Flea Market Finds–Volume 2: Vintage Buttons!

Vintage buttons are readily available at flea markets, estate sales and garage sales. They can typically be had for a song, but what do you do with them?


Decorating with Vintage Buttons


I’ve mentioned in passing in a previous post my slight obsession with old buttons.  My Grandma Keith had two very large button jars that she would let me dig through when I was visiting her. While many of the buttons themselves were fascinating, what I really liked to do was use them to make my own designs.   I would lay them out on the floor to form patterns and pictures, and then scoop them all up and put them back in the jars to be played with on another day.

Jars of buttons found at the flea market.

Button collage using flea market finds.

I’m not sure exactly when I started collecting buttons of my own.  At some point in my early adulthood they somehow started making their way into my possession.  The extra buttons provided with new clothing. Buttons saved from clothing that was to be discarded (if they were particularly nice).  Small bags of buttons and baby food jars filled with buttons . . . I’m really not sure where they all came from.  Many where pretty plain, so I became more diligent about keeping my eyes open during my wanderings for buttons that had more character.  (Don’t you just love the tiny buttons kept together on the safety pin!  That was one of Grandma’s tricks too!)

Vintage Buttons on flea market scale.


So what’s a girl to do with all of these buttons?

Periodically, I would think of something to design using them . . . like this heart pin.

Vintage buttons made into heart pin.

Mostly these would get used to add pizzazz to wreaths, lampshades or anything else that seemed in need of a bit of glitz.  (You can read about my fondness for embellished lampshades HERE.)

Wreath with button embellishment

This shadow box combines my love of buttons with my love of the seaside.

Buttons and starfish in shadow box frame.


If there is a button treasure to be found, I’m the girl for the job!

My love of vintage buttons is not limited strictly to loose buttons!  Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this little baby at a charity shopping event that I attended while in Las Vegas for a conference!  The very large booth was completely filled with every kind of jewelry imaginable made from sterling silver, antique china, and . . .wait for it . . . VINTAGE BUTTONS!  Because they were made with precious metals, I could only treat myself to one lovely specimen.  I wear it often and it always brings a compliment.  It seems that I am not the only button crazy person in the world!

Bracelet made from vintage buttons.

Then there was our anniversary trip to New Orleans where this little fellow won my heart!  The Wildman proceeded to win my heart all over again by presenting him to me for an anniversary gift!  Sigh . . . .  Yep, he’s a keeper for sure! (The Wildman that is, but the bird also! )

Bird embellished with buttons on his wings.


My very favorite vintage button art ever!!!!

While I am a fan of all types of vintage buttons, my very favorite are all the varying shades of white.  Surprising, right?  Normally I am all about surrounding myself with color, but, when it comes to buttons, I’m a neutral girl!  Who knew?

This project is one that had been rattling around in my head for quite a while, but I just couldn’t decide exactly how I wanted to execute it.  Then the Wildman found a frame that he was going to use to practice his wood distressing technique with the “secret” formula that he was developing.   He came in to show it to me when he thought he had it finished and, suddenly, all the pieces (or buttons) fell into place in my head for my egg design!

Framed egg made from vintage buttons.

Supply list:  Tri-fold presentation board faced with cork


Assorted buttons

Glue gun

Mod Podge

Wallpaper or other type of solid roller.

(Optional paper embellishments)


This is one of my new favorite art supplies to keep on hand!

Cork trifold presentation board

I found it at Hobby Lobby beside all the other tri-fold presentation boards.  Yes, the same one’s that your kids buy for all of their school projects.   I wanted to use burlap as the backing for my design so that the piece would look somewhat aged to match the old buttons.  So I needed something that was the same color to adhere the burlap to given it’s open weave.  Originally I tried spray adhesive on on regular cardboard backing.  The adhesive did not do a great job and I knew that a wetter product would saturate the cardboard.  This is where the cork tri-fold proved perfect.  The right color, and the cork side has a smooth coating on it that won’t soak up a wetter adhesive.  I also plan to use the cork alone to design some smaller button art pieces.  I really like the look of the whitish buttons on the cork background.

I cut a panel the size of the frame opening from both the presentation board and the burlap.  After a few test runs, I settled on Mod Podge as an adhesive and painted a layer on the cork using a sponge applicator.   Then I simply laid the burlap piece on top and used a wallpaper roller to go over the surface to ensure that it was completely flat with no bubbles. (A rolling pin would work also.)  Allow the background piece to dry.

Then it is time design!!!!  I wanted to make an egg for Easter, but after laying out several different patterns, I decided that a random layout would make the piece usable for more than just the short Easter season.  In fact, I plan to leave it up most of the summer.  Initial layout of buttons on burlap

When you are designing, you can choose to leave space between the buttons, as I did with the egg, or you can keep them very close together and do more stacking of buttons to keep any background from showing.  My button heart pin from above and the button art in my previous post used this close stacking method.  It will depend on what look you want and how you intend to frame the piece.  Since mine was to be in a normal frame, I couldn’t do much layering or it would create bulk behind the glass.  After deciding on the design, simply use a glue gun to secure the buttons in place.

After I had all of the buttons in place and secured, I still wasn’t quite satisfied.  It just needed something else.  That is when I decided to work in a few vintage-style rhinestone buttons.  I had used up all of mine so I headed to Hobby Lobby to see if I could find the last perfect touches for my egg.  I knew they had the buttons, but I also thought I needed something else a bit larger in scale to add to the design.  After wandering the store I settled on some paper embellishments, also in the neutral color scheme, from the scrap booking aisle.

Button art close up

Button art with paper embellishments

I love the way it turned out.  The old combined with the new, carved buttons along side smooth, and sparkly next to plain.   It is exactly what was dancing around in my head all that time.  Most people who see it actually think it is an old heirloom piece.   It looks just right hanging on the antique iron gate in the dining room and the bonus is that I can see it from anywhere in the living room also!

Completed vintage button picture.

Now it’s your turn!  It’s time to go around and collect all of those random buttons you have around the house and start creating!  Use them to add a little embellishment to other decor pieces or create an entire piece of art on their own!  And be sure to share your creations with me on my Designing Wilder facebook page!  I’m just getting it started so please bear with me while I get the hang of the newsfeed! 



Shared At:

 Vintage Charm

Up to Date Interiors


10 thoughts on “Flea Market Finds–Volume 2: Vintage Buttons!

  1. Oh wow, I absolutely love your creative use of the buttons for the egg design! And I’m having major envy over that unique button bracelet. Thanks so very much, and Happy Easter!

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