Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Mystery Thingee Solution

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Susan reports:

This object was found in the tailor's shop in Colonial Williamsburg.  It's used to cut the opening in a buttonhole, and versions are used today by modern tailors and dressmakers.  The wedge-shaped edge is sharp, and when pressed down through the cloth makes a clean, neat cut that's almost impossible with scissors (as every frustrated home-sewer will agree.)  The wooden block is placed beneath the cloth to limit the depth of the cut, and to protect the surface of the work table.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, buttonholes were used as an important decorative element as well as for closing coats, jackets, and waistcoats.  Look again at the riding habit in Loretta's post.  All of those gold stripes on the cuffs and down both reveres are worked buttonholes -- there must be over thirty on that single jacket.  No wonder this little tool was so indispensable to a tailor!


Jane O said...

And it was two inches wide? Man, those were big buttons!
Personally, I've always used an exacto knife, but then buttons today are generally a lot smaller.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Jane, I'm an exacto-knife-user, too. Much better than trying to wield those silly little "embroidary scissors" to do the job!

And yes, those 18th c. buttonholes ARE huge. The buttons aren't, though. It's an inexplicable fashion (but then what about fashion ever makes sense?) Check out the riding habit photo again. All of those contrasting diagonal stripes along the reveres are bound buttonholes -- but the brass buttons themselves are much smaller. The buttonholes are even longer on men's clothes. Strange but true.....:)

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