There are so many way that we can see and enjoy our buttons. We invite you to see them in a new way: recognizing the fabrics they resemble!
Fabric and needlework buttons were fragile, soiled easily, and were difficult to clean effectively. Buttons, made from more durable materials, came to mimic the weaves, finishes, patterns, and applied handwork found on the fabrics they adorned. In this database, we introduce you to the rich variety of the mimicry you can find on buttons.
Don’t consider this a classification or an encyclopedic approach to buttons, but an enjoyable journey. And, check back often as this resource will continue to evolve and expand. We are thankful for the time and expertise contributed to create this introductory database.
To see a button, and the fabric which it mimics, click the link of the fabric, needlework, or fabric design below. These are links to the initial 250 buttons in the project. Another 150 have been added and can be viewed in the Button Album section (just search for “Imitation Fabric”). Keep in mind that the same “weave” or “fabric” can appear in multiple variations, with different thread types (cotton, wool, silk, polymers) or surface treatments (luster, brushed, heated, rolled) which then make the fabric SURFACE different.
This fun journey through buttons is brought to you by Dorothy Krugner from the State of Washington. She came to button collecting via decades of historic textiles research. Dorothy is fascinated with the evolution of costume as it reflects both dramatic and subtle changes in society. As a hobby, Dorothy collects and displays buttons with the fabrics upon which they would have been worn. On the WRBA website, you can find her articles on Mourning Buttons and the Buttons of the National Recovery Act.
If you have enjoyed this introduction, consider learning more about textiles. Two great online resources are:
Textile Research Centre, Leiden, Netherlands www.trc-leiden.nl, which has an extensive site with hundreds of historic textile images.
NOTE: For those of you who love to catalog and define your buttons by the NBS Blue Book classification, remember that for a GLASS button to be classed as 6-6.7 or 7-7.3 Imitation Fabric, the button must imitate fabric by the MOLDED SURFACE DESIGN. For other material classes, there is not a requirement for surface molding.