Back in February, I got a message from Heather in Lincolnshire. She had recently lost a favourite button necklace, which wasn’t one that I’d made – it was slightly different. The main difference was that it was one continuous piece, with no clasp, which she preferred because she is sensitive to metals. Given that there was no clasp, it was also slightly longer than most of the necklaces I make, so that it could fit over a person’s head to put it on. The colour scheme was also a bit different to any single one of my regular ones – Heather described it as a combination of my autumn colours necklace and vintage summer pastels necklace.
She asked if I could recreate this lost necklace – and thanks to her detailed description, I was able to make something that she said was very close to it. This is what it looked like:
Heather got in touch again last week and told me she’s still wearing it almost every day. She had a new commission for me too – she’d raided her mum’s button tin and wanted me to make another necklace using the buttons. So she posted them to me, and once they arrived, I made another one in the same style.
These necklaces are great for petite necklines and people who want something subtle and buttony. They also make good presents for children, who can wear them as a longer necklace when they are small (I’d suggest around age 8 and up) but also continue to wear them as they grow, as they still fit as a shorter necklace on an adult.
The buttons used to make these necklaces are usually between 8 – 11mm across, and the necklaces measure around 45cm (exact lengths are specified on individual listings).
You can browse my button necklace collection here.
While continuing my process of delving through boxes of leftover materials and forgotten bits and pieces, I found a bag of jigsaw puzzle pieces. There were still a few left that were similar enough to each to make pairs, so they’re become earrings. Each pair is unique, and these ones come from a vintage puzzle which had a bird design on it.
It was donated to me because too many of the pieces were missing for it to be completed without being incredibly irritating – but it could still be turned into other things…
All of these jigsaw puzzle earrings are for sale at the Unexpected Boutique. Each pair is one-of-a-kind.
Last year I made a batch of safety pin drop earrings using gold safety pins with green and bronze rocaille beads. These earrings were popular with customers, so I’ve made some more, in several new colour schemes: red, peacock blue, and multicoloured.
At the moment I’m doing some using-up-of-leftover-materials from previous projects (as with my upcycled bead bracelets) and next in the queue was my box of felt beads. Previously I’ve made big batches of identical necklaces, but with the odd ones left over, over the past couple of days, I’ve made the first few of some one-of-a-kind felt necklaces. There are some more lying in a big fuzzy pile on my workbench waiting to have their clasps put on, but these three are finished and available to buy at Unexpected Boutique’s felt necklaces page.
For ages now I’ve had a stash of beads that have been waiting to be made into jewellery. However, out of the whole box, there’s probably only about ten percent that were bought by me as beads. That ten percent are leftovers from other projects; the rest of them are there because, over the years, some beaded necklace or other has broken. Some of these were from jewellery that I owned myself, and others came from other people’s broken jewellery clearouts, and were given to me because people thought I was the sort of person who cold make use of them. The thing is, I mostly haven’t, because I’ve mostly been making things out of buttons rather than beads. I never really got into the whole “bead” thing. But a few weeks ago, I thought: they’ve been sitting there for years. (And I really mean years – I’ve had some of them for getting on fifteen years now.) They are not achieving anything at all by sitting there in a box. So I sat down and made a small fraction of my bead collection into bracelets.
I’m fussy about bracelets – or, specifically, bracelet fastenings. Obviously, as a person who uses their hands a lot, I need a bracelet to do two things: not get in the way too much, and not fall off. Otherwise I just don’t wear them. But I equally despise the kind of bracelet fastening that always requires another person to fasten it for the wearer. That’s just annoying. So this limits me to the alarmingly small number of secure clip fastenings that are easy to do up and take off with one hand, or elastic bracelets. Or so I thought. All this time I’ve been ignoring one really obvious solution to the bracelet problem: memory wire.
Memory wire is basically a hard steel spring, and comes in a big coil that looks like a slinky toy. To make into a bracelet, you cut off a section of one or two coils, and basically just bead it up however you like. When you put on a memory wire bracelet, it does two things – stretches and bends briefly so you can get your wrist in, before returning to its previous shape when on your wrist. As well as this, it gently moulds around whatever size wrist it finds itself around, so will fit snugly on a variety of wrist sizes larger than its resting size (or will be like a round bangle on smaller wrists).
So, memory wire is what my new collection of boho-looking beaded bracelets are made with. You can get them at the Unexpected Boutique, and also in my Etsy shop.
When people talk about “vintage” or “heritage” colours – what do they mean? I think it’s usually to do with a muted, soft tone to the colours, which might be because a once-bright colour faded with age, or because the pigments used in whatever times qualify as “vintage” may not have been as bold as some used today.
Thus I make a distinction between jewellery made with “vintage buttons” – anything that comes to me secondhand, and appears to be ten years old or more (sometimes a lot more), I usually class in this category – and “vintage colours”, which might be new buttons, just with a softer tone.
Then again, some buttons may be both at once. And some of my jewellery might be made with a mixture of differently-aged buttons. If things look good together, I don’t usually try to segregate them by age. So in my latest button earring collection, you’ll find new buttons alongside older ones, but the colours are themed according to a vintage palette.
‘Dragon’s Hoard’ upcycled long Bohemian necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique
‘Riverbed’ upcycled long Bohemian necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique
All are hand-assembled, and although I hope to make some more jewellery in this style in the future, each one is very much a one-off. They were created partly out of thrift – using up bits and pieces that were leftover from other jewellery projects, experiments that didn’t produce the right results, and in some cases bits and bobs that I’ve had since my teens and childhood – things that were nothing particularly special or useful but shouldn’t be thrown away. Because: if something can be repurposed, used or appreciated by anyone other than the current owner, of course it shouldn’t be thrown away. Far too much is thrown away, and while these necklaces are hardly even a thousandth of a drop in the ocean when it comes to changing that, I hope they at least symbolise the idea that what might seem like rubbish doesn’t always have to be, and might add to a growing consciousness of re-use and re-purposing being better – at least sometimes – than making something brand new in a factory.
I’ve added a new feature to my button jewellery site – my wire button necklaces, bracelets and jewellery sets are now available with customisable colours which you can pick out from my colour palette.
First you can select your type of jewellery – you can get just a necklace, just a bracelet, or various different jewellery sets (I’ll be adding a few more variations soon). Then you can pick up to five different colours from drop-down menus, and even select your wire colour if you want to – or you can leave this up to me.
If you want to discuss the colours in more detail, want more than five colours or a different bracelet or necklace length, I can do that too – just send me an email and I can make further customisations too.
UPDATE: These have all been sold now, but you can get “lucky dip” unique, bright coloured necklaces from my new listing here. What’s more, the more you buy, the more you save – great for stocking up on gifts…
Here are some of my recent bright button necklace designs. Each is unique, made with vintage buttons and multistrand wire. Some of these have already sold, but there are a few left, which are for sale on my button necklaces page.