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  • My Obsession with BUTTONS!
  • Author avatar
    Nancy Ihlefeld

My Obsession with BUTTONS!

I think the image that comes to everyones' mind when they think “Button”, is a typical plastic shirt button with four holes. But, Ohhhhh they are really so much more! Every material under the sun has been used in button production. There are even some made out of human hair!! Now that’s not one I personally might choose for one of my bags, but c’mon, that’s a big leap from a plastic shirt button!

You hear “Button Collectors” or “Button Societies” and you picture old ladies sitting around a table exchanging buttons. While this may pertain to some… the flip side of the coin is massive Button Conventions consisting of buttons from all over the world, from every point in time. Some are worth hundreds of dollars because of what they’re made of, and where & when they came from. Crazy when you think that we are talking about an item that is 2 inches in diameter at the MOST! For antique lovers that get caught up in where an item has been, this is an intriguing and interesting event because there is a lot of history that can be attached to that little piece.

Apparantly Grandmothers are responsible for getting anyone and everyone into Button collecting. Every story I come across of how a person came to be a button collector, it always begins with “I inherited my grandmother’s button collection…”

For me, it was not MY grandmother’s, but a bunch of my best friend’s grandmother’s buttons that were given to me. She gave me a baggie full of antique buttons and some of them were just gorgeous! And they were different, which I realized was because they were vintage and timeless. I had just started to use large buttons in the center of the leather flower on my handbags, but I was only shopping new ones from craft stores. I hadn’t even thought to check into vintage or antiques. The buttons I had been getting from stores were really nice, but the quality of these vintage/antique vs. the newer plastic or ceramic made such a difference in the look it gave the bag. So I started looking on the internet for more Antique Large Buttons, and was blown away at the massive button collector community out there! Shortly after, I became just as obsessed. I was finding ones from the 18 & 1900’s, adorable ones from the 1920’s... They were from France, England, and all over. I couldn’t help but be enamored by the wonder of  where they had been and who had worn them. Was it on the dress of a Queen, the lapel of a writer, the headband of a flapper?? Or maybe on a sweater that kept a woman warm who sat in protest for a week back in the 70’s? This was the beginning to realizing my handbags could tell a story based upon what they were made from, and they could represent the fact that each and every one of us has a story to tell.

I like that I’ve become obsessed in a way that I will be adding to the buttons’ life story. Not that sitting on a card with 50 other random buttons in some lady’s house isn’t a story for the button, but I like that I’m giving it a new life, another story to tell as it goes for a ride on an IHLE BAG. 

It’s always fun to shop the vintage and get lost in where they’ve been, but it’s also fun to come across current artists handcrafting their own buttons. Buttons are an artform, and like everything, there’s a difference to “hand-crafted” vs. “punched out” manufactured. These artists pay attention to how they are painted and how they are set. An item made from love and attention stands out from the rest. And that’s a quality I will proudly represent on my handbags.

Attending a button convention to collect buttons for my IHLE BAGS has been added to my bucket list for IHLE, which also consists of going to Bali and Thailand to hand-pick my Batik Fabric for my lining. In the meantime… I am grateful for the internet for making our world a smaller place and enabling me to shop from collectors and makers in the comfort of my home.


  • Author avatar
    Nancy Ihlefeld