Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Great Button Hunt

I'm not the jealous type, but when Marigold Jam told us about her button-box find, I realised that I was having withdrawal symptoms from the great button hunt. I knew what to do - I went to the charity shop in Blagnac, which is called Frip'Relais, and had a rummage through ONE of their two drawers of buttons.You'll see a certain colour-coding to my search - I like to use red, white and blue buttons on my shop packaging, and I have a personal obsession with Mother of Pearl...
I was 'helped' in my search by Brandon, a tiny weeny French-African boy (not much over 12 months old, I should think), who abandoned his clothes-shopping mother to do something much more interesting, which involved 'talking' on the toy phone near my sorting area, and an occasional bit of 'sorting' with me. What a cutie. He had quite a good vocabulary for such a tiny tot, but tended to begin sentences in recognisable French and end them in a lovely, rolling, babble. He only tried to actually eat one button...
And I got all the ones I wanted back from him in the end...
j
Now, it is just possible that some of you are novices in the field of obsessive button hunting. Some of you (Liz to name but one) are scarily obsessed, and might enjoy this post too! But here's my guide to my own personal style of button hunt. You begin with something like the jumble of buttons, little plastic bags and rusty pins below. Watch out! It is obligatory for all button boxes to contain something that can injure you.
At first glance, even the most experienced won't see any Mother of Pearl buttons. These buttons must be heavier than others, because they are ALWAYS at the bottom of the box. This is not just Murphy's Law, there has to be some physics involved.
Now, do any of you think you've seen some MOP? If so, you'd be right, but really, the photo won't work, as you have to touch them to be sure.
Here we are down at the bottom of the tin, and there's a good chance that the ones that LOOK like MOP are MOP, down here in the depths.
Time for a bit of hyperventilating - there are clearly a LOT of MOP buttons in this tin. You would never have known from a glance at the top layer.So, from a plastic drawer which seemed at first to have no MOP buttons, I actually found all these after half an hour's searching/babysitting Brandon.
Shall we just have another gloating glance?
This is what the dedicated MOP button collector is up against. The traditional buttons, made of the shiny insides of shells known as Mother of Pearl, have been copied more recently in all types of plastic, because this is just what buttons are meant to look like, isn't it? So, how many of the lineup below are genuine MOP, do you think?
If you're an expert, you know you have to look at the back to be certain, don't you? MOP buttons usually have some of the shell's outsides on their backs. The photos of the backs are below. But even then it's not easy, and that's why I say you have to handle them to be sure. If you want to know from someone who's been stroking them, from left to right:

1 is real MOP, but the shell back is white, so it's hard to tell.

2 is plastic. Bet you guessed from the first photo!

3 is real and easy to identify MOP, with that nice shell backing.

4 is fake, fake, fake! But really that's not fair, because it's not trying to pretend it's anything but plastic.

5 is real MOP, but you have to stroke it to be sure, as the back of the shell was white and smooth. Real shell feels colder and has more texture than your average plastic one.

6 is FAKE! And this one really is fake - it's been given a fake shell backing and everything! I used to hate it when Marks and Spencers used fake MOP buttons in the 1980s, when Laura Ashley was using real ones, but actually it's probably far more environmentally friendly not to go dredging up shellfish to make buttons these days. That's one reason it's good to collect second hand ones..

I just thought I'd show you the two pretties (MOP of course) that I found. Pearly Queen (great name) at Violet White was saying she's seen these going for over two euros each, recently... A bit crazy.

And back to the 'spot the real MOP' game, because sometimes it's naturally grey...Obviously, we have to turn them over... and you can see it's the one on the right. Isn't it a beautiful button?Here's some revision (it's clearly time for this teacher to take a holiday). Here are the backs of three fake buttons:And the backs of three real ones:What do you think of these two? The one on the left is real shell: abalone or maybe that New Zealand shell which my NZ friends will have to name for me! The one on the right uses some interesting shell patterns, but it's plastic. Kind of cute, though. A final glance at the variety of MOP - the slightly pink one and the dark blue ones are dyed.And here they all are in situ, in my MOP button tin! What a very satisfying button hunt. And there's a second drawer waiting for me one of these days...

26 comments:

VintageVicki said...

OMG a whole post about one of my favourite things :)

I could almost see myself beside you helping you sort :)

Floss said...

You and Brandon, Vicki!

Mrs Yappy Dog said...

it's funny Floss, both my boys had a real aversion to buttons until about age 7 and would ask me not to wear them, would refuse to touch them etc! they are over it now although the youngest still eyes them cautiously at times. A stash like this would probably give him flashbacks!

Serenata said...

Lovely buttony post - what fun. I think the NZ shell you might be referring to is Paua - it is a really beautiful shell that is used for lots of things, decorations, buttons etc...

Ticking stripes said...

Oh lovely post - if I'm really unsure I put it against my cheek which seems to judge how cold it is better than my fingers do! Try it - it works!

Laura @ 52 FLEA said...

Thanks for the lessons!!! I just posted about my button finds.....still waiting for a rainy day to go through them! What fun!
:)

marigold jam said...

Lovely Floss! You certainly did well there didn't you? Enjoy some more lovely sorting and admiring now you have them home. Thanks for the mention too!

Jane

CraftyHelen said...

What an education - I had no idea that there was a science to button hunting! Am posting about a button/fabric related swap.Please come over for a look.xx

Sherri B. said...

Love the button hunt. Most all of the buttons around here are in a jar or bag etc... and you have to take the entire lot. I think I would love to pick over and take what I want much better than having ones that are't any good. You really found some nice ones even if you had to 'go fishing'. I have to run, we are off to a huge garage sale at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Have a good weekend.

summerfete said...

Ooh buttons!

I have recently become an owner of two button boxes, courtesy of my mother in laws late-uncle.

So I know what you mean about buttons, I keep meaning to do a post, as there are some real beauts.

Hope you have sun this weekend?

Clare x

LissyLou said...

That was fascinating floss!! i would have no idea what was a real or fake MOP!!

Polka Dot Daze said...

Yip I would have to say you are a MOP addicted looking at that drawer. And the shell is called "Paua", the cololurs can be very stunning and bright.

Catherine said...

Buttons..Buttons..Buttons...Swoon...Swoon...Swoon!!!Lucky LUCKY you!! Cx

maryannlucy said...

This post made me smile - what a lovely time you had. Thank you for sharing so many photos x

magsmcc said...

This is impressive, Floss, undoubtedly hugely impressive. But to the button-uninitiated, yes, slightly scary!!!!

Itch2stitch.com said...

When I was little I always used to love rummaging and sorting through the buttons in the old tins. My Mum and my Grandmother had huge tins full of buttons, and I could be rendered silent as I busied myself looking at the different types and colours! So I am now in heaven! :) x

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Fun post! I need to go thru my buttons and clean them out. Don't have that many, but do have some MOP that are not old/vintage.
Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Maisey's Attic said...

Hi Floss - thanks for this great post, it's nice to learn something. I love looking for buttons, and have quite a collection - I'm off to see if I have any MOP's!! - xxx

Luisa @ Dance in my garden said...

Great lesson on MOP Floss!
I love mop too, but I think I have never really seen vintage mop, and was easily fooled; need more mop hunting experience!

Kissed by an Angel said...

Thank you for the MOP button lesson!! I actually thought that MOP was just white pearly looking!!!
xxxx

Rubyred said...

Aahh, beautiful buttons!
So theraputic sorting them, dont you think?
You found some lovely ones!
Rachel x

andrea v said...

Great collection. I've only just started collecting old buttons, and am finding beautiful ones hard to come across. I will persevere.
Nice blog.
Andrea

Joy said...

What a collection and how fun to sort thru them all. I really learned something today. I wasn't aware of MOP real or fake and how to tell.
I'll pay closer attention now. I do have a small collection, but probably no MOPs. I'll check for sure though.
Thanks for the lesson.
♥ Joy

skippinginthemeadow said...

mother of pearl are my favourites too. you have a lovely collection there :o)

skippinginthemeadow said...

i hope your mum is now able to see your lovely blog
am keeping her in my prayers xxx

hope you and all your lovely family have a good week

sumea

Hannah VanderHart said...

ooh that was a wonderful button-hunt tour!

my mom use to let us play with her button tin when we were little...

the art of buttons lives on!