Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Buttons

by Cassondra Murray

I've been cleaning again.

Y'all know, by now, of my ongoing mission to rid myself of stuff-itis and clear the extraneous junk out of my home and my life. I've been tossing out stuff left and right.

Earlier this fall I unpacked a box which had been stored in the garage since we moved into our present home. I tore off the tape, pulled back the flaps and dug through the wadded up newspaper. Inside was an old basket which was so much more than it appeared. It was a treasure box of memories.

It was my grandmother's button box.

Y'all know how you can spend a gazillion dollars on toys for kids, but at some point they'll end up making forts out of the boxes because their imaginations can do so much more with plain cardboard than the toy makers can ever do with plastic, lights and bleepy noises? Well, I was that way with buttons, and to some degree, I'm still that way.

Buttons are magical.

Some of my clearest and most tactile memories were of MotherGrant's button bag. For then, it was not a box, but an old cloth bag, made of flour sack that was probably older than my mother, once white but now stained, so well-worn it was smooth as silk, and with a hem sewn over at the top and a piece of twine run through it as a drawstring to hold it closed. About as humble as a container could get.

But inside? That was a whole 'nuther world.

There were a lot of things at MotherGrant's house which I could play with whenever I wanted. The pots and pans were always available for pretend meals. The kitchen chairs could be moved at will and the quilt closet plundered to make a huge fort out of the living room. I was careful, so even the family photo albums or the drawers full of vintage hats were available. But if I wanted to play with the buttons, I always had to ask.

The button bag was kept on a high shelf in the hall closet, and I remember the dull rattle-jangle when MotherGrant or DaddyMike got it down. I remember pulling the drawstring loose through the soft cloth and tipping the bag over and the ssssluice sound as the buttons flooded out of the bag onto the nappy green carpet.

Gold and silver, flashing diamonds, rubbies and sapphires, and single pearls as big as the end of your thumb. Buttons covered in costume jewels. Buttons in every color of the rainbow. Buttons half as big as your palm and buttons so small they could have been for a Barbie doll dress.

I'd run my hands through the pile of buttons, feeling them sift through my fingers and searching for certain ones I liked best. There were three enormous buttons, pale pink mother-of-pearl, shaped like big, carved flowers. Those were easy to find in the pile, even with my eyes closed. Then there were my second-favorites. They were about the size of your thumbnail and shaped like half of a small black ball. They were completely encrusted with diamonds. There were only two of the diamond buttons, and each time I had to check to make sure no more had fallen out. A few of the "diamonds" were loose in the bottom of the button bag.

My absolute favorite button was almost two inches across and was one giant flat ruby with a gold rim.

I remember when the flour sack button bag started to tear. The following Christmas, it disappeared and was replaced with the new button box. That same box was the one which has been packed away in my garage for all those years.

It was actually a little old sewing basket of a kind which used to be sold at flea markets and craft fairs. Exactly the kind of thing a little girl might "buy" her grandmother for Christmas. I don't remember picking it out for her, but yes, it's possible that I, the Goth Martha Stewart Mini-Me, committed this travesty.

The basket was cheap and stapled together. The blue and white checked cloth wouldn't have been all that bad except that the cover was padded and made into a puffy pincushion. But the screaming tomato-red pom pom glued to the top for a handle? Yeah. That's the point at which this goth chick started to scream and run. That's a picture of it, with some of the contents, there on the left.

So in my quest for Zen I knew the basket had to go. But the buttons?

No way.

I sorted them all out and was amazed at what had found its way into the button box over the years. Some of the items, like the buttons made of wood and the I'm A Happy Booster promotional pin, I remember from childhood. Others I don't remember at all, but they make an interesting collage of who and what my grandparents were. DaddyMike was born in 1905, and MotherGrant in 1908. They lived through two world wars and the Great Depression before I was even born. DaddyMike built his house with his own hands and made the furniture to go inside it, though he never learned to read and write. MotherGrant grew a two-acre garden, the most beautiful flowers in the county and could feed a table full of workhands at the drop of a hat. They were poor in money but rich in love. They saved used aluminum foil and bits of string.

Some of that string, wadded up into a little tangle, was now in the button box. There was also a thimble, a small white rock, several safety pins and a hickory nut. There were also some rusty washers, a few bent, rusty nails, a mounting bracket for a curtain rod, now so deformed it took a while to figure out what it was, part of a ticket to something indecipherable and a tiny tube of dubious-smelling ointment which, according to what I could read of the label, would cure dang near anything. There were "straight pins" which were bent and a small piece of white chalk.

It's interesting what you can notice about people by the bits and pieces of useless stuff they keep and hide away in out-of-the-way places like the kitchen junk drawer, the mason jar under the sink, or, once the kids are grown up and gone away, the button box.

These are pics are of some of the strange stuff that was in MotherGrant's button box.

If you'd grown up like MotherGrant and DaddyMike, barely surviving and saving bits of string, could you throw away those diamond-studded buttons? Even if you knew they were really only cheap sparklies?

I couldn't. I didn't. All of my favorite buttons were gone from the basket, perhaps lost a few at a time by a generation or two of younger children as they discovered the magic of buttons. But still, I separated it into a bag of buttons and a bag of other stuff and tossed the decrepit basket. I gave the buttons a new home in a bright-blue silk sewing box.

I don't understand button magic, but it's still with me. I go to the fabric store now and then, to get my scissors sharpened or to buy something for a house project, and I always stop to check out the buttons, attached to their little white cards, hanging on the wall in neat rows. I have absolutely no reason to buy cards of buttons, but I admit it. The urge is there.

MotherGrant and DaddyMike have been gone for years now. But the older I get, the more I realize just how much of my grandparents lives on through me. Part of it I "got honest" as they say around here--my love of gardening was born into me and taught to me as I put my hands in the dirt with MotherGrant. My love of the smell of sawdust came from DaddyMike's shop, as did dexterity and the satisfaction of working with my hands and making something. And I think my artistic abilities came from him too, passed down through my mother. From both of them I got the sense that things are just better if you can do for yourself instead of always relying on other people to fix stuff, or "store bought."

I also brought from their teachings a tendency to be way too sentimental, which finds its way into all of my writing, from my news articles to my fiction...and as y'all have probably noticed the past three years, to my blogs.

Oh, and the whole "Noooooo! Don't throw that away! Save it just in case" thing...this may be the last holdout of that early-childhood indoctrination.

I toss things in the trash without much thought nowadays, but a few weeks ago I was about to throw away an old, torn-up shirt. I had the scissors out and was cutting off the buttons before I noticed what I was doing, then realized the ridiculous amount of time it was taking, and stopped myself. I threw the whole thing away,

But I felt guilty about it.

I felt my new, pretty blue sewing box mocking me.

And I mean, really, you never know when you might need a button. Right?


Do any of you sew? Even for minor repairs like sewing on a button?

Do you save stuff for "just in case?"

If you toss it immediately, is there a twinge of guilt? A voice from your upbringing that says, "you might need that!"

Did your mother or grandmother have a button box?

And did you like to play with the buttons when you were little?

Do YOU have a button box?

Does anybody else in the lair have a thing for buttons?

80 comments:

Jane said...

My mom was a seamstress so we had a lot of buttons and thread around the house. They're great when you need to replace a lost button on a pair of pants, shirt or coat. I do the minor repairs like fixing a seam, but the bigger jobs like hemming to my mom.

Cassondra said...

Hi Jane!

Wooohooo on the rooster!

And cool about your mom being a seamstress. Was she a professional, or did she sew only for family?

My mom made my clothes when I was a kid, but the love for buttons...I'm not sure it came from that. I can sew, but don't like to sew clothes. Too tedious.

Cassondra said...

It's just WAAAY too late and I'm going to get a bit of sleep.

See y'all in the morning.

Helen said...

Well done Jane have fun with him

Cassondra

I loved the blog it bought back so many memories for me and my Nana's button drawer on her sewing machine. Nana (who was born in 1906) never threw anything away without taking the buttons or even the zipper out of them she was a tailoress and made a lot of my clothes when I was a kid so these types of things always came in handy LOL. I have her sewing machine now an old peddle singer one that still works as far as I know and the receipt is still in one of the drawers she bought it in 1952. When I got it one of the drawers still had all the buttons in it and yes I uesd to play with them when I was young. But I have a girlfriend who is very crafty and Debbie is always looking for odd buttons and things to use so a few years ago I put them all in a bag and gave them to Debbie and she loved them and has found lots of uses for them.
I still have a hard time throwing things out it was in built in me from a young age by my Nana and my Mum that there is always a use for something.

Have Fun
Helen

Kim in Hawaii said...

Aloha, Cassondra! I tend not to collect things ... but my friend Mary gave me a beautiful bracelet made from buttons. Not just any buttons but antique buttons, including the ones from her father-in-law's military uniform. It is a treasure that I shall bring with me to RWA (especially since Mary is my roommate).

barb said...

look after him Jane and have a good day

I am a sewer so I collect buttons and will not throw any out and cut them off things I throw out... I also have my mothers button bpx that must be over 60 years old....

Minna said...

Do any of you sew? Even for minor repairs like sewing on a button? Yes, a little.

Do you save stuff for "just in case?" Yeah, but I'm not so attatched to that stuff that I could trade it away if I think I'm not going to need something, after all.

Did your mother or grandmother have a button box? Yes and yes.

And did you like to play with the buttons when you were little? Yes.

Do YOU have a button box? More like a small plastic bag at the moment.

Minna said...

Helen, you're so lucky you have the old peddle singer! We used to have one, too. But when my brothers were kids they broke it. I wasn't even born back then yet. I still think it might have been possible to fix it -by someone who knows what they are doing, but a couple of years ago while I was not at home one or both of my brothers took it to the dump. I wanted to beat them with a stick! Had I been at home I would have saved it.

Gannon Carr said...

Cassondra, I don't really sew, but I can replace a button or repair a small rip in a seam---I do have a small sewing box for such emergencies.

My grandmother sewed and she used to have an old Singer sewing machine that she pumped with her feet. I loved watching that! My sister has it now---she's the only one of us that sews.

My grandma also had a button box. I would spend a long time just looking at all of the pretty baubles. Thanks for reminding me of special times.

Kirsten said...

I inherited my Grandmothers buttonbox and it's a treasure. A lot of the buttons I remember being on her blouses and dresses. I can picture her wearing those clothes by toching the buttons she saved. I never save any new buttons of my own clothes as I donate them to good will when I no longer wear them. But I keep the old ones from Grandma for memories sake.

Gillian Layne said...

Oh, Cassondra, this post is just like a big hug from my grandma. Thank you! She, and my granddad, and my parents as well--no one threw away anything. They were the original recyclers. :) And she had an amazing sewing room with little tins of buttons and piles of old clothes that she would tear apart and re-sew into something new. They really didn't have much financially at all, but they seems so rich to me, with their rooms full of treasures to discover.

Nancy said...

Jane, congrats on the bird!

Cassondra, I keep things "just in case," but I'm planning a big purge this winter and spring. Old student papers, for example, no longer have a "just in case," nor do old mail order catalogues that were originally preserved "just in case" I decided to order something.

The dh is very helpful with this. He has no "just in case" drawer in his brain and sees no reason to keep anything for that reason unless it relates to finances.

I used to sew, and then life got to the point where I didn't have time. The last garment I made was a Halloween costume for the boy when he was little.

I don't share your weakness for buttons, but I loved fabric. Walking through a fabric store was kind of like walking through Michaels or Home Depot, an excursion in the world of potential.

Nancy said...

Forgot to say--what a cool blog post!

Christie Kelley said...

I'm not a much of a seamstress. In fact, I quite despise the idea of sewing. But I do have a button collection too. My mother also had one so that's probably why I started. I have them in an old pin jar but they are pretty much overflowing it. I used to love going through my mom's collection because many of them were very old. None of mine are more than 40 years old.

Janga said...

What a lovely blog post, Cassondra--and so evocative. Reading it, I could almost hear my grandmother's old cabinet Singer and see her feet, encased in those old black tie shoes that not even old ladies wear anymore, pumping away. She was not just a skilled seamstress but a talented, gifted one. She would visit a department store, find a dress she liked, give it a close look, and return home to cut a pattern from newspaper, choose from her store of fabrics, and make the dress. Her button box was an old hat box, and like your grandmother's, it was filled with wonders. My favorites were clear glass flower buttons that I pretended were magic, fairy flowers.

My cousin who inherited my grandmother's sewing gift still has the Singer and the button box. I'm no seamstress, but the file on my hard drive where I save all the bits and pieces of poetry and prose that I've culled over the years from abandoned projects or deleted lines or scenes is named "The Button Box."

Dianna Love said...

Have fun with the rooster, Jane.

I grew up in a household where we sewed everything so we had a button "drawer." I haven't sewn in years, but I do have a drawer in my bathroom vanity that has all the buttons that came as "extras" on clothing. I don't think I've ever gone looking for a button in there even though I know I've had to replace some. Every time I throw a new button in there I wonder why I keep them. After reading your blog I'm thinking maybe my current button drawer is just a tie to my childhood or something that looks familiar, feels like home.

Good luck getting rid of stuff. :)

Cassondra said...

Helen said:

I have her sewing machine now an old peddle singer one that still works as far as I know and the receipt is still in one of the drawers she bought it in 1952. When I got it one of the drawers still had all the buttons in it and yes I uesd to play with them when I was young. But I have a girlfriend who is very crafty and Debbie is always looking for odd buttons and things to use so a few years ago I put them all in a bag and gave them to Debbie and she loved them and has found lots of uses for them.

Yay Helen! You played with buttons. My mom still has her sewing machine, but I did learn to sew on it. And having a sewing machine is something I've always felt is important. Mom bought me one when I got married, and I recently replaced it because it turned out to be not very good. I got one that worked as much like her old one as I could find.

Cassondra said...

Kim in Hawaii said:

my friend Mary gave me a beautiful bracelet made from buttons. Not just any buttons but antique buttons, including the ones from her father-in-law's military uniform. It is a treasure that I shall bring with me to RWA (especially since Mary is my roommate).

Oh, how cool! A bracelet made from antique buttons. I've seen a lot of button art and crafts and some of it is fantastic! I bet your bracelet is lovely.

Cassondra said...

barb said:

I am a sewer so I collect buttons and will not throw any out and cut them off things I throw out... I also have my mothers button bpx that must be over 60 years old....

How interesting that there are so many people around with a button fettish! I thought I'd be the only one?

Cassondra said...

Minna said:

Do YOU have a button box? More like a small plastic bag at the moment.

The buttons left in that old box were a small fraction of what she had, so my button collection isn't very big now either.

Cassondra said...

Gannon Carr said:

My grandmother sewed and she used to have an old Singer sewing machine that she pumped with her feet. I loved watching that! My sister has it now---she's the only one of us that sews.

My grandma also had a button box. I would spend a long time just looking at all of the pretty baubles. Thanks for reminding me of special times.


Aren't they magic? It makes no sense to me, that appeal, but I still enjoy them.

Cassondra said...

Kirsten said,

I inherited my Grandmothers buttonbox and it's a treasure. A lot of the buttons I remember being on her blouses and dresses. I can picture her wearing those clothes by toching the buttons she saved. I never save any new buttons of my own clothes as I donate them to good will when I no longer wear them. But I keep the old ones from Grandma for memories sake.

Oh, yes, I remember some of the dresses my grandmother wore when I was tiny, and the buttons ended up in the button box later. There are still some buttons in the box from an old coat she wore.

I donate anything usable now too. But the thing about my grandparents is that nothing ever went to waste. They wore the clothes until they were threadbare, then they became barn and outdoor work clothes, then when they fell apart, she'd quilt or clean with the pieces. The buttons, of course, went into the button box. That frugality is part of what makes me wince at throwing something away--like a button.

Cassondra said...

Gillian Layne said:

she had an amazing sewing room with little tins of buttons and piles of old clothes that she would tear apart and re-sew into something new. They really didn't have much financially at all, but they seems so rich to me, with their rooms full of treasures to discover.

Little baubles and jars of hidden treasures. Those seem to appeal to all kids, don't they? There was something so tactile about handling those buttons. And each one of the decorated ones was a tiny piece of art.

I wonder if I should take all that stuff, including the rusty nails and washers, and make a collage or shadow box of it? I hadn't thought of that. I'd considered putting them in a pretty, footed jar so the colors would show through, and setting it out on my mantel near my art corner. Hmmm...for some reason your comment about jars made me start thinking of bringing the buttons out into the open.

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

I don't share your weakness for buttons, but I loved fabric. Walking through a fabric store was kind of like walking through Michaels or Home Depot, an excursion in the world of potential.

Nancy, I have the same love for fabric. My poor mother despaired of ever being able to make a dress or a blouse from just one pattern. I wanted this collar on that bodice, and this sleeve with that cuff, and it was usually inspired by a certain fabric that made me think, "OH, that would look great made into something like THIS," But of course, there was no pattern exactly like that. My mom hated combining patterns, but she tried for my sake.

uxb said...

Steve here, Cassondra's DH. Odd the memories that this blog carries with it.

When Cassondra and I were dating and it appeared that we might be "serious", Cassondra's mother made a shirt for me.

Multi-colored stripes, buttons up the front. Made by her own hands, specifically for me. Filled with love and though I no longer wear it I'm sure it's still in the closet.

Cassondra said...

Christie Kelley said:

I'm not a much of a seamstress. In fact, I quite despise the idea of sewing. But I do have a button collection too. My mother also had one so that's probably why I started. I have them in an old pin jar but they are pretty much overflowing it. I used to love going through my mom's collection because many of them were very old. None of mine are more than 40 years old.

Christie, I despise the idea of sewing clothing, although I know how and can do it, because of the tedium involved in fitting it properly. The buttons, though, seem like little treasures to me. I suspect I have some buttons older than 40 years, but I don't know about them individually unless I remember the clothing my grandmother wore. It's cool that you know the age of some of yours.

Cassondra said...

Janga said about her grandmother:

She was not just a skilled seamstress but a talented, gifted one. She would visit a department store, find a dress she liked, give it a close look, and return home to cut a pattern from newspaper, choose from her store of fabrics, and make the dress. Her button box was an old hat box, and like your grandmother's, it was filled with wonders. My favorites were clear glass flower buttons that I pretended were magic, fairy flowers.

OMG! There were some of those buttons in the box when I was little! They're not there now, but your comment brought them back to my mind.

the file on my hard drive where I save all the bits and pieces of poetry and prose that I've culled over the years from abandoned projects or deleted lines or scenes is named "The Button Box."

What a great idea! And so apt--it is a treasure box for your muse, isn't it?

Cassondra said...

Dianna Love said:

I grew up in a household where we sewed everything so we had a button "drawer." I haven't sewn in years, but I do have a drawer in my bathroom vanity that has all the buttons that came as "extras" on clothing. I don't think I've ever gone looking for a button in there even though I know I've had to replace some. Every time I throw a new button in there I wonder why I keep them. After reading your blog I'm thinking maybe my current button drawer is just a tie to my childhood or something that looks familiar, feels like home.

As much as I say, "Who knows when you might need a button?" I'm not going to need those old wood and tarnished metal buttons to go on a piece of clothing. I know this. I too have the "extra" buttons that come with clothing, and I have used one of those in the past, but not very often. It's just as you say, pure ties to pleasant memories when life wasn't so complicated that I couldn't stop and spend a few minutes--or hours--just fingering some pretty treasures that appealed to my senses.

Cassondra said...

uxb said:

Steve here, Cassondra's DH. Odd the memories that this blog carries with it.

When Cassondra and I were dating and it appeared that we might be "serious", Cassondra's mother made a shirt for me.

Multi-colored stripes, buttons up the front. Made by her own hands, specifically for me. Filled with love and though I no longer wear it I'm sure it's still in the closet.


Awwww. Okay I started crying when I read this. I'd forgotten about that shirt. Maybe I need to dig it out and use it as the background for the button box collage?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Me! I love buttons, and I had my own button box but it was a pretty silk thing, it was clear plastic with lots of little dividers.

My play toys at Maw-Maw's house were the same as yours, pots and pans, button box (hers was a drawer on her sewing machine), she also had a glass dish with a swan on top and that always had some kind of goodies in it. She would disengage the pedal on her machine and let me play with that too. I could pump the treadle with my hands and see just how fast I could make it spin. In my child's mind when I had the wheel spinning and the stop would hit it sounded like a trolley car. Clang, clang, clang.
I did make all of my daughter's clothes and mine. I worked in a Piece Goods Shop for several years and had to make displays etc. I also bought, you guessed it, buttons, lots and lots of buttons.

MsHellion said...

I always love your blogs. Never stop being sentimental.

Yes, I sew--and I can even sew buttons. *LOL* Horrible with zippers though. My Dad is always trying to get me to replace a zipper in a coat or pants, and I'm like, "Dude, the zipper costs more than it would be buy a new coat. Just buy a new coat! this one has a huge hole in the elbow anyway." But he was raised in the Depression (he was born in 1921) so he has a lot of trouble parting with things just in case too. And he's passed it onto me.

I have cloth...patterns...cookware...cookbooks... Just lots of random stuff, and I can't part with it. I'll give it away before I throw it away. I've finally made myself throw out old large yogurt containers instead of keeping them for "storage"--though I never store anything in them because they're not clear. I store in CLEAR containers or I forget all about them.

My mom had a button box, it was an old Christmas butter cookie tin and it had the best buttons in it. I don't remember any sparklies or big jewel buttons, but I still loved the buttons in them. I'd string them and play with them whenever I could. I remember reading in Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls playing with her mother's button box, or maybe her grandmother's...

My dad gardens, but I don't have the talent or patience (for being out in the heat and bugs). I barely keep my African violet alive (but it thrives on neglect, so it's really the perfect plant for me.)

Cybercliper said...

I sew and quilt. I grew up with 'depression era' parents so you didn't throw anything away but you also didn't buy a lot of crap so there really wasn't anything to throw away.

I was taught to quilt using saw horses and rails, old blankets for stuffing and sheets for backing. None of this fancy stuff from today - my Granny would have swooned at the thought of using a hoop.

And I have a big button collection also. To me they tell a story or allow me to make one up. The bone button was made by an Eskimo sitting by a camp fire but lost while hunting and the ruby one is a piece of Blackbeards' hidden treasure. So many possibilities...

jo robertson said...

Wonderful, post, Cassondra! I have a button box like your Mother Grant. There IS something magical about buttons, especially old ones, that are bright, sparkly, and even a bit gaudy. I used to use them for my scrapbooking pages, but since I gave that up, they just sit in my box.

BJ said...

My mom sews....and she has her buttons..I even know how to repair a lost button if need be.
But I have to say I have a button box and button bottles( all coded by color)...I scrapbook and use buttons on pages and cards so when I get a button it gets saved...I got to a thrift shop or a yard sale buttons get bought...LOL
I also have a "junk drawer" it has everything, all the stuff I guess one would throw out but I don't because it might be useful.

Becke Davis said...

Oooh, fabulous post, Cassondra! I love buttons, even though sewing is one of my very least favorite things to do. I'm a button hoarded, but those are just run-of-the-mill buttons for clothing repair. The buttons I really love are the kind you've described here.

I love buttony crafts where people make jewelry out of old buttons, or decorations of one kind or another. I still remember a cardigan Kay Thomas wore at RWA National in 2009, where she had sewed all different buttons on as trim. It was so cool!

I have a few neat old buttons that my grandmother had saved - I wish I had more! Although, like the glass jar of my uncle's old marbles I have on my shelf, I don't know what I'd do with them except say, "Look - how pretty!" whenever they catch my eye!

Danielle Gorman said...

When I was younger my grandmother put me into sewing classes. I ended up making pajamas for everyone. After that I stopped sewing. I have no idea why though. I would like to get back into it so I can do miner things.

Donna MacMeans said...

Loved the post Cassondra.

I can sew, but haven't for a really long time. The modern sewing machine is still downstairs, as well as an older pedal antique version. I haven't used it since the kids grew too old for trick or treating and resented homemade costumes.

I fixed the hem on a pair of pants recently but haven't sewn on any buttons in a long time. I do have a small button collection. Mostly they are unique buttons for some unique sweaters I own. Don't know why I still keep them as the sweaters are no longer in style. I should donate the sweaters but there's some nostalgic hold there.

Maybe I should toss the unique buttons into a bag and hide them away for a grandchild to discover. (grin)

Cassondra said...

aka Dianna said:

She would disengage the pedal on her machine and let me play with that too. I could pump the treadle with my hands and see just how fast I could make it spin. In my child's mind when I had the wheel spinning and the stop would hit it sounded like a trolley car. Clang, clang, clang.

OMG! I did the SAME THING! My grandmother had one, and my mom and dad had one--it was my paternal grandmother's. Both sewing machines got thrown away when I wasn't looking. It broke my heart. But I spent hours "sewing" on that treadle machine--with no needle of course.

Cassondra said...

Hellion said:

I'd string them and play with them whenever I could. I remember reading in Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls playing with her mother's button box, or maybe her grandmother's...

OH! I remember stringing buttons on sewing thread to make bracelets, then my grandmother would tie them around my wrist and I'd wear them for a few days around the house before they'd break. I'd forgotten all about that.

I no longer save ugly containers for storage. I've decided I need to love the way my plastic ware looks--it's my effort to get rid of stuff, yaknow? The criteria? Is it beautiful? Is it funcitonal? Do I love it? If it doesn't meet two of those criteria, it's gone. *grin*

I really am trying.

Cassondra said...

Cybercliper said:

I was taught to quilt using saw horses and rails, old blankets for stuffing and sheets for backing. None of this fancy stuff from today - my Granny would have swooned at the thought of using a hoop.

So was I!!!

I have my grandmother's old quilting frames. I'll blog about that some day. I can see that bedroom, with the quilting frames set up and the neighbor lady on the other side. One of my deepest regrets is that I didn't end up with one of the quilts with my grandmother's tiny stitches beside my awkward five-year-old stitches.

Okay now I'm sniffling again.

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

Wonderful, post, Cassondra! I have a button box like your Mother Grant. There IS something magical about buttons, especially old ones, that are bright, sparkly, and even a bit gaudy. I used to use them for my scrapbooking pages, but since I gave that up, they just sit in my box.

That's a great idea, using them for scrapbooking! See...I'm getting all these fabulous ideas.

Cassondra said...

BJ said:

I also have a "junk drawer" it has everything, all the stuff I guess one would throw out but I don't because it might be useful.

Ah, you don't even WANT to see my kitchen junk drawer. I purge it a couple of times a year, but I need to do that at least once per quarter. I needed glue the other day. Had to go buy it. I would not brave the junk drawer to find it. *shudder*

Cassondra said...

Becke Davis said:

I have a few neat old buttons that my grandmother had saved - I wish I had more! Although, like the glass jar of my uncle's old marbles I have on my shelf, I don't know what I'd do with them except say, "Look - how pretty!" whenever they catch my eye!

Well, see..there would be two things on my list of criteria for keeping something. 1) You'd love it, and 2) it would be beautiful! Nothing has to make all three of my criteria (Do I love it, Is it beautiful, is it functional). That's a tall order after all. Of course, it could be considered functional if it helps a sentimental heart to be joyful, don't you think? (Yes, I know I'm blurring two categories there)

Cassondra said...

DAnielle Gorman said:

When I was younger my grandmother put me into sewing classes. I ended up making pajamas for everyone. After that I stopped sewing. I have no idea why though.

Well, see...if I were forced to take a sewing class where I had to make clothes? I'd stick a needle in my eye and blind myself so it would be over.

Placemats, curtains, pillow covers? I'm good with all that. Clothes? No way. nada. Zip. Not unless the only other choice is to be naked. And then, if its warm......maybe not even then.

Cassondra said...

Donna said:

Maybe I should toss the unique buttons into a bag and hide them away for a grandchild to discover. (grin)

Yes, Yes! You should! Gramma Donna's house will be a treasure hunt zone if you start thinking that way. I bet you'll be a great Gramma.

Becke Davis said...

Cassondra - I think "sentimental reasons" should fall under that "functional" heading. I have a LOT of things I've saved for that reason!

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, way to go on the chook! Tell him to BUTTON his lip (beak?) if he starts giving you any sauce!

Cassondra, what a lovely post! I can't sew for peanuts, sadly. I wish I could. My best friend in primary school was a marvel with a needle - she made some beautiful dresses for my Barbies. Actually the Barbie box in my storeroom has memories just like your button box. There were all sorts of bits and pieces in there apart from dresses and much-loved Barbie dolls. A couple of years ago, I had it out for some reason and I was whisked straight back to my childhood self!

Deb said...

Hi, Cassondra. I do not sew. Case in point: I've been working on quilt blocks for almost 3 years and have 13 out of 65 completed. I'm doing it for my mom since she really wants me to learn. Her quilts are absolutely gorgeous.

My grandma sewed beautiful clothes. It started in the late 1930s when my grandpa worked at Quaker Oats and would bring home the flour and grain sacks that had pretty designs on them and she would make little dresses and play outfits for my mom. Gram would take all of her granddaughters shopping before their birthdays and we would find an outfit we really liked. She'd sketch it in a notebook, go home and make a newspaper pattern, and for our birthdays we would have an outfit that looked just like store outfit. Seriously. My sister had the coolest clothes in jr. high school and Gram didn't even bat an eye at the length---shortness, rather, of the hems (1972-1973) that she made for those skirts.

Buttons, especially old ones, are fascinating. I remember one short and top outfit from childhood (yep, Gram made it) that was tan with small orange flowers and root beer barrell-shaped buttons adorned the front of it. As a teacher, I still use buttons for game markers and as counters.

Nancy said...

Steve, nice to see you here! That's such a sweet story about the shirt.

Nancy said...

Cassondra, re: your comment about sewing classes--I learned to sew from our neighbor across the street. By the time I hit Home Ec in 7th grade, I had already made a dress, complete with zipper.

We had no choice in class as to projects. Having to make a drawstring apron was incredibly boring. Having to BASTE everything by hand before machine-stitching, after Mrs. Caldwell just let me sew over the pinned seams, was annoying.

Back in those long ago days of yore, Home Ec was required for girls, Shop for boys. I think Shop would've been a lot more fun than basting seams and measuring (yes, with a ruler!) to be sure each placemat sat precisely an inch from the edge of the table.

Thank goodness we've moved away from that nonsense.

Sheree said...

I learned how to sew when I was about 9 or 10. I don't know if my grandmother had a button collection but I sure do. Besides, it's not like they take a lot of space (even less space than my book collection). I once sewed a couple of aloha shirts for myself and my boyfriend (I picked out the fabric and the buttons, too). It was fun at the time, but I don't know if I'm going to do that again.

Beth Andrews said...

I have a button jar but my kids don't play with them *g* I had to sew a button on my son's coat before he went back to college last week!

And yes, I enjoy sewing - but I've mostly given it up until I can get a new sewing machine. The one I have tends to act up and it drives me crazy!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

What a great post, Cassondra. I remember both of my grandmothers having button collections, usually in an old canning jar. So this post made me smile.

And when you mentioned the flour sack, that reminded me of all the times my mom has talked about how her and her sisters' dresses and her brothers' shirts were made from flour sakes in the 1940s and 1950s.

catslady said...

I do have some buttons but nothing like your collection. I get attached to everything and anything and have a problem throwing anything away. Maybe because my one grandmother who lived with us was like that and maybe because my mother was just the opposite and would throw everything away lol.

PinkPeony said...

Hi Cassondra!

Your post made me tear up. I don't have a button box, but I need one. I have little envelopes of extra buttons that come with my clothing purchases all over the place.

My mom used to sew my dresses when I was in grade school. She made matching dotted swiss sundresses for me and my sister. I have a large red pincushion my aunt, another fab seamstress, gave me. My cousins and I had spelled out our names with pins on the cushion.

I can sew if needed. I have a portable Singer I haven't used in years. Things are so different now. It's hard to a fabric store. When I need fabric, I have to go on-line. Now you've got me thinking about the smell of sewing machine oil, the waxy scent of tracing paper, fabric chalk...the sound of shears cutting through the tissue patterns and fabric...great memories. Thanks for sharing!

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, buying fabric online wouldn't be nearly as satisfying, I think. How can you get a good idea of the texture? Or be sure the color is true?

PinkPeony said...

Nancy...
You're absolutely right! They'll send you a swatch, but it's not quite the same as looking at a yard of the fabric on the table at the store.

Joan said...

This blog post drove me into my Mom's arms.

Choked up here.

Mom sewed wonderfully and had a button jar filled with every kind of button you could imagine.

I am holding on to about 5 outfits she sewed for me as a teenager. I know she was disappointed when I didn't take to the needle like she did. And while I have her sewing machine it does me little good....I always had to have her thread it!

PJ said...

I love your blogs, Cassondra!

My mom sewed and I remember her having a lot of buttons but practical ones, not whimsical. With four rowdy boys, there was always a need for practical buttons. My grandma crocheted and embroidered but I don't have memories of her sewing, though I'm sure she probably did. We bonded in the kitchen and garden so those memories are most vivid for me.

I can sew on a button and I've made a few Christmas stockings/ornaments but that's about the extent of my sewing ability.

Cassondra said...

Anna Campbell said:

My best friend in primary school was a marvel with a needle - she made some beautiful dresses for my Barbies. Actually the Barbie box in my storeroom has memories just like your button box. There were all sorts of bits and pieces in there apart from dresses and much-loved Barbie dolls. A couple of years ago, I had it out for some reason and I was whisked straight back to my childhood self!

Don't those people amaze you? Talk about tedium! If sewing human clothes overwhelms me, no way could I even consider doll clothes. I think those items which take us back to our roots are sort of grounding in a way. As writers, we may need that more than most, actually, since we live in our heads so much.

Cassondra said...

Deb said:

... It started in the late 1930s when my grandpa worked at Quaker Oats and would bring home the flour and grain sacks that had pretty designs on them and she would make little dresses and play outfits for my mom. Gram would take all of her granddaughters shopping before their birthdays and we would find an outfit we really liked. She'd sketch it in a notebook, go home and make a newspaper pattern, and for our birthdays we would have an outfit that looked just like store outfit.

Oh my gosh! Do you have any of those outfits anywhere? I would so frame that and hang it on the wall!

Buttons, especially old ones, are fascinating. I remember one short and top outfit from childhood (yep, Gram made it) that was tan with small orange flowers and root beer barrell-shaped buttons adorned the front of it. As a teacher, I still use buttons for game markers and as counters.

I just don't know what it is about buttons. There is some serious magic there. Maybe if we figured it out, it wouldn't be as awesome?

Louisa Cornell said...

Nice catch, Jane !! You may have the urge to throw the GR out before the day is over! Be patient with him!

Cassondra, what a wonderful post!

Before I started writing again I did a lot of sewing and needlework. My Great Aunt Icie taught me to tat, quilt, sew, net darn, cross stitch and do crewel embroidery. She worked all her life as a seamstress, but the last twenty years of her working life she designed and made drapes for people's homes. She lived in Montgomery which is an Air Force town and many of her clients sent her photos of their windows wherever they moved and asked her to design and make drapes for them. I was so fortunate to live close to her at the end of her life and to learn so much about needlework from her.

She had numerous button boxes and when she passed away at the age of 93 those button boxes and several boxes of fabric came to me. One of these days I am going to incorporate those old buttons into a quilt design. Many of those buttons have to be a hundred or more years old.

Some of those old buttons are real works of art!

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, at last you get the swatch. There's a big fabric store not too far from me. It has been in business for decades, draws from a regional customer base, I think.

Margay said...

This reminds me of my mother. She's been sewing for almost 70 years and has been a seamstress for almost 50 of them, so she has a wide collection of buttons in several old cookie tins. She still has one from when I was a kid! I love going over to her house to raid the tin when I need buttons for something. It's just fun to look through them and see all the different kinds she has - some actually look like pieces of jewelry.

Margay said...

Love all the pictures, by the way!

Pissenlit said...

Oh, this brings back memories. Thanks! :D My grandmother was a seamstress so I have some good memories of going through all her sewing odds and ends and climbing on the bolts and bags of cloth filling the walk-in closet. My mum has a button uh...I guess, tub(old little ice cream tub) and I used to go through them and sort them and run my fingers through them and I remember that ssssluice sound of pouring them out. :D

Laurie Faelan said...

My grandmother collected buttons and after her death, we found quite a few really old beautiful ones. My daughter loves them.

We have an old manual peddle sewing machine that we use for stitching leather. I love to use it. My fascination is for old wooden spools and keep thinking that I'll do something with them someday.

Love your post today!

Cassondra said...

Becke said:

I think "sentimental reasons" should fall under that "functional" heading. I have a LOT of things I've saved for that reason!

Me too, Becke. More than I should, perhaps. But there are worse reasons, right?

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

Back in those long ago days of yore, Home Ec was required for girls, Shop for boys. I think Shop would've been a lot more fun than basting seams and measuring (yes, with a ruler!) to be sure each placemat sat precisely an inch from the edge of the table.

Gack! *Cassondra makes wretching sounds*

Now let me just say...I AM a Goth Martha Stewart Mini-Me, and I love, love LOVE beautiful table settings, and I do know how to set a proper table (though not, perhaps, how to lay a proper tea, which I see as an intolerable lack in my education) but that sort of fussiness...I just don't have time for that. If there were a reason for it, I'd be all over it, but until there is a reason, no way. And should that reason arise, I can almost certainly find the criteria listed somewhere, and have no doubt that I can meet it.

Oh, and I was in the first class of Vo-Ag (and, therefore, shop, since they were connected)that girls were allowed to take. I had to fight to get into it, and never looked back. I figured I could learn to set a proper table or roast a chicken from a book. Can't learn to weld, saw a board straight, or hammer a nail through hard wood from a book.

Just sayin.

And as to Home Ec, I manage I guess.

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

Back in those long ago days of yore, Home Ec was required for girls, Shop for boys. I think Shop would've been a lot more fun than basting seams and measuring (yes, with a ruler!) to be sure each placemat sat precisely an inch from the edge of the table.

Gack! *Cassondra makes wretching sounds*

Now let me just say...I AM a Goth Martha Stewart Mini-Me, and I love, love LOVE beautiful table settings, and I do know how to set a proper table (though not, perhaps, how to lay a proper tea, which I see as an intolerable lack in my education) but that sort of fussiness...I just don't have time for that. If there were a reason for it, I'd be all over it, but until there is a reason, no way. And should that reason arise, I can almost certainly find the criteria listed somewhere, and have no doubt that I can meet it.

Oh, and I was in the first class of Vo-Ag (and, therefore, shop, since they were connected)that girls were allowed to take. I had to fight to get into it, and never looked back. I figured I could learn to set a proper table or roast a chicken from a book. Can't learn to weld, saw a board straight, or hammer a nail through hard wood from a book.

Just sayin.

And as to Home Ec, I manage I guess.

Cassondra said...

Sheree said:

I learned how to sew when I was about 9 or 10. I don't know if my grandmother had a button collection but I sure do. Besides, it's not like they take a lot of space (even less space than my book collection).

You're RIGHT! They don't take up that much space. At least not at the level I managed. And they're so pretty!

Cassondra said...

Beth Andrews said:

I have a button jar but my kids don't play with them *g* I had to sew a button on my son's coat before he went back to college last week!

And yes, I enjoy sewing - but I've mostly given it up until I can get a new sewing machine. The one I have tends to act up and it drives me crazy!


Yes, it makes me nuts when a machine doesn't act right. I don't particularly enjoy sewing but it's an extremely useful skill, so I want to be equipped. I just got rid of my old machine and got a new one. Not fancy at all, but a better brand than I had before, and runs more smoothly and is less persnickety.

I think I have to try this button jar thing. Since they're so pretty, why not have them be visible In my sewing box, they're totally hidden.

Cassondra said...

Trish said:

And when you mentioned the flour sack, that reminded me of all the times my mom has talked about how her and her sisters' dresses and her brothers' shirts were made from flour sakes in the 1940s and 1950s.

Trish, my mom has told me about flour sack towels my whole life. Apparently they are better in any number of ways than the terry kitchen towels I use now. But I can't find them anywhere.

Cassondra said...

Catslady said:

I do have some buttons but nothing like your collection. I get attached to everything and anything and have a problem throwing anything away. Maybe because my one grandmother who lived with us was like that and maybe because my mother was just the opposite and would throw everything away lol.

See, I think there's a happy medium in there somewhere. I have to get rid of some things or life is kind of miserable. I can't clean properly, and can't keep things looking decent if there are piles around me (and there ARE piles around me). But I also want a few things around that connect me to my roots and remind me of where I came from.

Cassondra said...

Pink Peony said:

...the smell of sewing machine oil, the waxy scent of tracing paper, fabric chalk...the sound of shears cutting through the tissue patterns and fabric...great memories.

I think, if I had known it was a viable direction to go, I could have gone into fashion design. Not because I'm a fashion maven. Anybody who's met me knows it's just the opposite. But because of my love for fabric. Even now, when I go into Hancock's or even stroll through the fabric section at Wally World on my way to sporting goods, I have to linger by the bolts, check out the colors, and think about what I'd make out of those.

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:



PinkPeony, buying fabric online wouldn't be nearly as satisfying, I think. How can you get a good idea of the texture? Or be sure the color is true?


YES! Totally not the same.

Cassondra said...

Joan said:

I am holding on to about 5 outfits she sewed for me as a teenager. I know she was disappointed when I didn't take to the needle like she did. And while I have her sewing machine it does me little good....I always had to have her thread it!

Awww...I would hold onto those too. I've decided to try to do a quilt with the pieces of the things my mom made for me. That way I keep a little of the love she sewed into each one.

Cassondra said...

PJ said:

I can sew on a button and I've made a few Christmas stockings/ornaments but that's about the extent of my sewing ability.

Okay, I have a sister in sewing. I prefer to stick to less complex stuff,so I don't end up in jail for murder--as in, for murdering the first person I encounter while I'm trying to sew clothing.

And thanks for the kind words. *blushes*

Cassondra said...

Louisa said:

My Great Aunt Icie taught me to tat, quilt, sew, net darn, cross stitch and do crewel embroidery. She worked all her life as a

Wow, what a great skill set to have! I can crochet, embroider, cross stitch (just as a baby beginner,) But the truth is, I don't have time to do those things. And that's a shame.

LilMissMolly said...

I have a button box too! I keep them all and never throw one out. :)