Buy This Book: “Button it Up” by Susan Beal

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Cover of "Button it Up," by my awesome pal Susan. Aside from the fact this is a unique new book, I really love the cover. I am a terrible one for judging a book by its cover, and Taunton did a lovely job with this design--it's very eye-catching and energetic.

I’m not even going to try to pretend to be unbiased in this review, I’m just going to try to give you a bunch of reasons why you should buy my friend Susan Beal‘s awesome new book, Button it Up: 80 Amazing Vintage Button Projects. While I’ve only recently amassed a collection of buttons (thanks, Bryan), I have always loved buttons, especially those of a vintage nature. This book, will certainly get your mind going about how to utilize the buttons in your collection in new and different ways.

Susan is a true button aficionado. Button it Up begins with a sweet introduction from her about her button memories as a child, playing with both of her grandmothers’ button stashes. As I was getting ready to write this post, I looked back on some of Susan’s old West Coast Crafty posts about this book, and I was struck by how many comments on this post in particular connected with a similar memory. It seems that there is something nearly universal about a childhood fascination with buttons, and this book is a warm reminder of that.

If you’re familiar with Susan’s jewelry-making book, Bead Simple (a well put together and highly approachable book, if you’re interested in jewelry making), you’ll appreciate that Button it Up follows a similar format–lots of great “recipes” (that’s how I think of them) for making unique projects, this time using buttons. This is definitely one of the strengths of the book–it gives you all the tools you need to unleash your own creativity–not simply replicate a project from the book. Also like Bead Simple, Button it Up is really enhanced by the presence of some really talented guest designers that bring their own flair to some unique button projects.

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This simple pendant could be customized in any number of ways using vintage buttons you've found.

Since Susan’s a jewelry designer extraordinaire, many of the projects (did I mention there are 80 of them?) are jewelry designs. I love the idea of showing off a love of sewing by creating jewelry with sewing’s most varied and fun notion. Buttons really are the accessories for our clothing, so why not have them serve as our, well, accessories?

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The simple plastic circles combined with retro buttons come together as a fun necklace.

Love buttons, but aren’t familiar with jewelry making techniques? No fear here–the introduction to Button it Up covers all the basic skills. Materials such as wire, chain, glues and findings are all discussed in a very straightforward manner, so you can feel very confident flipping to a project you want to try out and knowing that the resources you need to be successful in your project are right there in the book. As someone who hasn’t messed around with jewelry making since I was a teenager, I’m very grateful that this instructional section is so thorough.

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Definitely my favorite design in Button it Up -- circle chain combined with vibrant red buttons create a new take on the old school charm bracelet.

But it’s not all jewelry–there’s something fabulous for any maker who loves vintage buttons. There are chapters devoted to both “Housewares” and “Accessories, Embellishments and Gifts.” Since a number of the vintage buttons I acquired are singletons, these projects are great because they mostly don’t require matched sets of buttons, as do a number of the jewelry projects (although, in fairness, you don’t need matched buttons for the jewelry projects and quite a few are pendants, etc, that don’t need multiples). These are a few of my favorites from those sections:

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A simple embellished T-shirt looks fresh with a cluster of unique vintage buttons sewn on--almost like a nouveau brooch.

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These hairclips are simply charming, and--depending on the buttons you use--could be elegant for adults or fun and playful for little ones.

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Sigh... Someday, we will decorate for the holidays and make wonderful handmade items to celebrate the season. I love this button wreath. (So if anyone wants to make it for us--since we're so crummy at the whole holiday spirit thing...)

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I love that this toy features covered buttons--which is one of my favorite button styles, since I'm such a fabric lover. Could this owl project be any cuter? I don't think so.

I’m sure that there will be lots of reviews of Button it Up in advance of its official release date this coming Tuesday, so I’m not going to belabor the point about how fun and inspiring all of the projects are. But as I was looking through the book, I was struck by something else, something more practical: The projects in Button it Up are extremely accessible from a financial perspective. I own a lot of craft books–mostly sewing, printmaking and funky DIY-type books. Looking through a lot of those books, many are not particularly sensitive to the costs of the projects, and have a fairly high cover price. It’s not something that I’ve really thought about before, but given the current financial landscape, there’s something appealing on a very practical level about an inspiring book that helps empower you to create with what you have. Not only is the cover price of Button it Up very reasonable ($21.95 list), but there are 80 projects in this freaking thing. 80! That’s 27 cents a project. And looking through the supplies you need, these are items you may already own–if you’re a button collector or a sewer/sewist who tends to pick up a card of buttons here are there to have on hand–or can easily find at rummage sales and thrift stores and in the bulk jars at your independent fabric retailer; the things you may need to purchase are basic, easy-to-locate, inexpensive items like glues and wire. That’s really refreshing. In fact, because of this, I think Button it Up would be a great resource for a crafty afternoon with friends or family–have a potluck, bring some buttons to trade and share and use this book to create some fun, affordable, one-of-a-kind projects together. Sounds fun to me.

If you’re local to Portland, Susan’s having a couple of fun events for the book. The first will be at Powell’s on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. and the second will be in our ‘hood (Whoohoo, Concordia!), over at one of my favorite places in the world, Bolt Fabric Boutique on Alberta on March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Susan tells me that she’s got some simple projects planned for both of these events, so you’ll be able to make your own button item to take home with you. Anyone who buys a copy of the book from Bolt will get a vintage button grab bag and I hear there will also be an awesome door prize as well (I’ve been to the Bolt events before–the door prize is always amazing.). Finally, Susan’s set up a web site for Button it Up that you’ll want to check out.

Honestly, even if Susan wasn’t a friend, I would tell you to go buy this book (at your local independent bookstore, if it all possible).

~Sarah

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