It is romanticized in pop culture that the Amish eschew buttons. But, like everything with the Amish, it's not so simple. If could set their Facebook relationship status with buttons they'd likely pick "It's Complicated." Buttons came to be viewed by some Amish generations ago as too ornate and flashy, back in the Victorian age buttons were often a frivolous, aristocratic luxury. But as times have changed so have the views of some Amish. Plenty of the more conservative Amish do still eschew buttons, preferring straight pins instead. Ouch. In some cases the "hooks and eyes" are still used and those are a bit less hazardous that the straight pin route. There are also metal "snaps" on jackets and clothing that some Amish find acceptable and others view buttons as perfectly fine so long as they aren't overly ornate.
Notice in this photo the young Amish girl wearing buttons on her dress. This is a New Order Amish sect and they have a more progressive view of buttons. But notice how the button color is blended perfectly into the dress color?
Velcro has generally been viewed by the Amish as an "ok" alternative when buying some store bought items like jackets and shoes.
I think as the years ago by more and more churches will slowly adopt button styles like the one seen in the photo and only the most conservative Amish churches will hang on to hooks and eyes and pins.
Amish365.com caught up with Marketplace sponsor Buttons by Chris to talk about the sometimes under-appreciated button and I think you'll find his thoughts interesting. Chris is the son of one of our long-time Kansas Amish Cook readers. Thank you for your support and the Marketplace really is a great way to get the word out about your business, this is a prime example. I really am fascinated by his webpage, especially the "build a button" feature. Read on to find out more!
1) This is one of the most unique, niche type businesses I've ever seen...can you tell us how you got started in this?
A few years ago I accompanied my wife to shop for some buttons to put on an over-sized sweater she had knitted. The pattern called for 2 inch buttons and after seeing the limited selection, poor quality, and high prices, realized there simply wasn't much to choose from. I also saw some smaller buttons made from wood, and the thought of making the buttons for her was born. I have more on that story and my woodworking history on my website here.
2) What is your most popular product?
Most of the orders have been for clothing buttons. These are for everything from hand-sewn and knitted garments to replacement buttons on vintage coats and jackets. I've also had orders for jewelry centerpieces, zipper pulls, and earrings.
3) Why would someone need to order a custom-made button and who are your customers?
I've taken orders from a wide variety of people, both male and female, for an equally wide range of reasons. One customer wanted buttons for a crocheted hat for a friend from Brazil and thought buttons made from wood that came from Brazil would be a nice touch. Because this is a custom site, I think most orders are for buttons that will fit exactly what they need to finish a project. You can have a button made to the size, shape, contour, and any other specifications desired. I have a 'Build-a-Button' page on the website that covers most any parameter I can think of.
4) Can you walk us through, briefly, the process of making a button?
All buttons start from a blank of wood cut with a band-saw to roughly the thickness of a finished button. Combination wood buttons have to be cut and glued into the style (diamonds, checks, and weaves) to make these blanks. The contour is then carved using a custom-ground spade bit in a drill press. Round buttons are then cut out with a hole saw, also custom made for the proper size. From there, the buttons are placed in a jig where the holes are drilled. After extensive hand sanding, the finish is applied. Depending on the finish ordered, this is up to a seven step process.
5) Can you give us a brief history of the button? And as styles change constantly, do you think there will always be a need for buttons?
The history of the button starts thousands of years ago when it was simply a decorative item. The modern button came about around the 12th century, when clothing fashions were starting to be closer fitting. It's interesting that buttons weren't used for closing garments until the button 'hole' was invented! Buttons have been around for hundreds of years, and even with the invention of the zipper and Velcro, I believe that buttons will continue to be a mainstay well past our lifetimes.