I maintain that there are only two ways to approach button selection. The first is that the button should be the focal point of a garment. You select a gorgeous button, and the shirt, dress, or coat enhances it. The second is that the button should be beautiful, but it should complement the garment. I ascribe to the second approach because my garments are already so beautiful that I don’t want them upstaged by any mere button. The garment is the thing I want people to notice. But selecting the perfect button is still no easy task.
The finest place on earth, in my opinion, to buy buttons is at Tender Buttons in New York City. I have been buying buttons there since the 1970s, and I’ve never been disappointed. The selection is fantastic, the store is one of those gems that only exist in huge cities like New York, London, or Paris where you can find a store that can actually survive selling such a narrow type of merchandise, and when you enter the store, you feel as if you are entering a sacred tomb.
If you have to be in Manhattan for any reason, I recommend you take a side trip. The staff at Tender Buttons is polite but not helpful in making your choice. I’ve yet to have anyone there tell me that one button looks better than another. And I rather like that. Being a New Yorker myself, I’m of the “what’s it to you, buster” school when reacting to unsolicited advice, and I might not like the store as much if the sales people hovered. Now I realize that this attitude might not appeal to those used to friendlier sales help, and I realize that it might take some adjustment. This kind of thinking was new to me, and I realized it was an acquired behavior when I started taking my son from the ‘burbs into “the City” (as those of us who grew up in New York City’s boroughs think of Manhattan). He is personable and outgoing—clearly something he inherited from his father, who is a third-generation Californian. He actually made eye contact with people on the subway and took things like flyers when he was handed them in the street (ugh). And explaining the protocols necessary in public toilets was a particularly demanding aspect of motherhood. To this day, my son thinks I have a death wish when I cross New York City streets, because I have the “hey, I’m walkin’ here” attitude so deftly articulated by Ratso Rizzo (in “Midnight Cowboy”).
A minor digression: Although I have traveled quite extensively for business, places like Washington D.C., where you really get ticketed for J-walking, and Los Angeles, where motorists stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, still spook me. They take away all the fun of a brisk stroll.
In honor of my birthday, I am taking Wednesday off as a present to myself. After my stop at Tender Buttons, I’m visiting a museum (which one has not been decided yet) and having lunch with my friend Mary Anne, who has promised to help me take better blog photos.
But I have all my swatches ready so I can locate the perfect button for these forthcoming projects:
1. DH’s green sweater (swatch is here).
2. Elsebeth Lavold sweater shown here, in gray Zara.
3. Jo Sharp sweater, Brunswick from Knitting Bazaar—which I borrowed from the library so I have no photo. It is a cardigan with a narrow shawl collar, mostly straight stitch, but with a Celtic-style yoke. The Shetland-weight yarn is from Snow Star Farm, purchased at Maryland last May. I’ve loved the Snow Star Farm yarn every since I first saw it at Rhinebeck, but it is a little expensive so I had to get over my hesitation before buying it. And I had to decide which of the amazing colors I wanted.
4. Chanel-style jacket from Jean Frost’s amazing book, done in three colors of Zara in slip stitch. The green doesn't show up that well in the photo. But the colors are rust, a rich brown, and dark green.
These are the yarns and swatches for #3 and #4:
I’ll post my button choices later in the week.