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Friday’s Favorites: Tagua Nut Buttons

tagua nut buttons, Bakelite roses

Woodland Roses

Friday’s Favorites is all about “tagua nut buttons”. The vintage buttons on the necklace and bracelet are made almost entirely from tagua nut (the necklace has a few celluloid buttons). I have used mostly natural colored buttons, but a few have a darker brown dye added to the carved ones, some even have a cross-hatch pattern which is quite pretty. I used a variety of buttons on the necklace, two hole, four hole and shank; in designs such as “fish eye” and whistle; where as on the bracelet just shank buttons. The vintage roses on the necklace are carved Bakelite, and the round discs on the bracelet are wood. The necklace is a variation of my “Vintage Bling Bling” pattern, and the bracelet is the “Bohemian Button Bracelet” pattern.

Vegetable Ivory- or Tagua Nut from the Corozo Palm (except from Button Identification and Cleaning)

This nut comes from the Corozo Palm that grows in South America. It is a hard, versatile nut that can be carved and dyed. It has been used since the late 19th century s an alternative to ivory because the striations of the nut resemble those in ivory. It is softer than bone. The dye only absorbs on the surface layer, so the carving is left as the natural color of the nut. The tagua nut was popular from 1890- 1920, but has found resurgence since 1990.

vintage tagua nut buttons

Tagua Nut Buttons

All of these buttons here except for the red button are vintage.

What is amazing about tagua nut buttons is that each vintage one is made, one at a time, hand carved, hand dyed. Pretty remarkable.

The colors are so pretty close-up, rich natural browns; when dyed the colors tended to be greens both dark and light; black (which I ask what is the point because it is hard to see the beauty of the nut); browns from light to dark; and red as seen in the group that is tied together, notice the carving and how it shows the nut underneath. Some tagua nut buttons were inlaid with shell, or metal, some were dyed, carved and another color rubbed into the carving.

For further reading may I suggest “Button Button Identification & Price Guide”.

Enjoy your day, play in the button box if you have time! Christen

La Vie En Rose- embroidered handbag

La Vie En Rose by Christen Brown

La Vie En Rose by Christen Brown

The November/December 2007 issue of PieceWork Magazine, included an article on my collection of vintage handbags: The Glamour of it All Collecting Vintage Handbags and La Vie En Rose the purse shown here to embroider. The version in the article shows the back of the purse, and the instructions are for a smaller embroidered floral vignette.

During my research for the article I collected quite a bit of additional information and I have written two other articles that may be of interest if you collect vintage purses.

This purse is made from black silk shantung fabric. I embroidered the stitches in #5 pearl cotton thread, using six colors for the flowers and three for the leaves. I used a variety of traditional embroidery stitches including: bouillon knots, woven rose and spokes, cast-on, lazy daisy, feathered leaf, French Knots, and Peking knot.

Happy Stitching! Christen

Tambour Embroidery-by Christen Brown

Close-up view of vintage tambour embroidery

Close-up view of vintage tambour embroidery

Tambour embroidery, introduced to the Western world by France, is a continuous worked chain stitch formed with a tambour hook, which forms a loop similar to a crochet chain. The stitch is formed on the fabric with the thread held underneath in one hand while the other hand inserts the hook down through the fabric to catch the thread. The needle is brought back through the same hole, forming a loop. The following stitches are formed a short distance from the previous stitch, catching the loop of the last stitch at the beginning of the next.

Vintage Purses with Tambour Embroidery

Vintage Purses with Tambour Embroidery

These three purses are from my vintage purse collection. All are embroidered with tambour embroidery, possibly French. Clockwise from the left:

  1. Handbag with plunger clasp and chain handle: black moire silk with cream and pink roses and sage green leaves. Circa early 1900’s.
  2. Handbag with double frame and cloth handle: black silk satin with light pink, deep pink, crimson, and mauve colored roses and olive green leaves. Circa early 1900’s.
  3. Handbag that flips open flat with chain handle: black faille with pink, red, yellow and orange roses and olive green leaves.

Happy Stitching, ~Christen

Artistry in Alchemy- article by Christen Brown

Vintage French Handbags with Metal Thread Embroidery

Vintage French Handbags with Metal Thread Embroidery

The term gold-work embroidery was originally used to describe a form of decorative embroidery that employed real gold threads in a mixture of surface applications and techniques that use both laid and stitched yarns. The term now is extended to gold-work and metallic thread embroidery and includes all metals: gold (though this proved costly for most industries and was not used much after the 10th century), silver gilt, silver, pewter and copper, and metallic (alloy or synthetic) colored threads and yarns.

These two examples of incredible metal-thread embroidery are part of my vintage purse collection. The handbag I purchased at an estate sale, has copper, green and bronzed colored embroidery threads. The coin purse is mainly copper and silver colors, and I found this on ebay.

The March/April 2008  issue PieceWork Magazine included my article The Glittering World of Metal- Thread Embroidery. I created the project shown below Deco Butterfly, which appears in the magazine and Velvet Bracelet that you can download the directions to from their web site (use the link above and scroll to the bottom of the index).

Velvet Jewelry by Christen Brown

Velvet Jewelry by Christen Brown

Throughout the article they used pictures of the many examples of this fascinating embroidery that I have been collecting over the years.

Happy Stitching, ~Christen

Stitched Adornments- article by Christen Brown

Vintage Floral Embroidery

Vintage Floral Embroidery

Floral embroidery is a descriptive term that was used for both thread embroidery (silk, wool or chenille); and ribbon work flowers (a piece of ribbon or fabric that was stitched with a needle and thread) see the sample on the left. The flowers were arranged in sprays, or as a single bud on men’s waistcoats, ladies gowns, shawls and other accessories. Popular stitches for the embroideries were satin, long and short, and stem. The chain stitch that could also be worked with a tambour needle is often used as the only stitch in the design.

Ribbon work flowers such as aerophane or crepe floral embroidery (used in the late 19th century) had the details of leaves and stems stitched in with thread embroidery. The ribbon, a thin silk gauze or crepe would be cut then gathered with stitches to form each petal of the flower. Narrow silk “China” ribbons were available in shaded colors, and were first used in ribbon work floral embroidery. This narrow silk ribbon could also be threaded into a large eyed needle and stitched into flower shapes (usually a straight stitch) with added silk thread embroidered accents. The combination of ribbon work flowers and silk ribbon embroidery gave the design dimension.

Vintage Floral Sewing Bag

Vintage Floral Sewing Bag

The top image is from a satin purse, with the ribbon worked flowers and leaves of stitched chenille. A gift from my husband for my birthday, probably circa early 1900’s. It is incredible in person.

The second image with the whimsical floral vignettes was made, I believe as a sewing or knitting bag, but I use it as a purse, circa 1940’s judging from the fabrics used. Some of the flowers are made with ribbon, some with fabric scraps, some with added felt details. Primitive embroidery and beading were used to enhance the floral sections. I found this lovely treasure on ebay, and I adore it.

Tandletons: Embroidery, Tatting, Needle Lace Buttons

Tandletons- hand made buttons stitched with needle lace, traditional embroidery, tatting

Tandletons- hand made buttons stitched with needle lace, traditional embroidery, tatting

These little threaded works of art are just so much fun to make. I start with Hanah Silk bias ribbon, create a form and stuff it with Polyfil.

I then take a few strands of Wildflowers from the Caron Collection and start stitching.

All of the stitches are created with a milliner’s needle, and a little imagination.

The techniques that I used here are:

  • Embroidery: buttonhole stitch, French knots, lazy daisies. I have also used silk ribbon embroidery stitches like the woven rose with the feather stitch
  • Tatting: basic picot flowers and the closed double knot
  • Needle lace: buttonhole stitch, woven star

I created a set of buttons for the May/June 2008 PieceWork Magazine, and there is a free article that you can download to create a few of these for yourself. The article is called: Buttons to Embroider and Needle- Tat (scroll down the index towards the bottom of the page).

Buttons to embroider and needle tat

Buttons to embroider and needle tat

I wish you hours and days of Joyous and Happy Stitching!

Vintage Buttons- by Christen Brown

Renaissance Maiden by Christen Brown

Renaissance Maiden by Christen Brown

I LOVE buttons!!! As a kid my mom kept a wooden cigar box full of buttons in the sewing closet. When we were sick, or sometimes just bored she would pull out the box and let us play with them.

At first I just loved the sound that the buttons made when they fell on the table; then I loved just looking at the colors; then I started imagining what I would do with them all. I learned a lot about color, shapes and sizes by playing and arranging these little treasures on the rug in the living room. My mom in her quiet wisdom gave us our own self taught course on design.

Today I collect vintage and antique buttons, some I keep on display because they are so beautiful but mainly I use them in the projects that I make. Examples include “Renaissance Maiden” which is encrusted with vintage metal and glass buttons and “Autumn Leaves Must Fall” a short sleeved jacket that is covered in celluloid, Bakelite and Thermoset buttons.

I hope that you will be inspired to look through your own “Button Box” and that you find a hidden treasure in there. And remember that even if the button’s worth is measured only by the special memory that it brings to you, that is priceless.

Happy Stitching, ~Christen

Silk Gardens Purse: silk ribbon embroidery and ribbon work purse

Silk Gardens by Christen Brown

Silk Gardens by Christen Brown

This purse appeared in the March/ April 2007 issue of PieceWork Magazine. I wrote an article on silk fabrics, and this piece was included as a project to make. I enjoyed working with these lovely spring colors, and as always the silk ribbons that were used in this project.

The pattern is similar to the “Climbing Wisteria Vines” purse shape. The base is made from a silk dupioni fabric. The ribbon worked flowers are made from Hanah silk bias ribbons, and Mokuba picot edged ombre ribbons. The embroidery is done with 4mm and 7mm silk ribbons and 4mm Mokuba ombre ribbon.

A vintage reproduction Czech glass button is used for the closure, with reproduction jacquard ribbon. The edge and the cord handle are made from Hanah silk bias ribbon.

Happy  and Joyous Stitching! Christen