Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dorset Buttons

It is slightly ironic that, living in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, I fell in love with these buttons...

"Dorset buttons were a traditional way of making buttons before the industrial revolution." Alix tells me. They were made by women as a cottage industry until a draper opened a centre in Blandford to centralise the selling. Unfortunately, the coming of the Indutrial revoloution and the arrival of machine-made mass-produced buttons all but killed off this intricate craft. It is fabulous to see that it hasn't died out completely! There are many patterns around, many flat, some hightopped. All of them amazingly intricate and beautiful.
I asked Alix how she got started..."I have always made things - knitting and sewing taught by my mum and sisters. I love fabric and yarn. I never think of myself as nimble but I adore making these Dorset Buttons. I have made some tiny ones just for the joy of doing it. I have a small daughter who is crafty and I hope I can teach her."

"Colour and pattern everywhere inspire me. I love to see how colours work together and how the piece grows. I love variegated threads that change and reveal themselves to you as you sew."

"Each button is made by sewing the thread round a ring. Depending on the thickness of the thread this can take some time. Then I wind the thread round to create the spokes. It takes a lot of practice to get the middle point dead centre. Then I sew the thread in between the spokes. There are many different patterns and colour combinations although sometimes the single rich colour is the best one."

Though traditionally they were made from rings of sheep horn and fine white thread, I have to say I do prefer Alix's more modern vibrant pieces!

Buy them here

Saturday, 31 October 2009


As well as all the new goodies at Boutonnerie I've got a fair stock of vintage buttons for sale too at Overspill. A while back I bought in some from a friend and had a happy day or so sorting, cleaning and counting. Yes, I play with buttons and get paid - does life get any better?

Anyway, deep in amongst these buttons were some Civil Defence ones, some British Red Cross ones and a few others that dated the collection to somewhere around the 1940s - 1950's. And there was this one:

The back is Bakelite or some other form of early plastic, as is the symbol on the front. What with the Mr and his business I'm getting moderately familiar with oriental bits and pieces and my hunch said 'Japanese' as opposed to Chinese or Korean.

But that was as far as I got. Trying to play snap on Google with kanji is no my idea of fun and a bit of a waste of time. Last night, though, I got chatting with Cindy and she cast a bit more light on things.

Now, traditional Japanese clothing doesn't have buttons. Things are folded and tied, elaborately, and apart from clips and bone fastenings on some armour pieces, buttons aren't really a feature.

But it seems the kanji (Cindy agrees most likely Japanese) is kotobuki, derived from the characters for 'long life' and 'celebration' and as such may well have been part of some sort of gift. A pouch perhaps, containing something for a special birthday? Maybe it marked a coming-of-age date? Perhaps even good wishes at a birth?

I had planned to sell this on, but I have to say I'm getting intrigued by it now. What is it? Where did it come from and how on earth did it end up in England?
I'm also wondering what to do with it. The silk bags over at Etsy were, originally, inspired by some Japanese folded patchwork. There isn't any obvious link there (except in my own mind) and I've recently been using Japanese dyeing techniques to colour-match thread for an antiques restorer.

I'm sitting writing this in a room filled with obi, sageo, a yari, katana and tanto and every sort of sword fitting you could imagine (and some you possibly can't). And a statue of Fudo-myoo standing in the corner.

Thinking about it, maybe this one isn't for sale after all!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Nix on ix

It's not so long ago that I was singing the praises of my (now ex) webhosts. I recommended them, I was delighted with them, I really thought they were the bees knees!
They started off small, had reasonable rates + top notch customer service. Then they grew.

And then I got a strange message from google saying my WP blog was blacklisted becuase of malware. huh? I spent 2 days working through the database trying to find the offending post. Customer Service at IX managed to tell me there was a problem, but nothing more. Never did find the problem and I had to abandon the blog.

A few weeks ago I found that boutonnerie.com had stopped appearing on google. ok, so we're small and new and were unlikely to be at the top of the rankings, but even googling for the name brought up nothing.

Then I couldn't log in to the admin section.

Then everything disappeared.

Then IX gave me a series of completely useless instructions and restored my files from a backup made 2 days after the database got wiped.

Then I found a new host.

While in the process of moving, the site on IX was hacked.

Then I moved even faster into the embrace (well, reasonable terms + topnotch customer service) of my new host.

So, if you are wondering where we've been, we've been moving. But I think we are settled now and I hope you'll drop by and see us!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I have it. For the next 2 months I have a babysitter and I can't tell you what a relief it is. Or how much I'm managing to get done in those 2 hours a day!

Boutonnerie is almost fully stocked now with all the pieces I have to hand. There is a new Maker Page, I have a new trade account opened.

And I might even have time to blog!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Maker Page - Alison

I've been so caught up inbuying new buttons, commissioning new buttons, photographing new buttons etc, this poor blog hasn't had all the attention it need. Poor lonely blog.

And so here is the first of the Maker Pages. There are 4 more to come and with luck there will be many more in the future...

Alison of AliBaliJewellery

Alison makes handcrafted silver jewellery from her home studio in Edinburgh. I was delighted when she agreed to make a set of exclusive pure silver buttons for Boutonnerie.

In her own words...
I have a pretty serious day job and I started making silver jewellery as a means to de-stress at the end of a busy day.I've always been what you would describe as 'artistic', doing a short stint at art school in the early 90's. I make jewellery that I would like to wear. I love colour and texture and that comes through frequently in my designs. It was my love of texture which inspired me to use precious metal clay, you can achieve textures with this material that would be pretty impossible with traditional silver smithing.

Precious metal clay is worked with whilst wet. At this stage you roll it, imprint it, shape it, and work out any textures that are required. It is left to dry before being reworked and sanded.

It is then fired, using either a kiln or a torch. The fine silver particles in the clay bind together to form fine silver (99% pure) which can then be polished to the desired finish.

The finished pieces are all on the Silver Button Page.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Introducing Linda

A new maker for Boutonnerie .

Linda, of LeafGreenHandmade, has been hard at work making sewing rolls for me to stock. Not only are these the ultimate gift for the new or disorganised seamstress (sorry - I refuse to use the word sewer!) but some feature handmade buttons, some are made from fabric samples that would otherwise have been tossed if I'd not rescued them. The ultimate in sustainability!

Linda's Maker Page is here and the sewing rolls are gradually being added here

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Maker Pages and More!

After the weekend's victory over coding (yes, I'm allowed to crow. No, I'm not tellling you how long it took) I've been fighting through the little quirks of KompoZer and OS. This is not the fun bit.

However, we have the first of the fine silver buttons listed at http://boutonnerie.com/ and the extra photo pages up too.

Silver Spiral: http://boutonnerie.com/catalog/spiralextra.html and
Watermark: http://boutonnerie.com/catalog/waterextras.html

There are 3 more amazing silver buttons to come. Next week I start on a non-buttony addition to http://boutonnerie.com/

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Victory is mine!

The first of the Maker Pages is complete!

I still have a way to go, but each handmade listing will have a link to the Maker Page of the Maker, as well as a page of extra photos. Komposer is my friend.


The page is still fairly basic, there is soem tweaking and beautifying to be done, but having got over this first hurdle with only a couple of scrapes (no broken legs, no barked shins) I'm really feeling quite proud.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow...

It does seem, some days, as if this entire project is moving at a petty pace, but like a swan, while there may be calm serenity on the surface there is a great deal going on underneath.


The commercial listings are almost finished bar some last-minute stocktaking to see how many of what I really have and this weekend we venture back into html.

I haven't done much coding for a long while and even past experience was pretty basic, so the next few days should be...interesting. If on Monday morning I am greyfaced, white haired and gibbering then you'll know the coding won!

Generally, I like using OSCommerce for Boutonnerie. It is easy to use from the back-end and it is a familiar format for those who I hope are my target market. True, I can't add frills, flash, bells and whistles but then, even if I could, I probably wouldn't. The one thing about this format that does irritate me is that each listing has only one photo.
So, as I'm moving on now to the handmade pieces, not only do I need to write a Maker Page for each person but each handmade listing is going to need another page of pics. I have elegant silver buttons, I have fabulous polymer clay buttons, I have sewing rolls and I have more buttons coming. Simply not possible to show them in all their glory with a single 100x80 photo.

And just as a sneak peak for what is coming next week:

Monday, 11 May 2009

Eye of the storm

Amidst the weeks chaos I did get a couple of straight hours to work on the site. Ribbons are now up, as are felt squares. The squares I scannned as we were having a typical Derbyshire spring day (wet, blutery, lights on in the house at midday) and I though I'd get more accurate colours.


The colours are accurate. Better than the camera would have given...but...resizing and cropping has led to some odd effects. Essentially, any stray fibre - and felt is never completely one colour - has pixillated itself like nobodys business! Hence the colourwarp.

The plan (stop laughing at the back. I always have a Plan. Whether or not life conforms is another matter) is to get the commercial items finished this week. I have the first of the handmade buttons here (and being treasured), the first of the handmade sewing items. I have 3 different makers lined up to produce buttons in different materials - but I want to give them all sufficient limelight. I also need to give people sufficient time to make.

So, once the commercial items are listed then we start on the handmades and the Maker Pages. If you are making for me, be assured I will be in touch soon asking all sorts of inconvenient questions!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

On the plus side

We are now indexed by google, we have the sitemaps sorted, the handmade sewing rolls are here and are perfect! The plan is to fill them up - needles, pins, thimble, tapemeasure etc as they would be a real treat for a new seamstress or as a gift. They are wonderfully well made and really beautiful.

Also by the same post came the first of the handmade buttons. The photos I saw of them before they arrived were amazing, but now they are here, I don't want to let them go! They will be the most expensive buttons on the site, but at handcrafted, pure silver...they are worth every penny!

And today I have contacted 2 new makers both of whom I'm delighted to say are happy to help stock www.Boutonnerie.com We are still working out the details but I'm happy to know that there are more good things on the way to the shop and that Boutonnerie is making a start in helping artisans increase their business!

A Spanner in the Works

No, not a spammer. Though the number of people who seem to think I want to lose weight, enlarge non-existent bits of my anatomy or buy a gold watch have to be seen to be believed!

Where was I? No idea, these days! The Mr has gone and broken himself. Not disasterously but in a manner that means he cannot bend down, cannot lift anything and can't comfortably stand up for long. This will get fixed but in the meantime I may be little absent. More than normal, that is. For though I am no shrinking violet, no delicate petal, there are things I rely on him for. Things we both took for granted - lifting sacks of feed or compost, carrying the laundry out to the garde, helping move boxes in the stock room, carrying parcels to the post.

Strange - and irritating - that one small thing can cause so much upheaval to what we fondly liked to consider as the smooth running of the household.

And so - if you are wondering what is happening with boutonnerie.com, or wondering why I seem to have vanished off the face of the planet, I promise things are happening but just at a slower rate than planned.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Feminism, the free market and the perception of handmade

First, a question: do you think that it is right and fair that a black or asian man should be paid the same money for the same job as a white man?

I suspect that your answer is “yes” or that if it isn’t, you are sufficiently socially aware to not voice those thoughts unless you know you are amongst people who agree with you.

Any deviation from this line of thought is just not acceptable in today’s society. Any company grading pay by skincolour would, rightly, be hauled up in front of a tribunal.

So – do you believe that any person doing equal work with any other person should be paid an equal amount? Yes? And that pay should not be dependent on colour, gender or sexual preference?


And do you think we have, as a society, made great progress since women had to give up work upon marriage, women were barred from universities and that the prescribed role of women in society was to be wife and mother?

Tell me then why UK womens pay is 12% lower than mens and that last year the gap actually widened?

Now, I am a socialist. A good oldfashioned one that takes Marx’s strictures “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” not as a call for greater control over individuals behaviour but a moral comment on the variable capacity for work between individuals and the mutual support necessary in society. I don’t object to capitalism as such, but I abhor the extremes and feel that any society that claims the name must, by definition, provide adequately for those who cannot support themselves. Tax the rich, feed the poor, but if you can work, then get on with it. It may be somewhat basic as a political ideology but it’s lasted me 30+ years without any major revisions!

However, browsing around yesterday trying to crystalise some thoughts I came across this site: http://www.theprometheusinstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:the-feminist-manifesto-how-and-why-to-rescue-feminism-from-the-left&catid=46:freedom&Itemid=35 that feels feminism has been ill-served by socialism and that fighting through the free market is the best way to female emancipation. I have many disagreements with that idea, not least that it does rather exclude all women whose chosen career is not subject to free market forces but…“Who is the enlightened woman of modern society? She is an entrepreneur who discards the victim mentality, along with her Che Guevara poster. She accelerates the upward mobility of her career through merit, instead of loafing around on the Affirmative Action couch. She relishes the contrasting shades of masculine and feminine sides of men and women, respectively, and refuses to blame men for all societal wrongs in this world.

She rejects the notion that capitalism is a modern form of patriarchal oppression, because she realizes that the market is amoral and a mere reflection of societal wants and needs. She opposes legislation and policy that is inherently discriminative of any sex

So – where is this going and what does it have to do with pricing hand-made articles?

She is an entrepreneur who discards the victim mentality, along with her Che Guevara poster. She accelerates the upward mobility of her career through merit, instead of loafing around on the Affirmative Action couch.
Well, after years of doing craft fairs I have noticed that men making jewellery tend to have no problem whatsoever charging good price for their work and getting it. I have seen one woman welder trying to explain that yes, she did indeed make the metalwork she was selling, no, her husband wasn’t the creator and despite demonstrating her skill, some of her audience simply could not comprehend!

She relishes the contrasting shades of masculine and feminine sides of men and women, respectively, and refuses to blame men for all societal wrongs in this world.
I used to sell quilts and throws. I stopped, not because they didn’t sell, because they did, and at 3 figures too, but because I gave up my studio space. One occasion though a woman passed by my stand at a craft fair, looked at the prices and demanded an explanation because “she’d made a quilt and it didn’t cost anything near that much. My ex-husband, rising to the occasion, demanded to know how long it had taken her!
She flounced off. Sometimes, the idea of universal sisterhood seems a very, very long way off…

She rejects the notion that capitalism is a modern form of patriarchal oppression, because she realizes that the market is amoral and a mere reflection of societal wants and needs.
Again and again I see, not overtly, but in myriad subtle ways, the idea that women, doing women’s crafts (knitting, sewing etc) should not charge for their time.
Women are consistently paid less in the workplace. You know those salary ranges “dependant on experience”? Experience or gender? Remember we agreed at the start of this on “equal pay for equal work?”
It has been calculated that the unpaid work women do in the home would cost £30-45, 000 to replace with hired help.

Many times on the forum I have seen women with growing, successful businesses complain that their husbands “don’t understand, aren’t supportive, think they are wasting their time”. Wasting time away from that £30-45K worth of unpaid labour, perhaps. Being charitable, I doubt these men are setting out to undermine, but the perception that a woman's work and financial value is inherently less than a man's seems so deeply ingrained that they may not realise what they are saying or doing.
Even my own generally enlightened man had a fit of growling, chestbeating and chucking the bones around the cave entrance when I pointed out he was not solely responsible for the family finances!

She opposes legislation and policy that is inherently discriminative of any sex.
Even my most argumentative self can't pick holes in that one!

The Etsy forum is filled with uncertainty. Am I good enough? How should I price this? What should I do……? And of course the fabulous trainwrecks where someone attacks classy handmade (it must be a reseller!), less good handmade (it lowers the tone), vintage, supplies, unprofessionalism, professionalism, high prices, low prices etc etc etc. Where did we put our spines? Why do so many women still believe that their time and skills are not worth paying for?

Now, I’m not suggesting issuing your SO with a weekly bill for housework and childcare (but do please share with me the reaction if you do!) but – think on this…
In western recorded history, our so-called equality is just a tiny blip on the timeline. In many ways we are still 2nd class – we work harder, for longer hours, for less pay.
Are you a SAHM (and dear god how I loathe both epithet and stereotype) or do you have a home-based artisan business? Why does your reproductive status have to come into it?
Do you make and sell as a hobby? If you are selling in the UK then you should be declaring your income anyway – so why not consider yourself to be what you are – a self-employed artisan?
It is less than a century ago that we got to vote and only 10 years since a married woman’s earnings and property were no longer taxed as her husbands.
Despite all the legitimate grumbles, we have it so easy compared to the rest of the world. I know that, you know that. We have it easy compared to women in the past.

So, when the uncertainty kicks in and you reckon your time and skills aren’t worth anything, just pause a minute, listen to all those silenced voices, past and present, and see if you can hear them telling you what they think your time is worth.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Wholesaling Handmade Buttons

Is actually turning out to be harder than I thought it would be!

Part of the problem, I think, is that many sellers are already pricing their handmade items at wholesale prices. As well as selling commercially made items, I do actually sell handmades. Sometimes. I see a lot of people get confused about pricing, but really, it is easy.

Cost of materials + your hourly wage/overheads x time taken + % profit = wholesale
Wholesale price x N = retail, N being the markup. I double it, but everyone has their own preference. For those making small, repeatable items, you can scale up depending on order size.

Really. Not that hard.

The point about selling wholesale is that the person buying large quantities is going to be doing a lot of the work for you. They're not trying to get rich off the fruits of your labour. Really. They will have a shop to maintain, or a website to host. They need to promote, store, package and post your items. They will need to advertise. Not on free PW blogs that have a handful of readers, but targetted advertising that will bring in lots of customers. And, with all of this, they still need to have their business profitable in order to support the artisans who supply the store, increase product range and pay the bills.

Granted, not everyone is trying to run a business. For some it is a hobby, a fun pastime that brings in a bit of money. Fine. But wouldn't it be nice to actually make a bit of money?

Try pricing for retail. You might even end up selling more.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

I should know better

...than to suggest, in public, a timescale on anything!
However, despite delays, setbacks, mishaps and near-disasters, the first few of the clay buttons are done.

This is not the best photograph in the world! They are still on their backing paper (baking parchment - brilliant stuff!) and are still in need of a second coat of varnish. But, we are getting there.

And also on the theme of getting there... http://www.boutonnerie.com/ is now live and working. There is still a great deal of work to be done on the commercial stock, but very soon the first artisan-made buttons will be here to be listed!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Making buttons

Last week was the first foray into actually making. I had, as usual, a head full of ideas but I've found that this alone is not enough to guarantee success. Usually, it leads to frustration and disappointment as the world fails to conform to my plans. (The small person has the same problem. But she is allowed to bellow when things go wrong. Apparently, I'm not).

Anyway, having been dissuaded from getting kiln (bah! what d'ye mean, we've nowhere to put it?) I reckoned I've give some airdry clays a go. Supposedly they dry rock-hard. Hmm. Am I too cynical when I immediately spot this phrase as a potential for disaster?

So, I squished and squeezed, pummelled and rolled, moulded and pressed, drew out designs and left a whole heap of button-shaped objects to dry. I got a bit distracted by the process (think: plasticine for grown-ups) and even more distracted by the fact that my brand of choice smells of marzipan but I was good and restrained myself from using up the entire kilo. Life here being as it is I only got a chance to check them this morning. And guess what?

Rock solid!

Sanding, painting and varnishing come next - this is not a highspeed process. But I am absolutely chuffed to bits that they worked!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Coming soon...

Well, yesterday I worked most of the day on uploading pics and descriptions to the website. Promo material has started to go out and I reckoned it might be a good idea if people had something to look at.

It is tedious and really not my favourite part, but around a third of the commercial button listings are done now. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

I'll carry on with more today but I need to make a decision. Do I include other haberdashery items - beads, bias binding etc and slowly move everything over to this one site thus making my business more focussed, or do I keep the site focussed on buttons and buttons alone and sell the other things through other sites?


Monday, 23 March 2009

All about the buttons

It started small. A couple of unusual and pretty ones filched from Mom's button box. The it grew - I needed buttons for my handmade purses and knit wear. Then I found myself buying in bulk at wholesalers. Then lots of vintage buttons from ebay, which I sorted then sold off the spares.

Then an offer. 60 000 stock clearance. 60 000 became 70 000 when the lads got fed up with counting. Another offer: another 50 000.

And then ideas came. Handmade buttons. Handmade by other makers in techniques I don't have time or inclination to master.

And so Boutonnerie.com was born.

Boutonnerie def: "the making and selling of buttons"

That'd be me then!