Sunday, May 24, 2015

Frog Closures


No not amphibians, these frogs are garment closures and the last of Buttons, Toggles and Frogs.

Frogs are decorative garment closures formed from loops of braid and sewn onto garments.  Like Toggles they eliminate the need for buttonholes.  Unlike toggles, that are usually used for heavy-weight garments, frogs are usually used on delicate fabrics or on fabrics where buttonholes may fray.  Also a button element is worked into the braid on one half of  the two piece closure and the loop is integrated into the other half.

These are beautiful embellishments for any garment, but especially blouses and jackets. 

Purchased frogs made in China 

In her book ‘50 Heirloom Buttons to Make’, Nancy Nehring devotes an entire chapter of instruction for making frog closures .
I love this book!!!

50 Heirloom Buttons to Make, Nancy Nehring, Tauton Press,                                       Newtown CT, 1996

Pg. 89 from Nancy's book illustrating just three of her decorative knot frogs.

photography by Marcus Tullis

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Buttons, Toggles and Frogs - Part 3


In the past two blogs we examined buttons, but by no means began to cover every type nor style nor material from which they are manufactured.

Today we look at a cousin of buttons, the toggle fastener.  If you ever owned a woolen jacket perhaps the closure was one as in the photo below.  The button is affixed to one side of the front of the garment by a shank back.  The other part of the closure is a loop and is sewn on the opposite side.  The loop may be heavy thread or even leather if extra strength is required. 

The advantage of using a toggle closure is the absence of a buttonhole.  Clothes of heavy material and heavy wear require a closure that would not fray nor distort the butoinhole.

If you think of Paddington Bear ( Children’s literature) he is usually wearing Wellington Boots (Wellies) and a rain hat and coat.  The raincoat is fastened with two toggle closures.

Although toggles can be made of many materials, today they are usually made of wood, in a barrel-shape.  Note the metal shank on the back for affixing them to the garment.

In the above photo, note the two Catalin buttons from a woman’s fur coat (top left). Naturally, there would be no buttonholes cut into the fur material.  Perhaps for closure, instead of thread loops there might have been a large metal “overlap” hook that fit into the long metal rod-like shank.

These Catalin buttons are often mislabeled as Bakelite or celluloid.  Celluloid is a tough thermoplastic compound, which was used to replace ivory.  It was easily shaped and used for dressing table sets, dolls, picture frames, buttons and buckles.  Unfortunately it was flammable and was, subsequently, replaced by Bakelite and Catalin.

Actually, Bakelite was manufactured in only two colors: black and brown.  It was used for appliances such as radios and pot handles because it did not melt.  When we refer to  Bakelite  colorful buttons and jewelry they were  actually made of Catalin, which was produced in a glorious rainbow of colors.  These buttons are in great demand and usually fetch a goodly price.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buttons, Toggles and Frogs -Part Two

Buttons - Part Two

OK!!   More buttons

For collectors who wish to begin a collection, there are lots of buttons to be had.  Frequently, old metal tins (probably used for sewing boxes) chock full of buttons can be found in thrift shops, at flea markets or yard sales.  The majority of the contents are ordinary buttons that have been snipped from clothing prior to being discarded.  This is not a huge investment, however, and worth a purchase.  Many times there are unique examples or, most likely, just cute buttons to add to a craft project. 

Many time you can find buttons still attached to their display cards.  Keep these cards, as they offer valuable information about the manufacturer.  Obviously these buttons were, at some time, sewn on this card, which is labeled "Styled Dress Buckle"

When I travel I usually look for handcrafted buttons in fabric shops or shops selling trims and passementeries. Easy to pack and lightweight, they are useful souvenirs, I do not need any more tee shirts!!

These handcrafted buttons are made of ceramic, clay and inlaid metal

The Island Craft LTD. buttons on the lower left are made of coconut and are from the Cook Islands.Coconut shell buttons are sometimes found in fanciful shapes and were made strictly for the tourist trade in tropical locations. Similar-looking buttons are now mostly made from plastic or wood.

As your collection grows, and it will, believe me, there are many references available on button identification as well as groups of collectors willing to share button news.

      Button Button Identification and Price Guide, Peggy Ann                               Osborne,Schiffer Publishing LTD, PA, 1993

For those who wish to use decorative buttons in textile arts or to adorn a hand-knit sweater, modern buttons in every size, shape, color and material are available. 

Holiday themed ceramic buttons from A Homespun Heart, Iowa City, Iowa and The Button collection, Mill Hill, Janesville, WI

These embroidered, velvet covered buttons were made in Eastern Europe in the 1980's

For needle art enthusiasts you can make your own fabric-covered, embroidered or crochet buttons

50 Heirloom Buttons to Make, Nancy Nehring, Tauton Press Inc.                                        Newtown CT. 1996

I made the turquoise button in the center. The other buttons are vintage.

Patterns and designs for needle craft buttons.
Artful-Offerings, Designs by Karina Hittle,

Two bits of trivia!

Not all buttons have two holes!   One-holed buttons are called "whistles".  These are wooden.

Did you know that there is a button phobia?  Called Koumpounophobia, it is the irrational  and persistent fear of buttons ( single buttons or those on clothing).  The word is derived from Latin “Koumpouno” which means buttons ( or probably some type of disc fasteners or embellishments) and Greek “phobos” which, of course, means fear.  A related condition is Trypophobia, which is the fear of round or circular objects or the fear of holes.  According to the internet, nearly 1 in 75,000 people are known to experience Koumpounophobia and tend to avoid clothing with buttons.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Buttons, Toggles and Frogs - Part One

Buttons- Part One

Button-Button Who’s Got the Button?
This is an old children’s game.  In one version a group of players are sitting in a circle with one player in the center.  The object of the game is to pass a button amongst the players undetected by the player in the center of the circle.  The players constantly move their hands as if they were passing the button to add difficulty

Buttons are common textile elements. These ordinary closure items are often overlooked, until one goes missing and a replacement is needed.  However, there are many beautiful buttons, antique and modern that  add great interest to clothing and textile art.

Originally, textile historians tell us that buttons found in ancient Egypt, Greece and Persia, were not intended to hold garments together, but rather, used as embellishments and badges of rank.  Made of metal, stone and shell they date from circa 2,000BCE . 

                 A Collector's Guide to Buttons, Diana Epstein,
                           Walker and Co., NY, 1990

In the 13thC buttons appeared in Europe.  Diana Epstein (Collector’s Guide to Buttons) indicates “Etienne Boileau, Provost of Paris, established laws governing the guilds of French craftsmen, which included rules and penalties for buttonmakers.”

Today, buttons are collected as objects of textile-related art, some examples fetching goodly prices. There are numerous resources available for the would-be collector, including the National Button Society,  Occasionally, one can find copies of Just Buttons Magazine which was published monthly by the Just Button Museum of Southing, Conn. from 1944-1979.

It is common for collectors to classify buttons by materials (shell, rubber, pewter, glass, for example) while others limit their collections to a specific color or button shape, or limited editions of novelty or commemorative buttons .

Stamped metal buttons.  Top button has a celluloid backing.

                                                 Glass buttons

Etched mother-of pearl and shell buttons     

                          Shoe and glove buttons

                                               Pewter buttons

                        Celluloid buttons

Stamped/ braided leather buttons

Etched buttons, many different materials, including vegetable ivory

Vegetable Ivory comes from the Tagua nut (S.A.).  After processing the material  had an ivory color as in true ivory making it a very popular material fro buttons in the last part of the 19thC.  Reportedly, there is a move to save the Tagua trees from the burning of the rain forests and, perhaps, we will see small cooperatives making these buttons in the future.

Art Deco Buttons

Next week, in Buttons Part Two we will look at modern buttons and discuss a few "button" trivia.