Useful Things


I’m a romantic dinosaur, I’ll admit it.  I enjoy things that aren’t necessarily useful or needed for everyday use anymore.  Greeting cards, bookmarks, book plates and even journals are all things that I have made or aspire to make to sell here at the shop.  With our super useful technology having become the norm, many of these things are vanishing into the ether of our secondary memories.  Who has time to get a birthday card sent off  in the mail these days and why would you buy printed books when you can carry thousands in your Kindle? Oh, my friend because nothing’s quite as nice as the real thing.  Admit it, the first time you received birthday greetings via email or worse yet on your facebook page instead of a phone call or a card… you were just a little disappointed, weren’t you? I’m just as guilty of doing these things as the next guy but it never sets well with me.  I think the world would be a sadder place if nobody ever got to experience that tiny half heart-beat of joy had upon spying what must be thoughtful birthday greetings (“It is the week before my birthday after all…”) stacked in amongst the bills and junk mail.

No! I will not give up useful things of days gone by! I want to smell my book in all it’s ink and paper glory as I read and when I put it down… a handy bookmark shall hold my spot until I return.  And should I choose to loan out said book, a thoughtful bookplate inside the front cover to encourage it to come back home to it’s rightful owner.

They tell aspiring writers to “write what you know”. I think the crafting/creative version of that statement would be “make what you love”.  I love old and useful things (witness my undying passion for my husband) and I think these paperclip bookmarks made from vintage buttons is a beautiful representation of making what I love.

Useful… and damn cute!

Step one: Have fun shopping for old buttons! Ahhh… I love any project that starts with an excuse to rummage through our wonderful antique shops here on Jackson Main Street.  The materials list actually is pretty basic…

-vintage and/or new buttons usually no larger that 1 1/4″ . Both sew through and shaft buttons are fine as long as the shafts can be cut off.

-jumbo paper clips.

-wire cutters

-hot glue gun

-assorted bling if desired

-needle and thread

-something to cover the dot of glue on the back of the buttons. I used an old pack of Candi embellishments.

Sort your buttons.

So after your happy button hunting gleefully dump them out across the table and start sorting! No? Too messy? Then timidly and neatly pour them onto a paper plate or into a bowl or something equally boring.  Some buttons will stand on their own while others will look great stacked two or three high.

Trim the shank… protect your eyes!

Once you’ve organized your buttons into their proper sets (I make mine in coordinated sets of three but if you want to make yourself a dozen in hot pink then go for it.) use the wire cutters to cut the shanks of any that have them. You may want to wear protective eye gear or your sunglasses or something to protect your ojos from flying shanks. When the wire cutters finally snap through the shank… it can go flying pretty much anywhere!  Sidebar… I know wire cutters are probably not the husband recommended tool for shank removal but they work for me.  Also, I have never, ever used my wire cutters for cutting wire so I’m not worried about keeping my set sharp and at the ready for that specific task.  Do what works for you, just please keep your fingers in tact 🙂

If the top of your button stack finishes with a sew through button, cover the tiny holes with a aptly placed bling or fill them in with a few passes with the needle and thread to keep the hot glue from coming through. Use your hot glue (set on high) to glue your stacks of buttons and bling together. Once your stacks are all set, flip them bad boys over and apply a healthy dollop of hot glue and set your paper clip.

Set your glue gun temp to high.

Add a paper punch to finish it off like I did or try a small felt circle.

Finish it off!

The detail photo below is to highlight the overage of glue that may happen while applying the backing.  I make no apologies for this.  My two rules for great projects are beauty and function. The front of these bookmarks are beautiful… no hot glue poking out.  The backs are where the function cannot hide.  I will not abide the thought of a customer going to use one of these for the first time only to have the button stack pop off the paperclip and fall into their lap. No, no, no.

Pretty and functional… the extra bit of glue showing is ensuring the latter.
All done!
Anchors aweigh! I love this vintage Navy button.
Quick and dirty backing cards printed waiting to be cut in half.

I use old rsvp cards cut in half to package my bookmarks but you could have fun and use almost anything. Playing cards… fronts of old greeting cards… card stock…

Ready to go!

So my friends, I hope the next time you feel silly for wishing monogrammed stationery would come back in vogue, just don’t.  You are not alone.  I am reminded that I am not alone in my love of old and useful things every time someone that could remember Oregon Trail on green screen comes in to Gifted and buys a set of bookplates or bookmarks.

…And then I fell kinda alone again when a shopper too young to know the joy of the original incarnation of Strawberry Shortcake points to a pair of earrings adorned with birds and says “Oh Mom, I like the earrings with the twitter symbol on them!”  *sigh.

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