Born in the heartland of Dorset button-making, Jen Best's yarn shop doubles as a classroom where she passes on her knowledge to anyone wanting to produce their own unique creations.
I was one of those children who got bored very quickly,’ confesses Jen Best, who bubbles with enthusiasm about Dorset button-making. ‘My Gran used to do crocheting, knitting, smocking, embroidery and Dorset feather stitching. She taught me all these skills, but the buttons are my big passion.’
Following her dream, Mrs Best left her job to set up a yarn shop in Weyhill in Hampshire. In her first week of trading, she taught her first button-making class for eight women, who all wanted to take the instructions home. ‘I did some magazine articles, which then became button-making kits – I’ve created a monster,’ she says with a smile. ‘There’s a huge demand for the kits and numerous people wanting lessons.’
Mrs Best was born in Shaftesbury, the acknowledged heartland of Dorset button-making. By the end of the 18th century, there were thought to be about 7,000 people employed in the industry in that area.
Agreeing that crafting is having a moment – not that it ever went away – she adds: ‘When I was young, Gran knitted our school jumpers because it was cheaper, but now it’s a leisure activity.’
Describing button-making as ‘a very useful skill’, Mrs Best elaborates: ‘If you make your own button, it will be perfect for your project, plus it’s quick to learn and cheap to make.’
‘You can make a button out of any closed shape and use any fabric – merino-nylon mix, silk – that’s strong enough to pull tight. I use up all my leftover bits of yarn this way. It takes me about an hour and a half in the morning to teach someone to make a button and, by the afternoon, they’ll be knocking one out within 20 minutes.’
To view Jen’s buttons, purchase a kit or find out more about button-making classes, visit www.beakerbutton.co.uk.
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