Threads clipped from Buttons in the Box
The right tools
You will need a good seam ripper!
I know that you might think the life of a button queen is all glamour, but Liz and I spend a lot of time sorting and preparing buttons for sale. If you have old buttons, whether it is your garage sale find or grandma's button box, old buttons need care if they are to survive. Buttons can get very dirty over a period of 50 plus years. Working with old buttons is dirty business!
When you open the lid, take a good sniff of the buttons. If the chemical smell brings you to your knees, you know that you have old plastic buttons that are in the process of breaking down. Most buttons need air. They need to be separated based on the button composition. They need to be cleaned.
Glass button jars may be pretty but most buttons need air. If you want to display your buttons in jars, consider replacing the lid with cheese cloth which will allow the air in and keep the dust out. Poke holes in the top of a metal tin to allow air. Don't store the tin in a humid basement. Better yet, transfer the buttons to something that can breath like a decorative card board box or even a shoe box. Button collectors attach buttons with phone wire to boards to display. Even when attached to boards, buttons will deteriorate if stored in plastic containers.
The first thing you need to do is get the threads off of old buttons. Knowing that I was going to write this blog on the box, I kept all of the garbage that came off the buttons. It is gross! I can personally tell you this is a big pain but a very important step in taking care of buttons. Old button boxes were utilitarian and threads and pieces of fabric were of no concern when saving buttons for future use. However, thread will damage buttons by cutting into the button. Threads need to go. Buy yourself a heavy duty seam ripper. You will need one that has a good grip like the one shown in the picture. I go through about one about every two years.
Have a magnifying glass handy when you are going through your buttons. I mainly use the magnifying glass when looking at back marks but it can also make clear a treasure not obvious to the naked eye.
Next week, we will talk about sorting buttons by composition.