Friday, July 1, 2016

Charlene Raddon asks about Button

The button—with its self-contained roundness and infinite variability—has a quiet perfection to it. Running a cascade of buttons through your fingers feels satisfyingly heavy, like coins or candy; their clicking whoosh and blur of colors lull you. A button packs an extraordinary amount of information about a given time and place—its provenance—onto a crowded little canvas. Children learn to button and unbutton early in life, and they keep doing it until they’re dead.

The earliest known button, according Ian McNeil in An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology,"was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley [now Pakistan]. It is made of a curved shell and about 5000 years old." Early buttons like these usually consisted of a decorative flat face that fit into a loop. (Reinforced buttonholes weren’t invented until the mid-13th century). Percent% Buttons in this period almost never appeared in straight rows, but were used singly as sartorial flourishes.

Along with brooches, buckles, and straight pins, buttons were used in ancient Rome as decorative closures for flowing garments. However, none of these options worked perfectly. Pins poked unsightly holes into precious fabrics. Supporting yards of cloth at a single point required buttons of architectural heft, made of bone, horn, bronze or wood. Some designs took the functional pressure off buttons by knotting the fabric securely into position, then topping off the look with a purely ornamental button.

(Incidentally, as a button alternative, Mycenaeans of the Roman era invented the fibula, a surprisingly modern forerunner to our safety pin. This design was lost with them until it re-emerged in mid-19th century America.)
The button became more prominent among the wealthy in the Middle Ages.  “About the middle of the eleventh century,” writes Carl Köhler in A History of Costume, “clothes began to be made so close-fitting that they followed the lines of the body from shoulders to hips like a glove.” Buttons helped that snug fit along. This didn’t mean clothes were cut more sparingly; wealthy people still liked the costly display of excess fabric. But, on both men’s clothes and women’s, buttons helped accentuate lovely lines, of the arm, say, or the bosom.
Spanish metal button dating from about 1650 to 1675.
Spanish metal button dating from about 1650 to 1675.
Courtesy Button Country.

The first button-makers guild formed in France in 1250. Still regarded as less-than-functional jewelry, buttons were so prized that sumptuary laws restricted their use. Books, Banks, Buttons and Other Inventions from the Middle Ages by Chiara Frugoni relates how, in a period tale, a magistrate quizzed a woman overly bedecked in buttons.
Buttons came in all shapes and sizes, but most often they were mounted on a shank; you ran thread through the shank’s hole to attach the button to fabric. Unlike modern buttons with their iconic four-square holes, the shank style left the button’s face totally free: a tiny blank canvas one could cover, carve, polish, or paint with luxurious abandon.

The medieval period was the era when wearing lots of buttons meant big money. Franco Jacassi, reputedly the world’s biggest button-collector, describes this as a time when you could pay off a debt by plucking a precious button from your suit. Italians still describe the rooms where powerful leaders meet as stanze dei bottoni, “rooms of the buttons.”

On women’s clothes particularly, buttons traced the body’s lines in suggestive ways, making clothes tight in all the right places or offering up intriguing points of entry. Along with ribbons, laces or bows, buttons were often used on detachable sleeves, a fad that ran from the 13th to 15th centuries. These sleeves could be easily swapped between outfits and laundered whenever they got dirty. Courtiers might accept an unbuttoned sleeve from a lady as a love token, or wave sleeves in jubilation at a jousting tourney.
18th Century buttons.
18th century buttons, courtesy Button Country
After the Renaissance in Europe, buttons—along with many other things—became increasingly baroque, then rococo. Among the more extreme examples were “habitat” buttons, built to contain keepsakes like dried flowers, hair cuttings or tiny insects under glass. Hollowed-out smuggler buttons allowed thieves to transport jewels and other booty secretly. (This tradition of buttons-for-crime resurfaced in a heroin-smuggling attempt in 2009.)     

Ornate buttoning among the wealthy required some help. Around this era is when buttons migrated to different sides of a shirt for men and women. Men usually donned their own shirts, so their buttons faced right for their convenience. Women with ladies’ maids wore their buttons on the left, to make it easier for the maids to maneuver while facing them.

George Washington’s 1789 inauguration gave the world its first political button. Made of copper, brass or Sheffield plate, these buttons could close a pair of breeches or a jacket while simultaneously announcing the wearer’s politics. Political buttons took on a more recognizably modern (and less functional) shape during Lincoln’s 1864 re-election campaign. (View 150 years of political buttons here.)
Campaign button for Abraham Lincoln, 1864.
A Campaign button for Abraham Lincoln
Poorer folks wore buttons, too, but they had to craft them laboriously by hand. In Colonial America until the early 20thcentury, working-class families counted themselves lucky if they owned a hand-held button-mold. You heated up the mold in a bed of hot coals, then filled it with molten lead or pewter, which set into a button shape. The sturdy metal buttons could then be covered with fabric or other embellishments.

Extra buttons made at home could also be sold, which meant button-making could be hellish piecework. Playwright Henrik Ibsen channeled his own awful memories of home button-molding in a pivotal scene in Peer Gynt. Sent to fetch Gynt’s soul, the Button-Moulder explains how the very good and very bad go to heaven and hell, but the middling-good are “merged in the mass” and poured into purgatory, an undifferentiated molten stream from the Button-Moulder’s ladle.

Button-making was mercifully accelerated with the Industrial Revolution. An 1852 article from Household Words, a journal edited by Charles Dickens, marvels at the latter-day miracle that was automated button-manufacturing. The writer describes how engravers cut steel dies into the latest fashionable shape, while women and children stamped out pasteboard and cloth to cover the buttons by machine. Another machine stamped out the four holes that had become prevalent for men’s dress-shirt buttons, while another was used to “counter-sink” the button, pressing its center to form a raised outer ridge. (It’s this four-hole flat button that we regard as its iconic shape today.)

rash of button patents during this period protected nearly every aspect of button-making, from manufacturing methods for glass or mother-of-pearl buttons, cheaper wire buttons, even improvements to button display cards for sale.
Black glass buttons.
Black glass buttons courtesy Button Country
With the growing number of actual buttons came a parallel growth in button metaphors in everyday speech. The OED lists several, dating from the late 1800s to the early 20th century: “to take by the buttons” is to detain someone in conversation; “dash my buttons!” is an epithet of surprised vexation; “to have a soul above buttons” indicated someone employed in a profession unworthy of them; those who “have all their buttons” enjoy sound intellect, while those who are “a button short” do not.

This grand democratization didn’t stem the tide of expensive ornamental buttons. Victorian “Tussie-Mussie” buttons pictured tiny bouquets whose flowers held symbolic messages. Queen Victoria donned mourning buttons of carved black jet upon her husband Albert’s death, kicking off a fashion among bereaved button-wearers throughout the Empire.

Once they became cheap enough to produce en masse, buttons by the hundreds lined most kinds of tight-fitting clothing, including shoes. (More buttons, closely spaced, gave the wearer the tightest fit.) In his book The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski explains how this profusion of buttons gave rise to a parallel problem: “Fingers were not a very effective tool for coaxing the crowded buttons through small buttonholes.”
An early 20th century art nouveau steel button hook with a sterling silver handle.
Early 20th century button hook

The solution? Buttonhooks, long crochethook-like devices used to draw buttons through holes rapidly. These evolved into various styles to accommodate different button sizes.

Tracing the body’s curves with increasing exactness, buttons have long equaled body consciousness. In the 20th century, button’s sexier  side came more overtly to the fore. Buttons, in other words, designate sites of vitality, embarrassment, and thrill. When told that a certain lady wouldn’t hurt a fly, Dorothy Parker retorted, “Not if it was buttoned up.” Gertrude Stein’s slim volume Tender Buttons (1914) is winkingly named after the clitoris. Electrical devices, newly introduced, often used flat-faced “buttons” to complete a circuit, giving rise to double entrendre phrases like “press all my buttons."
A fabric-printed garter button, used by flappers to hold up their newly-visible stockings.
Fabric-printed garter button used by flappers

Later in the century, buttons migrated as a metaphor from the mechanical world to the virtual one. Buttons now adorn screens big and small, promising to connect us to marvels with a single click. Steve Jobs said of the buttons on Apple’s touchscreens, “We made [them] look so good you'll want to lick them.”
Even though zippers entered the clothing-closure scene around the turn of the century, we still wear buttons today. Why? Reasons abound: Zippers can jam and warp or catch little children’s fingers. Velcro, another new-fangled closure, is too futuristic to be taken seriously. Hook-and-eyes and laces have their adherents, but their ubiquity is nowhere near that of the button.

Buttons, in short, offer everyday pleasures. Their little faces turn up agreeably, asking for personality to be impressed upon them. Buttoning oneself up is a slower, contemplative act; unbuttoning someone else, deliciously more so. Pressing buttons still delivers everything we love in the world to us. Why would we ever phase that out?

Charlene Raddon is a multi-published author of historical romance novels set in the American West. She is also a graphics designer.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

It Began with a Pinterest Board by Connie Vines

It began with a Pinterest Board titled Poodles, Poodles, and more Poodles.  

** All~ this is a re-post with updates, additions, and new pictures!  **

Yes you guessed it--the sub heading is "How I spent my Winter Vacation".

It started when I was outlining one of my YA novels.  With a writer, everything seems to revolve around the written word, and this story features a poodle.  I was the proud owner of a poodle when I was a pre-teen.  I groomed, trained, and adored my pet.  But it had been several decades since my ownership, so needed to gather additional information.  I knew AKC standards and European judging standards and acceptable markings and colors have been revised.  I realized a Pinterest board would serve me well.

I checked out books from the library. . .and soon Pinterest was recommending links, friends were sending me information.  It was very long until I realized I wanted a poodle.  As a rule I adopt rescue dogs.  However, my poodle was a pedigree with 22 champions in his ancestry.  And I do adore the show cuts.  I did not however, wish to raise a puppy.  So putting this aside I got down to the business of Winter vacation.

But you know how the law of attraction works. . .a friend made me snickerpoodle cookies. . .I was sent a link to adopt a pet.

And poof!  A family member asked me if I'd like a poodle-mix?

Could you say no to such a little sweetie?  

I named her Chanel, after my favorite perfume.  Her mama. a white poodle was betrothed until a Romeo of a brown dachshund swept her off her paws!  

If you find yourself blessed with a puppy.

Be prepared.

Be flexible.

And learn to type with a puppy sitting in you lap.

Two pounds of puppy equals five hours of energy before a recharge (nap) is required.

Readers, are you dog fanciers?  Do you enjoy novels featuring pets?  feel free to send a comment.

Did you know there are doggie boutiques?

I thought I was bordering overspending when I bargain shopped at store especially for animals.
Then I drove past a store featuring pet accessories (no, I did not go inside) of crowns and tiaras.

Thank you everyone for stopping by.  Please stop by again to read Ginger's and Lynda's posts also.

Happy Reading! 

Connie Vines

Chanel after her 1st grooming.  Lovin' her bandanna!


Chanel is revving up for the 'poodle' dance--perhaps nest time.
It was 100 degrees when this was taken here in SoCal several days ago.  Chanel is 7 now months old. She also had her 1st play day too.
I must admit she looks adorable when groomed, but is miss the 'poodle' waves.

No longer a lap sitter when I write.  Chanel is either wrapped around my ankles, or draped for my shoulder like an 8 lb. furry stole.

Have a wonderful 4th of July celebration (here in the USA).  I wish the all of my international readers and followers of' Dishin' It Out' a wonderful day.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Naked and Afraid

When I first heard about the show a couple of years ago, my first impression was along the lines of you’ve got to be kidding. Now, I have to admit, I end my weekend by watching the latest episode on Sunday night. I am amazed by the courage of these people. They agree to strip themselves of everything except their knowledge in order to survive in a strange and often hostile environment, with a person they’ve never met.  

These people have to forge out food and shelter, and some come up with very creative ways to make clothing or cover themselves. They also have to learn how to get along, negotiate, learn new skills, and depend upon each other. At times personalities clash, ideas fail, and accidents happen. 

Within the short span of an hour, including commercials, I find myself liking people I didn’t think I would have during the opening scenes, saddened by some I’d thought would succeed and didn’t, and rooting for a successful extraction for those who have forged their way through twenty-one days. 

In many ways, this is the closest I’ll ever be to watching anything close to the nitty-gritty of the American pioneers who sold everything, packed up and headed for the Wild West. Though many traveled in groups and/or with wagon trains, and they weren’t naked, I can imagine many of the pioneers were afraid. They had brought along a few basic necessities, but ultimately, when they eventually arrived at their destination, which was often a chunk of virgin land, they had little but their knowledge and skill to survive the fast approaching winter. It couldn’t have been easy, and they certainly didn’t have a camera crew they could appeal to for medical help or a ride home when the going got too rough. The raw basics of human nature had to be the same. The will to survive. The determination. The joy of successes and the heart-wrenching disappointment of failure. 

There’s my confession, or maybe it’s my justification for watching a show I first scoffed at. Either way, I watch Naked and Afraid, and will continue to. 

My next release will be June 1st. The heroine in Her Cheyenne Warrior is close to being naked and most certainly afraid when Black Horse scoops her out of the middle of the river in Wyoming.

The Cheyenne's captive! 
Runaway heiress Lorna Bradford must reach California to claim her fortune, but when she's rescued from robbers by fierce warrior Black Horse, she's forced to remain under his protection. 
Immersed in a world so different from her own, wildcat Lorna learns how to be the kind of strong woman Black Horse needs. But, to stay by his side, she must first let go of everything she knows and decide to seize this chance for happiness with her Cheyenne warrior!

Robinson’s talent for period detail shines in her newest stand-alone novel, and the author’s dare to go retro with the classic “Englishwoman vs. Indian chief” plot might just revive an entire sub-genre. Mildly sexy and thoroughly engaging, this tale of broken hearts allowing love in once more is a guaranteed HEA. RT REVIEWS- See more at:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Independence Day

So, it’s almost the 4th of July and here in the United States, that’s a national holiday. On one of the news stations I watch, there is a hashtag campaign running called “Proud American” and this station interviews people about why they are proud to be an American. That’s got me thinking about what it is that makes me proud to be an American, and I came up with a few things.

We have the most generous, caring citizens in the world. Seriously, when there’s a natural disaster, who the heck does the world call for help? Sometimes, we aren’t so quick to see the natural disasters in our back yard, but we can see the ones elsewhere. Earthquake in Haiti? The Americans will have a televised fund-raiser for you. Tsunami? Yep…we’re there to help. 

World wars? Yeah, we saved the world. Twice. You’re welcome. And then we helped rebuild those hostile countries decimated by those wars. Aliens invading the planet? I could bet we’d be on the front lines. Rather like the scene in Independence Day (the original) when Jeff Goldbloom’s character figured out how to take down the mothership so the world could fight back and when the message was sent out the old fashioned way via Morse Code, the comment from the British forces hunkered down in some desert was “About bloody time!”

There’s a clichéd comment about the US being the last, best hope for freedom and democracy in the world, but in my heart, I know that’s true. America is still seen by many as a shining city on a hill. Oh, we may squabble, fuss, and fight among ourselves, but that’s what family does. Let an outside force attempt attack us and watch how fast we pull together and kick some serious butt. When we put the might and intellect of our citizenry behind an idea, there is nothing we can’t do. Harness the power of the atom, put a man on the moon, send a little rover to Mars, get a close up of Neptune…

The men who signed our Declaration of Independence somehow knew that we could never be the best we could be if shackled under the heavy yoke of tyranny. They weren’t necessarily brave men, but they were men who understood that the good of the many outweighed the needs of a few. Our country was born on July 4th, 1776. We became a nation in the crucible of the American Civil War. We tried to commit suicide as a nation in that war. And, like any suicide attempt, there are still scars. BUT…and this is a huge but…we survived it to become the nation we are now. It is our shared, collective history and we cannot hide it, nor should we try. That bloody war MADE us.

We are a nation of immigrants, whether your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or if you just got here. It is those immigrants which have made us so strong, given us so much diversity and the resilience to overcome any adversity. So, rather than letting petty differences, self-serving politicians (of EITHER political stripe), and fear divide us, let us come together again as a nation. We are bigger than our differences. We have always found ways to resolve those differences. And, that is just one more thing that makes me proud to be an American.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Welcome, James R. Callan, Today's Guest

An Interview with Brandi

Jim:  Today, I'm visiting with Brandi Brewer, a key player in A Silver Medallion. Hi Brandi, I understand you are Crystal's roommate.

Brandi:  Actually, it's house mate.  We share a two bedroom house not too far from the center of Dallas.

Jim:  How did you meet Crystal?

Brandi:  She was looking for someone to share  the house with her. A friend of a friend of a friend told me about it and I called her.  We met at a coffee shop and visited for awhile and then struck a deal. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. I mean, she was pretty business like, straight-laced, almost boring. But it was a nice  house, two good sized bedrooms. 'Course, it only had one bath. But a great location and not too pricey. So, you pays your money and takes your chances.  I said cool.

Jim:  And how long have you two shared the house?

Brandi: Gotta be three years now, closer to four.

Jim:  How's is working out?

Brandi:  What do you think, Jim?  It's been nearly four years and we're still friends.

Jim:  Well, I mean you got stabbed and nearly died because of Crystal.

Brandi:  Hold it. If you want to continue this interview, back off.  It was not because of Crystal. Some dumb dud comes in, gets the information he asks for, sort of, and then decides to break my foot, slash my arm and stab me in the chest. He's to blame, not Crystal. You got that? Otherwise, we're through.

Jim:  I've got it. You're dating a detective, right? How's that going?

Brandi:  Fantantalistic. Tom is just the greatest. I went with a lot of scum before I met Tom. I really believed all men were that way. Then along came Tom, a tough cop - actually a detective, a gentleman through and through. I love the  guy.

Jim:  But you're still rooming with Crystal.

Brandi:  See. I told you Tom was a gentleman. He's ready for us to move in together, has been for a year. But I've seen too many of my friends rush into things and then regret it.  I said I wanted to take it slow.  He's okay with that. Lot of guys wouldn't stand for that.

Jim: I heard you weren't always Brandi. You had your name legally changed.

Brandi:  Yeah. Never liked Bertha. Would you? Decided, why should I keep the name of one of Dad’s old girlfriends? I didn’t like it. And I’m sure Mom didn’t either. So, poof, it was gone.  Took off twenty pounds, changed the hair. I had mousey brown from my mother. No more.  I got washed-out blue eyes from Dad. Accuvue gave me these aqua beauties. Decided the nose was fine. Wore braces for two years.

Jim:  You just decided to . . .

Brandi: Look the way I wanted to. Oh, and I took a course in make-up. Best money I ever spent. Even the contacts didn’t do as much for my eyes as knowing how to put on eye shadow, and eyeliner, and eyebrow pencil. ‘Course now, I just have my brows and lashes dyed.

Jim:  You and Crystal seem ... different. How do you get along?

Brandi:  Maybe it's that opposites attract thing. She's got natural beauty; I had to recreate mine. She's got lots of book learning, but doesn't have street smarts, like I do. I think we're a good match. So does Crystal.

Jim:  From what I see, Crystal's lucky to have you around.

Brandi: Now you're getting it. Hey, gotta run. I'm on the late shift today.

Brandi and Crystal were a good fit in A Ton of Gold and now they are even better in A Silver Medallion.  Check it out at    A Silver Medallion

Blurb: A Silver Medallion  -  A Crystal Moore Suspense

Young, bright, unadventurous Crystal Moore comes face-to-face with slavery in today’s Dallas, Texas. A woman is held, not by chains, but by threats to her two small children left behind in Mexico. Should she escape, or even tell anybody of her situation, her children will be killed.

Crystal would like to walk away and forget she ever heard this. But her conscience won’t let her. Her parents were killed when she was just seven. She knows the heartache these children suffer. And she can’t sleep without hearing the cries of the two young girls and their mother.

Crystal knows the woman will never try to escape as long as her children are held hostage. Crystal realizes the only way to free her is to go to Mexico and rescue the girls first, for only if they are safe will the mother ever be free.

Crystal goes to Mexico and secures the help of the mysterious Juan Grande. But now, two powerful and ruthless men, one in Mexico and one in Texas, want Crystal dead.

In the midst of all this, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back. This time, he can ruin her career.

She will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, Crystal’s streetwise housemate Brandi, and Crystal's seventy-six year-old, feisty grandmother.

Brief Bio of James R. Callan

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He has had four non-fiction books published.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense.  His eleventh book is scheduled to release in June, 2016.

Author's page on Amazon:  

Social Media Links:


 James, thank you for being our guest day at  "Dishin' it Out'.

I know I'm not the only person looking forward to reading  A Sliver Medallion.  

Connie Vines 

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