Buying Buttons in Berlin: Knopf Paul

Readers,

What could possibly be better than a wall of buttons?IMG_8151 (345x460)

How about two walls of buttons–plus trays, boxes, and display cases of buttons?IMG_8156 (460x345)

That’s what Jack and I found yesterday when we made our way to Knopf Paul.IMG_8155 (345x460)

When I set up our computer in our hotel room in Berlin Monday, I found an e-mail from a reader in Hamburg recommending this shop. What luck! Thank you, reader!

When we reached Knopf Paul I was immediately taken by the displays outside.IMG_8143 (460x345)

Jack went inside first. When I joined him, he said “I think you’ll like this place.”

I answered, “Get out the smelling salts!”IMG_8150 (345x460)

Then I got down to work. I pulled out my swatch of the blue-green tweed of the jacket I recently made and started looking for buttons that would rival the ones I bought in Salzburg last Saturday.IMG_8154 (345x460)

And even though this place must have tens of thousands of button styles, I didn’t find any, even with help, that were the right combination of size, color and style appropriate for my garment.

But, no matter. I thoroughly enjoyed browsing boxes of vintage buttons, overhearing conversations between customers and staff, and chatting with Paul and his wife.IMG_8149 (460x345)

As I understand and speak minimal German, I was happy that owners and staff had plenty of English to close the language gap.

And, as Knopf Paul does not take credit cards, I was also happy that I had enough cash. I think 40 Euros was quite a fair price for the quantity and quality.

Here’s what I am taking home with me:

IMG_8167 (345x460)IMG_8168 (460x370)IMG_8170 (340x460)IMG_8171 (373x460)IMG_8173 (360x460)IMG_8175 (430x460)IMG_8176 (449x460)IMG_8178 (440x460)IMG_8179 (380x460)IMG_8180 (460x402)IMG_8183 (460x345)Thank you, Knopf Paul, for some wonderful souvenirs of Berlin!

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Buying Buttons in Salzburg

Readers,

On a day trip from Hart, Germany to Salzburg, Austria yesterday Jack and I happened upon a button shop: Jos. Mayer, on Rathausplatz 1.

I daresay it’s the oldest button shop I will ever go into–it was founded in 1758!IMG_7882 (460x345)

Packing for our excursion, I tossed my swatches in my bag–just in case, even though I didn’t intend to make button-shopping my top priority.

I never know when I’ll find a button shop, much less one that celebrated its 250th birthday several years ago, so it’s best to be prepared.IMG_7880 (460x345)

In my very limited German vocabulary is the the word for “button,” “Knopf.” So when I saw “Knopf” written on the shop window I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Knopf" = "Check this out!"

“Knopf” = “Check this out!”

The next thrill was walking into the shop and and seeing the wall of buttons.Josef Mayer button shop in Salzburg

When I pulled out the swatch of blue-green tweed and explained the buttons were for a jacket, the saleslady began retrieving and opening boxes for me with brisk efficiency.IMG_7875 (460x345)

The bluish green translucent buttons grabbed my attention. I had been imagining buttons for my 1941 pattern from the 1940s or ’50s in muted shades of the period, in a marbled opaque, more overtly sportcoatish design.IMG_7874 (460x356)

But these buttons were modern, and that intrigued me.  Chameleon-like, they adapted readily to the coloring in my fabric.IMG_7943 (460x286)

I thought it would be interesting to use a new button that would say, “This garment is made from a vintage pattern and probably vintage fabric, but it was made for today.”IMG_7941 (460x333)

Knowing I might still find intriguing choices in Berlin or London, I went ahead and bought these. They came in the perfect sizes for the jacket front and the vented sleeves.IMG_7944 (460x345)

I was almost sorry to make a button purchase so decisively and quickly this early in my trip but then thought I would keep looking for another interesting match. After all, looking is a great the best part of the fun of button-shopping, I think.

Souvenirs From a Family Button Box

Readers,

Right after Jack and I put down our bags in our friends’ guest room Wednesday in the little town of Hart, Germany, my eyes fell on the cache of buttons.

I wish I could see all the clothes these buttons came from.

I wish I could see all the clothes these buttons came from.

They had been set aside for me to browse, and I was urged to take anything that caught my fancy.

I wished I had brought more swatches of my stash on this trip. When I laid buttons on fabric I got a much better sense of their potential than I did seeing them on a carpet background.

I favored buttons in multiples but couldn’t resist one big green one that could smartly close a coat all by itself.

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This button stands out even against a cool-colored background…

Here are the ones coming home with me.

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…but it really looks nice against the colors in this wool…

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and colors like the ones in this linen.

The rich

This chunky, simple, pumpkin-colored trio deserves pride of place on a fall coat.

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Although I won’t be pairing these buttons with this tweed, I can still see how they enhance each other.

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No, I’m not putting these together for real. Just some harmless fun.

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Art Deco era, don’t you think? Oh how I wish I could see what garment these buttons originally belonged to. A little cleaning, and they should be gracing a 1930s jacket again. An exciting thought.

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This houndstooth linen is not the best home for these buttons, but I think I would plan a high-contrast color theme in the garment.

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Alas, there are only two of these. What would be a wonderful use for them?

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I like this pairing.

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I almost left these behind. I love the shape, but the coloring is so cool.

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Here’s a swatch of the fabric of my Smart Tailoring, old school “mannish jacket.” The colors in the tweed and the buttons enhance each other so nicely. I’m beginning to see possibilities.

I think I have found something even cuter than a button. How about Eleanor Powell’s dancing partner, Buttons, from 1941’s Lady Be Good?

From the Fabric and Button Stashes: New Pairings

Readers,

What would bring out the best qualities in my latest finds?

What would bring out the best qualities in my latest finds?

Among the ridiculously wonderful simple pleasures in my life as a sewer is seeing how my latest acquisitions go together with what’s in my stashes.

These buttons, from a Spitalfields vintage fair in London, work nicely with this Italian linen-rayon.

These buttons, from a Spitalfields vintage fair in London, work nicely with this Italian linen-rayon.

This is often how my projects now start out. I may see a winning combination of a pattern and a fabric. Later (as in minutes, hours, or years) I may see a richer relationship with additional fabrics or with buttons that seem to have been made for each other.

Another option.

Another option.

Many times I’ve had a fabric in my stash that appealed to me and yet didn’t have the right complements to bring out its best qualities, so it remained unsewn. I’ve wondered whether I made a mistake keeping that fabric.

But then, how about these?

But then, how about these?

Then at sales in Minneapolis, like the Textile Center sale, or the Guthrie Theater costume department sale last fall, or at vintage fashion fairs I’ve attended in London, I may discover offbeat finds that partner beautifully with that “orphan” piece. I discover new (to me) relationships of color and texture.

I cut a slit just large enough to be a pretend buttonhole for a closer look.

I cut a slit just large enough to be a pretend buttonhole for a closer look.

Working out these design puzzles is very absorbing. I only wish I were much, much better at it.

This pair says "Summer suit!"  Do I have just the right three-button jacket pattern?

This pairing says “Summer suit!” Do I have just the right three-button jacket pattern?

When I got back from The World’s Largest Textile Garage Sale just over a week ago, I spread out my fabric purchases and started pulling buttons to try with them.

For comparison, another choice.

For comparison, another choice.

Here are some possibilities. Several look very promising.

How would this chunky button look with this chunky tweed?

How would this chunky button look with this chunky tweed?

Maybe, maybe not.

Maybe, maybe not. Not a first choice.

How about this?

How about this?

Closer, I think.

Closer, I think.

Another try.

Another try.

A contender.

A contender.

Just for fun. There are blue flecks in the tweed. Would these blue buttons work, or are they too much?

Just for fun. There are blue flecks in the tweed. Would these blue buttons work, or are they too much? They deserve to be out in the world, not on a card forever.

There are better choices for this button.

There are better choices for this button.

A possibility.

A possibility.

I so want to put this mid-'40s buckle on something. But is this linen the right home?

I so want to put this mid-’40s buckle on something. But is this linen the right home?

Can't wait to find these buttons their perfect little piece of real estate. What could it be?

Can’t wait to find these buttons their perfect little piece of real estate. What could it be?

Black rounds edged in white, in two sizes. Big ones for the front closure, smaller for pocket trim?

Black rounds edged in white, in two sizes. Big ones for the front closure, smaller for pocket trim?

Monochromatic choices.

Monochromatic choices.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

This orange button and its eight mates have been languishing on the wrong-color fabric for years. This is a much better combo.

This orange button and its eight mates have been languishing on the wrong-color fabric for years. This is a much better combo.

Project: Vogue 4036 Jacket, (1959), Part 3

Readers,

For me, making a bound buttonhole is a little like making a souffle. They’re both out of the ordinary, and require preparation and care. And every time I make either a bound buttonhole or a souffle I feel a small sense of accomplishment.

IMG_5195 (345x460)This 1959 jacket calls for bound buttonholes. But it didn’t even occur to me to follow the pattern instructions.

Maybe this method does work, but probably not for my bulky, ravelly fabric.

Maybe this method does work, but probably not for my bulky, ravelly fabric.

Just as I have favorite souffle recipes, I have a favorite “recipe” for bound buttonholes. It comes from the book Jackets for Real People by Marta Alto, Susan Neall, and Pati Palmer and is also demonstrated by Marta on the Jackets for Real People DVD.  I appreciate demos because there are never enough words or still pictures in a book to show every step.

I get good results when I follow the Organza Patch Method, but I always wonder whether I can pull this off again, in the particular fabric I’m working with.  So yesterday afternoon I made some samples.

This button is shaped like a deep dish pie pan. I learned that it doesn't need quite as wide a buttonhole as a thick button with straight sides.

This button is shaped like a deep dish pie pan. I learned that it doesn’t need quite as wide a buttonhole as a thick button with straight sides.

I underlined my fashion fabric scrap the same as I will with the jacket front. Then I basted two vertical guidelines to show the end points of the buttonholes and horizontal guidelines for where the fabric will be slashed to create the buttonhole.

I cut a rectangle of organza on the bias a little wider and longer than the buttonhole, and centered it over the guidelines. Then I basted the rectangle in place.

The vertical guidelines represent the width of the buttonholes. The organza is basted in place. I stitched 1/8 inch on each side of the basted center line.

The vertical guidelines represent the width of the buttonholes. The organza is basted in place. I stitched 1/8 inch on each side of the basted center line to form a box.

Seen from the wrong side, the stitched box. ( I fell short of the right guideline.)

Seen from the wrong side, the stitched box. ( I fell short of the right guideline.)

I like to use a rotary cutter to start the slash in the very center. Then I switch to very sharp tailors' scissors to cut the triangles right up to the corners.

I like to use a rotary cutter to start the slash in the very center. Then I switch to very sharp tailors’ scissors to cut the triangles right up to the corners.

The "window" seen from the right side. I always like this moment.

The “window” seen from the right side. I always like this moment.

Make the lips for the buttonhole. Jackets for Real People recommends cutting them on the bias for plaids.  I like to see a plaid through a window I’ve cut in stiff paper or an old business card to preview choices in color and pattern. Also, it’s just fun.

The diagonal lines on my preview window/template are aligned with the grain.

The diagonal lines on my preview window/template are aligned with the grain.

Rectangles cut for lips. I didn't try to match to the window for this sample.

Rectangles cut for lips. I didn’t try to match to the window for this sample.

Baste two rectangles together, right sides together, through the center lengthwise. Press open.

Baste two rectangles together, right sides together, through the center lengthwise. Press open.

Position the lips under the window. It's tricky to do it perfectly evenly. Just be careful.

Position the lips under the window. I find it tricky to do this perfectly evenly. You can see the organza sticking out slightly at this point.

Pinned and ready to be stitched.

Pinned and ready to be stitched.

Quoting from Jackets for Real People, “Fold back fashion fabric, exposing long sides. Stitch long sides, then ends.”  I couldn’t capture this in a photograph. The demo on the DVD shows just what to do. Just know that the precision will pay off.

The third sample I tried looks nice.

The third sample I tried looks nice. You have to look hard to see a tiny bit of organza on the right short end. I’m giving myself a passing grade.

Will it fit comfortably?

Will it fit comfortably?

Some may say this is snug, but the fabric gives sufficiently. I think this size will work.

This is a little snug. It could work, but better to make the jacket buttonholes very slightly longer.

That’s enough accomplishment for today!IMG_5197 (191x460)