Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Dorset Buttons, High Tops, Knob ; Birdseye
Dorset buttons were hand-made in tens of thousands from the 17c. until late Victorian times. They were a major West Country cottage industry, especially round Shaftesbury, and sent by coach to London where they were distributed by a Mr. Case and his son to many customers at home and abroad who used them on clothes and linen. They are made with small brass rings which are then covered with a linen-threaded needle and made in various patterns - cartwheel, pyramid, etc. Unfortunately cheap factory-made buttons ruined the trade, causing much distress to those who had made their living working at home; with no income or employment, they emigrated, and the skill was lost. The various revivals later failed to survive and the buttons are now highly collectable. Illustrated are some very small ones for babies' clothes and larger ones for linen and clothing. Those on yellow cards were 'seconds'. In the past I have found these old Dorset buttons on pillow cases from France and on feather bed cases from Germany, so they have almost returned to their native birthplace in Dorset. I will send sewing directions if you send me an SAE, as I have the 1930s Dorset W.I. pattern leaflet which I can copy. But you will have to find the little brass rings., I only have a few now. Since writing above I have interesting news on Dorset buttons from a new contact and instructions on how to make the rarest models, which had previously defeated needlewomen. They were usually made by skilled lace-makers. P.S. My info. above on the source of buttons on German feather bed covers turns out to be quite wrong. These lovely linen buttons were also made in Berlin and used by German housewives - nothing to do with Dorset, tho' maybe copied by clever fingers!