Your Guide to Buying Used Buttons

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Your Guide to Buying Used Buttons

Depending on the type of sewing project that is being done, the need for buttons may arise. Buttons are found on everything, from clothing to stuffed animals and other toys, as well as bags, backpacks, and other outdoor gear. Sometimes, a particular type or style of button is needed to complete a project, and it may or may not be easy to find. In instances such as this, used buttons can fit the bill perfectly. However, used buttons can also be hard to find.

Many retail sewing stores do not sell used buttons because they have large supplies of new buttons on hand. These new buttons are often made of synthetic materials and may lack uniqueness in their designs. When used buttons are the choice for the project, tailors, dressmakers, and seamstresses have one place where they may be able to fill their materials lists, and that is eBay. With an understanding of the types of buttons and their attachments, one can find used buttons by utilising the many search tools on eBay.

Things to Consider Regarding Used Buttons

Before buying used buttons, the shopper must take a little time and determine the type and amount of used buttons needed for the project. Additionally, one needs to know what exactly a button is to be attached to. The shopper must also decide how much he or she wants to pay for used buttons, since some vintage or antique used buttons can be expensive, based on how old they are and how many like them are available. Look at the project to be completed; if the project is being made from a pattern, the materials list on the pattern may indicate what type or types of buttons to use as well as how many are needed.

Material Types on Buttons

All buttons, be they used or new, can be made from different materials. Depending on the region the buttons originate from and the era a button was crafted in, the materials used can vary. Additionally, knowing where and when a button was crafted can tell what type of tools or machines were used to craft it. This information provides a good idea of how durable the button may be. Also, knowing the history of the button provides an idea of its value.

Wood Buttons

Wood buttons are among the older types of buttons created. Because of the nearly unlimited amount of wood available throughout history, when buttons were first used, wood along with other organic materials were the only materials available to construct them with. Today, wood buttons are used in sewing projects where a rustic appearance is desired. Wood buttons come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, and some buttons are engraved with designs and textures. When one is considering used wooden buttons, check them closely for cracks and breaks that can render them unusable. However, small imperfections can actually be aesthetic, as they add character to the buttons, giving them a vintage feel.

Leather Buttons

Leather buttons are another button type with a long history. As humans began to use buttons, they sometimes fashioned them from leather. While not prone to breaking, the leather button can fall victim to cracking, if not conditioned regularly. Older leather buttons that are 20 or more years old can also suffer from softening due to regular handling that bends and flexes the leather, softening it up. Used mostly for rustic styled clothing, leather buttons are excellent for stuffed animals and soft toys for younger children.

A second type of leather button is actually a leather-covered button. These types of buttons can be made of wood, plastic, or other solid material and then covered with leather. These buttons have a metal loop on the back for attaching to fabric.

Bone Buttons

Bone buttons are another type of button made from organic material, with a long history in the creation of clothing. While referred to as bone, the buttons can also be made from antlers, teeth, large animal claws, and whale bone. These buttons are much harder than wood and are durable and long-lasting. Unlike wood or leather bone buttons, they can be used in finer clothing styles, as they can be shaped and polished to a high sheen and decorated with intricate designs, much like tiny pieces of scrimshaw art. If cared for properly, bone buttons can last for decades, being removed and reused when the garment they are attached to becomes unserviceable.

Shell and Pearl Buttons

Shell buttons are often called pearl buttons because of the way they look. Made from mussel and clam shells, these buttons are polished to a high sheen giving them a pearl-like appearance. These buttons are not as popular today as they once were in mass-produced clothing, but they are sought-after by people who enjoy collecting used buttons. These buttons are much more affordable than true mother-of-pearl buttons and more plentiful as well.

Mother-of-pearl buttons are made of nacre, an organic-inorganic material naturally made by some molluscs to form an inner shell coating. It is also the outer shell of pearls. Because of the value of pearls, these iridescent buttons can be quite expensive. Because pearl and shell are fragile, clothing with this type of buttons should never be put into washing machines, as they can be broken.

Metallic Buttons

Metal buttons are widely used on different types of clothing, including denim jackets, trousers, military and police uniforms, and other items of clothing that call for a durable and stylish button. These buttons also come in various styles and shapes and are generally easy to care for. Metal buttons can be sewn on or attached with rivets, depending on the button's style.

Fabric Buttons

Just like leather covered buttons, fabric buttons are wooden or plastic buttons covered with fabric. These buttons are often used in women's fashions and are covered with the same material as the garment they are attached to. As a used button option, these buttons do not stand up well over time unless special care is taken to preserve them. These buttons also come in the form of Mandarin, or frog, buttons and worked, or cloth, buttons.

Mandarin or frog buttons are small round buttons made by weaving fabric into a knotted ball. These types of buttons are often seen on Asian-styled clothing and on chef coats. Worked or cloth buttons are crafted using embroidery or crochet techniques and are generally made from linen thread attached to a button form.

Plastic Buttons

Plastic buttons are widely produced, less expensive, and a more varied type of button made. These buttons come in a wide range of colours, styles, and sizes and are found on mass-produced clothing. Because of their wide applications, the supply of used plastic buttons is nearly endless. The wide range of styles, shapes, and colours they come in greatly increases the chances of finding the plastic buttons that one is looking for.

Attachment Styles for Used Buttons

All buttons, used or new, come with different attachment styles. This is an important piece of information to have before shopping for used buttons. The style of attachment determines if the buttons can be used on the item that they are being purchased for.

Shank Attachment

Shank attachment buttons are fitted with a loop on the back of the button which is attached to fabric by sewing through the loop. The loops may be an attachment or moulded as part of the button.

Sew-Through Button Attachment

These are the buttons that are commonly used and have two or four holes through a flat button to sew it to fabric. These buttons can be attached using a sewing machine, with a button foot attachment, or they may be hand sewn.

Stud Buttons

Stud buttons are made of metal; the button is attached by riveting it to fabric. These buttons are not reusable and so are not typically available as used buttons. If you see something listed as a used stud button, carefully review before buying.

Buying Used Buttons on eBay

Buying used buttons on eBay is a fairly easy thing to do, and you can begin by performing a keyword search. Open the eBay home page and locate the search bar on the home page. Enter the keywords "Used Buttons" into the bar and click 'Search'. When the results page opens, you can narrow the results by selecting one or more of the filter options available. Once a listing is found that meets your search criteria, click on it and then read the available information about the item, determining shipping charges and the seller's preferred method of payment. This ensures a well-informed purchase without any surprises.

Get Used Button Accessories on eBay

Finding the right used buttons is only part of the process when buying them for sewing projects. If the buttons are to be sewn on using a sewing machine, a button foot may need to be purchased. If buttons are sewn by hand, then needles, thread, and scissors may be needed to perform the task. If you plan to use a lot of buttons over time, a button box or sewing accessory box with separate compartments may be useful as well.


Buttons are must-have items for making clothing and toys such as plush animals, in which buttons may be used as eyes and noses. However, buttons can be expensive, and the new buttons available at retailers may not meet specific style requirements for a project. One great solution to this problem is to purchase used buttons; not only can you find used buttons that are perfectly serviceable for any project, but they can also be vital if one is making period clothing that requires buttons that are no longer produced.

Used buttons come in many styles, shapes, colours, and materials ranging from wood to mother-of-pearl to plastic. Used buttons have the added advantage that they are, in general, priced affordably, unless one is considering vintage or antique buttons. When the time comes to purchase used buttons, you can find a wide selection at reasonable prices online at eBay. Along with used buttons, eBay has a wide selection of the other sewing supplies that may be needed to create eye-catching items.

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