Monday, June 19, 2006

Button Quilt
Grandpa's Gifts

quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

I made this wall quilt as a memory piece about my grandfather, Charles Atkins. It looks like him... very warm on the inside, with a cool and composed exterior. I remember standing behind him, watching him work at his desk, either paper work (he was Superintendent of Schools in Amador County, CA) or working with one of his collections. His (and my) favorite of these was an extensive button collection started by his great aunt in the mid 1800s in England. He adored sorting, arranging and labeling these buttons. While I watched, I remember making up stories about the buttons - who had worn them - what type of garment - how had they come to be in the collection? Grandpa was a quiet guy, and I was required to be quiet when I was around him. I knew him more through his collections than through direct interaction with him. Yet, I somehow knew he had strong regard for me. This quilt tells our story.

back side of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

The fabrics are Dupioni silk. I sewed the buttons on the quilt with a knitting "ribbon," tying them on the back side. To quilt around the heart shape, I used red thread to make a beaded running stitch. Here's a detail showing how it looks on the top.

vintage buttons, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

I'm having unusual luck with uploading images today, so I'm going to try to add pictures of my three favorite buttons on the quilt. As you can see, both Grandpa and I loved winged things! The button with three flowers is a "perfume button." The wearer would soak the fabric interior (brown velvet, in this case) with her perfume. Sounds romantic, but possibly it was a practical measure to cover the odors likely present in clothing that was not often washed. OK, so one of the winged buttons wouldn't upload... look for it above in my 2nd post for the day.

vintage button, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

vintage button, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist


  1. What fantastic buttons and what a lovely tribute to your grandfather!

  2. What a beautiful quilt and what a fabulous collection of buttons. I inheirited a stash which included a large collection of metal buttons, but they're not as fancy as yours, mostly mid 20th century uniform buttons I think. I'm impressed by how well your quilt and buttons compliment each other.


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