Buttons of Dreams

Several of you left comments or sent me messages regarding my button dilemma (for which many thanks). But the biggest thanks must go to Jayne, who told me about the amazing buttons of Lionel Nichols. (Warning! Prepare yourselves! The link takes you directly to button heaven!) Sixty years ago, Nichols fashioned beautiful glass buttons by hand for London couturiers. His daughter, Dixie, has inherited his collection, and now offers the remaining buttons for sale in seasonal collections. To quote Dixie’s website:

“For two decades, 1946 to 1966, L. Nichols produced what were probably the most interesting and original buttons in England. I have boxes and boxes of buttons, many of them unopened for decades, a treasure trove built up order by order as extras had to be made to ensure that a matched set could be found for each garment, in spite of the irregularities of the hand made process.”

All of Nichols buttons are unique, and many are quite staggeringly beautiful. Perusing Dixie’s collections, I was reminded of just how precious-seeming and utterly desirable buttons can be (more thoughts on which here). Indeed, in terms of their beauty, the care of their craftmanship and their sheer rarity, these buttons really are almost jewels. . . and their prices quite rightly reflect this. . . in any case, when I spotted the buttons you see above I knew I had to have them for my 1930s/40s inspired cardigan. This is the first time I have ever made anything in which the cost of the fastenings has outweighed the cost of the yarn, but these really are superlative buttons.

This cardigan does not have buttonholes: rather, I’ve used clear snap fasteners and a taped reinforcement on the inside of each of the button bands to secure the closures and help the cardigan fronts to keep their shape. Most people use grosgrain ribbon to do this, but I tried this linen tape I had knocking about, which seemed the right sort of colour.

Does it sound weird if I say that I really enjoyed stitching the tape to the inside of the button bands? And am I allowed to admit that I am quite proud of my almost invisible stitches?

I secured the snap fasteners and buttons using strong quilting thread. Then I un-plied a few lengths of the corriedale yarn I had used to knit the cardigan, and, with a sharp sashiko needle, covered all the stitches that were showing on the right side of the garment with the single-plyed yarn. I also went all-out binding and blanket-stitching the shanks of the buttons: they are quite heavy, and need lots of reinforcing to sit correctly.

(the Nichols buttons have been updated with new metal shanks that are well-made and well-glued)

Anyway, I’m pleased with my finishing – which has resulted in a cardigan that closes neatly without undue stretch to the front bands. . . adorned with some extra-special buttons.

I really am stupidly happy with the Nichols buttons and, since they were attached to the cardigan, have been revelling in foolish button joy.

(Pics and specs of the whole shebang tomorrow. Can you tell I am excited?)