Today I found a couple of bags of buttons for .50 each at my local thrift store. I am always on the lookout for mother of pearl (shell) buttons, but they are harder and harder to find at reasonable prices. The best source I have for these buttons is on Vancouver Island, at a bead store, and her price of .25 per button is excellent. So when I saw that these bags had a couple of shell buttons, I knew it was worth the price, and that I would be able to use them in my vintage crazy quilt pieces.
I purchased them, and went home to sort. I lay them on a facecloth to protect them from breakage and from rolling off the table. Here you get an idea of how much was in a .50 baggie. Click on the picture for an enlarged view.
I sorted into 4 piles - clean "keepers" - these are ready to use as is
- grubby "keepers" - these are dirty and/or have old thread still in them
- donate - the more ordinary plastic shirt buttons - I don't need these
- garbage - broken bits and pieces
All told, I spent $1. and got at least $50. worth of vintage buttons! How do I find such a fabulous deal? I have learned where to look, I check back often (at least weekly) and once or twice a year I hit the mother lode!
And how do I clean the grubby buttons? I try to remove the old thread first. I cut the thread with scissors or a seam ripper, being careful not to pull against the button, which could crack it. I soak them for about an hour in slightly warm water with a couple of squirts of liquid hand soap. Remember, these are vintage and made from shells; they can be brittle so I want to use a mild soap, not a detergent. Sometimes I add a bit of baking soda to the soak. I remove the buttons to a fluffy towel and scrub them gently with the same water and an old toothbrush. If they need further brightening, I sometimes use toothpaste (the white paste, not the blue gel). I put the buttons in a strainer and rinse them in cool water, then lay out on a fresh towel or paper towel to dry. Any last bits of old thread get removed before I store them in one of my button boxes.
Here are some of the clean keepers. LOVE the patina of vintage shell buttons!