round, vaguely sensible buttons. Ooh ooh, they may work on the cardigan I’m currently knitting… you’ve inspired me to go find out now. 😉

  18. CGCouture says:

    I have a small stash of tractor and train buttons that I sew on my son’s pjs so he can tell front from back, but otherwise I stick to boring and practical.

  19. It’s all a matter of personal style, I feel. There´s no right and wrong here. I tend to get carried away with cute designs and then giving it more sensible thought I try picturing myself wearing them (feeling childish and all) and change my mind. That said I had a colleague who could sport cheerful accessories without looking childish…What about just one novelty button and more sensible ones on the rest?

  20. That cat is awfully cute, but will Ella get jealous?

  21. Oh god, it’s so hard not to buy novelty buttons. I’m glad the sailor ones are in the ‘sensible’ selection. Thems formal wear.

  22. UtaC says:

    Novelty are so much fun and sets your project apart from others. 🙂

  23. Nicole says:

    Omygoodness, I am obsessed with buttons. When I was about 12, I started collecting buttons. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I wrote to all my relatives asking if they had buttons lying around. I got cheap plastic ones, beautiful glass ones, intricate shell buttons, strange, quirky ones…even some charred buttons that had been through my grandma’s house fire. I kept them, even though I didn’t sew.

    Now, years later, I have used up most of the buttons, and am desperately trying to regrow my collection. But I’ve discovered that buttons are EXPENSIVE! I didn’t realize how lucky it was that my button collection was free.

    I like to use round buttons with a little design to them, like your anchor button. My favorites are shell buttons, because no matter how hard they try to make them look the same, it’s nearly impossible. Sometimes, like with my chevron dress, (http://restlessweaver.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-new-green-dress.html) I’ll use a line of “plain” buttons with a novelty button at the top. Or I’ll put a novelty button as the clasp on a clutch. Someday, I’ll find a use for the angry Chinese man button, and the little golden Sphinx button. I will! In the meantime, I’ll keep collecting them whenever I can.

  24. liza jane says:

    Meow! I say use those kitty buttons on your shirt dress.

  25. Shelly says:

    Buttons! Mmmmm… I’m with you I love them but they are deifinitely not practical for use on garments unless they are decorative. Having said that, I remember mum used them on my clothes when I was a child and I was fascinated by them. I guess I never really had to undo or do them up though. 🙂 Still they’re fun to have.

  26. LinB says:

    Use the novelty buttons. Mix and match them with each other, with sensible buttons, with bits of ribbon that you slip through the buttonhole to tie a garment shut. Use them. Life is full enough of sensible and staid, try to spread some light and joy.

  27. Jen (NY) says:

    I tend to think of buttons the same way I think of shoes. They shouldn’t detract, but should be pretty when noticed. I don’t want to look like the shoes are wearing me, rather than me wearing the shoes. Same with buttons.

    I am fortunate to live near the NYC garment district. The trim stops have boxes of loose buttons and you can lay single buttons on your fabric and see what they actually look like. Sometimes I think I needs a plain button, but find that a button with more pizzazz is better – or vice versa. I tend to prefer something that looks like a classic, but with a twist, so to speak.

    For most clothing I am unlikely to use novelty buttons, but in the right circumstances they can be absolutely right. For example, some time ago I was doing a re-fashion of a bright purple and pink shirtdress from the 60s or early 70s. The perfect buttons turned out to be big purple daisy-like buttons with a white center. They almost looked like they were made for the nearly psychedelic print of that dress.


  28. I have a lot of buttons too, but you can easily get carried away when buying buttons and end up choosing ones that don’t really look right on your item and when a simple one would actually look much better. But then I have used cute little wooden heart buttons before I must admit!!

  29. I had a dress with lots of white flowers-style ones like your green ones and I don’t recall having too many problems when I was doing them up. And when my son was quite small, I knitted him a boat neck jumper with button closures. The buttons were rabbit-shaped and preloved. They came from my button box, so I think it’s probably the case that they once adorned one of my own articles of clothing when I was small. Use the novelty ones, I say, unless you really think they’ll drive you to despair. We need more silliness in our lives. 🙂

  30. hannah says:

    I have the exact same dilemma! I have a delightful tub of strange buttons but they’re all oddsies, and I have no idea what to do with them, but I could never part with them!

    My etsy discount code is still live!

  31. Eliza-sew-little says:

    Novelty buttons= dead give away that’s it’s home made. Best saved for kids clothes or keep in the button jar IMO

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