Embellish the story with vintage buttons

Handful of buttons just cut off Cardato remnants

We love the topic for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Wildcard Day: “Embellish the story” which asks us to talk about our use of accessories (or not). BettaKnit has access to some really special, historic accessories that add a personal touch to our otherwise minimalist line.

Do you have a button jar? When I was a child, my favourite toy in the world was my grandmother’s button jar (it was actually an old tea tin). Whenever an old shirt or sweater was too worn to be mended, buttons were snipped off, cloths were made for cleaning, and the buttons went in that jar. There were a lot of very unusual, special buttons in there and as a child I came up with ways to organize them by colour, to stack them, to take out my favourites, and then to put them all back in there. I never made anything with them, oddly enough.

At BettaKnit we have the world’s best button jar. In Prato, Tuscany’s textile district, a lot of producers make a recycled CO2 neutral fabric called Cardato (it’s a brand name for a process that takes place at various factories near us). Cardato is recycled wool and it’s used mostly for coats (although it has a lot of potential for other applications in crafts and design). Before putting used wool clothing into a vat to make new fabric, workers cut off areas with zippers, buttons, or other non-wool decorations. These dusty old remnants go into big plastic bags… which we take and treasure.

It’s a dusty job but one that is just as much fun as going to a vintage clothing store where everything is free. We dig into these bags and pull up accessories that come from the past 40 years of fashion history. Here’s a pile we pulled out the other day.

Buttons and accessories waiting to be retrieved.

There are big plastic buckles from the 80s, nice wooden buttons, some amazing costume jewelry appliquée, some bits of faux fur, and a few things in truly bad taste. There are moments you can positively hear Flashdance playing in your head as you take in the use of irrationally applied sequins, and other objects that make you question who might have ever come up with that combination of fabric and accessories, like the black and red beauty we photographed here:

The truly hideous is fun, but gets tossed.

Each button, each accessory has a story to tell and we weave these as we wield our scissors and snip off these recycled objects from their original garments. A lot of hot water and soap later and the buttons are ready to become part of a new fashion adventure! Some are incorporated into our designs, while other vintage buttons are for sale in grab-bags divided by size.