A button can make the difference

Posted June 14, 2010, at 6:44 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

Finding the right button is never as easy as I think it will be when I begin the search. And finding the perfect button — well, that hardly ever happens.

This was underscored several weeks ago after I finished making a linen jacket for a friend. The linen was one of those amazing Marden’s finds — 54 inches wide, a lovely weight, fabric that holds its shape — and only $2.99 a yard. It was like striking gold right there in Brewer.

The fabric is of narrow rust and natural-color stripes. The reverse side is natural color, no stripes — not sure how that was done, but it seemed magical to me, making the fabric all that more wonderful. So I bought many yards — enough for a jacket for my friend and one for me. With lots left over in case I want another jacket in another style.

I used Simplicity pattern 9861 for my friend’s jacket. It has button loops instead of holes, turned-back cuffs to let the natural-color reverse side show, and a neckline detail that gives it a vague military connotation. Not sure why.

I used McCall’s pattern M5298 for my jacket. It has a collar, buttonholes and turned-back cuffs. It reminds me a little of something my grandmother might have pulled on in the early 1900s as she left the house for a walk on a spring evening.

Both jackets have set-in sleeves and no pockets. I regret the lack of pockets, but somehow, the lines of each jacket and the stripe of the fabric just didn’t indicate pockets to me — especially not patch pockets, which I don’t like all that much.

The telling detail of each jacket, I realized, was going to be the buttons. That thought sent me to retrieve various cans and jars full of buttons just to see what I already had that might work. Alas, the ones that I liked and looked right with the fabric were one or two of a kind — each jacket needed four of a kind. My friend’s jacket needed half-inch buttons with a shank. My jacket needed three-quarter-inch buttons with holes.

Therefore, much against my will, I had to trudge up to the mall area in Bangor to see what I might find at the one store in town that offers many button choices — metal, glass, shell and plastic. I even found one carved from coconut in the shape of a leaf, but it wasn’t right for either jacket.

I don’t know how long I patrolled the button aisle trying to decide. Buttons with shanks were mostly in the metal variety in gold or silver and not what I wanted. What I wanted was ball-shaped glass buttons in rust or cream, which were not to be had, so I settled for ball-shaped plastic buttons in a shade of light rust. I was pleased to discover that once sewed onto my friend’s jacket, the buttons appeared to match the rust stripe, even though they really don’t.

Buttons with holes in shades of rust — none to be found. But I did find artsy-looking buttons that had blotches of rust that I knew would match my jacket. I got those. Then, I saw ecru buttons, wider at the top than the bottom — like lopsided rectangles — sporting a lighter iridescent line. I got those, too, and those are the ones that look right with my jacket.

Not perfect. But right.

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