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Two Kinds of Monochrome (Kind of…)

I’ve always liked the black and white monochrome colour scheme, and have made quite a few black and white button necklaces over the years.

Here’s the latest one:

Black and white button necklace
Black and white button necklace, available to buy here.

But I’ve personally found that black and white is a bit too dramatic for me to wear – it looks like they’re wearing me, rather than the other way round, because I have rather muted colouring. So I like to do a slightly toned-down monochrome-type look using black and beige instead. I have a black and beige striped dress which goes nicely with a black and beige button necklace, like as this one:

Black and beige button necklace
Black and beige button necklace, available here.

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Burgundy, Teal and Mustard Necklace

This necklace is one of my favourite colour schemes to make. It’s popular with other people too – these tend to sell very quickly!

Burgundy, teal and mustard button necklace
Burgundy, teal and mustard necklace – available here.

I like to think of burgundy, teal and and mustard as “the hipster primary colours” because they’re the kind of colours I used to see on certain type of person in a certain type of coffee shop in the 2010s… I have no idea what sorts of people might go to what sorts of coffee shop these days or in the future, because coffee shops were cancelled for a long time, and types of people may also have been cancelled due to everyone uniformly staying in their houses wearing grey tracksuits, apparently. I didn’t participate in this phenomenon, because I worked from home already (I am VERY FORTUNATE in this, yes) and so continued to wear my normal clothes throughout lockdown.

However, recently I cracked and bought some harem pants from Hush, and to be honest, at all times when they are not in the wash, they are on me. So, yeah. That thing happened to me too, eventually.

Anyway, this is a total digression. Here are some more photos of this new necklace.

Button necklace hanging from wooden structure
Button necklace close up
Burgundy, teal, mustard button necklace

You can get this necklace (or one of its descendants) from here. And you can wear it even if you’re not a hipster, I promise.

[Stay tuned for my future post: What Actually Is a Hipster Anyway? Are They Even a Thing Now?]

[I’m not really going to write that post, so don’t really stay tuned.]

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Button Necklaces in Muted Colours – July 2021

I have a big pile of grey buttons, and these look lovely next to slightly more saturated colours, to create subtly coloured necklaces for people who like some softer tones in their outfit. I’ve made three new necklaces – one in blue, one in green and one in burgundy, all mixed in with a variety of grey buttons.

Three button necklaces in burgundy and grey, green and grey, and blue and grey.
Green and grey, burgundy and grey, and blue and grey button necklaces.

Here’s a close-up of them all mixed together:

Muted colours button necklaces

Plus the obligatory “on the wooden board leaning against an apple tree” shot. Although you can’t actually see the apple tree. There’s a nice bit of sage, though.

Button necklaces on a wooden board.

All of these necklaces are available in my shop.

The green and grey one (which I’m half-wondering about keeping, so be quick!) is here.

The blue and grey one is here, and the burgundy and grey one is here.

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New Button Necklaces – June 2021

A few new button necklaces today, which I have photographed in the garden. The garden is being conveniently rampant and provides a nice background at this time of year.

Left to right: summer colours button necklace, bright multicolour button necklace, sandy brown button necklace, teal, burgundy, navy and mustard button necklace

As the light was good, I took a new photo of these vintage grey pearl button stud earrings, which are not new at all, but somehow got left out of my more recent photo sessions in which I photographed all the jewellery on this weathered wooden board. They’ve been the odd ones out in the shop for ages with a plain white background, but today they were finally updated.

Grey pearl stud button earrings
Teal, burgundy, navy blue and mustard necklace detail
close-up detail of the teal, burgundy, navy and mustard button necklace
detail of sandy brown button necklace
Close-up detail of the sandy brown button necklace

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Longer Length Button Necklaces for Heather

Heather's first custom button necklace

This post is partly to give an example of some of the customised button jewellery I’ve made in the past, but also to show something else: sometimes when somebody asks me to make something, it’s something I haven’t thought of making before, but just one person asking for it has made me realise that actually it’s a great thing to make, and maybe other people would like this too and I should make more of them.

Heather got in touch with me because her favourite button necklace, which she’d had for years, was lost. It wasn’t one that I had made (not-especially-curiously enough, other people aside from me also make button jewellery), so it was constructed a little different to my existing necklaces at the time.

Heather told me she had a metal sensitivity, so her necklace had not had a clasp and was one continuous piece to slip over her head. She wondered if I could make a longer length necklace,and described the colours to me as being a combination of the colour schemes of two necklaces I had for sale at the time.

So I made a longer length necklace according to her instructions.

Turned out she was pretty pleased with it! A few months later she sent me another email, saying she’d raided her mum’s button tin and would like another one made to the same spec, but using the buttons she’d got from her mum. So of course I was very happy to do so.

Heather’s second custom button necklace

And now I’ve started making longer length button necklaces with no metal parts as part of my standard range. You can see them here.

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How I Started Making Button Jewellery

Button necklace

One day in 2005, aged 24, I was walking into York railway station and a woman about the same age as me was walking out of York railway station at the same time, and inevitably we passed each other. The only thing I remember about this woman was that around her neck was a necklace made from buttons: little white four-hole buttons all tied together in a line. “I would like to wear a necklace made from buttons,” I thought.

There was nothing I could do about this immediately there and then, because I had to catch a train to Manchester, but when I got back I found some buttons in my house, and tied them together with some nice thick thread that I had, and made a necklace. After all, a button necklace was not something you could just pop into Topshop and buy – but even if you could, I probably wouldn’t have done that anyway, because I was brought up with the idea that if you wanted a thing, you either had a rummage around the jumble sale to see if there was one, or you made the thing out of things that were lying around the house, or you made the thing out of things you found rummaging at the jumble sale. You get the idea. These days, that process has a name: upcycling. In those days it didn’t have a name because it wasn’t cool yet, but we did it anyway.

That very first button necklace wasn’t quite the sort of necklace that I wanted because the buttons were purple and purple doesn’t suit me, but I phoned Jo and asked if she thought Jenny would wear something purple, because it was Jenny’s birthday soon. Jo replied in the affirmative, so the button necklace became Jenny’s birthday present, and she liked it and wore it a lot.

The button necklace that became mine was made when I visited my parents: my mum had a tin of old buttons, and my dad had an old reel of fuse wire. I picked out my favourite buttons and arranged them in a line on the kitchen table, and then strung them up on the fuse wire to make a necklace. I made a little clasp out of a piece of ribbon. The buttons were blue and brown and white.

Now, fuse wire and ribbon weren’t the best materials to make a necklace from, as it turned out: the wire would break from time to time, and the ribbon would fray and need replacing – but I wore the necklace anyway, and people always noticed it and lots of them gave me compliments. When it broke, I mended it with more wire and ribbon and wore it some more.

In the summer it was York Carnival. Some of my friends were helping to organise it, and they’d collected donations of materials from local businesses. One of the businesses was a button shop, which gave them a bag full of all the odds and ends of leftover buttons that they couldn’t sell. The Carnival had quite a low button requirement, as it turned out, so after it had finished, my organiser-friend re-donated the buttons to me.

With my newly acquired button supply, I started trying out different, better ways to make button necklaces, and soon I had a new way to make them that didn’t break every three months. Some of them became birthday presents. Then some people started suggesting that maybe I should see if some of the shops in York might sell them. I took a bit of convincing, because I was so used to “home-made” and “shop-bought” being a personal dichotomy and had the idea that anything I made myself couldn’t cross from one category to the other – but as it turned out, one of them did want to sell them. They wanted a York-monopoly, though – they’d only stock them as long as I didn’t supply them to any other shops in York, but that was all right, because it turned out that the shop’s customers liked them and they kept running out and ordering more and more. (Another good thing was that it meant that I didn’t have to go into any more shops and ask if they’d sell my jewellery please, because that was *terrifying*.)

Encouraged, I started buying bags of secondhand and vintage buttons and making more necklaces (and bracelets and earrings, because the jewellery shop owners said people liked to buy things in sets). If people were buying them in shops, I thought, why not try putting them on that buying-and-selling-things website called eBay? I’d never sold anything on eBay before, so I was pretty amazed and pleased when I put some necklaces up for sale and people bought them.

Shortly afterwards I found out that the internet-money-transferring-system-website called PayPal had invented something called a “Buy it Now” button, which you could place on your own website and people could click on it and transfer money to you. I had no idea whether this was likely to work for my necklaces, but I thought it was worth having a go. I already knew how to make a website because during my sixth form “study periods” in which you either Studied if you were a geek or Went to Smoke in the Park if you were a rebel, I learnt HTML (not on the syllabus in those days) on the library computer, like some kind of weird combination of the two.

So, as an experiment, I registered the domain buttonjewellery.co.uk and took photos of five necklaces and gave them all Buy it Now buttons provided by PayPal, and put them all on one web page with explanations in Times New Roman on a white background with no design or styling whatsoever because I didn’t really think it was going to work.

Four days later I got an email from PayPal saying someone had bought one and could I post it to them please and that here was some money. Which was unexpected and made me very, very happy – and spurred me on to make more jewellery and a proper website for it all to live on.

Of course, you couldn’t just do something like that now. That was back in the days when the internet was more like an innocent four week old kitten, rather than a seething mass of swamp-dwelling mutant snake-tigers like it is now. (I’m writing this in 2017.) But I digress. That’s how I started off doing this. It wasn’t through any particular cleverness or planning – time and circumstances just happened to align with the things I liked doing and was interested in.