Thursday, August 17, 2006

Button memories

Several blogs, including Dawn's ( and Laura's ( have memories of grandparents, and button boxes.

When my DH and I were first married, he was a football coach (also track, and athletic director in a middle school). You know the type . . . jock, very macho kind of guy. When he finally retired from those responsibilities, I wondered what he would do with his time. We go to auctions often, and on occasion, when I'm working, he might attend a week-day auction. Several years ago, he acquired a Coats and Clark's metal spool cabinet with sliding glass doors as a Christmas gift for me. It had no spools in it at all. So, his subsequent purchases included sewing boxes containing wooden spools of thread, and he began to fill the spool cabinet. He would go through the sewing box looking for the thread before giving me the remainders, but I didn't know that at the time. The spool cabinet now boasts four or five or every color except two, which have been difficult to find.

My mother did tailoring when I was a girl, and she bought lots of buttons. There was a department store in downtown Indianapolis (now a parking lot) that had bins with manufacturer's button cards. They were large cards, probably 9 X 12 inches, and had one of each size and color of a particular design, usually four or five designs, so 20 to 40 buttons to a card. Mom would purchase 10 or 12 matching cards at the magnificent sum of 10 cards for a dollar. If we proclaimed boredom when it was raining, Mom would have us string the buttons into sets, which were stored in Monarch and Richelieu tea tins labeled and sorted by colors. When I began making my own clothes, I just pulled out the tea tin of the appropriate color to select buttons for it.

When my mother passed away, my brother called to ask if I would like to have her tea pots. I said, "I thought you wanted the tea pots . . . I want the buttons". His response was, "You can have those d--- buttons . . . I want her chickens." I guess my brother didn't enjoy sorting the buttons as much as I did!

After I left home, Mom's buttons out grew the tea tins, and she moved to shoe boxes for storage. The manufacturer's cards were no longer available, so, buttons acquired later came on the same type cards we see today. She would trim the cards down to just the area containing the buttons, and put them into the shoe boxes by colors. Since we were grown, there wasn't anyone to string them into sets for her! After her death, my youngest brother moved them to the barn, and they were rather dirty when I finally received them. At some point, my DH decided to clean them up and put them in old Mason jars. He removed them from the cards, washed them, sorted them into a couple muffin tins, and just like when I was a kid, I took crochet cotton and strung them into sets. The Mason jars are lined up on a shelf in our foyer, sorted still by colors, and are a lovely reminder of my mother.

DH has continued to enjoy sorting buttons. He often buys jars at auction, and on a snowy or rainy evening, dumps them into a large plastic tray, and sorts them into sets which he puts in small zip-loc bags. I just know Mom is looking down from Heaven with a silly grin on her face watching her football coach/son-in-law fool with buttons.


Laura said...

Love the Norm story!

Dawn said...

Oh what a wonderful Norm story - he is a keeper! That is really sweet!

The Lone Beader said...

What a sweet husband!!

Patti said...

What wonderful memories, and the mental picture of your husband makes me smile. Thank you so much for sharing!

Shirley said...

What colors of thread are you missing? I have some if I have what you need I'll send