The History of Dorset Buttons
Started in Dorset in the 1600s, this traditional craft was passed down through generations of families until machines were able to reproduce the work done by hand in the 1800s. The first buttons were made from ram horn disks, material and thread and were in the style of a high top. In the 1700s metal rings were introduced and new styles developed such as the crosswheel.
Thousands of women and even some children and men worked in the industry in and around the Dorset regions of Shaftesbury and Blandford. An experienced buttoner could produce up to 72 buttons a day. It earned woman an attractive wage while they could look after their families while working from home. And just like today it is a convenient portable craft.
By the second half of the 18th century Dorset Buttons were in such high demand they were exported all over the world, mostly through ports near Liverpool. They were sorted and batched onto coloured cards according to quality and who they would be sold to.
Pink card - Nobility & Gentry
Dark blue card - Middle class
Yellow card - Lower class
Black - general UK sales