Taylors Buttons, London


When I did the research while living in London for two months in 2011 for my article “Sewing Destination: London, England,” (Threads magazine, June-July 2012), I tried to be as comprehensive as possible. There was no ready-made master list of suppliers, markets, events, tours, and museum and library collections of interest to sewers and fashion lovers to work from. Using my experience as a reference librarian, I just did my best to compile my own list.ThreadsLondon

When I put the finishing touches on my manuscript for Threads I hoped to high heaven I hadn’t made some glaring omission.

On subsequent trips to London in 2012 and 2014 I felt fairly confident that I hadn’t left out any source that was really important. Then last week I visited Taylors Buttons.IMG_9033 (345x460)

How I missed learning about Taylors Buttons diligently searching online and on foot I’ll never know–its website proclaims “Established over 100 Years.” It was only when I was taking the Savile Row tailoring class last year that I heard about it, from our teacher, who also told us about  Kenton Trimmings.

Press the button to sound the buzzer.

Press the button to sound the buzzer.

As you know, I have an affinity for button shops–the older and dustier the selections, the better–so when I browsed the Taylors Buttons “Shop Images” I knew I had to see this place for myself.

Open sesame!

Open sesame!

Last Monday, then, after leaving Kenton Trimmings I made my way to 22 Cleveland Street, London W1.IMG_9034 (460x331)

Even though I had bought buttons for my 1941 McCall “mannish jacket” in Salzburg, I was curious to know whether the proprietor, Maureen Rose, might have another intriguing choice, so I brought a swatch of my green and blue tweed.

The window display hardly prepares the visitor for what lies within.

The window display hardly prepares the visitor for what lies within.

I have now consulted enough button counter staff to distinguish two styles of button-matching: the swift and exuberant hash-slinging approach and the slow and pensive meditative approach. Both are good.IMG_9021 (460x345)

The button saleslady in Salzburg was a hash-slinger, briskly laying out button matches for my consideration like a short-order cook plating eggs and sausage for a famished breakfast crowd.IMG_9020 (460x345)

By contrast, Maureen pulled buttons like a rare book seller retrieving volumes from high, dusty shelves for my perusal. I would place the buttons on my swatch and then we would scrutinize the combination together as if contemplating the merits of a painting slated for auction.IMG_9019 (460x345)

If I hesitated and said, almost apologetically, “It’s just not…right,” Maureen nodded in agreement and reapplied herself to the task. The right color but wrong size. The right size but wrong finish. All in a day’s work for a purveyor of buttons.

Carded buttons, loose buttons.

Carded buttons, loose buttons.

“How long will you be in town? I could dye buttons to match your fabric.” She told me how many days it would take to complete the order. I would have already flown back to the States. I was afraid to ask about the costs of dyeing plus shipping, too.

Dyeable buttons.

Dyeable buttons.

More dyeable buttons

More dyeable buttons.

At last Maureen said “Well, I’m stumped.” Yet she was not ready to concede defeat. She had a new idea. She walked to a corner where she unearthed another box containing some variegated bluish-green buttons, 36s, the perfect size  for my jacket front.IMG_9018 (460x310)

They also turned out to be a perfect complement to my blue-green tweed. We both knew it. We paused to admire the match.



The boxes read "Buckles bits & bobs", "Funky Buckles."  I think these are dyeable. Wonderful!

The boxes read “Buckles bits & bobs”, “Funky Buckles.” I think these are dyeable. Wonderful!

The problem was, this style came in only the one size. I had wanted a smaller size for the sleeves. I had always seen smaller buttons on sleeve vents and assumed that was a rule. I pondered slip-stitching my sleeve vents closed and foregoing buttons on them altogether.

However, Maureen said that Savile Row tailors who have been her customers have used the same size buttons on sleeves as well as fronts.

“If Savile Row tailors do it, then I can, too,” I declared, and picked out three buttons for the front, one for each sleeve, and two extras.

I especially liked these red buttons--and the oval black ones are great, too.

I especially liked these red buttons–and the oval black ones are great, too.

In the course of our conversation Maureen mentioned that the buttons very likely dated from the 1940s.  “That’s interesting,” I said. “The pattern I used for my jacket is from 1941, and I’m pretty sure my fabric is vintage, too–from the ’50s, if not earlier.”  That the buttons seemed so natural on the tweed was perhaps not such a great coincidence after all.

The building Taylors Buttons is in has a historical designation.

The building Taylors Buttons is in has a historical designation.

As I continued to browse the Taylors Buttons trove Maureen returned to filling an order for covered buttons using a device that might have been a century old. Interrupting her work to take a couple of phone calls, she hung up and commented on fashion designers’ typically short deadlines. “They always want it done yesterday,” she said, matter of factly.

Maureen Rose covers buttons to order using a a sturdy old device. Wish I had one like this!

Maureen Rose covers buttons to order using a a sturdy old device. Wish I had one like this!

When I asked if I could take some pictures to show readers this wonderful place (this is always hard for me to do because I feel I am imposing on people and being presumptuous), Maureen readily agreed. In its quiet way Taylors Buttons is a legendary place. It has been written about before–even though I did manage to miss all the press when I researched my “Sewing Destination” article.

At last I am correcting my glaring omission. Taylors Buttons is a sewing destination of the first rank. It’s one of those places I want to see not only once but many, many times.

On a high shelf, these beauties. 1930s? '40s?

On a high shelf, these beauties. 1930s? ’40s?

Kenton Trimmings, London


Ever since I took the Savile Row tailoring class at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London last year I wanted to check out a tailors’ supplier our teacher, Victoria Townsend, recommended. Frustratingly, I caught a bad cold after the class ended. The two days I had hoped to roam the city were spent in the flat sniffling and feeling sorry for myself.

“Oh well,” I said to myself, “I’ll visit Kenton Trimmings next time.”

“Next time” turned out to be this past Monday, when Jack and I were in London finishing up our Germany-England trip. After a coffee and pain au chocolat breakfast at the Paul bakery on Gloucester Road we went our separate ways: Jack, by train to Battle; and me, by Tube to 5 Mozart Street, postcode W10.

Fueled for the morning's excursion: coffee and a pain au chocolat.

Fueling the morning’s excursion: coffee and a pain au chocolat.

The neighborhood surrounding Queen’s Park station was new to me, so it was no surprise that even using my trusty London AZ I got turned around a couple of times .

Would I run into a burning building to save my London streetfinder? I just might.

Would I run into a burning building to save my London streetfinder? I just might.

At last I was on course to my destination. Clutching the AZ I strode down the street with the eagerness of a foxhound that has locked onto a scent.

From Queen's Park station to Mozart Street I got lost for a few minutes, but no matter.

From Queen’s Park station to Mozart Street I got lost for a few minutes, but no matter.

Maybe it was my yellow raincoat and spiffy new purple scarf, or maybe it was my look of determination that attracted the attention of a woman walking in my direction.

As she came within earshot, she shyly said to me, “You look great.” “Thank you!” I said, surprised and a little confused at this rare instance of English effusiveness.

“You remind me of a family member,” she said.

“I hope it’s a happy memory,” I answered. “It is,” she said, and walked away with a little smile.

Whether I reminded her of dotty Great Aunt Edna or the family’s beloved border collie I’ll never know. I left off pondering that question when I arrived at Mozart Street a couple of minutes later.IMG_9017 (460x345)

What I saw was not a commercial street so much as a residential street where a handful of businesses had set up shop. If Victoria hadn’t mentioned Kenton Trimmings, I never would have discovered this place on my own.IMG_9015 (460x345)But the fact that this shop served the tailoring elite was all I needed to know to put this place on my “must see” list.

Mozart Street appears to have mainly houses and flats.

Mozart Street appears to have mainly houses and flats.

I’d brought a swatch of tweed from my Smart Tailoring jacket project in case I found buttons to rival the ones I’d bought in Salzburg.  But buttons are not the main reason, I concluded, I would schlep to Mozart Street.IMG_9009 (460x345)IMG_9010 (345x460)

Kenton Trimmings, LondonNo, the main reason would be the tailoring canvases.

These canvases are destined for some of the finest tailored suits in the world.

These canvases are destined for some of the finest tailored suits in the world.

If only I could have been sure which ones I needed to achieve the right degree of crispness or body for a particular fabric and pattern, I would have stocked up. A curious thing has happened since I did my first Smart Tailoring jacket project: I’m now interested in the supporting roles canvases play, almost as much as the fabric that gets all the attention in the finished garment.

So here I was, in the midst of a sizable array of jacket underpinnings, and all I could do was voice my admiration to Glyn West, who owns the shop along with his sister, and ask about mail order.

Glyn West of Kenton Trimmings

Glyn West of Kenton Trimmings

He cut me a couple of generous-sized samples of popular choices to take home. One was EC3 body canvas, which is  medium weight and pliable.

IMG_9046 (460x419)Another sample was of IL3, a crisp canvas with 40 percent horsehair. I tried crushing it with one hand, and it recovered nicely.IMG_9045 (345x460)

For good measure Mr. West tossed in a curved trouser zipper, the likes of which I’d never seen before.

Have you ever heard of a curved zipper? I hadn't.

Have you ever heard of a curved zipper? I hadn’t.

And when I described trying to use a tailor’s thimble that was too big for me, he brought out this adjustable Japanese version for my consideration. IMG_9040 (345x460)IMG_9041 (345x460)IMG_9042 (460x371)I had never seen a thimble like this. What a clever idea!

For two pounds I had a little souvenir of Kenton Trimmings. It will tide me over till my next visit, when I plan to lay in a goodly supply of canvases.

After all, those jackets and coats I dream of making deserve the very best, don’t they?

Kenton Trimmings: worth a special trip.

Kenton Trimmings: worth a special trip.

A Couple More Button Places in Berlin


Before Jack and I leave Berlin tomorrow morning for Cambridge I wanted to mention two other places I looked at for buttons.

One was recommended recently by Helen on her sewing blog, Button & Snap: ZickZack Nähwelt, Torstraße 49.IMG_8189 (460x345)

As Helen noted, the entrance to the store is actually around the corner–and then more than a few yards’ farther, I discovered, on Schönhauser Allee.IMG_8188 (345x460)

As Helen said, ZickZack has an impressive selection of buttons.IMG_8191 (460x357)

I pulled out the green and blue tweed swatch of my jacket, and found a couple of color matches, but not in the right  sizes, so no purchases here.IMG_8193 (345x460)

I happen to like trying out buttons on my own, so I was glad the salesladies left me to my own devices for several minutes before one came over to inquire whether I needed any help.  IMG_8196 (460x345)

Zick Zack's shirt buttons

Shirt buttons

Leather buttons (I think)

Mostly leather buttons, I think

When she heard me reply in English she had an “Oh dear” look on her face, but I’m sure that if I’d wanted to buy anything we would have completed the sales transaction just fine.IMG_8200 (460x345)

IMG_8199 (460x345)IMG_8198 (460x345)IMG_8197 (460x345)

The second place I wanted to mention is Idee Creativmarkt, on Passauerstraße, across the street from the legendary department store KaDeWe.

A catchy storefront for Idee, just steps away from KaDeWe.

A catchy storefront for Idee, just steps away from KaDeWe.

Idee carries lots of buttons, as well as other sewing notions and fabrics.Idee, Berlin

I didn’t find buttons for my jacket there, although as at ZickZack there were some nice choices but in the wrong sizes.IMG_8111 (460x345)

IMG_8112 (460x345)

I didn't see a sign saying so, but these buttons look to be especially for jacket fronts and sleeves.

I didn’t see a sign saying so, but these buttons look to be especially for jacket fronts and sleeves.

I was almost relieved I didn’t see anything fantastic for my garment, because, unless I misunderstood, some buttons cost more than 3 Euros apiece and they didn’t strike me as anything special.

Nice, but no matches for my jacket.

Nice, but no matches for my jacket.

IMG_8118 (345x460)

I think some of these buttons are made of wood, horn, or antlers.

However, on another occasion, for another garment, I easily could have found a perfect match.

These flower "buttons" would be darling on spring frocks.

These flower embellishments would be darling on spring frocks.

You just never know when or where that fantastic combination will turn up.

And that’s why I keep looking.

Buying Buttons in Berlin: Knopf Paul


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!

IMG_8163 (460x401)

Buying Buttons in Salzburg


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.