Having to know what size button to get is not an everyday occurrence for people. Unless of course you are a tailor, or are in the clothing manufacturing industry. For many, we know when we need a small button, or when we need a big button. Or that shirts have smaller buttons than coats. But I doubt we could tell what their size was, or even know how to measure one.
So when I was asked, how do you measure a button? I, of course, thought I could pull out a tape measure and find the measurement I needed easily.
How wrong I was…
After trying and failing to correctly measure numerous buttons, I decided to find out the professional and proper way of measuring buttons. But instead of information and knowledge, I was confused and muddled by the way that this was done.
Button measuring is one of the most complicated things I have ever seen for what should be a nice simple task.
It all starts around the 9th Century where German Button makers started to use the French term ‘Ligne’ as the measurement instead of inches. This was generally shortened down to ‘L’.
The concensous definition is that a Ligne was the measurement of a rounded wick, folded flat.
For those of you (like me) who don’t know what a rounded wick is, here is a definition. A rounded wick is a wick used for an oil lamp or other sources that is hollow.
The wick would be pressed flat, and then used to measure the size of a button.
One Ligne, roughly measures 1/40 of an inch. So a button that measures ½ an inch, would actually measure 20 Ligne.
The Ligne system is still in use today for the measurement of buttons, and it is still used by French and Swiss wristwatch makers to measure the size of a watch movement.
For such a simple thing as Buttons, I couldn’t believe the complex measurement system behind them.
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