Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Another Mystery Solved

Dorset buttons (given that name due to the area that produced many of them) are a thread button wrapped around a bone or plastic loop that was mostly used, as I have observed from finding vintage clothing items in France, on woman's undergarments. Of course it was used on men's clothing as well but at least for woman, it would seem that thread buttons were soft and comfortable against the skin especially under tight corsets or while sleeping.
Threads used to make these buttons were a cotton or linen thread, depending on the ultimate use of the button. Normally they are are approximately 1/2" to 3/4" (1 to 1 1/2 cm) in diameter.

When first moving to Berlin I was surprised to find Dorset buttons in abundance at the flea markets and second hand stores. Dating them ranged from the 1950s and older. Nowhere did I see vintage or modern wear that would use this type of button. So why were they there? Why so any of them?

Now for a little more observation. In France and I might add in Southern Germany when one buys vintage and not so vintage pillow cases, on them are linen or cotton covered buttons like these:
One can even buy these buttons in sewing stores and department store today as they are used to hold the pillow cases or the duvets closed. 

So back to the Dorset button mystery. Why so many? I think I have the answer. Again second hand store and flea market finds. More than once I have found this:
A Dorset button used on a pillowcase. I do not recall seeing this in France. I have an embarrassingly large collection of bedding from France as I love raised work embroidery and linen sheets. Normally in France it is a linen covered button or, more commonly, mother of pearl buttons that holds the opening to the pillowcase closed. Using Dorset is new to me. Again, by observation I have now seen this many times on the closures to vintage bedding in Germany, or at least this area of Germany.

What you are looking at with the Dorset button and hand made button hole is a well used baby pillowcase I found at a bargain price.  I bought it stained and inspecting it, it is not particularly well made. I bought it because of the two strips of insertion:
 It also came with two Dorset buttons which hold the pillowcase closed. This particular insertion is very common and machine made. This particular pattern was found everywhere in Europe and the United States and probably beyond. I have plans for it for my crazy patch quilt.


  1. A collector pal told me that really old Dorset buttons were sometimes made from horsehair rather than thread.

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