Friday, 24 June 2011

Is it a crime to actually use vintage notions?

Last weekend I went to a small vintage sale, it had all sorts of lovely things and amongst them I was very happy to find some sewing treasures

Vintage sleeve board, buttons and 5ft folding ruler
I particularly love the sleeve board because, unlike my modern one, it is very heavy and absolutely rock solid.

Underside of sleeve board
Somebody has re-covered it very nicely so it is both decorative and extremely useful.

But on to the main subject of this post. The vintage buttons.


They are French and the woman who sold them told me that they dated back to late 19th or early 20th century. As she handed them to me she asked

"Where will you display them, are you going to frame them?"

My answer was "I'm going to use them".

She looked startled and anxious. "What do you mean? What are you going to use them for? You're not going to take them from their cards are you?"

"I plan to sew them on to a dress that I am going to make and, yes, that will mean taking them from the cards."

I suspected that if she hadn't already taken my money, and handed them over, she would have refused to sell them to me. Now I do understand her feeling that lovely vintage items should be treasured but I don't believe that this sentiment should preclude actually using them. I promised her that I would only put them on something appropriate - I am thinking of a 1940's style dress (and I do have an original pattern that would be perfect - but more about that at a later date). My feeling is that these buttons were made to be used and loved and enjoyed and that sewing them to a dress is a happy thing for them.

There's a woman out there committing crimes against buttons

What do you think? Should vintage things be preserved intact and only used for display? If I callously take my lovely buttons from their cards will the vintage police swoop in on me? Or is it ok to actually sew with them? I’d love to know what you think .....

45 comments:

  1. I would use them...and think of their history every time I wore the dress (or whatever) that I used them on..... I agree that they would also be pretty framed, but I'm with you - buttons were made to be used..

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  2. I would use them for the purpose they were intended for, which is on an item of clothing. They are so pretty (and probably much better quality than modern buttons) I think it would be a shame to leave them sitting unloved on a piece of cardboard.

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  3. Poor neglected buttons, sitting on a card for 100 years or so, why leave them there any longer?
    If you are thinking such old things should be appreciated properly and shared about, consider that they are likely to have more public viewing on a garment than they would hanging on the wall in a private house!(and might even last to be used again).

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  4. Eugenia,

    Forget what the lady who sold them to you thinks. She seems to have a love of vintage artifacts but her view is different because I believe she might not have the love of sewing. I think that buttons are meant to be used. It would be a shame to frame them away, it would be like putting them in button prison! They need to be displayed on clothing and a 1940s style dress sound so much more appropriate.

    Beautiful buttons by the way. And I did notice how many buttons there used to be on a card of buttons, we're
    lucky if we see more than four buttons on a card now-a-days.

    Hope you post the dress when it is done!

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  5. I feel the same way about beautiful dresses on children........I always let my girls wear their lovely dresses and risk laundering them, otherwise they would sit in the closet for a "special occasion" ...and then they would grow out of them....

    Use your vintage tools, wear your grandmother's pearls with your jeans, wear your special dresses, no museum pieces.........

    Love the fabric on the sleeve board. Enjoy Eugenia!

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  6. I agree with Karen. I would totally use them. They were meant to be used. And every time you wear your garment you'll remember the significance the buttons have.

    Great finds!

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  7. I agree with the others, use the buttons! How sad for a button never to be used as a button:-(

    Makes me think of the Thomas Gray quote: Full many a rose born to blush unseen and waste it's sweetness on the dessert air. Not your gorgeous buttons though :-)

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  8. I would definitely use the buttons and not feel any guilt about it. They are BUTTONS, after all, and not a Picasso painting or some such. I'm green with envy over the sleeve board, which I'd use too of course. ;-)

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  9. I am green with envy at all your purchases. Will you give me one of your buttons, I want to frame it and put it on a little altar! Ha, ha, ha. You do what the heck you want to with your own buttons. Anything you make would pay those buttons a great compliment. Id be proud to be a button on one of your dresses!

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  10. Hey, if you find another PERFECT SLEEVEBOARD like that, send it my way. Of course I also think you should use the buttons. Save them? Whatever for?

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  11. Color me jealous. Those are great buys!

    Of course, I would use the buttons because why else would I buy them? I have a lot of vintage buttons which I use. I am somewhat shocked by the seller's reaction to be honest. I go to many vintage sales and all of the sellers I have spoken to expect the buyer to actually use the item purchased.

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  12. I can't imagine a better use for the buttons than a beautiful dress made by someone who appreciates sewing!

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  13. I agree with the previous posters. Definitely wear them - of course! I know what you mean - I bought a vintage jacket that was made out of an old 40s quilt. The person I bought it from in Carmel tells me all her jackets are made out of damaged quilts. Still, if I wear it I get at least one comment that "I hope you didn't cut a good quilt to make the jacket." As if the quilts are so precious, that is impossible to do anything else with them. So, enjoy your buttons - they are not too precious to be used.

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  14. What a great find! I totally would use all of that. I think the ladies who originally bought those buttons would be saddened that they were never used. They come from an era when waste wasn't acceptable, and I think having those pretty buttons stuck to a card and never used would be wasteful.

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  15. Hmmm, I like the appeal of the perfectly intact vintage packaging, with all the buttons in a neat, tidy row. I would display them in my sewing room if I had one. The buttons in the picture look like a style that is easy to come by these days at the fabric store, but the packaging is what makes this collectable worthy.

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  16. Hmm, I think I would do a little research and see what they're worth. If it's more than what comparable new buttons would cost, then I might keep them intact.

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  17. Great finds. I say sew the button on your dress.

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  18. My take on vintage notions is a bit self-serving. If they, after some research, should turn out to be worth a lot of money, I would save them. (This has never happened.) Most vintage notions are not worth much so I use them and make a note to myself to pull them off the garment when I am finished.

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  19. Unless you can find some historical significance or value, I say using them is loving them.

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  20. Forget the buttons - I'm more concerned that you will use that sleeve board. I really think you should carefully wrap it up and send it halfway around the world to me, where I will display it somewhere appropriate like near my iron ;)

    Back to the buttons - I would use them, and then reuse them, but the cards are adorable too and I would keep them as well, storing the buttons on the cards when not in use. I'd also sew them on my garment twice in case I lost one!

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  21. If it makes you feel any better, those buttons are probably not more than 60 years old.

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  22. I am with the majority - I would use them.

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  23. I am in the USE camp. Although I do feel a little twinge when I remove vintage buttons from the card...I mean, really, that is the POINT of them. Old for the sake of old is just another form of Too Good to Use.

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  24. I love the way vintage buttons look on their card, but the reason I have bought mine recently is to use them. Until I find just what I want to use them for though, I like to have them on display!

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  25. Here's another vote in the USE camp!

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  26. You bought 'em, you should use them if that appeals to you. I can understand how they're "a piece of history" but how are they less historic for being used on a beautiful hand made garment?

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  27. I believe it's up to the individual purchaser! You're not a collector of these type items, you're a seamtress...I say do what you intended to do. You bought them!

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  28. Should a dressmaker use buttons? Hmmm!
    Point to ponder....or not!

    Are they glass or plastic?

    If they are glass then you can only use them on a handwash garment, but still use them.

    If they are plastic, then they are not as vintage as the dear lady suggested, so use them on anything and enjoy them.

    I'm sure the original owner had many a moment of bad conscience for having stash she didn't/couldn't use.
    Give her a thrill and justify her purchase :D

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  29. I think they should be used and enjoyed!

    It reminds me of when I was "quizzed" many years ago by my mother-in-law on whether a certain piece of china that had a long history in the family should be used for dinner. I said "of course!" and went on to tell her why, only to be met with a very cold response. I don't suppose I'll ever be seeing any of those old dishes in my house - ha ha.

    Can't wait to see what you use the buttons on!

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  30. Eugenia! You have to go see my most recent blog post and see what I bought at an estate sale!

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  31. By the way...they are your buttons. If you want to use them, by all means, use them! Too pretty not to!

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  32. The buttons were made to be used. I use vintage buttons all the time - like on the last blouse I made. My only rule is, once the item of clothing moves on to another home - the buttons stay, to be reused in a similar fashion.

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  33. Use the buttons by all means. Oh to have that sweet little pressing board. I know you will make something really lovely with the buttons. Can't wait to see.

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  34. Use the buttons!!! They were made to be loved on a dress. Obviously.

    Beautiful sleeve board. I wish I could find one around here.

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  35. They should totally be used - what is the point in keeping them in a box unseen? The ones on the right are especially gorgeous - can't wait to see how you use them!

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  36. Congratulations on your vintage purchases. This is an entertaining post, love your sense of humour :). I agree with others, the buttons should be used, they were born to be placed on the clothing, so just do it, it's their destiny :).

    Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog!

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  37. That lady cannot have been a sewer. They will be the perfect buttons for the perfect dress and they will have the use for which they were made .

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  38. Those buttons were probably owned by someone like my great-grandmother--- and she would say "use them!"

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  39. Looks like a great find. I too am in the "use" group.

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  40. I just cut into a vintage pattern, so I think it's safe to say that I'm firmly in the camp of use the god damned vintage buttons. It's what they were created to do!

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  41. Interesting that the woman was SELLING these precious carded buttons but she wanted to dictate how the person who bought them should use them. If they were all that valuable she should have kept them or donated them to a museum.

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  42. I think I have those exact buttons in my stash. How strange, you in England and me in Canada with exactly the same buttons. The internet is a wonderful thing.

    Count me in the use them camp, I am going to as soon as I make something worthy of them. Enjoy,

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  43. I have thought about this too when it comes to my vintage notions.But the poor notions will just end up in someone else's hands someday if we don't use them.What if I keep these and 40 years pass and my kids have an estate sale to sell my things once I'm gone? Well, I would want whoever bought my sewing things to use them and enjoy them, not just put them away because they are too precious to use.

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