Rhonda Dort

Class 2: Restoring Mother-of-Pearl Buttons for Embellishing Vintage Quilts

If you have and/or are planning to add mother-of-pearl (MOP) buttons to your Quilt(s) or any project there are some things to know about these little treasures.

Back in the day, MOP buttons were removed from garments before they were laundered as the process and the laundry detergent chemicals could and did cause much harm to these buttons made from shells.

If you’ve ever seen MOP buttons that are dull, chipped and peeling you can assume the buttons have been exposed to the laundry process.

There is a way to save these abused buttons, I’ll outline it below:

  1. Sort through your buttons and remove any that are not MOP.
  2. In the laxative section of your Drug Store look for Mineral Oil.
  3. Place your buttons in a container and pour in enough Mineral Oil to cover everything.
  4. Very gently stir the buttons over the next few days.

The Mineral Oil will penetrate the button surfaces and restore the lost luster. The oil will most likely also loosen and dirt etc. from the button surfaces.

  1. Transfer the buttons to a colander and rinse them well using warm-hot tap water.
  2. Place the buttons into a clean container, cover with warm tap water and a teaspoon of Baby Shampoo. Carefully wash the oil from the buttons. Do not leave them in the shampoo water for any length of time!
  3. Again, using the colander and warm tap water, rinse the buttons and spread them out on a terry cloth towel to air dry.

You should see a remarkable difference in the before and after for your mother-of-pearl treasures!



Mother-of-Pearl Buttons From the Banks of the Mississippi

Photographs courtesy of the web sites listed above.

Isn’t it wonderful to think we can save these precious little buttons! Blessings to all and happy quilting,